An Iowa State University expert on all things creepy-crawly played a role in a new reference book called “The Encyclopedia of Insects.” ISU entomology professor Bryony Bonning was asked by the editors to pen a full chapter for the book on her area of expertise. She wrote a full chapter on how biotechnology has been applied to insects and what insects have lent to biotechnology. Professor Bonning says many people don’t realize the many scientific advances that are made with the help of insects. There are several enzymes produced by fireflies, for example, that produce light. Those enzyme sequences have been isolated and have been used as tools for all sorts of other systems, so Bonning says the insects themselves have actually lent products for research. She says biotechnology is also used to control insects in medicine and in agriculture. She says the classic example in Iowa is where corn D-N-A is manipulated so it produces a toxin that kills insects like caterpillars that try to eat the corn. The comprehensive 1265-page Encyclopedia of Insects includes 270 articles and 1000 images from 250 authors from 17 countries. More than 70-percent of all known species on Earth are insects.
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