Sustainable Management of Insect-Resistant Crops

  • Shelby J. FleischerEmail author
  • William D. Hutchison
  • Steven E. Naranjo


Sustainability is a goal-oriented process that advances based on 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 the transgenic crop. Genetically engineered 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 to 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 transgenic. 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. Five insect pest species have evolved resistance. 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 transgenic crops requires consideration of regional effects of both densities and genetics 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 transgenic crops, to manage the wider community of species relevant to agroecosystems, and to enable agriculture to adapt to change.


IPM Areawide Bacillus thuringiensis Insecticide Resistance 



The authors thank T. Sappington and A. Shelton for valuable reviews which improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shelby J. Fleischer
    • 1
    Email author
  • William D. Hutchison
    • 2
  • Steven E. Naranjo
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity Park, State CollegeUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.USDA-ARSArid-Land Agricultural Research CenterMaricopaUSA

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