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Beat Pests to the punch

Scientists at North Carolina State University have developed a simple test kit that will give you early warning if pests are building up resistance to Bt toxins in Bt-resistant crops.

The container of the kit looks like a clear, plastic cellular phone. It has dozens of small capped wells, each with a thin "meal pad" of dehydrated insect food. The meal pad has a blue indicator dye that insects ingest along with the food.

You hydrate the meal pad with water (mixed with a small amount of the Bt or insecticide you've used on your fields), then collect bugs from the field and drop them in the wells -- one bug per well. After the insects eat the meal pad and defecate, you will know if they are resistant to the insecticide that you've mixed in the water. If they are, their feces will be blue.

The kit is in the last phase of the patent process and should be available soon. Contact Agdia Inc., Dept. FIN, 30380 County Rd. 6, Elkhart, IN 46514, 219/264-2014, www.agdia.com.

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