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Genetically engineered crops help support conservation biological control

Jörg Romeis, Steven E. Naranjo, Michael Meissle, Anthony M. Shelton
Biological control 2019 v.130 pp. 136-154
Bacillus thuringiensis, Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, adverse effects, arthropods, biological control, corn, cotton, field crops, genetic engineering, insecticidal proteins, insecticides, integrated pest management, natural enemies, nontarget organisms, parasitoids, pest control, predators, risk, seed treatment, soil, soybeans, transgenic plants
Genetically engineered (GE) crops producing insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) (mainly Cry proteins) have become a major control tactic for a number of key lepidopteran and coleopteran pests, mainly in maize, cotton, and soybean. As with any management tactic, there is concern that using GE crops might cause adverse effects on valued non-target species, including arthropod predators and parasitoids that contribute to biological control. Such potential risks are addressed prior to the commercial release of any new GE plant. Over the past 20+ years, extensive experience and insight have been gained through laboratory and field-based studies of the non-target effects of crops producing Cry proteins. Overall, the vast majority of studies demonstrates that the insecticidal proteins deployed today cause no unintended adverse effects to natural enemies. Furthermore, when Bt crops replace synthetic chemical insecticides for target pest control, this creates an environment supportive of the conservation of natural enemies. As part of an overall integrated pest management (IPM) strategy, Bt crops can contribute to more effective biological control of both target and non-target pests. The growing use of insecticidal seed treatments in major field crops (Bt or not) may dampen the positive gains realized through reductions in foliar and soil insecticides. Nonetheless, Bt technology represents a powerful tool for IPM.