Insect-resistant GM crops study

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- By Larissa Mullot

A recent study by American ecologists has found that GM insect-resistant crops containing a gene from a soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which allows them to produce an insect toxin, are still effective 15 years after they were first commercialised.

According to the study, hardly any resistant pests have been found, and the resistance management strategy practised has proven successful.

Where insect-resistant GM crops are grown, insect resistance management strategies are employed to ensure the longevity of the products.

The management strategies are based on two key elements: first, the plants need to produce enough Bt protein to kill pests with low levels of resistance (high dose); second, refuge areas must be planted near Bt crops. These are planted with conventional cultivars so that pests living there can mate with resistant insects from the Bt fields.

According to the research, only three Bt-resistant pest populations have been clearly documented under field conditions world-wide, one each in Puerto Rico, South Africa and India. In all three cases, the researchers found there had been failures in employing resistance management strategies.

In Australia, insect-resistant GM cotton varieties have been approved for commercial use by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) since 1996, with the initial INGARD® varieties now superseded by Bollgard II® varieties.

Insect-resistance management strategies relating to these cotton varieties are set by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Management Authority (APVMA) in consultation with researchers and industry. GRDC Research Code AAA00006 More information: www.gmo-safety.eu/news/1341.bt-plants-resistant-pests.html ; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1570-7458.2011.01138.x/abstract ; www.monsanto.com.au/_pdfs/resistance_management_plan_2010_11.pdf ; www.apvma.gov.au/news_media/media_releases/archive/2003/bollgard.php ; www.grdc.com.au/AAA00006

GRDC Project Code AAA00006

Region National, Overseas