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Insects develop resistance to engineered crops

h single-gene and dual-gene plants housed together, all the plants were eventually damaged by the insects, because over time, greater numbers of insects developed resistance to the plants' toxins. However, in the same two-year time frame, all or almost all of the insects died when exposed to pyramided plants alone.

"It's easier for an insect to develop resistance to a single toxin," said Shelton. "If an insect gets a jump on one toxin, then it becomes more rapidly resistant to that same toxin in a dual-gene plant. And when one line of defense starts to fail, it puts more pressure on the second toxin in a pyramided plant to control the insect," Shelton added.

While single-gene Bt plants are most prevalent, industry trends suggest that pyramided plants may be favored in the future. In Australia, the use of single-gene Bt cotton was discontinued two years after farmers began planting dual-gene cotton in 2002. In the United States, companies introduced dual-gene cotton in 2003, but single-gene varieties remain on the market.

"Single-gene Bt plants have provided good economic and environmental benefits, but from a resistance management standpoint they are inferior to dual-gene plants. U.S. regulatory agencies should consider discontinuing the use of those single-gene plants as soon as dual-gene plants become available," Shelton said. "And industries should be encouraged to create more dual-gene plants."

Along with effective insect control, pyramided plants have an added advantage of requiring a smaller refuge -- a part of the field where non-Bt plants are grown. Refuges create opportunities for Bt-resistant insects to mate with other insects that do not have resistance. The offspring of such a mating will be susceptible to the toxins.

"Having a refuge is a good management strategy, but it is not suitable for small farmers in China and India," said lead author Jian-Zhou Zhao, a senior research associate in entomology at Cornell. "Th
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Source:Cornell University News Service


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