Sixteen years of Bt maize in the EU hotspot: Why has resistance not evolved?

Pedro Castañera, Gema P. Farinós, Félix Ortego, David A. Andow

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18 Scopus citations


The majority of Bt maize production in the European Union (EU) is concentrated in northeast Spain, which is Europe’s only hotspot where resistance might evolve, and the main target pest, Sesamia nonagrioides, has been exposed to Cry1Ab maize continuously since 1998. The cropping system in northeast Spain has some similar characteristics to those that probably led to rapid resistance failures in two other target noctuid maize pests. These include repeated cultivation of Bt maize in the same fields, low use of refuges, recurring exposure of larvae to non-high dose concentrations of Cry1Ab toxin during the first years of cultivation, low migratory potential, and production concentrated in an irrigated region with few alternative hosts. Available data reveal no evidence of resistance in S. nonagrioides after 16 years of use. We explore the possible reasons for this resistance management success using evolutionary models to consider factors expected to accelerate resistance, and those expected to delay resistance. Low initial adoption rates and the EU policy decision to replace Event 176 with MON 810 Bt maize were key to delaying resistance evolution. Model results suggest that if refuge compliance continues at the present 90%, Bt maize might be used sustainably in northeast Spain for at least 20 more years before resistance might occur. However, obtaining good estimates of the present R allele frequency and level of local assortative mating are crucial to reduce uncertainty about the future success of resistance management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0154200
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This work was supported by grants from the “Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente” (, from the

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the ?Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentaci?n y Medio Ambiente? (, from the ?Ministerio de Economia y Competitividad? (AGL2012-34289) (, and from the USDA Regional Research Fund (NC-205) ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We are grateful to C. Mart?n (Monsanto) and F. Trib? (Pioneer), and M. Eizaguirre (UdL), for providing useful information on agronomic and biological issues, respectively. We thank Syngenta Company for providing the Cry1Ab toxin.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Castañera et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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