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Genetic engineering of crop plants for insect resistance - A critical review



Genetic engineering of crop plants for insect resistance - A critical review



Crop Protection 18(3): 177-191



Genetically engineering inherent crop resistance to insect pests offers the potential of a user-friendly, environment-friendly and consumer-friendly method of crop protection to meet the demands of sustainable agriculture in the 21st century. Work to date has concentrated on the introduction of genes for expression of modified Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins. Impressive results on the control of Bt-susceptible pests have been obtained in the laboratory and the field, and the first commercial Bt transgenic crops are now in use. A main alternative approach exploits plant-derived insect control genes. Enhanced resistance to a wide spectrum of pests has been demonstrated in laboratory trials of transgenics expressing various protease inhibitors, lectins, etc. and some promising field trials have been carried out, but the scale of effects produced by plant-derived insect control genes has not been deemed convincing enough to lead to serious attempts at commercialization. Both classes of compounds have limitations: there have been serious failures in resistance to targeted pests in Bt cotton; most plant-derived resistance factors produce chronic rather than acute effects; and many serious pests are simply not susceptible to known resistance factors. We have analysed the characteristics which would be desirable in an ideal transgenic technology: these include being environmentally benign, relatively inexpensive to develop, with a potentially wide spectrum of activity (although targetable at pests and not beneficials), generated by a flexible technology that allows any insect site to be targeted and readily adaptable so that alternatives can be produced as required. We are developing such a technology based on the expression of single-chain antibody genes in crop plants which would be compatible with the likely trends in pesticide discovery using biology-driven target-based methods. The importance of a changed, more socially responsible attitude in this sector is emphasised as is the need for much improved presentation of the benefits and need for responsible deployment of genetically engineered crops.

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Accession: 010706592

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DOI: 10.1016/s0261-2194(99)00028-9


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