GENTECH archive 8.96-97


Truth about NGO Statement on Bt cotton

>Actually, those of us who heard the statement (below) when it was delivered
>understood this to be a bit of rhetorical flourish, like "the company
>always has an excuse, like blaming it on the weather, it was too wet, it
>was too dry." After all, this wasn't a lab report or a patent
>Phil Bereano
>>There are problems with transgenic crops, but the following statement from
>>the NGO message is total horse manure.
>>>*       Last year, Monsanto's Bt cotton failed over large acreages in Texas
>>>because it was too hot and in Australia because it was too cold.

Phil:  I am glad that we can at least agree that it is untrue.  You and
other readers might be interested in the following excerpt from a
submission from Texas A&M University to the US EPA on Bt cotton

In summarizing this section of the report, the writers noted that:

  "The panel finds that the Bollgard technology is effective in
controlling the target insect pests and highly beneficial to growers and
society.  Furthermore it achieves the missions of sustainable agriculture
and the EPA by providing safe insect control.  By any measure the Bollgard
cottons were a success in 1996, not a 'failure.' "

I would also wish to highlight that " Alabama had almost no sprays for
bollworm and budworm in 1996; this was historically unprecedented" and
"Sales of cotton insecticides in 1996 were down from 30 to 90%".

Quote from report to EPA:

        Product Value to Producers.  One of the best measures of whether
Bollgard cotton has value to users, i.e., producers, is when they purchase
it for a second time in 1997, even though they may have experienced a lower
than anticipated control (i.e., <100%) in 1996 and had to spray bollworms
on their Bollgard cotton with a foliar insecticide.  Current Bollgard
plantings and bookings of seed to plant in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana,
and Alabama appear to be higher this year, by more than 30%, to about >2.4
million acres (from 1.8 million in 1996), including the Brazos bottoms of
Texas.  However this needs to be confirmed in June or July to be certain of
the actual acres planted to Bollgard in 1997.  Keep in mind that Bollgard
cotton is not useful to all cotton producers, only those that have a long
history of spending more than $40/acre for control of tobacco budworm or
pink bollworm or mixed populations of bollworm, tobacco budworm or pink
bollworm on their cotton.

        Comments from growers regarding the value of Bollgard cotton may
be summarized as follows: (1) Bollgard cotton greatly reduces risk of crop
loss to all major caterpillar pests; (2) it provides the greatest net
returns to the cotton farmers of any insect pest management tool for
resistance budworm or mixed populations of bollworms, tobacco budworms or
pink bollworms; (3) it frees up grower time and equipment for other farm
activities; (4) it reduces hazards of pesticide exposure and poisoning to
the grower, farm employees and farm families; (5) it is a useful tool to
improve grower ability to fully use integrated crop management and allow
beneficial arthropods to be most effective; and (6) it provides complete
relief from past crop losses and costs of unsuccessful attempts to control
insecticide resistant tobacco budworms.

        Growers in geographical areas with [insecticide] resistant tobacco
budworm and pink bollworm say they do not want to go back to the very
stressful, unsuccessful and expensive control methods used before Bollgard
cotton.  As best we can tell, growers of Bollgard cotton sprayed 0 to 3
times for bollworm across Texas and the Southeastern cotton states.  This
was a great reduction from the 5 to 12 sprays that had been used in the
past in unsuccessful attempts to control mixed populations of bollworm and
insecticide resistant tobacco budworm.  Alabama had almost no sprays for
bollworm and budworm in 1996; this was historically unprecedented.  Alabama
planted 77% of all cotton acres to Bollgard in 1996 (Kerby 1996).  The
number of dollars and amount of insecticide used in the past for control of
caterpillar pests in cotton was dramatically reduced.   Bollworm can be
controlled much less expensively with conventional insecticides than
insecticide resistant budworms.

        Sales of cotton insecticides in 1996 were down from 30 to 90%
depending upon the specific insecticide product.  A large portion of the
insecticide used in U.S. agriculture is applied on cotton....  Production
of 1.8 million acres of Bollgard cotton in 1996 is thought to have been
responsible, in part, for reducing insecticide applications by 250 million
gallons of formulated material (Demaske 1997).

        On this basis we believe Bollgard cotton clearly shows product
value for the producer and  performance of Bollgard cotton in 1996 cannot
be classified as a failure for the producer although they may have
experienced more injury on their Bollgard cotton than they would tolerate.

        Product Value to Public.  Use of Bollgard cotton versus
conventional synthetic nerve poisons, i.e., insecticides, has the following
benefits to society: (1)  reduced energy to produce, ship and apply
(Bollgard insecticide is biologically produced in the plant in the field
where it is needed.); (2) reduced effects on natural beneficial arthropods
allows preservation of beneficial arthropods; (3) harmless to humans (no
production, shipping or handling safety problems); (4) harmless to wildlife
and the environment, ie., it reduces environmental pollution in every way
compared to conventional synthetic insecticides; (5) offers opportunities
to develop and use classical or augmentative biological control for insect
pests of cotton; and (6) moves us towards a more sustainable cotton

      Considering all these benefits/value it is hard to conceive of a
technology that could score higher marks in all areas of benefit and
interest to growers and society.  The panel felt Bollgard cotton was of
high benefit and value to the grower and society.