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
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
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
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.
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