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From March 28, 2002

India Approves Genetically Modified Cotton

India gave the go-ahead on Tuesday for commercial production of cotton genetically engineered to contain Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The decision came despite years of resistance from farmers and environmentalists. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), who announced the decision, showed little concern. "Everything is fine with Bt cotton. There is nothing to worry about," said GEAC chairman A.M. Gokhale.

Until now, genetically modified cotton in India had only been grown in field trials. With its approval for commercial use, it is expected most large-scale Indian farmers will make the switch. India today is the third-largest producer of cotton. Considering that 90% of U.S. cotton is modified, and other major cotton-producing countries are using GMO seeds as well, it is foreseeable in the next few years that the majority of the world's cotton will be genetically modified.

Bt cotton crops are modified to contain a gene that makes them resistant to the cotton bollworm, a major pest concern for cotton growers. However, this type of pest control brings with it a host of other dangers. The development of resistance to Bt by both target and non-target insects is a major concern. Smaller farmers who do not have access to Bt cotton would feel this impact. Effects on wildlife are not yet fully understood. Read more about Bt crops from our Genetic Engineering Program page. Contact Beyond Pesticides if you would like further information.