Economic, ecological, food safety, and social consequences of the deployment of bt transgenic plants

Annu Rev Entomol. 2002;47:845-81. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ento.47.091201.145309.


Transgenic plants expressing insecticidal proteins from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), are revolutionizing agriculture. Bt, which had limited use as a foliar insecticide, has become a major insecticide because genes that produce Bt toxins have been engineered into major crops grown on 11.4 million ha worldwide in 2000. Based on the data collected to date, generally these crops have shown positive economic benefits to growers and reduced the use of other insecticides. The potential ecological and human health consequences of Bt plants, including effects on nontarget organisms, food safety, and the development of resistant insect populations, are being compared for Bt plants and alternative insect management strategies. Scientists do not have full knowledge of the risks and benefits of any insect management strategies. Bt plants were deployed with the expectation that the risks would be lower than current or alternative technologies and that the benefits would be greater. Based on the data to date, these expectations seem valid.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins
  • Bacillus thuringiensis*
  • Bacterial Proteins* / genetics
  • Bacterial Toxins* / genetics
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Crops, Agricultural / economics
  • Ecology
  • Endotoxins* / genetics
  • Environment
  • Food
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • Humans
  • Insecta
  • Insecticide Resistance
  • Insecticides*
  • Pest Control, Biological* / economics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified


  • Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Endotoxins
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • Insecticides
  • insecticidal crystal protein, Bacillus Thuringiensis