China's GM cotton farmers are losing money

July 26, 2006

U.S. scientists say Chinese farmers, among the world's first to plant genetically modified cotton, are being besieged by secondary pests.

The crop is known as Bt cotton -- shorthand for the Bacillus thuringiensis gene inserted into the seeds to produce toxins that prevent the most common cotton pest -- leaf-eating bollworms.

But now, after seven years, populations of other insects have increased so much, farmers must spray their crops as many as 20 times a growing season to control them, a Cornell University study of 481 Chinese farmers in five major cotton-producing provinces found.

"These results should send a very strong signal to researchers and governments that they need to come up with remedial actions for the Bt-cotton farmers," said Cornell Professor of Food, Nutrition and Public Policy Per Pinstrup-Andersen. "Otherwise, these farmers will stop using Bt cotton, and that would be very unfortunate."

Bt cotton can help reduce poverty and undernourishment in developing countries if properly used, Pinstrup-Andersen said.

The Cornell study -- the first to look at the long-term economic impact of Bt cotton - was reported Tuesday in Long Beach, Calif., during the annual meeting of the American Agricultural Economics Association.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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