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Bt cotton has failed admits Monsanto

1.Bt cotton has failed admits Monsanto
2.Setback for Bt cotton; main pest develops resistance
3.Bt cotton flunks pest resistance test in Gujarat
4.Bt cotton ineffective against pest in parts of Gujarat, admits Monsanto
5.Cotton in India - Monsanto media release

NOTE: The picture now emerging about Bt cotton from pro-GM sources - Monsanto and India's Central Institute for Cotton Research - is one where:

*the main pest (bollworm) is developing resistance

*"new sucking pests have emerged as major pests causing significant economic losses"

*productivity of cotton has fallen

*pesticide expenditure has gone up

Monsanto is hyping its GM Bollgard II cotton as the answer (see item 5) but agricultural scientists are calling Monsanto's advice "ridiculous" as Bollgard II has no additional toxin to combat bollworm (item 4). In fact, US farmers recently complained about bollworms "slipping" through Bollgard II and needing to be treated with pesticides. "We were supposed to have enough control of bollworms with BGII to not have to treat for bollworms," said the farmers at a meeting with Monsanto where they pressed for a rebate on Monsanto's technology fee. Details of the meeting here: http://bit.ly/bdc3EN

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1.Bt cotton has failed admits Monsanto

Dinesh C. Sharma

India Today, March 6 2010

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/86939/India/Bt+cotton+has+failed+admits+Monsanto.html

New Delhi - The ongoing debate on biotechnology crops in India took a new turn on Friday when American seed firm Monsanto disclosed that cotton pest--pink bollworm--has developed resistance to its much-touted Bt cotton variety in Gujarat.

The company has reported to the regulator, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), that pink bollworm has developed resistance to its genetically modified (GM) cotton variety, Bollgard I, in Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagarh and Rajkot districts in Gujarat.

This was detected by the company during field monitoring in the 2009 cotton season.

The Bt cotton variety in question was developed using a gene--Cry1AC--derived from soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. It was supposed to be resistant to pest attacks. But, of late, the pest has developed resistance to the gene.

The same gene has been used in Bt brinjal to make it resistant to pests. Bollgard cotton was cited as a great success of GM technology by Union science minister Prithviraj Chavan in his July 2009 letter to former health minister A. Ramadoss.

"Resistance is natural and expected," Monsanto said in a statement. The company blamed pink bollworm resistance to Cry1Ac protein in Gujarat to "early use of unapproved Bt cotton seeds" by farmers and "limited refuge planting". Farmers are supposed to maintain a distance between Bt cotton farms and other farms as a "refuge". It also advised farmers to take up "need-based application of insecticide sprays" and "properly manage crop residue and unopened bolls after harvest". A second generation variety, Bollgard II, introduced by Monsanto in 2006, contains two proteins, Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab.

The company says no resistance has been observed in the variety anywhere in the country, including Gujarat.

The revelation has not surprised environment action groups. "This is the pattern Monsanto has been following everywhere. Once Bollgard 1 fails, they start pushing Bollgard 2 and tell farmers to apply more pesticides. This is a vicious circle that Indian cotton farmers have got into," Devinder Sharma of Forum for Biotechnology and Food Safety said.

"There is a lesson here for Bt brinjal because the arguments in favour of the crop are same as those given for Bollgard cotton," Kavita Kuruganti of Kheti Virasat said.

In a report submitted to environment minister Jairam Ramesh, K.R. Kranthi of the Central Institute for Cotton Research had cautioned about the likely failure of Bt cotton. "Farmers are not following the recommended 'refugia'. With about 90 per cent area under Bt cotton, bollworms can develop resistance soon. The concern needs to be addressed on priority before it is too late," the report says.

Not only has Bt cotton been rendered ineffective, it has also led to detection of some new pests never before reported from India. It is toxic only to bollworm and does not control any other pests of cotton. "New sucking pests have emerged as major pests causing significant economic losses", the report says.

At the same time, productivity of cotton has fallen from 560 kg lint per hectare in 2007 to 512 kg lint per hectare in 2009.

And pesticide expenditure has gone up from from Rs 597 crore in 2002 to Rs 791 crore in 2009.

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2.Setback for Bt cotton; main pest develops resistance
Business Standard, March 6 2010
http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/setback-for-bt-cotton-main-pest-deve
lops-resistance/387703/

New Delhi - In a setback for genetically engineered cotton, Monsanto, innovator of the strain, confirmed what sceptics had said might well happen, that the pests it was supposed to resist better than natural cotton would also innovate.

The company confirmed today that the pink bollworm, the damaging pest against which the genetically modified variety had been successful, had developed resistance to the protein in question, in parts of Gujarat. This has been reported to the government’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee.

