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Climate change might help pests resist corn’s genetic weapon

Crop engineered to make insect-killing Bt toxin could see more damage

By
2:23pm, June 8, 2017
corn earworm

CLIMATE CHANGE FAN?  In a warmer world, the corn earworm may evolve resistance faster to Bt corn, a crop that has been genetically modified to produce an insect-killing toxin, researchers propose.

Climate change might be great news for pests looking to munch on genetically modified crops, researchers propose.

In particular, researchers analyzed 21 years of data from Maryland cornfields and suggest that rising temperatures might help corn earworms (Helicoverpa zea) develop resistance faster to a widespread genetically built-in crop protection.

Some commercial varieties of corn have been engineered with genes for a toxin borrowed from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, known as Bt, that kills the earworms when they eat the crop. In areas with a lot of Bt corn acreage, plants defended by the Bt protein Cry1Ab suffered more earworm damage when summers grew warmer, the team reports June 7 in Royal Society Open Science.

The idea is plausible, says Bruce Tabashnik of the University of Arizona in Tucson. He was not involved with the new research but for

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