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Bt maize and integrated pest management ‐ a European perspective

Meissle, Michael, Romeis, Jörg, Bigler, Franz
Pest management science 2011 v.67 no.9 pp. 1049-1058
Bacillus thuringiensis, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera, European Union, Ostrinia nubilalis, Sesamia nonagrioides, biological control, chemical control, corn, crop production, crop rotation, cultural control, evolution, farm income, farms, genes, growers, host plants, integrated pest management, pest control, risk, rootworms, Spain
The European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis), the Mediterranean corn borer (Sesamia nonagrioides) and the western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera) are the main arthropod pests in European maize production. Practised pest control includes chemical control, biological control and cultural control such as ploughing and crop rotation. A pest control option that is available since 1996 is maize varieties that are genetically engineered (GE) to produce insecticidal compounds. GE maize varieties available today express one or several genes from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that target corn borers or corn rootworms. Incentives to growing Bt maize are simplified farm operations, high pest control efficiency, improved grain quality and ecological benefits. Limitations include the risk of resistance evolution in target pest populations, risk of secondary pest outbreaks and increased administration to comply with licence agreements. Growers willing to plant Bt maize in the European Union (EU) often face the problem that authorisation is denied. Only one Bt maize transformation event (MON810) is currently authorised for commercial cultivation, and some national authorities have banned cultivation. Spain is the only EU member state where Bt maize adoption levels are currently delivering farm income gains near full potential levels. In an integrated pest management (IPM) context, Bt maize can be regarded as a preventive (host plant resistance) or a responsive pest control measure. In any case, Bt maize is a highly specific tool that efficiently controls the main pests and allows combination with other preventive or responsive measures to solve other agricultural problems including those with secondary pests.