In a statement issued today, Monsanto said: “Testing was conducted to assess for resistance to Cry1Ac, the Bt protein in Bollgard cotton, and pink bollworm resistance to Cry1Ac was confirmed in four districts in Gujarat ”” Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagarh and Rajkot. Gujarat is one of nine states where cotton is grown. To date, no insect resistance to Cry1Ac has been confirmed outside the four districts in Gujarat.”

Many who opposed the commercialisation of Bt brinjal in India had said insects could develop resistance to it after some years. They’d made the same predictions earlier on Bt cotton.

Monsanto today said, during field monitoring of the 2009 cotton crop in Gujarat, its scientists and those of Mahyco (its sister company) detected unusual survival of the pink bollworm to first-generation, single-protein Bollgard cotton.

It said current monitoring efforts by an Indian-expert network to manage insect resistance will be expanded. “The network will continue to conduct extensive insect monitoring, encourage appropriate stewardship practices such as proper refuge planting through an intensified farmer education campaign, and explore new methods of refuge seed delivery,” it said.

Adding, “resistance is natural and expected, so measures to delay resistance are important.” Among the factors that may have contributed to pink bollworm resistance to the Cry1Ac protein in Gujarat are “limited refuge planting and early use of unapproved Bt cotton seed, planted prior to GEAC approval of Cry1Ac cotton, which may have had lower protein expression levels.”

It said there was need for continuous research and innovation to develop new value-added technologies to stay ahead of insect resistance. “To support such innovation, government policies should encourage investment in research and development, which will result in Indian farmers having a wider choice of better and advanced technologies,” it added.

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3.Bt cotton flunks pest resistance test in Gujarat
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times, March 5 2010
http://www.hindustantimes.com/Bt-cotton-flunks-pest-resistance-test-in-Gujarat/H
1-Article1-515648.aspx

New Delhi - This cotton variety was genetically modified only to enable it to protect itself against pests, and it failed. The stunning disclosure has swerved the spotlight back on the debate over the efficacy and sustainability of GM crops.

No doubt, there were four different varieties of pests that Bt cotton was expected to resist ”” and has so far failed the test in only one.

Bt cotton is the only GM crop approved for commercial cultivation in India and 522 varieties, including those developed by state-owned institutions, are being farmed.

“During field monitoring of the 2009 cotton crop in Gujarat, Monsanto1 and Mahyco scientists detected unusual survival of pink bollworm to first-generation single-protein Bollgard cotton. Testing was conducted to assess for resistance to Cry1Ac, the Bt protein in Bollgard cotton, and pink bollworm resistance to Cry1Ac was confirmed,” the company said on Friday.

Monsanto said further studies were being conducted on why the crops lost their pest-fighting ability.

Responding to an e-mail question, the company said use of unapproved Bt cotton seeds, planted prior to approval, which may have had lower potency, and not following farming norms might have contributed to pink bollworm resistance. This has been reported to India’s biotech regulator, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee.

Does this put under cloud Bt technology itself? G T Gujar, who heads the insect science division of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, said: “This is just a preliminary report and shouldn’t be viewed as failure of the technology. It’s a chance to understand it better.”

Gujar said some resistance was natural and therefore, farming Bt cotton according to government norms was essential.

Anti-GM groups said Monsanto’s disclosure proved the inefficacy of BT technology. “The shortcoming of any pest management technology that tries to kill an insect rather than control or manage it is apparent as has been predicted. This is true with Bt technology as well as with chemical pesticides,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of Faridkot-based Kheti Virasat Mission.

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4.Bt cotton ineffective against pest in parts of Gujarat, admits Monsanto
Priscilla Jebaraj
The Hindu, March 6 2010
http://beta.thehindu.com/news/national/article183353.ece

NEW DELHI - For the first time anywhere in the world, biotech agriculture giant Monsanto has admitted that insects have developed resistance to its Bt cotton crop. Field monitoring in parts of Gujarat has discovered that the Bt crop is no longer effective against the pink bollworm pest there.

The company is advocating that Indian farmers switch to its second-generation product to delay resistance further. Monsanto's critics say that this just proves the ineffectiveness of the Bt technology, which was recently sought to be introduced in India in Bt brinjal as well.

In November 2009, Monsanto's scientists detected unusual survival of the pink bollworm pest while monitoring the Bt cotton crop in Gujarat. In January and February, samples taken from the field were tested in Monsanto's laboratories. It has been confirmed that pink bollworm is now resistant to the pest-killing protein of Bt cotton in four districts ”” Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagarh and Rajkot.

Until now, Monsanto has held that “there have been no confirmed cases of poor field performance of Bt cotton or Bt corn attributable to insect resistance.” Although there have been cases of insects resisting the technology in the laboratory, Monsanto held that “field resistance is the criterion of relevance to agricultural producers.”

