Friday, July 23, 2010

Cotton Pests Infest GM Cotton

It was bound to happen, given enough time. In western India, a species of cotton bollworm has now developed the ability to infest genetically modified (GM) cotton that was specifically engineered to resist bollworm infestation.

GM cotton has become increasingly popular with farmers – so popular that approximately 50% of all cotton planted worldwide is now GM cotton. The largest users (and cotton growers) are China, India, and the United States, in that order. With so much GM cotton being planted, we could have anticipated that the cotton pests would adapt eventually. But it’s surprising how quickly it happened – bollworm-resistant cotton was only first planted in India in 2002.

Realistically, we can expect the current generation of GM crops to remain useful for several more decades. In the meantime I’m sure that researchers at Monsanto will be working on new ways to thwart the pests, just as the pests will be slowly adapting. It’s just part of the ongoing battle between species for survival.

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