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Effects of Bacillus Thuringiensis on Plants and Insects

            Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that produces insecticidal toxins (Peairs) that can be inserted into plants so they in turn are capable of producing the toxin, making the plants resistant to some pests, creating a corn hybrid. This technology is valuable as it prevents damage from corn pests, including the European corn borer, without the use of toxic pesticides. Although these hybrids are very beneficial for higher yields by controlling pest damage, have lower levels of mycotoxins and is beneficial to some non-targeted species there are also causes for distress. The affects of Bt on other non-targeted species, like the Monarch Butterfly, is definitely cause for concern. There are also other possible risks to the health of humans and the environment such as gene flow and eventual pesticide resistance that need to be addressed. .
             Bt has been used for many years, first as a pesticide that was sprayed over fields to control pests. It worked, but this technique lost some effectiveness due to evaporation and loss into soils it also kills insects not considered pests to the corn. Although both Canadian and American governments have determined that Bt is safe for human consumption, it was found to be harmful to ecosystems where it was used, leeching into water sources and contaminating soils. The newer method of creating hybrid corn with Bt as part of its genetic make up has proven to be more effective. Marty Sachs, a geneticist at the university of Illinois, says this breeding method is safer, cleaner and quicker than some other breeding methods because scientists have more control over the process (Shelton et al). Switching from the old method to the new can protect beneficial insects like the Honeybee from the harmful pesticides.
             Of particular concern with the production of Bt corn, is the risk of gene flow. As pollen and seeds move in the environment, they can transmit genetic traits to nearby crops or wild relatives.

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