Cysteine proteinase inhibitors (cystatins) confer resistance to plant-parasitic nematodes when expressed in transgenic plants. The survival and growth of nymphs of the peach-potato aphid, Myzus persicae, were adversely affected when cystatins were added to artificial diets. When aphids were clip-caged onto transgenic plants expressing chicken egg white cystatin (CEWc) there was no adverse effect on aphid fitness. Field populations of aphids on transgenic Desiree potatoes, expressing CEWc or a modified version of oryzacystatin I, were not significantly different from populations on control Desiree plants. The effect of other nematode management options on aphid numbers was also studied. A conventionally bred cultivar, with partial nematode resistance, supported higher populations of aphids than the transgenic lines at the beginning of the sampling period. Peak aphid densities on the untreated control and untreated transgenic lines were 7 and 5.2 aphids per plant. Aldicarb, commonly used to control nematodes on potatoes, reduced the value to less than 0.2 aphids per plant. The results demonstrate that levels of expression in the plant tissue actually consumed are important in determining the risk of cystatins to nontarget invertebrates. The study also highlights the importance of including currently used management options in any assessment of the impact of transgenic plants on nontarget organisms.
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