Field-Evolved Insect Resistance to Bt Crops: Definition, Theory, and Data

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Abstract:

Transgenic crops producing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins for insect pest control have been successful, but their efficacy is reduced when pests evolve resistance. Here we review the definition of field-evolved resistance, the relationship between resistance and field control problems, the theory underlying strategies for delaying resistance, and resistance monitoring methods. We also analyze resistance monitoring data from five continents reported in 41 studies that evaluate responses of field populations of 11 lepidopteran pests to four Bt toxins produced by Bt corn and cotton. After more than a decade since initial commercialization of Bt crops, most target pest populations remain susceptible, whereas field-evolved resistance has been documented in some populations of three noctuid moth species: Spodoptera frugiperda (J. E. Smith) to Cry1F in Bt corn in Puerto Rico, Busseola fusca (Fuller) to Cry1Ab in Bt corn in South Africa, and Helicoverpa zea (Boddie) to Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab in Bt cotton in the southeastern United States. Field outcomes are consistent with predictions from theory, suggesting that factors delaying resistance include recessive inheritance of resistance, abundant refuges of non-Bt host plants, and two-toxin Bt crops deployed separately from one-toxin Bt crops. The insights gained from systematic analyses of resistance monitoring data may help to enhance the durability of transgenic insecticidal crops. We recommend continued use of the long-standing definition of resistance cited here and encourage discussions about which regulatory actions, if any, should be triggered by specific data on the magnitude, distribution, and impact of field-evolved resistance.

Keywords: Bacillus thuringiensis; evolution; genetically engineered crops; resistance; transgenic crops

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • Journal of Economic Entomology is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The journal publishes articles on the economic significance of insects and is divided into the following sections: apiculture & social insects; arthropods in relation to plant disease; forum; insecticide resistance and resistance management; ecotoxicology; biological and microbial control; ecology and behavior; sampling and biostatistics; household and structural insects; medical entomology; molecular entomology; veterinary entomology; forest entomology; horticultural entomology; field and forage crops, and small grains; stored-product; commodity treatment and quarantine entomology; and plant resistance. In addition to research papers, Journal of Economic Entomology publishes Letters to the Editor, interpretive articles in a Forum section, Short Communications, Rapid Communications, and Book Reviews.
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