Now that the company itself has admitted that its product has been proved ineffective against some insects on the fields of Gujarat, its advice to farmers is to start using its second generation product instead. "Farmers have another choice. We have a two-gene product called Bollgard II which has greater ability to delay resistance," says Monsanto India's director of scientific affairs Rashmi Nair. She also recommends that farmers conduct better monitoring and plant "refuges," or areas of non-Bt crop which would attract insects.

Agricultural scientists and activists say Monsanto's advice is "ridiculous". The Bollgard II product has no additional toxin to combat pink bollworm, says G.V. Ramanjaneyulu of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture. It is simply that as a newer product, Bollgard II will take longer for the pest to develop resistance. Anyway, the Bt toxin is only active for 90 days, while pink bollworm is a late season pest, he adds.

"All the hype about the effectiveness of Bt against pests is bogus ”¦This proves that you can't stay ahead of the pest with ”¦ this shortsighted approach," says Kavitha Kuruganti of the Kheti Virasat Mission. Indian farmers with small holdings cannot be expected to give up large parts of their land for non- productive "refuges," added Dr. Ramanjaneyulu.

Monsanto's Dr. Nair says the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) was informed about the resistance “about eight to ten days ago.” The CICR, which has been collaborating in the field monitoring of Bt cotton since 2003, has reported this to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), she said. However, the Ministry of Environment and Forests seems to have been unaware of the test results until Monsanto issued a statement on Friday.

Over the last month, the GEAC and the Ministry have been at the centre of a storm regarding the government's moratorium on Bt brinjal's commercial release. Critics are now pointing to the ineffectiveness of Bt cotton in Gujarat to strengthen their case against Bt brinjal as well.

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5.Cotton in India
Monsanto, 5 March 2010
http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto_today/for_the_record/india_pink_bollworm.asp

During field monitoring of the 2009 cotton crop in the state of Gujarat in western India, Monsanto and Mahyco scientists detected unusual survival of pink bollworm to first-generation single-protein Bollgard cotton. Testing was conducted to assess for resistance to Cry1Ac, the Bt protein in Bollgard cotton, and pink bollworm resistance to Cry1Ac was confirmed in four districts in Gujarat Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagarh and Rajkot. Gujarat is one of nine states in India where cotton is grown. To date, no insect resistance to Cry1Ac has been confirmed outside the four districts in Gujarat.

This has been reported to the Indian Genetic Engineering Approval Committee. Mahyco-Monsanto Biotechii in collaboration with the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) and other agricultural research institutes have been conducting field monitoring research across India since 2003, the second season of Bt cotton in India.

Single-protein Cry1Ac products continue to control bollworm pests other than pink bollworm in the four districts in Gujarat where pink bollworm resistance has been confirmed. In addition, no instance of insect resistance in any of India’s cotton growing states, including the four districts in Gujarat, has been observed with Bollgard II, the second-generation Bt cotton technology. Bollgard II, introduced in 2006, contains two proteins, Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab.

Current monitoring efforts to manage insect resistance by an Indian-expert network will be expanded. The network is led by the Director of CICR who is nominated by GEAC. The network will continue to conduct extensive insect monitoring, encourage appropriate stewardship practices such as proper refuge planting through an intensified farmer education campaign, and explore new methods of refuge seed delivery.

Resistance is natural and expected, so measures to delay resistance are important. Among the factors that may have contributed to pink bollworm resistance to the Cry1Ac protein in Gujarat are limited refuge planting and early use of unapproved Bt cotton seed, planted prior to GEAC approval of Cry1Ac cotton, which may have had lower protein expression levels.

While single-protein Cry1Ac cotton products continue to deliver value to Indian farmers, increasingly Indian farmers are planting two-protein Bollgard II cotton because it reduces the need for insecticide sprays compared to Cry1Ac products and increases yield. Over 65% of Gujarat cotton farmers chose Bollgard II cotton in 2009, and pre-season bookings indicate that over 90% of Gujarat cotton farmers are expected to plant Bollgard II in the 2010 season. Overall, approximately 80% of all Indian cotton farmers are expected to plant Bollgard II in the 2010 season.

The findings in Gujarat are an important reminder to Indian farmers. When using Bt cotton products it is essential to regularly monitor and scout fields throughout the season for insect presence and plant appropriate non-Bt refuge. Furthermore, farmers must adopt measures such as need-based application of insecticide sprays during the crop season, and properly manage crop residue and unopened bolls after harvest. Examples of such practices include tillage and cattle grazing to minimize the survival and spread of pink bollworm.

Continuous R&D and innovation to develop new value-added technologies is imperative to stay ahead of insect resistance. To support such innovation, Government policies should encourage investment in R&D which will result in Indian farmers having a wider choice of better and advanced technologies.

Monsanto is committed to developing new high performing products for farmers, and is currently working on a three-protein Bt cotton technology. Monsanto is open to collaborating with other technology providers in India to develop products that use the best available technologies for the benefit of Indian farmers.