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Abstract

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)-based insecticide products constitute the overwhelming majority of biopesticides but, despite having been commercially available for over 30 years, they have made little impact (<1%) on the crop-protection market as a whole. This has been largely due to poor cost-performance factors relative to synthetic organic pesticides. However, recent biotechnological advances—including genetic modification—combined with a variety of emerging opportunities, have created the prospect of the commercialisation of a new range of highly effective Bt-based biopesticides.

Bioencapsulation of single-gene products—delta-endotoxins from selected Bt isolates—in killed Pseudomonad cells (Mycogen Corporation's ‘CellCap’ technology), offers a flexible delivery system with enhanced persistence.

This versatile approach selects only the most appropriate biotoxins, which can be used to target a number of pest species. It is anticipated that Bt-based pesticides will continue to fill an increasing number of gaps in the panoply of synthetic crop-protection chemicals. Genetically modified products offer advantages in terms of efficacy, flexibility and safety but public concerns regarding perceived risks need to be addressed.