Uptake of Bt-toxin by herbivores feeding on transgenic maize and consequences for the predator Chrysoperla carnea


Anna Dutton, Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture, Reckenholzstr. 191, CH-8046 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail: ana.dutton@fal.admin.ch


Abstract  1. Chrysoperla carnea is an important predatory insect in maize. To assess the ecological effects of Bt-maize, expressing the Cry1Ab protein, on larvae of this predator, the following factors were examined: (1) the performance of three prey herbivores (Rhopalosiphum padi, Tetranychus urticae, and Spodoptera littoralis) on transgenic Bt and non-transgenic maize plants; (2) the intake of the Cry1Ab toxin by the three herbivores; and (3) the effects on C. carnea when fed each of the prey species.

2. The intrinsic rate of natural increase (rm) was used as a measure of performance for R. padi and T. urticae. No difference in this parameter was observed between herbivores reared on Bt or non-transgenic plants. In contrast, a higher mortality rate and a delay in development were observed in S. littoralis larvae when fed Bt-maize compared with those fed the control maize plants.

3. The ingestion of Cry1Ab toxin by the different herbivores was measured using an immunological assay (ELISA). Highest amounts of Cry1Ab toxin were detected in T. urticae, followed by S. littoralis, and only trace amounts detected in R. padi.

4. Feeding C. carnea with T. urticae, which were shown to contain the Cry1Ab toxin, or with R. padi, which do not ingest the toxin, did not affect survival, development, or weight of C. carnea. In contrast, a significant increase in mortality and a delay in development were observed when predators were fed S. littoralis larvae reared on Bt-maize.

5. A combined interaction of poor prey quality and Cry1Ab toxin may account for the negative effects observed on C. carnea when fed S. littoralis. The relevance of these findings to the ecological risks of Bt-maize on C. carnea is discussed.