Laboratory toxicity studies demonstrate no adverse effects of Cry1Ab and Cry3Bb1 to larvae of Adalia bipunctata (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae): the importance of study design

Transgenic Res. 2011 Jun;20(3):467-79. doi: 10.1007/s11248-010-9430-5. Epub 2010 Aug 26.


Scientific studies are frequently used to support policy decisions related to transgenic crops. Schmidt et al., Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 56:221-228 (2009) recently reported that Cry1Ab and Cry3Bb were toxic to larvae of Adalia bipunctata in direct feeding studies. This study was quoted, among others, to justify the ban of Bt maize (MON 810) in Germany. The study has subsequently been criticized because of methodological shortcomings that make it questionable whether the observed effects were due to direct toxicity of the two Cry proteins. We therefore conducted tritrophic studies assessing whether an effect of the two proteins on A. bipunctata could be detected under more realistic routes of exposure. Spider mites that had fed on Bt maize (events MON810 and MON88017) were used as carriers to expose young A. bipunctata larvae to high doses of biologically active Cry1Ab and Cry3Bb1. Ingestion of the two Cry proteins by A. bipunctata did not affect larval mortality, weight, or development time. These results were confirmed in a subsequent experiment in which A. bipunctata were directly fed with a sucrose solution containing dissolved purified proteins at concentrations approximately 10 times higher than measured in Bt maize-fed spider mites. Hence, our study does not provide any evidence that larvae of A. bipunctata are sensitive to Cry1Ab and Cry3Bb1 or that Bt maize expressing these proteins would adversely affect this predator. The results suggest that the apparent harmful effects of Cry1Ab and Cry3Bb1 reported by Schmidt et al., Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 56:221-228 (2009) were artifacts of poor study design and procedures. It is thus important that decision-makers evaluate the quality of individual scientific studies and do not view all as equally rigorous and relevant.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacillus thuringiensis / genetics
  • Bacillus thuringiensis / metabolism
  • Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / toxicity*
  • Coleoptera / physiology*
  • Endotoxins / genetics
  • Endotoxins / toxicity*
  • Hemolysin Proteins / genetics
  • Hemolysin Proteins / toxicity*
  • Larva
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / physiology*
  • Research Design
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tetranychidae / physiology
  • Zea mays / genetics
  • Zea mays / physiology*


  • Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cry3Bbl endotoxin, Bacillus thuringiensis
  • Endotoxins
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • insecticidal crystal protein, Bacillus Thuringiensis