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Study points to problems with genetically engineered cotton

(January 9, 2001 – Cropchoice news)—A recent study raising possible concerns for farmers about genetically modified cotton has received much less attention than the seed and chemical companies’ endorsement of transgenic technology.

Scientists writing in the Journal of Cotton Science point out some potential concerns with cotton that’s genetically modified to resist the tobacco budworm and the herbicide glyphosate, also know as Roundup. Researchers found that the transgenic cotton they studied was less resistant to root-knot nematode, a serious cotton pest. Farmers typically control nematode infestation by planting different types of traditional hybrid seeds.

Despite this study, the StarLink debacle, consumer concerns about genetically engineered foods and fibers, and European and Japanese opposition, the International Cotton Advisory Committee recently reported that, “the GE cottons approved pose no risks to human or animal health, the environment or natural biodiversity, and in that regard, are no different than conventionally produced cotton."

Phil Wakelyn, chairman of the Committee and senior scientist with the National Cotton Council, predicts that 50 percent of the world’s cotton acreage will be of genetically engineered cultivars within five to seven years. That’s a 12 percent increase over the numbers today. Wakelyn says that U.S. genetically modified cotton acreage will be much higher.

Of course, cotton farmers do not have to prove this prediction true. They can insist on planting only non-genetically engineered varieties.

Sources: Rooster.com, Journal of Cotton Science