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October 30th, 2018 / Phys.org

In the most recent battle in the unending war between farmers and bugs, the bugs are biting back by adapting to crops genetically engineered to kill them.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences identifies a dominantly inherited mutation that confers resistance to engineered cotton in caterpillars of the cotton bollworm, one of the world’s most destructive crop pests. The study’s cutting-edge use of genomics and gene editing signals a new era in global efforts to promote more sustainable pest control.

Cotton, corn and soybean have been genetically engineered to produce pest-killing proteins from the widespread soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. Non-toxic to people and wildlife including bees, these environmentally friendly Bt proteins have been used in sprays by organic growers for more than 50 years and in engineered Bt crops planted by millions of farmers worldwide on a cumulative total of more than two billion acres since 1996. Read more