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The impact of secondary pests on Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) crops

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Francisco ArealORCiD


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The intensification of agriculture and the development of synthetic insecticides enabled worldwide grain production to more than double in the last third of the 20th century. However, the heavy dependence and, in some cases, overuse of insecticides has been responsible for negative environmental and ecological impacts across the globe, such as a reduction in biodiversity, insect resistance to insecticides, negative effects on nontarget species (e.g. natural enemies) and the development of secondary pests. The use of recombinant DNA technology to develop genetically engineered insect-resistant crops could mitigate many of the negative side effects of insecticides. One such genetic alteration enables crops to express toxic crystalline (Cry) proteins from the soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Despite the widespread adoption of Bt crops, there are still a range of unanswered questions concerning longer term agro-ecosystem interactions. For instance, insect species that are not susceptible to the expressed toxin can develop into secondary pests and cause significant damage to the crop. Here, we review the main causes surrounding secondary pest dynamics in Bt crops and the impact of such outbreaks.Regardless of the causes, if non susceptible secondary pest populations exceed economic thresholds, insecticide spraying could become the immediate solution at farmers’ disposal, and the sustainable use of this genetic modification technology may be in jeopardy. Based on the literature, recommendations for future research are outlined that will help to improve the knowledge of the possible long-term ecological trophic interactions of employing this technology.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Catarino R, Ceddia G, Areal F, Park J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Plant Biotechnology Journal

Year: 2015

Volume: 13

Issue: 5

Pages: 601-612

Print publication date: 01/06/2015

Online publication date: 31/03/2015

Acceptance date: 20/02/2015

ISSN (print): 1467-7644

ISSN (electronic): 1467-7652

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/pbi.12363


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