Cry-toxin genes originating from Bacillus thuringiensis are inserted into genetically modified (GM) plants, often called Bt-plants, to provide insect resistance to pests. Significant amounts of Bt-plant residues, and thus Cry-toxins, will be shed to soil and aquatic environments.
We exposed Daphnia magna to purified Cry1Ab and Cry2Aa toxins for the full life-span of the animals. We used single toxins in different doses and combinations of toxins and Roundup®, another potential stressor on the rise in agricultural ecosystems.
Animals exposed to 4.5 mg/L (ppm) of Cry1Ab, Cry2Aa and the combination of both showed markedly higher mortality, smaller body size and very low juvenile production compared to controls. Animals exposed to 0.75 mg/L also showed a tendency towards increased mortality but with increased early fecundity compared to the controls. Roundup® stimulated animals to strong early reproductive output at the cost of later rapid mortality.
We conclude that i) purified Cry-toxins in high concentrations are toxic to D. magna, indicating alternative modes-of-action for these Cry-toxins; ii) Cry-toxins act in combination, indicating that ‘stacked events’ may have stronger effects on non-target organisms; iii) further studies need to be done on combinatorial effects of multiple Cry-toxins and herbicides that co-occur in the environment.