, Volume 19, Issue 8, pp 1452-1459,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Quantification of toxins in a Cry1Ac + CpTI cotton cultivar and its potential effects on the honey bee Apis mellifera L.

Abstract

Transgenic Cry1Ac + CpTI cotton (CCRI41) is increasingly planted throughout China. However, negative effects of this cultivar on the honey bee Apis mellifera L., the most important pollinator for cultivated ecosystem, remained poorly investigated. The objective of our study was to evaluate the potential side effects of transgenic Cry1Ac + CpTI pollen from cotton on young adult honey bees A. mellifera L. Two points emphasized the significance of our study: (1) A higher expression level of insecticidal protein Cry1Ac in pollen tissues was detected (when compared with previous reports). In particular, Cry1Ac protein was detected at 300 ± 4.52 ng g−1 [part per billion (ppb)] in pollen collected in July, (2) Effects on chronic mortality and feeding behaviour in honey bees were evaluated using a no-choice dietary feeding protocol with treated pollen, which guarantee the highest exposure level to bees potentially occurring in natural conditions (worst case scenario). Tests were also conducted using imidacloprid-treated pollen at a concentration of 48 ppb as positive control for sublethal effect on feeding behaviour. Our results suggested that Cry1Ac + CpTI pollen carried no lethal risk for honey bees. However, during a 7-day oral exposure to the various treatments (transgenic, imidacloprid-treated and control), honey bee feeding behaviour was disturbed and bees consumed significantly less CCRI41 cotton pollen than in the control group in which bees were exposed to conventional cotton pollen. It may indicate an antifeedant effect of CCRI41 pollen on honey bees and thus bees may be at risk because of large areas are planted with transgenic Bt cotton in China. This is the first report suggesting a potential sublethal effect of CCRI41 cotton pollen on honey bees. The implications of the results are discussed in terms of risk assessment for bees as well as for directions of future work involving risk assessment of CCRI41 cotton.