Transgenic crops expressing insecticidal toxins could soon provide safe, clean and effective means of pest control, but their usefulness will be short-lived if insects adapt to the toxins. Two planting strategies are among those that have been recommended to delay crop failure: susceptible insects could be conserved by planting either `refugia', i.e. separate fields of toxic and toxin-free crop, or `seed mixtures' of toxic and toxin-free plants in the same fields. However, we show that if insects can move from plant to plant, seed mixtures may actually hasten insect resistance compared with pure stands of toxic plants. Insect movement causes an increase in effective genetic dominance which can counteract reduced selection due to the mixture. This failure of seed mixtures is likely under just those conditions, low genetic dominance of resistance, which predict a good chance for resistance to the toxin to evolve slowly. Seed mixtures, unlike refugia, are therefore failure prone. This result also suggests potential problems with a third strategy, tissue-specific expression of toxins, which essentially provides a mixture of toxin-free and toxin-containing tissues on the same plant. However, better information and modelling are urgently required to evaluate alternative means of slowing insect adaptation to resistant crop plants. Legislation for toxin-free refugia may provide one of the best available means for conserving insect susceptibility.