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2-Plants: Monsanto trials of Bt-cotton begin in Burkina Faso

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TITLE:  Monsanto trials of GMO cotton begin in Burkina Faso
SOURCE: Reuters, by Mathieu Bonkoungou
DATE:   Jul  18, 2003

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Monsanto trials of GMO cotton begin in Burkina Faso

OUAGADOUGOU, July 18 (Reuters) - U.S. agrochemical producer Monsanto Co.
MON.N has started conducting trials on genetically modified cotton in
Burkina Faso, the first such tests in West Africa, officials said.

The trials started in late June and are part of a research agreement
signed between the company and the government of the impoverished country.

The tests involve Bollgard II, the second-generation of of insect-
protected cotton developed by Monsanto. A Monsanto official said trials
were being carried out also in Egypt.

Monsanto has planted Bollgard II in two research stations in Burkina
Faso, which is West Africa's second biggest cotton producer after Mali.

The trials aim to assess the viability of the strain, known as BT,
measure the effect on yield per hectare and any environmental risks.

"Burkinabe farmers have a lot to gain because BT cotton, which is insect-
protected, allows them to reduce the use of pesticides and the risk of
contamination of the environment," Monsanto technical manager Abdennader
Mourad told Reuters in Burkina Faso last week.

He was speaking on the fringes of an international workshop on
genetically modified organisms (GMO) organised by Burkina Faso's state
cotton firm, Sofitex.

Transgenic crops are at the centre of a worldwide debate on whether
scientists should change the genetic code of living organisms. The United
States, citing a so-far unblemished safety record promotes their use
while the European Union advocates a more cautious approach.

"At present, farmers do eight to 10 pesticide sprayings per season, and
despite this, they lose up to 50 percent of their crops because of insect
attacks," said Basile Guissou, manager of the technical and scientific
national research centre.

Several participants to the workshop said the patents protecting GMO
seeds would undoubtedly raise the price of the BT cotton seeds, making
them too pricey for farmers.

Monsanto's original Bollgard insect-protected cotton product is being
sold commercially in nine countries, including South Africa.

GMO detractors in the scientific world say there are risks that
transgenic traits could spread into wild populations.

"People were just as hesitant when the use of fertilisers started. We, as
producers, are looking for the profit and the risk. We want to be
convinced and if we are, we will adopt the GMOs," Francoit Traore, head
of Burkina Faso's farmers association, said.

"We already have good quality cotton seeds, and if we are able to
increase the yield per hectare by only 50 percent, that would be a way to
reduce poverty," said Celestin Tiendrebeogo, manager of Sofitex.


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