, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 439-449

A Sequential Approach to Risk Assessment of Transgenic Plants Expressing Protease Inhibitors: Effects on Nontarget Herbivorous Insects

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Protease inhibitors expressed in transgenic plants can provide enhanced levels of resistance to important pest species. A sequential approach for testing the effects of protease inhibitor-expressing crops on nontarget herbivorous insects has been developed. The approach consists of five tiers. The first two tiers comprise the selection phase. In tier one, field surveys are used to characterise the nontarget invertebrate fauna of a crop. In tier 2, histochemical assays are used to identify the subset of herbivores with a particular class of digestive proteolytic enzymes. In the assessment phase a combination of laboratory ‘worst-case scenario’ studies (tier 3) and controlled environment or small-scale field trials (tier 4) are used to evaluate the impact of the protease inhibitor-expressing plants on the selected nontarget species. In the final tier, field trials are used to compare the relative effect of transgenic plants and current management practices, such as pesticide use, on selected species. The first four tiers of the approach are described using potatoes expressing cystatins, a family of cysteine proteinase inhibitors, as an example. Although the plants have enhanced levels of resistance to potato cyst nematodes (PCN), Globodera pallida and Globodera rostochiensis, the results establish that they have negligible impact on the nontarget herbivorous insect, Eupteryx aurata.