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Volume 2

Protecting the benefits of Bt-toxins from insect resistance development by monitoring and management (ProBenBt)



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EU Contribution

2,091,028 Euro


36 months



Starting date

01 November 2002

allele frequencies
resistance mechanisms
transgenic Bt-maize

The ProBenBt project will provide a solid dataset on which to base a practical resistance management plan accompanying the European introduction of transgenic Bt-maize for its safe and sustainable use in Europe. Five work packages have been developed:

  • WP1. Genetically differentiated populations of ECB/MCB and susceptibility monitoring.
  • WP2. F2-Screen of rare recessive Bt-resistance alleles and laboratory selection of resistant ECB/MCB.
  • WP3. Development of tools to detect resistance genes.
  • WP4. Mode of action of Bt-toxin in ECB/MCB.
  • WP5. Resistance management plan.

To ensure adequate coverage of all relevant topics, at least one specialised researcher of each large maize-producing European country will participate. Two associated scientists from abroad are also contributing specialised expertise.


The introduction into the EU market of transgenic Bt-maize, bearing a gene encoding an insecticidal endotoxin (Bt), has many benefits in increasing pest control while reducing use of insecticides. These benefits could be lost if the potential for the most destructive corn pests, the European- and Mediterranean corn borer (ECB/MCB) to develop Bt-resistance is ignored. To prolong the safe and efficacious use of Bt-maize, this joint EU project will support an unique combination of approaches.


A European-wide programme to monitor ECB/MCB susceptibility levels to Bt-toxins in populations of a member state, and determining initial allele frequencies at candidate resistance genes to which at least one project participant of each country will contribute.


Targeted investigations into various aspects of ECB/MCB genetics and Bt resistance. The results will create a solid dataset on which to base a practical resistance management plan.


The members of this FP5 joint EU project will focus their research activities on the following topics.

  1. monitoring Bt-susceptibility patterns in time and space.
  2. elucidating dispersal rates and genetic population structure of ECB and MCB.
  3. measuring gene flow between different pheromone races of ECB.
  4. establishment of a central collection of specimens from all over Europe.
  5. distribution of research materials (Bt toxins, specimens, DNA) to participants.
  6. determining initial allele frequencies at candidate resistance genes.
  7. development of resistant strains by laboratory selection.
  8. characterisation of resistance mechanisms.
  9. development of prognostic tools for determination of Bt-resistance development.

The members have been chosen with two objectives in mind. First is the necessity of having one specialised researcher in each European country to perform the basic susceptibility studies as demanded by the Scientific Committee on Plants (Opinion of the SCP on Bt - Resistance monitoring, expressed on 4 March 1999,, and to perform the additional F2-screens. Second is the need to cover all the basic topics in the ecological, biochemical, and molecular areas. To ensure adequate coverage of all relevant approaches, one scientist from Australia with an outstanding international reputation has been invited to participate as associated member (not EU funded), to bring to the project specialised expertise in the mapping and identification of Bt-resistance genes in laboratory-derived resistant strains, and one scientist from USA (sub-contracting) to include practical methodology of identifying rare, recessive resistance alleles in field populations and for bringing experience to develop resistance management plans, not available to Europe because of the regulatory situation.Timing of this research effort is crucial, for it must occur before Bt maize has been introduced in Europe.


The expertise will create innovative results:

  1. the first EU picture of baseline susceptibility of ECB/MCB to Bt toxins.
  2. the first set of initial allele frequencies of several candidate resistance genes.
  3. the first archival DNA bank of ECB/MCB, enabling retrospective analysis of increase in actual resistance allele frequencies.
  4. a solid dataset on which to base a resistance management plan accompanying the EU introduction of transgenic Bt-maize.
Ingolf Schuphan
Chair of Biology V, Ecology, Ecotoxicology, Ecochemistry
Aachen University of Technology (RWTH)
52056 Aachen, Germany
Tel: +49-241-802 6677
Fax: +49-241-802 2182
Pedro Castanera
Departamento de Biologia de Plantas
28006 Madrid, Spain
Tel: +34-91-561 1800
Fax: +34-91-562 7518

Juan Ferré
Dep. Genética, Fac. CC. Biológicas
Universitat de València
46100 Burjassot.València, Spain
Tel: +34 96-386 4506
Fax: +34 96-398 3029

Denis Bourguet
Unité de Recherches de Luttle Biologique
INRA La Minière
78285 Guyancourt, France
Tel: +33 130-833 655
Fax: +33 130-438 097

Giuseppe Carlo Lozzia
Instituto di Entomologia agraria
Università degli Studi
20133 Milano, Italy
Tel: +39-02-5031 6751
Fax: +39-02-5031 6748

Ludovit Cagan
Department of Plant Protection
Slovak Agricultural University
94976 Nitra, Slovakia
Tel: +421-37-6508 253, 6508 255
Fax: +421-37-741 1451

Matilda Savopoulou-Soultani
Faculty of Geotechnical Sciences
Dep. of Plant Protection
Lab. of Applied Zoology and Parasitology
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
54006 Thessaloniki, Greece
Tel: +30-31-998 853
Fax: +30-31-998 853

Heinz Ruedel
Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and
Applied Ecology (Fhg/IME)
Cryogenic storage - Environmental Specimen Bank
57377 Schmallenberg, Germany
Tel: +49-2972-302 301
Fax: +49-2972-302 319

David Heckel
Department of Genetics
University of Melbourne
3010 Victoria, Australia
Tel: +61-3-8344 6246
Fax: +61-3-8344 5139

Subcontractor 1)

David Andow
Department of Entomology
University of Minnesota
St. Paul
MN 55108, USA
Tel: +1-612-624 5323
Fax: +1-612-625 5299

Subcontractor 2)

Johannes Jehle
State Education and Research Institute
for Agriculture (SLFA)
Section Biotechnological Crop Protection
67435 Neustadt/Weinstrasse, Germany
Tel: +49-6321-671 482
Fax: +49-6321-671 222