Gould named National Associate by National Academies
r. Fred Gould, William Neal Reynolds Professor of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has been named a National Associate by the National Academies, a group comprising the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council.
The Council of the National Academy of Sciences initiated the national associates program to recognize extraordinary contributions to the National Academies through pro bono service to National Research Council and Institute of Medicine programs. Membership in the Associates is for life, recognizing past service and ongoing leadership.
Gould has contributed to several NAS projects related to the ecological and evolutionary aspects of agricultural pest management. In 2000 and 2001, he was chairman of the National Research Council’s Committee on the Environmental Effects of Commercialization of Transgenic Plants. And he served on earlier council committees related to the future of pesticides in American agriculture and the role of biological pest controls.
At N.C. State, Gould has studied how insects evolve resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) proteins and looked at ways to decrease the risk of rapid pest adaptation to Bt toxins. Genes from the bacterium have been inserted into cotton, corn and potatoes to create transgenic plants protected against attacks from certain insects. Insecticide use on these so-called Bt crops is reduced, which saves farmers money and helps protect the environment. But as is the case with other insecticides, insect pests can evolve resistance to Bt proteins. If that happens, farmers will lose a powerful tool and may have to return to conventional insecticides to protect their crops.
Gould was among the first to show that insects could adapt to Bt crops, and the findings reached in his lab have been instrumental in convincing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and industry that there are ways to get long-term benefits from Bt toxin-producing crops. One of these ways is the planting of what have become known as refuges of non-Bt crops, crops that are susceptible to insect attack. Refuges help prolong the useful life of Bt crops by ensuring that an insect population continues to contain individuals susceptible to the Bt toxin.
If these susceptible individuals breed with the initially rare, resistant insects, they can substantially decrease the rate at which the entire pest population becomes resistant.