Monsanto accepts its Bt cotton failed pest-control tests
TNN, Mar 7, 2010, 02.00am IST
NEW DELHI: In what is bound to strengthen environment minister Jairam Ramesh's stand that GM crop technology should be handled with precaution, Monsanto on Friday admitted that its Bt cotton variety had failed to control pests in four districts of Gujarat.
Monsanto said that during field monitoring in 2009, the Bt cotton variety used in four Gujarat districts — Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagarh and Rajkot — was found to attract the pink bollworm, a major pest that attacks cotton plantations.
Bt cotton carrying the Cry1Ac gene is sold as a solution to the bollworm pest but Monsanto's admission that the insect had been become resistant to the anti-pest protein could come as a shot in the arm for green activists. Several environmental and public health organisations have for years been claiming that adequate tests have not been carried out in India on the GM crops to test for long-term resistance to pests as well as impacts on public health.
The controversy had reached a high pitch recently when Ramesh imposed a temporary moratorium on commercial cultivation of Monsanto and Mayhco's Bt brinjal — the first GM food crop that would have been introduced in the country. Ramesh had demanded further tests that could last up to 1-2 years to check for long-term impacts on environment as well as public health before introducing the GM crop in India.
Three of his Cabinet colleagues — Prithviraj Chavan, Kapil Sibal and Sharad Pawar — had come out publicly against the decision only to reconcile to Ramesh's step after a meeting with PM Manmohan Singh.
Monsanto said it had informed the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee — the agency under the environment ministry that clears GM crops for cultivation and monitors its impact — about pests attacking Bt cotton in the four Gujarat districts.
Trying to allay fears of the pest attack being widespread, the company said, "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."
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