Edited by Stuart J. Smyth, Peter W.B. Phillips and David Castle
Insects have traditionally been a major threat to sustaining cotton production over the long term on nearly all continents (Benedict and Altman, 2001). Continuous cotton production accelerates the build-up of insect populations, which can cause substantial production losses on cotton fields (Clay, 2004). Lepidoptera (for example American bollworm) is one of the most pernicious pests found in all of the major cotton-producing areas, including the Americas, Africa and Asia (Benedict and Altman, 2001). Chemical pesticides were developed in the twentieth century to control insect populations but did not provide a sustainable approach to pest control. Over time, pest populations developed resistance to many of the chemical agents, and the toxicity of pesticides created human health and environmental concerns (Goodell et al., 2001). Research and development of genetically modified (GM) cotton began in the 1980s (Perlak et al., 1990). Transgenic engineering techniques were developed to insert genes that encode and promote the production of Cry proteins (for example Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab), originating from the common soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) (Perlak et al., 1990). The Cry proteins are toxic to certain caterpillar pests common to cotton and are highly effective in killing certain lepidopteran larvae, often called caterpillars (Greenplate et al., 2003). Once ingested, the Cry proteins bind to specific molecular receptors on the lining of the caterpillar's gut, create holes in the gut, and quickly cause death (Hofte and Whiteley, 1989).
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