GENTECH archive



On 5 Jan 2001, at 10:56, wrote:

Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin),
"Of the total amount of cotton pesticides used worldwide, it is
estimated that 35 percent are applied to cotton fields in the United
States... Close to $3 billion worth of pesticides are used on cotton
worldwide each year"

The cost of this massive pesticide use, as the article below makes
clear, is more than financial. There's not only the environmental
impact but major concern about the impact of chemical residues on
animal feed.

Interesting then to contrast the value of organic cotton farming --
see below -- with the evidence made available by a series of reports
produced by World Wildlife Fund Canada on GM crops and
pesticide use.
[see press release:
room/genews.htm The
whole report (March 2000) can be downloaded as a pdf file

These show that GM crops cannot be depended on to reduce

A separate WWF report specifically on GM cotton also points to no
appreciable reduction in the use of insecticides and herbicides.

Background Paper, "Transgenic Cotton: Are There Benefits for
WWF International, March 2000 -- Download the report in either WORD or
PDF format from

No Reduction of Pesticide Use with Genetically Engineered Cotton,
Updated summary of the WWF International report, Fall, 2000

According to the updated report, although to date one fourth of
American cotton is produced with genetically engineered Bt varieties,
no significant reductions in the overall use of insecticides could be
achieved . In fact,  those insecticides which could be replaced by the
genetically modified Bt cotton, only make up a minor proportion of the
insecticides used. Herbicide use shows a similar picture.

The detailed results of the “Transgenic Cotton: Are there Benefits for
Conservation?” study compiled on behalf of the WWF may be ordered from
WWF Switzerland, Post Office Box, CH-8010 Zurich. Phone: ++41 (0)1
29721 21, or e-mail:

In addition, a whole variety of serious agronomic problems have beset
genetically engineered Bt cotton since its introduction.

To take just the most recent reports, see the nlpwessex items posted
to this list in the past week, there is apparently already pest
resistance to GM cotton crops occurring in the field in China, even in
advance of their wholesale adoption. There is also US data indicating
that GM cotton plants may be especially susceptible to the root-knot
nematode, a widespread and serious pest of cotton -- The Journal of
Cotton Science 4:232-236 (2000)

This hardly makes for a sustainable technology. Indeed, it does not
seem capable of delivering a fraction of what is claimed for it even

TOLL TAKEN BY PESTICIDES BY Brian J. Back (12/25/00)

Organic cotton buyers and sellers are purists, and apparently for good

Of the total amount of cotton pesticides used worldwide, it is
estimated that 35 percent are applied to cotton fields in the United
States. In California, cotton is the crop with the third-heaviest
pesticide use.

Close to $3 billion worth of pesticides are used on cotton worldwide
each year, according to the Pesticide Action Network, and sales and
uses of the product are increasing. Worldwide, cotton plays a vital
role in the economies of several dozen countries.

Many of the pesticides--including Metan sodium, Aldicarb, Malathion
and Edosulfan--have been connected to cancer in humans, contamination
of ground water, erosion and degradation of soil, decline of animal
populations and the overall squelching of biodiversity.

In 1991, a train car loaded with Metan sodium derailed and spilled
into the Sacramento River, killing nearly every living organism in the
waterway for 40 miles. Metan sodium is used to sterilize soil before
planting cotton.

Four years later, the pesticide Edosulfan was blamed for killing
roughly 250,000 fish on a 16-mile stretch of Alabama's Big Nance
Creek. This was not caused by a spill, however. Heavy rains had simply
washed the pesticide into the creek from nearby cotton fields.

Such catastrophes occur on a much smaller scale day in and day out,
organic proponents have claimed.

Because cotton is also used for animal feed, pesticide residue can be
fed via gin trash to cattle stock that later becomes milk and meat.
Those who favor organic farming have argued that the last several
decades mark the first time in history that humans have collected
synthetic chemical residue in their systems.

Organic farming, on the other hand, is seen as the purist remedy to
global concerns about declining biodiversity. The Soil Association of
the United Kingdom reported this year that organic farms contain five
times as many wild plants (including several rare and declining wild
arable species), 25 percent more birds, and nearly two times as many
invertebrate arthropods.

To expand the organic market, however, consumer demand must continue
to accelerate. Fortunately, suppliers have been very willing to
educate consumers about their products.

Recently, the Organic Trade Association summarized the demographics of
the "classic" organic consumer as someone who is "committed to
environmentally sound products as part of their lifestyle, will most
likely shop in health and natural food stores, will pay more for
organic products, and is more likely to be in a smaller-than-average
household and to have a college degree."

The "new" organic consumer is different, according to the OTA. Seventy
percent are female, 60 percent are married and 37 percent have
children under 18 living in the household. Their mean income is
estimated at $47,000.