Looking for Functional Non-Target Differences Between Transgenic and Conventional Cottons: Implications for Biological Control
AffiliationUSDA-ARS, Western Cotton Research Laboratory, Phoenix, AZ
University of Arizona, Maricopa, AZ
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AbstractEvaluations of the non-target effects of transgenic cotton, modified to express the insecticidal proteins of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), have been underway in Arizona since 1999. Here we provide a preliminary report of replicated field studies conducted from 1999 to 2001 to examine comparative affects of Bt cotton on natural enemy abundance, overall arthropod diversity, and natural enemy function. Analyses completed to date indicate that natural enemy abundance and overall arthropod diversity are affected by use of additional insecticides for other pests, but not directly by transgenic cottons in comparison with non-transgenic cottons. Further studies suggest that natural enemy function, measured as rates of predation and parasitism on two key pests (Pectinophora gossypiella (Saunders) and Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius)) of cotton in the western U.S., is unaffected in Bt cotton. Our preliminary results suggest that use of transgenic cotton may not have any unintended effects and represents an extremely selective pest control method that could facilitate the broader use of biological control and IPM in an agricultural system long dominated by the use of broad-spectrum insecticides.