Beneficial insects are protected from crop damaging insects when genetically modified cotton is planted, a new study from China contends. The inference is that the positive result may spread to neighboring farms, increasing beneficial insects.

The study was reported in the journal Nature and found that Chinese farmers were able to reduce their insecticide sprays when they used cotton genetically engineered to contain Bacillus thuringiensis.  Since fewer sprays were used to control the bollworms, beneficial insects survived to feed on crop damaging aphids.

The 20-year study was conducted in northern China and found that Bt crops also controlled insects on neighboring farms.

Bt cotton was approved in China in 1997 and is the country’s only approved GM crop authorized for commercial planting.