Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tests show biotech corn rules need revision

11.05.2004


A corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea) caterpillar damages corn by devouring kernels and spreading green mold (Aspergillus flavus).
Photo credit: Texas A&M University


Biotech corn carrying a gene that confers protection from insects can pollinate corn plants as far as 100 feet (31 meters) away, reports a pair of researchers.

The gene, known as Bt, codes for a toxin that kills corn-munching caterpillars, including European corn borer and corn earworm.

The findings suggest measures are needed to reduce pollen spread from Bt corn to corn fields that should be Bt-free, according to the researchers.



The discovery is important because planting non-Bt corn, which is susceptible to insect attack, near Bt corn delays pest resistance to the Bt toxin. Such fields of non-Bt corn are called refuges.

However, this research indicates a need to revise the current Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for interspersing non-Bt corn with Bt, or transgenic, corn. The gene is from the bacterium called Bt--short for Bacillus thuringiensis.

"It’s the first documentation of gene flow from a transgenic crop into a refuge," said Bruce E. Tabashnik, head of the entomology department at the University of Arizona in Tucson and co-author on the research paper. "This will almost certainly cause a revision of some of the regulations," adding, "I think it’s a problem that once observed, recognized and accepted can be readily overcome."

Tabashnik, who works on the evolution of resistance in insects, was involved in devising the refuge guidelines. Using such biotech crops can reduce the need for chemical insecticides, he said.

"If Bt crops were grown wall-to-wall, everyone would expect resistance in insects to evolve overnight," he said. "The EPA rules say that if you grow Bt corn, you must plant a refuge of non-Bt corn for at least 20 percent of your crop."

Caterpillars that can survive on Bt corn are rare at first, and only a few resistant adult moths emerge from Bt corn fields. But refuges of non-Bt corn produce oodles of susceptible moths. The idea is that the uncommon resistant moths will mate with the more abundant susceptible moths. Their hybrid progeny would be killed by feeding on Bt corn. Thus, Bt resistance would not increase quickly.

Non-Bt corn refuges must be close to Bt corn so Bt-resistant moths will almost certainly mate with only with Bt-susceptible moths from refuges.

Until now, researchers didn’t consider that the Bt and non-Bt corn plants were also close enough to mate, potentially reducing the amount of non-Bt corn in the refuge.

The research article, "Contamination of refuges by Bacillus thuringiensis toxin genes from transgenic maize," will be published the week of May 10 in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. First author on the paper is Charles F. Chilcutt of Texas A&M University’s Texas Agricultural Research & Extension Center in Corpus Christi. Research support was provided by the University of Arizona and Texas A&M University’s Texas Agricultural Research & Extension Center.

Chilcutt questioned whether pollen from Bt corn moved into refuges when he noticed that ears of white non-Bt corn had some yellow kernels. Yellow kernels meant the plants had been pollinated by yellow, not white, corn. The plot of white corn had been planted near yellow Bt corn.

So he tested those yellow kernels for the Bt toxin and found it in high levels.

To see how far Bt corn pollen could spread, he planted eight rows of Bt corn next to 36 rows of non-Bt corn. The rows were planted 38 inches apart. At the end of the growing season, he took ears from the non-Bt corn and tested them for Bt toxin.

In the first few rows of corn that was supposed to be Bt-free, the ears had almost half as much Bt as the Bt corn. Although corn in more distant rows had less Bt, there was detectable Bt in the ears of corn planted 32 rows away from the plot of Bt corn.

Chilcutt said, "There’s very good chance that if any grower is growing four rows of Bt corn and four rows of non-Bt corn -- 4-4-4-4 -- essentially all the refuge plants could be contaminated."

Current regulations allow such spacing between Bt and non-Bt corn.

He added, "It could increase the speed with which insect populations become resistant to the toxin."

Tabashnik said, "The possibility of toxin production in the refuge plants is something that needs to be incorporated into the science and the regulations."

Because corn is wind-pollinated, refuges could be planted upwind of Bt corn, suggests Tabashnik. Another possibility would be blocking cross-pollination by planting a variety of Bt corn that produces pollen when the non-Bt corn is not receptive.

Tabashnik said, "The problem will take more research to be fully understood, but it’s not catastrophic and can be overcome with relatively minor refinements."

Bruce Tabashnik | University of Arizona
Further information:
http://www.arizona.edu/

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Faba fix for corn's nitrogen need
11.04.2018 | American Society of Agronomy

nachricht Wheat research discovery yields genetic secrets that could shape future crops
09.04.2018 | John Innes Centre

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>