Major problems in China with GM cotton (29/5/2004)

Previous research claims of major problems with GM cotton in China can be confirmed, according to a Chinese researcher who says the technology will not only be useless within six to seven years but "could cause a disaster".

Despite the scale of problems faced elsewhere with transgenic Bt cotton growing -- e.g. in India (outperformed economically by non-GM cotton), in Indonesia (Monsanto withdrew after economic failure) and in South Africa (levels of indebtedness in the area increased) -- China has constantly been held up by GM proponents as the big GM success story. It is also the key element in all those statsistics claiming millions of small farmers are benefiting from GM.

However, given the secretive and controlled nature of the Chinese state, it has been difficult to confirm many of thefigures cited let alone gain a balanced view of the claims made for what remains the only major GM crop to have been widely adopted in the country.

When a report was published in June 2002 which seriously questioned the claims of success, it came under ferocious attack.

Although the report was based on the work of scientists at a research institute funded by China's State Environmental Protection Agency, it was vilified on the grounds that it had been commissioned and co-published by Greenpeace.

The report suggested that while the widespread adoption of Bt cotton in China may have reduced pesticide consumption, it had also resulted in the evolution of Bt toxin-resistant bollworms which could make the technology "ineffective in controlling pests after eight to ten years of continuous production".

However, the report's critics claimed, "There is not a single example or shred of evidence in the Greenpeace report of actual resistance in bollworms to Bt cotton in the field... According to Shirong Jia and Yufa Peng of the Chinese National GMO Biosafety Committee, 'no resistance of cotton bollworm to Bt has been discovered yet, after five years of Bt cotton planting.'" http://whybiotech.ca/html/claims.html

Claims by the scientists commissioned by Greenpeace that secondary pests were emerging that caused equivalent damage to Bt cotton, were also stridently dismissed.

Now, however, Liu Xiaofeng, a researcher in Henan, China's number two cotton producing province, has confirmed the Greenpeace-commissioned research findings. Liu is cited as saying that the cotton bollworm is indeed developing resistance and will be no longer susceptible to Bt cotton within six to seven years. He also confirms that Bt cotton is not effective in controlling secondary pests and that this "could cause a disaster".

1.China: official confirms GM cotton problems
3.Hans Herren on GM crops

1.China: official says GMO cotton [?]
Reuters, May 28, 2004 [via Agnet]
Nao Nakanishi

ZHENGZHOU, CHINA - Liu Xiaofeng, a researcher in Henan, China's number two cotton producing province, was cited as telling Reuters that while Bt cotton had brought advantages to farmers -- including a 60 percent drop in pesticide use -- the GMO insect resistant cotton also posed challenges.

Liu was cited as saying earlier this week that cotton bollworm is developing resistance and will be no longer susceptible to the transgenic Bt cotton after 20-30 generations, or six to seven years. Confirming a study sponsored by Greenpeace in 2002, Liu also said BT cotton was not effective in controlling secondary pests, such as Lygus bug, which could cause a disaster.

The Greenpeace field experiments showed the population of secondary pests, especially sucking pests such as cotton aphids, increased after the targeted pest bollworm was controlled.

Liu was quoted as saying, "In China, the resistance is not growing quite that fast as farmers grow other crops together. Bollworms can eat other grains

Xinhau News Agency

BEIJING, June 3 (Xinhuanet) -- A genetically modified cotton plant which makes up 35 percent of China's crop, is damaging the environment despite its success in controlling the bollworm pest, according to a report released here Monday.

The plant, Bt transgenic cotton, was harming natural parasitic enemies of the bollworm and seemed to be encouraging other pests, according to the study by the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences (NIES) under the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) at a seminar here.

Researchers have seen a significant decrease in populations of the bollworm's parasitic natural enemies.

Bt transgenic cotton, containing anti-bollworm genes from certain bacillus, is in large-scale commercial production in Chinaand the planting area was estimated to top 1.5 million hectares last year, accounting for about 35 percent of the total cotton area, according to the Cotton Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

The report says that the diversity index of the insect community in the Bt cotton fields is lower than conventional cotton fields while the pest dominant concentration index is higher.

The balance of the insect community is weaker in Bt cotton fields than the conventional crops as some kinds of insects thriveand this is more likely to cause outbreaks of certain pests, said Xue Dayuan, the NIES expert in charge of the report.

Populations of pests other than cotton bollworm has increased in Bt cotton fields and some have even replaced it as primary pests because the GM plant is slow at controlling those pests, thereport says.

Scientists also verified with lab tests and field monitoring that cotton bollworm will develop resistance to the GM cotton and concluded that Bt cotton will not resist bollworm after being planted for eight to ten years continuously.

New GM organisms and products would benefit agriculture and many other industries, but people should always beware of the long-term and underlying impacts on the environment, said Zhu Xinquan, chairman of the Chinese Society of Agro-Biotechnology that jointly hosted the seminar with the NIES and Greenpeace China.

GM organisms will pass new genes borrowed from different species to local plants and creatures through reproduction when itis put into the natural environment, changing the natural gene structures, said Isabelle Meister, an expert from Greenpeace International, the international environmental campaign group.

"The changes are irreversible and the loss is likely

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