Bt Cotton, Question and answers, a book by K.R. Kranthi

Foreword

No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious’ –George Bernard Shaw.

The success story of Bt-cotton in India is obvious, but it has indeed become strangely, circumspect to affirmatively answer the ‘obviously easy to answer’ question -‘has Bt-cotton succeeded in India in combating the bollworm menace?’ The answer lies in the simple fact that farmers have endorsed the technology in a vast majority. If Bt-cotton would not have controlled bollworms, the technology would not have moved the distance it has today.

There may be a need for refinement and constant changes are always inbuilt into science. While we progress with advanced technologies for sustainable growth and prosperity, environment should always be uppermost in our minds. Questions must be asked and concerns will be raised, but, science must provide answers and solutions. Bio-safety concerns are paramount to all of us. Answers should be forthcoming from good robust scientific experiments. We need not shy away from moving forward to develop GM technologies in a manner that is profoundly acceptable to the ecology, environment and society. But, any new technology must be compared to the previously used technologies and evaluated for the trade-off benefits, checks and balances and economic gain of the farmers.

It is clear that there is hardly any technology that can be 100.0% safe to everything. Interestingly, Bt-cotton is one of the few technologies having the safest bio-safety profiles. It comes as an alternative to the previously used hazardous concoction of insecticide mixtures. The insecticides used on cotton were known to have ravaged ecology, disrupted the environment, played havoc with human and animal health, were toxic to honey bees, insect-parasitoids and predators, caused allergies and a myriad number of ill-effects. Bt-cotton removed that to a great extent. Strangely, this seems to have been less acknowledged by detractors of the Bt-cotton technology. It is true that insecticides are now being used for sap-sucking pest control on Bt cotton hybrids, but, as mentioned in this book, the increase is because of the susceptible hybrids and has nothing to do with Bt-technology. We cannot afford to move back towards the pesticide era. By all scientific standards, Bt GM Cotton technology is by far the most environment friendly technology available thus far. We must however develop varieties and hybrids that show comprehensive resistance to sucking pests through resistant germplasm sources and to bollworms through Bt genes. This is possible through good plant breeding efforts. Once this is done, it is for sure that insecticide usage will be substantially reduced.

Bt-cotton was the first of GM technologies to be introduced into India. It is beyond doubt that farmers preferred Bt-cotton instead of the hazardous insecticide-cocktails for bollworm control. It is true that because of huge investment potential, multinational companies had the edge to develop the technology more efficiently and at a faster pace, compared to many public sector institutions across the world. But, GM technologies are being developed now more easily than before, as the transformation technology itself has advanced tremendously. India cannot afford to lose the competitive edge in agriculture, in the international arena, by slowing down biotechnology applications in agriculture. While we move forward, it surely becomes everybody’s responsibility to use the best science based technologies available to the farmer after weighing out all concerns and consequences, but, we need to move forward to face future challenges of burgeoning food and clothing demands of the ever-increasing populace.

I congratulate Dr Kranthi for the good effort in bringing out all possible facets of the Bt-cotton technology, especially from the Indian perspective, in the form of questions and answers, which makes the book readable. I hope that this book will enable all stakeholders for better understanding so as to assist in proper assessment of the technology in as rationally a manner as possible.

The book is accessible in its entireness here.

GM plants represent low risk, say scientists

Genetically modified (GM) plants present little danger for the environment or people’s health, according to Swiss researchers. Also, while they offer almost no benefit to farmers now, this could change if plants had the right properties.

The government requested a national research programme on the risks and benefits of GM plants after the Swiss voted for a five-year moratorium on their use in 2005. The moratorium was extended for another three years by parliament.

 Between 2007 and 2011, 30 projects were launched as part of the programme at a total cost of around SFr12 million ($12.5 million). Eleven focused on the environmental risks of GM wheat, maize and strawberries.

The researchers all reached the same conclusion: there were no identifiable negative effects on beneficial organisms, microorganisms or soil fertility. Three so-called meta-analyses that looked at more than 1,000 international studies reached similar findings.

More info via GMO Pundit.

