Monday June 3, 11:48 am Eastern Time
Chinese researcher says genetically altered cotton will lose effectiveness
BEIJING (AP) -- Rapidly evolving insect populations could render the most widely used type of bioengineered bug-resistant cotton ineffective in as little as two years, a Chinese scientist affiliated with the environmental group Greenpeace warned Monday.
Xue Dayuan, a researcher at the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences, based his warning on experiments he said had been done at four state-run Chinese laboratories. Xue is a science adviser for Greenpeace, which opposes biotech crops.
Xue 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.
The experiments involved "Bt" cotton, which has become the most widely used genetically altered cotton since it was introduced by U.S.-based Monsanto Co. (NYSE:MON - News) in 1996.
Xue said five years in a laboratory translates into eight-to-10 years in actual cotton fields.
"We expect similar bugs to begin appearing in the fields in two-three years," Xue told The Associated Press. "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, he said. Xue said this could cause unpredictable disruptions to the environment.
A spokesman for Monsanto, which began selling Bt cotton in China four years ago, said the Chinese findings contradicted previous research.
"Throughout the world, there has been no evidence to date of resistance in the six years of this cotton's use," said Lee Quarles, a spokesman at the company's headquarters in St. Louis.
Bt cotton is also produced by other companies, including some in China.
It is genetically engineered to produce its own pesticide, reducing the need for chemical pesticides. In China, Bt cotton accounts for more than a third of the nation's annual 1.5 million-hectare (3.7 million-acre) cotton crop.
Xue's findings will be issued Tuesday in a report by Greenpeace.
"Scientists in China have actually found ill effects, unlike what industry has been saying," said Lo Sze Ping, a Greenpeace spokesman in China.
Reuters Company News
China GMO cotton bad for environment - Greenpeace
SHANGHAI, June 3 (Reuters) - Transgenic Chinese cotton, developed by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto (NYSE:MON - News), is bad for the environment because it encourages the continued use of pesticides, environmental group Greenpeace said on Monday.
The crop, Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton, genetically engineered to be more resistant to pests, is building up resistance toward cotton bollworm after just five years of commercial cultivation, Greenpeace said in a statement.
Monsanto director of scientific director Eric Sachs said the Greenpeace report was misleading and flawed.
"There is no evidence of resistance to BT crops," Sachs said.
Sachs said the testing cited by Greenpeace was done within a laboratory and "bears no reality in the field."
Greenpeace cited laboratory tests and field monitoring done by four Chinese state-owned science institutes as also showing an increase in secondary pests such as cotton aphids, spider mites and thrips.
Farmers are forced to continue using chemical pesticides and the chance of pest outbreaks has risen because the insect community has been destabilized, Greenpeace said.
"After five years of growing, Chinese and farmers and scientists are now faced with serious problems and confronted with the fact that too little is known about the interaction of GE (genetically engineered) crops with the environment," said Xue Dayuan, a Greenpeace adviser, in the statement.
"High hopes have been brought crashing down."
Sachs said Monsanto worked closely with Chinese authorities in introducing the bitech cotton, and had evidence the crop was a significant benefit to Chinese farmers.
"While this purporots to be a review of the relevant information, it doesn't present all the information available, even that which contradicts it," Sachs said of the Greenpeace report.
Bt cotton, whose planted area in China was 1.5 million hectares in 2001, or 35 percent of total cotton area, is developed by inserting a gene from soil bacteria to produce a toxin that kills certain types of pests, Greenpeace said.
China, a major cotton grower and consumer, is expected to have an output of 4.7 million tonnes this year, Chinese officials have said.