Bt Cotton Fails in India

A new press release from Monsanto on Friday revealed that their popular Bt cotton variety, Bollgard I, has proven unsuccessful in countering pest attacks in the state of Gujarat, India. The crop’s target, the pink bollworm, has developed a resistance to the Cry1Ac protein found in Bt cotton, raising concerns about the legitimacy of the crop’s claim to ward off pests. These Bt resistant pests were discovered in 2009 during a field monitoring in four regions in Gujarat and reported to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) by Monsanto. Not only have there been problems with the bollworm, but new, unreported pests have emerged that are unaffected by Bt cotton, causing significant economic loss and damage.

Though Monsanto argues that “resistance is natural and expected,” Bt cotton has failed to improve conditions, driving up the amount of pesticides used and reducing yields for Indian cotton farmers in 2009. The company also argues that the seeds themselves were not necessarily the cause of resistance, but rather “early use of unapproved Bt cotton seeds” and “limited refuge planting”.

Despite the apparent pest problems with this type of Bt cotton, Monsanto is still pushing their newest variety, Bollgard II, which contains the gene Cry2Ab in addition to the Cry1Ac found in Bollgard I.  K.R. Kranthi of the Central Institute for Cotton Research, however, has little faith in the success of Bt cotton, reporting that with 90% of the cotton  grown in India being Bollgard II and few preventative measures being taken by farmers, the pink bollworm will soon develop resistance even to this newest crop.

Monsanto also says they are currently working on a Bt cotton variety featuring three proteins instead of two.

To read the full article by India Today, please click here.

To read Monsanto’s release, please click here.