Not only weeds are beating Monsanto and biotech warfare. A small, thin, gray moth is creating havoc in the cotton fields of India: its larva, a caterpillar – called the pink bollworm for its pink banding – eats the plant. To fight this cotton pest, a gene from a bacteria was introduced in the cotton so the ‘Bt plant’ produces a toxin that should kill the insect. When GM cotton seeds were introduced to the Indian market 15 years ago, the seed companies said that farmers would not have to spray any insecticides and that they would get great yields. Today, because of the very same GM seeds, use of insecticide and fertilizer has increased fivefold and eaten into farmers’ incomes. Resistance to the poison could not occur, according to the creators of the GM plants. Nature thought otherwise. A huge outbreak of Bt resistant bollworm has now seriously damaged the crops of many farmers. Desperate farmers apply highly toxic pesticides to fight the pest, sometimes with lethal effects.
Dr. K.R. Kranthi, former director of Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), reported that pink bollworm has developed resistance to Bt cotton (Bollgard-II variety) not only in Maharashtra, but in other cotton-growing states as well. Bollgard-II was introduced in 2010. ‘There are only two benefits of Bt cotton. One, it controls bollworm, due to which the yield is protected. Two, it reduces use of insecticides meant for bollworm control. Currently, cotton growers do not get either benefit,’ said Dr. Kranthi.
Veteran farmer leader Pasha Patel says: ‘For Maharashtra’s cotton growers, it’s like a night without dawn.’ Another GM technology is failing. Follow the latest developments on GMWatch website and twitter.