Document Type



biological control, biological pesticides, biotechnology, genetic engineering


In the 25 years since the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring the public has come to realize the environmental impact of heavy use of chemical pesticides. To add insult to injury, many insects, including the disease vector, the mosquito, are now virtually resistant to standard chemical pesticides. Biotechnology is now providing a positive response to these dilemmas through the production and development of improved forms of microbial pest control agents: biological pesticides. Biological pesticides are pathogens, or predators, of insects such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and predatory insects or vertebrates such as mosquito fish which reduce the population of the pest. Several biological insecticides are now registered with the EPA and are used as safe alternatives to chemicals. These agents are highly specific to the insect pests which they attack and are extensively tested and shown not to be toxic to man or animals or indeed to non-target insects. Biological pesticides are excellent models for release of genetically-engineered microorganisms into the environment because literally millions of tons of certain of these biological pesticides have been released and extensive studies have been done on their persistence. The goals of genetic engineering are to decrease the costs of production by increasing yield and specific activity of biological pesticides. Through the use of genetic engineering, plants with the genes of biological pesticides incorporated into their own genomes are now in field trials. These new developments further reduce the environmental impact of the pesticide by removing it from the environment niches of insects which do not attack the specific crop.

This presentation will review the persistence of non-genetically-engineered microorganisms. The release of newly-engineered organisms into the environment will be critically discussed, considering the ethics and economic impact of genetically-engineered biological pesticides.

Publication Date

June 1989

Journal Title

Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science





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© Copyright 1989 by the Iowa Academy of Science, Inc.



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