Monsanto study says crop in four Gujarat districts showed susceptibility to pest.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) is learnt to have received a report confirming pink bollworm developing resistance to BT cotton in four districts in Gujarat. The apex regulator of genetically modified (GM) crops is likely to consider these findings by Monsanto and Mahyco scientists in its next meeting.
Monsanto has revealed that in 2009 it had found BT cotton crop in four districts — Amreli District, Bhavnagar District, Junagadh District and Rajkot District — demonstrate unusual susceptibility to pink bollworm.
“During field monitoring of the 2009 cotton crop in Gujarat, Monsanto and Mahyco scientists detected unusual survival of pink bollworm in first-generation single-protein Bollgard cotton. Testing was conducted to assess for resistance to Cry1Ac, the BT protein in Bollgard cotton, and pink bollworm resistance to Cry1Ac was confirmed in the four districts,” Monsanto stated in a press statement issued in Mumbai on Friday.
“Gujarat is one of nine states in India where cotton is grown. Till date, no insect resistance to Cry1Ac has been confirmed outside the four districts,” he stated.
Single-protein Cry1Ac products continue to control bollworm pests other than pink bollworm in the four districts in Gujarat. In addition, no instance of insect resistance in any of India’s cotton growing states, including the four districts in Gujarat, has been observed in case of Bollgard II.
“Pests developing resistance is an expected event for a dynamic system. However, scientists now need to look into the spread of this and get behind the reasons and the nature of resistance,” Dr K C Bansal of National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, IARI, Delhi, said.
With the debate on allowing commercial cultivation of BT-brinjal raging, this development has created a challenge for scientists working in the field of agricultural bio-technology. BT corn and BT soya crops have not yet demonstrated such resistance anywhere in the world.
Incidentally, this pest resistance has been observed in Gujarat, where spurious Bt cotton was reported to have got into the fields much before the GEAC approved the first such GM crop in the country.
“Resistance is natural and expected, so measures to delay resistance are important. Among the factors that may have contributed to pink bollworm resistance to the Cry1Ac protein in Gujarat are limited refuge planting and early use of unapproved Bt cotton seeds, planted prior to GEAC approval of Cry1Ac cotton, which may have had lower protein expression levels,” Monsanto expressed its apprehensions and left the matter to be examined by GEAC-approved panel for the same.