The Halo Effect: Suppression of Pink Bollworm on Non-Bt Cotton by Bt Cotton in China

Abstract

In some previously reported cases, transgenic crops producing insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) have suppressed insect pests not only in fields planted with such crops, but also regionally on host plants that do not produce Bt toxins. Here we used 16 years of field data to determine if Bt cotton caused this “halo effect” against pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella) in six provinces of the Yangtze River Valley of China. In this region, the percentage of cotton hectares planted with Bt cotton increased from 9% in 2000 to 94% in 2009 and 2010. We found that Bt cotton significantly decreased the population density of pink bollworm on non-Bt cotton, with net decreases of 91% for eggs and 95% for larvae on non-Bt cotton after 11 years of Bt cotton use. Insecticide sprays targeting pink bollworm and cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) decreased by 69%. Previously reported evidence of the early stages of evolution of pink bollworm resistance to Bt cotton in China has raised concerns that if unchecked, such resistance could eventually diminish or eliminate the benefits of Bt cotton. The results reported here suggest that it might be possible to find a percentage of Bt cotton lower than the current level that causes sufficient regional pest suppression and reduces the risk of resistance.

Pink bollworm abundance on non-Bt cotton before and after adoption of Bt cotton.

Volledige artikel in Plos One.

Consument koopt ggo-voeding ook al beweert hij van niet

Consumenten zijn in realiteit vlugger geneigd om genetisch gemodificeerde voeding te kopen dan ze desgevraagd willen toegeven. Omtrent een ‘maatschappelijk geladen’ onderwerp als ggo’s stemmen de antwoorden van respondenten in enquêtes namelijk niet overeen met hun werkelijk gedrag. Dat besluiten onderzoekers van de universiteit van Otago (Nieuw-Zeeland) op basis van een praktijkexperiment.

In een Nieuw-Zeelandse studie, waar het directoraat-generaal Leefmilieu van de Europese Commissie de aandacht op vestigt, werd nagegaan of het gedrag van de consument overeenstemt met zijn verklaringen omtrent ggo’s. De proefopstelling waren fruitkraampjes die werden geplaatst in het thuisland van de onderzoekers en in vijf EU-lidstaten: België, Frankrijk, Duitsland, Zweden en het Verenigd Koninkrijk.

Het volledige artikel met enkele opmerkelijke bevindingen lees je op VILT.be.

De oorspronkelijke studie en nieuwsbericht van de Europese Commissie vind je hier.

Niemand bezit het monopolie op duurzame landbouw

Originele en langere versie van het opiniestuk dat op 3 mei in De Morgen verscheen. 

Geert De Jaeger, hoofddocent Universiteit Gent en Groepsleider VIB

Landbouw is ongetwijfeld de grootste kracht die de mensheid op de planeet heeft losgelaten sinds het einde van de laatste ijstijd. Landbouw gebruikt momenteel 40% van het aardoppervlak en het zijn de meest vruchtbare gebieden die reeds ingenomen zijn. Verder is het verantwoordelijk voor 70% van het wereldwijde verbruik van zoet water en voor 30% van de wereldwijde uitstoot van broeikasgassen. Het heeft de flux van stikstof en fosfaat verdubbeld in de biosfeer en is één van de belangrijkste oorzaken van biodiversiteitsverlies. Tegelijkertijd is landbouw absoluut noodzakelijk, want de mens is er totaal afhankelijk van voor zijn voorziening van voedsel, textiel, hout, medicijnen en energie. Aangezien de wereldbevolking en de gemiddelde levensstandaard gestadig blijft stijgen, ons klimaat opwarmt en de vraag naar biobrandstoffen toeneemt, zal ook de druk op de landbouw blijven toenemen. Het stijgen van de voedselprijzen op het einde van het afgelopen decennium zijn daarvan een teken aan de wand.

Continue reading

De toekomst van de landbouw ligt in een hybride aanpak

Meer en meer blijkt uit onderzoek dat er niet 1 antwoord is op de toekomstige uitdagingen om aan duurzame landbouw te doen. Geen enkele techniek of landbouwmodel zal alleen alle problemen kunnen oplossen. Meer en meer gaan dan ook stemmen op dat een hybride aanpak de enige mogelijkheid is, waarbij het beste uit de biologische landbouw gecombineerd wordt met het beste uit de conventionele landbouw. Waar plaats is voor een agro-ecologische optimalisatie, maar ook voor de allernieuwste veredelingstechnieken. Geen enkel systeem of techniek kan op zichzelf een totaaloplossing bieden voor de toekomstige uitdagingen.

