GM Cotton Damaging to China's Environment

GM Cotton Damaging Environment

Xinhuanet 2002-06-03 22:23:10

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 China and 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 thrive and 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, the report 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 it is 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 to be damaging as the genes in nature, mostly existing in wildlife and some small regional species, are useful for people to develop new species of plants and animals with high quality or against certain disease," she said.

China is a center for diversity of several plants like soy bean and faces the problem of how to protect its original genes from imported GM products, Meister said.

Thanks to The Campaign.org


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