Monsanto accepts its Bt cotton is not pest-resistant

Biotech giant Monsanto has had to admit, for the first time, that insects could attack its Bt cotton and it was not insect-resistant. Field monitoring in parts of Gujarat had shown that the Bt crop offered no effective resistance against the pink ballworm pest there.

The company was pushing Indian farmers to switch to its second-generation product, which, it claimed, offered greater resistance. Critics of the company were quick to point out that this just proved the ineffectiveness of Bt technology which was being sought to be introduce in Bt brinjal as well.
In November 2009, Monsanto scientists detected while monitoring the Bt cotton crop in Gujarat that the bollworm pest appeared to survive and it has now been confirmed that pink bollworm pest is resistant to pest-killing protein of Bt cotton in four districts - Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagarh and Rajkot.

With the company having admitted the ineffectiveness of its product against some insects, it is now recommending its second generation product instead.

"Farmers have another choice. We have a two-gene product called Bollgard II which has greater ability to delay resistance," says Monsanto India's director of scientific affairs Rashmi Nair. Further, farmers are being asked to better monitor areas of non-Bt crops, which could attract insects.

"During field monitoring of the 2009 cotton crop in Gujarat, Monsanto and Mahyco scientists detected unusual survival of pink bollworm to 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," Monsanto said on Friday.

The company said further studies were being conducted to find out the reason for the failure of the crops' pest-fighting ability.