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Use of GM cotton causes pest infestation in Chinaqrcode

May. 25, 2010

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May. 25, 2010

An unexpected surge of pest infestations has affected farmlands in northern China using Bt cotton made by biotech giant Monsanto. Scientists are therefore calling for the reassessment of GM crops’ long-term risks. Better ways are necessary of predicting the impact of GM crops and spotting potentially damaging knock-on effects arising from their cultivation, researchers said as reported by The Guardian.

The research, led by Kongming Wu at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, is published in the US journal, Science and mark the first confirmed report of unintended consequence of farmers using less pesticide.

According to scientists, in the past decade cotton farmers have shifted from traditional cotton crops to GM varieties, as Bt cotton produces its own insecticide, therefore farmers don’t need to spray their crops and can instead save money.

But a 10-year study across six major cotton-growing regions of China found that by spraying the crops less, the number of mirid bugs has risen dramatically in their own and neighbouring farms. These pests can devastate around 200 varieties of fruit, vegetable and corn crops.

The infestations are potentially catastrophic for more than 10m small-scale farmers who cultivate 26m hectares of vulnerable crops in the region studied, The Guardian reveals.

"Our work highlights a critical need to do ecological assessments and monitoring at the landscape-level to better understand the impacts of GM crop adoption," Dr Wu told the Guardian.

Environmental campaigners seized on the study as further evidence that GM crops are not the environmental saviour that manufacturers have led farmers to believe.

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