PLANTS: Toxin of the Funnel-Web Spider to be used in GE cotton
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------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE: FUNNEL-WEB TOXIN RESEARCH USED INTERNATIONALLY
SOURCE: University of Southern Queensland, Australia
AUTHOR: Press Release
------------------ archive: http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------
FUNNEL-WEB TOXIN RESEARCH USED INTERNATIONALLY
GENET/HM: The respective U.S. patent no. 5,959,182 from 28.09.99 is owned by Zeneca, now Syngenta.
Read more at:
Spider Venom Toxin Protects Plants from Insect Attack
Volume 15, Number 3 / Juni 2006
Sher Afzal Khan, Yusuf Zafar, Rob W. Briddon, Kauser Abdulla Malik and Zahid Mukhtar
Research on using funnel-web spider toxins in insecticides, which former University of Southern Queensland (USQ) staff member Ron Atkinson was involved in, is now being considered commercially in the USA for pest control in crops.
The research, which began in 1989, involves adding the gene for a funnel-web toxin, which is potent against insects, to the genetic makeup of crop plants such as cotton.
Dr Atkinson said this allows the plants to have an in-built defence against pests, and does not require chemical sprays.
’The idea is that if you have to spray an insecticide most of it ends up in the environment. By putting it in the plant, the plant is automatically protected by its own chemicals.
’What happens is the insects eat the plant and if they get a good dose, they stop eating, roll around aimlessly and die within a few days.’
The toxin gene can also be incorporated into bacteria which can then be sprayed onto pest insects.
’The toxins have enormous potential as insecticides of the near future due to their effectiveness and the fact they have been shown to be essentially harmless to humans and other large animals.
’They have proven to be very effective not only against the Helicoverpa caterpillar that attacks cotton but also against other important pest insects such as field locusts, cockroaches, blowflies and bronze orange bugs.
’This kind of insecticide is a lot safer than what is around now. It’s the second of its kind and it’s far better than the first.’
The initial research conducted by the team Dr Atkinson was involved with was published in scientific journals and the intellectual property was patented, with USQ to receive 7.5 percent of any money generated.
Recently research trials of the toxins have been conducted in Pakistan with positive results.
’The researchers there claim to have genetically engineered one of the insecticidal toxins mentioned in our patent into a strain of the common bacterium, Escherichia coli, which was effective in killing Helicoverpa larvae when applied to their surfaces.
’They also were successful in incorporating the toxin gene into tobacco plants which then killed any larvae that ate their leaves.’
As the insecticide involves genetic engineering and is still in the research stages Dr Atkinson believes it will take some time to get past the regulatory authorities and become commercially available.
’I wouldn’t expect to see marketing of it in the next couple of years,’ he said.
’Fortunately, the world now has had more than a decade of experience in the safe management of genetically modified materials so the fear that transgenic movements of potential hazards such as these funnel-web derived toxins will eventually lead to an environmental disaster is now greatly reduced.’
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
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