Daily News Archive
From June 6, 2002

Chinese 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.