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Larger refuges needed to sustain success of transgenic corn
Date:6/8/2012

This release is also available in Chinese on EurekAlert! Chinese.

Transgenic crops that produce insect-killing proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) have reduced reliance on insecticide sprays since 1996. Yet, just as insects become resistant to conventional insecticides, they also can evolve resistance to the Bt proteins in transgenic crops. Thus, to delay pest resistance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required farmers to plant "refuges" of crops that do not produce Bt proteins near Bt crops. But how much refuge acreage is enough?

In "Delaying Corn Rootworm Resistance to Bt Corn," an article appearing in the June, 2012 issue of the Journal of Economic Entomology, authors Bruce Tabashnik (University of Arizona) and Fred Gould (North Carolina State University) conclude the EPA should more than double the percentage of corn acres planted to mandated refuges to delay insect resistance, encourage integrated pest management (IPM), and promote more sustainable crop protection.

To slow resistance in the western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera), one of the most economically important crop pests in the United States, the EPA currently requires a 20% refuge for corn producing one Bt protein (Cry3Bb1), and a 5% refuge for corn that simultaneously produces two different Bt proteins. However, the authors note that this devastating pest has rapidly evolved resistance to Cry3Bb1 in some areas of the U.S. corn belt. For Bt corn to remain effective against rootworms, they recommend increasing refuge requirements to 50% for corn producing one Bt protein and 20% for corn producing two Bt proteins.

"Corn rootworms can cost U.S. farmers close to $1 billion each year. Bt corn has helped to reduce these costs
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Contact: Bruce E. Tabashnik
brucet@cals.arizona.edu
520-621-1141
Entomological Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

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