Gujarat, India: Bollworm resistance to Bt cotton toxin already underway Print E-mail
 Tuesday November 14 2006

Bt cotton bubble set to burst: Experts

From Kalyan Ray DH News Service Indore:
Even though the Indian biotech industry is gung-ho over the success of Bt cotton in the last four years, crop scientists caution that in another few years the genetically-modified crop would not be able to kill the dreaded bollworm.
 
Even though the Indian biotech industry is gung-ho over the success of Bt cotton in the last four years, crop scientists caution that in another few years the genetically-modified crop would not be able to kill the dreaded bollworm.

As the success of Bt cotton relies on its pesticide-producing capabilities, it would become useless if the bollworm develops resistance against the toxin. And apparently, that’s happening in some regions of Gujarat, where illegal Bt cotton cultivation has been going on for the last six years with hardly any governmental control.

“Pockets near Vadodara are the cause of immediate concern. As for the rest of the country, it’s only a question of time,” said Dr K R Kranthi from the Nagpur-based Central Institute of Cotton Research. He was addressing an annual meeting of the Indian Academy of Sciences, which concluded at the Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya on Sunday.

Incorrect farm practices and planting of illegal Bt cotton is accelerating the process of resistance development, he said.

If the current farm practices continue and Bt cotton is cultivated in half of the total cotton cultivation areas, it would take another six to nine years for the insect to develop complete resistance against it, he said.

The solution, argued Dr Kranthi, lies in adopting better farm practices instead of blindly aping Western practices. Instead of plating five rows of refugia in Bt cotton plants, it is good enough to plant African marigold, which attracts bollworm more and reduces chances of resistance development.

However, the industry is upbeat about the future of Bt cotton as in 2006, it has been planted in 3.44 million hectares ­ a jump of 2.19 million hectares from 2005, said Dr Raju Barwale, chairman of Mahyco, the first Indian agricultural company to sell transgenic cotton.