High dose refuge strategies and genetically modified crops – reply to Tabashnik et al.

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Cultivating non-toxic conventional crops (refuges) in the proximity to transgenic crops that produce Bacillus thuringienesis (Bt) toxins is widely recommended to delay pest adaptation to these toxins. Using a spatially structured model of resistance evolution, Vacher and co-workers (Vacher, C., Bourguet, D., Rousset, F., Chevillon, C. & Hochberg, M.E. 2003. J. Evol. Biol.16: 378–387.) show that the percentage of refuge fields required for the sustainable control of pests can be reduced through intermediate levels of refuge field aggregation and by lowering the toxin dose produced by Bt plants. Tabashnik, B.E., Gould, F. & Carrière, Y. (2004J. Evol. Biol doi: 10.1111/j1420–9101.2004.00695.x) call into question the results of Vacher et al. (2003) concerning the effect of toxin dose. They argue that these results arise from invalid assumptions about larval concentration–mortality responses for the insect considered, the cotton pest Heliothis virescens. We show here that the models presented by Vacher et al. (2003) and Tabashnik et al. (2004) both show inaccuracies in their definitions of genotypic fitness. The level of dominance estimated by Tabashnik et al. (2004) from larval mortality rates data is irrelevant to resistance evolution, and the fitness cost of resistance evolution, and the fitness cost of resistance is inaccurately integrated into their framework. Neverthless, the comments of Tabashnik et al. (2004) are very helpful in elucidating the definitions of genotypic fitness used in Vacher et al. (2003) and in pointing out the essential factors in predicting the evolution of insect resistance to Bt transgenic crops, namely, accurate estimations of the fitness cost of resistance, of the dominance level of this cost, and of the variations in the dominance level of the advantage conferred by the resistance with Bt toxin dose.

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