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GM crops protect neighbors from pests
Date:9/19/2008

ently registered and marketed for use as an insecticide in more than 50 countries worldwide. It does not contaminate groundwater because it degrades so rapidly.

The authors say that Bt technology gives China a new tool for pest control, and that all farmers in a Bt cotton-planting region will experience the benefits. "In 1992, cotton bollworms caused about a 30 percent loss in the cotton yield in northern China. Because of the high costs for pest control then, many farmers refused to plant cotton," said Dr. Wu in an email interview. "This case study of Bt cotton implies that other Bt crops, such as Bt rice, may also have great potential for agricultural practices in China. This success with Bt cotton could push forward the commercial processes of genetically modified crops in China."

Dr. Jian-Zhou Zhao, a co-author of the report, also highlights the health benefits of using Bt cotton. "Poisoning from other insecticides, and even death, was a big problem for cotton farmers in the 1990's," Zhou said. "Most farmers did not have proper protective clothes while applying insecticides with small backpack sprayers. This may be another reason that many farmers refused to plant cotton before Bt was available -- it was too dangerous and scary."

The use of Bt cotton and other genetically modified crops could provide a safer and more economical solution to pest control in many small farms around the world. Dr. Wu and the team of researchers, however, acknowledge that a major challenge to the success of Bt cotton is the potential for insects to evolve resistance to the insecticide. They insist that despite its considerable value, Bt cotton should still be considered only one component in the overall management of pests.


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Contact: Natasha Pinol
npinol@aaas.org
202-326-7088
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Source:Eurekalert

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