Vestaron Featured in The Scientist Magazine
Along Came a Spider
Researchers are turning to venom peptides to protect crops from their most devastating pests.
In the mid-1990s, researchers began commercializing plants that expressed toxin proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The toxins confer resistance to specific pests such as corn borers, cotton bollworms, and potato beetles. Farmers in the U.S. now grow millions of acres of Bt corn, cotton, and potatoes every year. But the Bt proteins cannot protect against all pests, in particular species outside of order Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies), and in recent years reports of Bt resistance in at least five major pest species have scientists looking for ways to enhance the crops’ protection.
“You will have to produce new technologies to conquer the resistance in insects,” says Inaam Ullah, a graduate student at the National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE) in Faisalabad, Pakistan. “It’s a long battle; [the introduced biopesticide] can’t be new forever.”