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Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt)

  • By: Emma Gaalaas Mullaney
  • In: Green Technology: An A-to-Z Guide
  • Edited by: Dustin Mulvaney
  • Subject:Environmental Sciences (general), Environmental Technology, Policy & Management

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacterium that lives in soil around the world, naturally produces a toxin that is fatal to certain insects. Bt has been used as an insecticide spray since the 1920s, and the genetic engineering of crops to produce Bt toxin has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), since 1995. The genetic material taken from Bt and inserted into Bt crops expresses a protein that is toxic to several orders of insects, including Lepidoptera (butterflies/moths/skippers) and Coleoptera (beetles). The widespread adoption of Bt crops poses the risk that insects will evolve to become resistant to some of the most pervasive pests threatening commercial crops.

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