Response of selected non-target Lepidoptera, Coleoptera and Diptera species to Cry1Ab protein expressed by genetically modified maize / Annemie Erasmus
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The environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crop plants such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) maize have not yet been fully assessed in South Africa. Bt maize designed to express Bt endotoxin for control of Busseola fusca (Fuller) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) and Chilo partellus (Swinhoe) (Lepidoptera: Crambidae) is planted on approximately 1.103 million hectares in South Africa. The monitoring of GM crops after release is important in order to assess and evaluate possible environmental effects. No risk assessment for Bt maize was done in South Africa before its release in 1998 and no targeted post-release monitoring of possible resistance development or impact on non-target species have been done. Awareness has risen in South Africa through research highlighting the possible effects GM crops may have. The aim of this study was to determine, through feeding experiments, the effects of Bt maize on selected non-target Lepidoptera, Coleoptera and Diptera species that occur in maize agro-ecosystems in South Africa. Results provide information for use in future risk assessment studies on Bt maize and indicate which species could possibly be of importance in post-release monitoring of Bt maize. Priority insect species were identified and laboratory- and semifield experiments were conducted to evaluate the effect of Bt maize on these species. In the light of the reportedly lower toxicity of Bt maize to certain noctuid borers, the effect of Bt maize was evaluated on Sesamia calamistis (Hampson), Agrotis segetum (Denis & Schiffermüller), and Helicoverpa armigera (Hubner). Feeding studies were also conducted to determine the effect of Bt maize on non-target Coleoptera, i.e. Heteronychus arator Fabricius (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) and Somaticus angulatus (Fahraeus) (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae). The effect of indirect exposure of the stem borer parasitoid Sturmiopsis parasitica (Curran) (Diptera: Tachinidae) to Bt toxin was evaluated to determine if there is any effect when it parasitizes Bt-resistant B. fusca larvae that have fed on Bt maize. Results from the study conducted with S. calamistis indicated that Bt maize of both events (Bt11 and MON810) were highly toxic to S. calamistis. The behavioural characteristic of S. calamistis to feed behind leaf sheaths and to enter stems directly did not result in escape of exposure to the toxin. Larval feeding on leaf sheaths therefore resulted in the ingestion of sufficient toxin to kill larvae before they entered maize stems. Results showed that the effect of Cry1Ab toxin on the biology of A. segetum larvae and moths were largely insignificant. Whorl leaves were observed to be an unsuitable food source for H. armigera larvae and larval growth was poor. No larvae survived to the pupal stage on any of the Bt maize treatments. When feeding on maize ears H. armigera larval mass increased on non-Bt maize whereas no increase occurred on Bt maize. The feeding study conducted with Coleoptera showed that the effect of Bt maize on H. arator and S. angulatus was insignificant and no differences were observed in any of the parameters measured for the two species. Although not always significant, the percentage parasitism of Bt-consuming host larvae by S. parasitica was always higher compared to host larvae that fed on non-Bt maize. It could be that Bt toxin affects B. fusca fitness to such an extent that the immune systems of host larvae were less effective. The different parameters tested for S. parasitica indicated only one case where fly maggots originating from diapause host larvae feeding on non-Bt maize had a greater mass compared to host larvae that fed on Bt maize. The same applied to S. parasitica pupal length. For other parameters tested there were no significant differences. Sesamia calamistis is stenophagous and occurs in mixed populations with other borer species. It was therefore concluded that the ecological impact of local extinctions of S. calamistis caused by Bt maize is not expected to be great. Bt maize will most likely not have any significant effect on the control of A. segetum under field conditions. The feeding study conducted with H. armigera quantified the effects of Bt maize on this species and provided important information on the potential of Bt maize as protection against this polyphagous pest. However, the likelihood of H. armigera becoming an important secondary pest is high. It can be concluded that the Cry1Ab toxin targeting lepidopteran pests will not have adverse effects on H. arator or S. angulatus. Although some adverse effects were observed on S. parasitica mass and pupal length it is most likely that this will not contribute to adverse effects in the field, but that there rather be synergism between Bt maize and S. parasitica. An ecological approach was followed in which the potential effects of exposure of priority species to Bt toxin in maize was investigated. A series of selection matrixes were developed in which each of the above mentioned species was ranked for its maximum potential exposure to Bt toxin by assessing it occurrence, abundance, presence and linkage in the maize ecosystem. Through the use of these selection matrixes, knowledge gaps were identified for future research and to guide the design of ecologically realistic experiments. This study contributes to knowledge regarding the possible effects of Bt maize on the most economically important non-target pests in South Africa. There is, however, a need to evaluate other non-target species in feeding studies, as well as in field studies. From this study it can be concluded that some species can be eliminated from further testing since Bt maize had no adverse effect while more research have to be conducted on other species.
- ETD@PUK