Sustainable management of insect-resistant crops

Shelby J. Fleischer, William D. Hutchison, Steven E. Naranjo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Sustainability is a goal-oriented process that advances with new knowledge. We discuss factors relevant to insect-resistant crops and sustainability: adoption patterns, insecticide use patterns and their influence on humans, biological control, areawide effects, and evolution of populations resistant to genetically engineered (GE) crops. GE insect-resistant crops were introduced at a time when insecticide options and use patterns were changing. Management of lepidopteran and coleopteran pests has been achieved through constitutive expression of proteins derived from the crystalline spore and the vegetative stage of various strains of Bacillus thuringiensis. Management of aphid-transmitted viruses has been achieved through expression of viral coat proteins. Adoption patterns have been rapid where use is allowed. Areawide reductions in pest populations have occurred in cotton and maize in multiple parts of the world, enabled eradication programs, and conferred significant economic benefits to crops that are not GE. Insecticide use has decreased dramatically in cotton, leading to improved biological control, reductions in pesticide poisonings, and changes in species composition that achieve pest status. Pro-active resistance management programs, the first to be deployed in all of agriculture, has slowed but not stopped the evolution of resistant populations. Nine pest species have evolved resistance to one or more Bt proteins. Future constructs may provide induced or tissue-specific expression or use RNAi to deliver protection from insect pests. Constructs that alter plant metabolism, to achieve drought tolerance, nitrogen-utilization, or biomass conversion efficiency, may also affect insect populations and communities. Sustainable management of insect-resistant GE crops requires consideration of regional effects of both the genetics and densities of mobile target insect populations. The underlying assumption of IPM, that multiple and diverse management tactics are more sustainable, continues to be highly relevant, and necessary, to maintain the utility of GE crops, to manage the wider community of species relevant to agroecosystems, and to enable agriculture to adapt to change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPlant Biotechnology
Subtitle of host publicationExperience and Future Prospects: Second Edition
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783030683450
ISBN (Print)9783030683443
StatePublished - Aug 30 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021.


  • Areawide
  • Bacillus thuringiensis
  • Insecticide
  • IPM
  • Resistance


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