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Surge in insect resistance to transgenic crops and prospects for sustainability

Abstract

Transgenic crops have revolutionized insect pest control, but their effectiveness has been reduced by evolution of resistance in pests. We analyzed global monitoring data reported during the first two decades of transgenic crops, with each case representing the responses of one pest species in one country to one insecticidal protein from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The cases of pest resistance to Bt crystalline (Cry) proteins produced by transgenic crops increased from 3 in 2005 to 16 in 2016. By contrast, in 17 other cases there was no decrease in pest susceptibility to Bt crops, including the recently introduced transgenic corn that produces a Bt vegetative insecticidal protein (Vip). Recessive inheritance of pest resistance has favored sustained susceptibility, but even when inheritance is not recessive, abundant refuges of non-Bt host plants have substantially delayed resistance. These insights may inform resistance management strategies to increase the durability of current and future transgenic crops.

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Figure 1: Global status of pest resistance to Bt crops.
Figure 2: Increasingly rapid evolution of pest resistance to Bt crops.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by USDA Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grant 2014-33522-22214.

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Correspondence to Bruce E Tabashnik.

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B.T. is coauthor of a patent on modified Bt toxins, “Suppression of Resistance in Insects to Bacillus thuringiensis Cry Toxins, Using Toxins that do not Require the Cadherin Receptor” (patent numbers: CA2690188A1, CN101730712A, EP2184293A2,EP2184293A4, EP2184293B1, WO2008150150A2, WO2008150150A3). DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto, Bayer CropScience, and Syngenta did not provide funding to support this work, but may be affected financially by publication of this paper and have funded other work by the author. Y.C. has received funding from DuPont Pioneer, but DuPont Pioneer did not provide funding for this work.

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Tabashnik, B., Carrière, Y. Surge in insect resistance to transgenic crops and prospects for sustainability. Nat Biotechnol 35, 926–935 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt.3974

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