Researcher Says Genetically Altered Cotton Will Lose Effectiveness
Recently the Associated Press reported that rapidly evolving insect populations could render "Bt cotton," the most widely used type of bioengineered bug-resistant cotton ineffective in as little as two years, based on studies by Chinese scientist Xue Dayuan, a researcher at the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences. According to the article, Dr. Xue based his warning on experiments he said had been done at four state-run Chinese laboratories. He said Chinese researchers found it took about five years for bollworms, a cotton-munching caterpillar, to develop resistance to toxins produced by genetically modified cotton plants.
Five years in a laboratory translates into eight-to-10 years in actual cotton fields, said Dr. Xue. "We expect similar bugs to begin appearing in the fields in two-three years. What's only a small experiment in scientists' labs now will become a huge threat to agriculture." Chinese researchers also found the use of Bt cotton, which is designed to target bollworms, was leading to larger populations of other cotton-eating pests. This could cause unpredictable disruptions to the environment.
This type of genetically engineered cotton, is modified so that the plant produces the proteins of a naturally occurring bacterium, Bt, within its cells. The bacterium itself, which is considered an organic pesticide in it's natural form, can be a powerful tool for farmers when it is applied as spray on crops. However, when incorporated into the genetic structure of crops, increased insect resistance, genetic contamination and health effects become a great concern.