In defense of Bacillus thuringiensis, the safest and most successful microbial insecticide available to humanity – a response to EFSA
FEMS Microbiology Ecology
Oxford University Press (OUP) for Federation of European Microbiological Societies
© FEMS 2017. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
The Bacillus cereus group contains vertebrate pathogens such as Bacillus anthracis and Bacillus cereus and the invertebrate pathogen Bacillus thuringiensis. Microbial biopesticides based on B. thuringiensis (Bt) are widely recognized as being among the safest and least environmentally damaging insecticidal products available. Nevertheless, a recent food poisoning incident prompted a European Food Safety Authority review which argued that B. thuringiensis poses a health risk equivalent to B. cereus, a causative agent of diarrhoea. However, a critical examination of available data, and this latest incident, provide no solid evidence that B. thuringiensis causes diarrhoea. Although relatively high levels of B. cereus-like spores can occur in foods, genotyping demonstrates that these are predominantly naturally-occurring strains rather than biopesticides. Moreover, MLST genotyping of >2000 isolates show that biopesticidegenotypes have never been isolated from any clinical infection. MLST data demonstratethat Bacillus cereus group is heterogeneous and formed of distinct clades withsubstantial differences in biology, ecology and host association. The group posing the greatest risk (the anthracis clade) is distantly related to the clade containing allbiopesticides. These recent data support the long-held view that B. thuringiensis, andespecially the strains used in Bt biopesticides, are very safe for humans.
BR has received support from NERC, BBSRC and the Leverhulme Trust for funding his research on Bt.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Oxford University Press via the DOI in this record.