Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a bacterium found in soil that can be used to control insects. Bt pesticides have commonly been used for decades in organic agriculture as sprays and conventional agriculture in genetically modified organisms (GMO). Use of Bt reduces the need for chemicals, targets specific insects and is not harmful to humans.
One naturally occurring “crystal” (Cry) protein derived from Bt soil bacteria was improved to increase its activity and the spectrum of insects that it can control. This Cry protein, named Cry51Aa2.834_16, was modified and put into cotton seeds to enable a crop that is protected from yield-robbing Lygus pests, in addition to the other insects Bt crops already control. In the United States, Lygus pests have become one of the most economically important pests in cotton farming.1
All GMOs undergo robust safety testing to ensure that they are safe. This journal publication discusses a wide set of scientific safety data collected on three versions of the Cry51Aa2 protein, including Cry51Aa2.834_16. The weight of evidence presented in the paper shows that these closely related proteins are safe for humans and animals, despite small structural differences between them that provide increased insect control activity and spectrum.