GENTECH archive 8.96-97


Action Alert - Bt Cotton

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Subject: PANUPS: Action Alert - Bt Cotton

                         P A N U P S
                   Pesticide Action Network 
                        North America
                       Updates Service

December 9, 1996

Action Alert: Urge EPA to Hold Scientific Advisory Panel 
Meeting on Bt Cotton Failure

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to 
be prodded into action to deal with its first potential 
crisis with genetically engineered pesticidal crops. 
Monsanto's Bt cotton, targeted at three cotton pests and 
first planted commercially this year, appears not to 
have lived up to its promise. EPA approved the crop last 
year with the requirement that the company implement a 
resistance management plan, that is, a plan to delay the 
development of resistance in insects to Bt, a valuable 
biological insecticide. With the inability of Bt cotton 
to control the cotton bollworm in fields throughout 
southern U.S. states this past summer, a critical 
element of that plan is in doubt. Yet EPA is not moving 
to ensure that a workable resistance management plan is 
in place for the next growing season. 

Genetically engineered Bt crops were grown for the first 
time at commercial scale this past summer. Despite 
considerable controversy, EPA gave the go-ahead in 1995 
for Monsanto, Ciba-Geigy, and Mycogen to sell crops -- 
corn, cotton, and potato -- which they had engineered to 
contain an insecticidal toxin from Bacillus 
thuringiensis, a soil bacterium. The so-called Bt crops 
raise concerns among organic growers and 
environmentalists because their widespread use is likely 
to accelerate the evolution of resistance to Bt in 
insect pests. Once resistance develops, Bt sprays -- 
which are an important pest control tool for organic and 
other sustainable farmers -- will be ineffective.

Last summer, Bt cotton failed to control cotton bollworm 
on thousands of acres, raising questions about the 
adequacy of the resistance management plans the Agency 
had approved for Bt cotton. The plans had called for the 
new transgenic crop to produce enough Bt toxin to kill 
virtually all the targeted insect pests. The survival of 
a large number of cotton bollworms on the plants 
suggests that the Bt concentrations were too low to 
satisfy a critical element of the plans. 

EPA needs to move quickly to determine why the crops 
failed to control bollworms and to make any needed 
adjustments to the resistance management plans in time 
for farmers to implement them in the next growing 
season. So far, four months after the failure, no data 
explaining the problem have been released to the public 
and EPA does not appear to have a process or schedule 
for involving the public and scientists in evaluating 
and revising the resistance management plan before 
farmers are ready to plant next year's cotton crop.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the 
Environmental Defense Fund wrote to EPA in early October 
1996 requesting a public meeting of the Agency 
Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) to evaluate the current 
Bt resistance management plans. Without a lot of public 
pressure, it is unlikely that EPA will move 
expeditiously to call an SAP meeting and strengthen the 

The Agency should not be allowed to sweep this issue 
under the rug. If EPA lacks the resources to respond to 
an obvious wake up call like this one, it should 
withdraw the approval of the Bt cotton.

Write to EPA urging the Agency to convene a meeting of 
the Scientific Advisory Panel and strengthen the 
resistance management plan for Bt cotton before the 
spring planting season.  

Address your letters to:

Dr. Lynn Goldman
Assistant Administrator, OPPTS
Environmental Protection Agency
401 M Street, SW, #642
Washington, DC 20460 
202-260-1847 facsimile

Source/contact:  Dr. Jane Rissler, Senior Staff 
Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists, 1616 P St., 
NW, Washington, DC 20036; phone (202) 332-0900; fax 
(202) 332-0905; email

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Date:    Mon, 09 Dec 96 11:39:17 -0800 
From:    PANNA InfoPubs <>To:      Recipients of confere
	  nce <>Subject: PANUPS: Action Alert - Bt Cotton

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