Deze week werd opnieuw een artikel gepubliceerd in Nature (nieuwsbericht) door o.a. Jonathan Foley dat specifiek ingaat op het verschil in opbrengst tussen conventionele en biologische landbouw en welke problemen en/of mogelijkheden dit schept. Jonathan Foley is ook de schrijver van, “Can we feed the world and sustain the planet?”, de stappen die hij hierbij beschrijft worden hier schematisch samengevat.

Naar aanleiding van de publicatie van deze studie in Nature werden heel wat artikels aan deze materie gewijd. Andrew Revkin schreef een heel genuanceerde analyse van dit onderzoek met als titel, Study Points to Roles for Industry and Organics in Agriculture. Prof. Pamela Ronald, gekend van Tomorrow’s table, laat haar licht schijnen op deze problematiek die haar nauw aan het hart ligt. Het nieuwsbericht van McGill, waar het onderzoek, in samenwerking met The Institute on the Environment (Universiteit van Minnesota), werd uitgevoerd. Ook in de Los Angeles time verscheen een artikel met een interview met agro-ecoloog John Reganold (Universiteit van Washington). Zijn quote en uitsmijter van het artikel wil ik u zeker niet onthouden.

“People think organic is not going to feed the world,” Reganold said, whose own research has found that organically grown strawberries contain more nutrients than their conventionally grown counterparts. “Well guess what? No one farming system’s going to feed the planet. It’s going to take a blend to guarantee us global food security.”

Organically Grown and Genetically Engineered: The Food of the Future

She’s the head of a plant genetics lab at UC Davis; he teaches organic farming there. They’re married (with kids), and they coauthored Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food.

In the book they wrote: “To meet the appetites of the world’s population without drastically hurting the environment requires a visionary new approach: combining genetic engineering and organic farming. Genetic engineering can be used to develop seeds with enhanced resistance to pests and pathogens; organic farming can manage the overall spectrum of pests more effectively.”

Agriculture has been a revolutionary biological science for 10,000 years, husbanding soil, tweaking the genes of the food crops. This is the next stage.

De video/podcast van het seminarie  georganiseerd door The Long Now foudation vind je op de site zelf, het artikel staat hieronder:  Continue reading

Words Matter: Biotechnology Does Not Contaminate

There is absolutely no reason to treat pollen from biotech seeds differently than from non-biotech.  Biotech crops are the most intensely studied and regulated crops on the planet.  They have been planted on billions of acres over the last 15 years with no credible health concerns.  The technology is good for the environment because it allow farmers to produce more yield with less inputs. Even organic growers are not harmed by the proximity of biotech crops.  If a farmer follows the rules specified by the USDA for organic production the presence of biotechnology in their harvest does not disqualify their organic certification. Under these circumstances, how can biotechnology be considered a contaminant?

The vast majority of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are genetically modified to fight pests and weeds. Treating these crops as “contaminants” is part of an ideological struggle to prevent farmers from using 21st-century technology. The U.S. Department of Agriculture should speak out, defend the farmers who produce safe food, and refuse to let the professional protestors define the terms of debate.

Het volledige artikel lees je hier.

Populus survey shows Britons becoming more at ease with GM food

Is het tij in Europa heel traag, maar zeker, aan het keren?

The British public’s concern over genetically modified food has softened in the past decade, according to a new survey.

A quarter of Britons are now at ease with the idea of GM food, compared with 17% nearly a decade ago, when supermarkets were debating whether to introduce products following widespread public opposition.

The number of people saying they are concerned about GM has fallen by 5%, said the Populus survey, commissioned by the British Science Association.

Volledig artikel vind je hier en hier.

Organic movement must cease ‘insular’ outlook

Mr Bloomer, whose comments caused some consternation among the audience, said: “Just how willing is the European organic movement tobe more open?

“From the outside the organic movement seems insular, like it is the only one who has the answers.”

He pointed to the debate around genetically modified (GM) crops as one area where there could be a more open debate by the organic movement.

He added: “I understand the Soil Association’s concerns around GMOs. The fact is, however, there are a lot of GMOs which are necessary.

“Many small farmers do not have 15 years to wait in order to breed into their wheat the soil nutrition efficiency they need. GM can speed up that process.”

Volledig artikel hier.