Pink bollworm, which eats cotton bolls, has developed resistance to Monsanto’s second generation GMO protection Bollgard-II
Note: entomologist Elson Shields of Cornell University commented on the evolution of pests resistant to Bt toxin in GM plants, “The insect will win. Always bet on the insect if there is not a smart deployment of the trait.”
Wily pink bollworm survives Monsanto’s Bollgard-II
The Hindu Business Line, 28 Oct 2015
Pink bollworm, the wily worm that eats away cotton bolls, has developed resistance to Monsanto’s second generation biotechnology protection Bollgard-II.
The Nagpur-based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) has confirmed the resistance to the technology in some parts of Gujarat.
“There is resistance to Bollgard-II. We have collected some insects. They are eating up the bolls,” CICR Director Keshav Kranthi told BusinessLine here on Wednesday.
Impact on seed industry
This development could have a serious impact on the seed industry as almost complete cotton area is covered by BG-II seeds.
A constituent of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the CICR conducts basic research in cotton to improve yield and fibre quality. It also collects, conserves, evaluates and catalogues cotton germplasm in the country.
The CICR Director feels that the resistance could be more in the next three-four weeks and in the next season.
Asked whether the reports were true, a Monsanto spokesperson said that resistance is a natural, evolutionary process. “However, its development and further spread can be delayed if proper mitigation practices are followed, including planting a mandatory refuge at farmers level,” he said.
Growing a refuge crop (other than cotton) around the main crop is a safety mechanism advised by the scientists and regulators to delay resistance. However, in the absence of awareness, extension mechanism, majority of the farmers give a go-by to this norm, quickening the resistance-building process in the worms.
“We continue to find that our technologies are still bringing great value to farmers in all the regions where they are used. We remain committed to developing new high-performing products to give farmers a wider choice of insect-control technologies,” Monsanto spokesperson added.
Four years after it got the permission from Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in 2006 for commercial release, the firm admitted that its entomologists detected and, ultimately confirmed, pink bollworm resistance to the first-generation single-protein (Bacillus thuringiensis) Bollgard I cotton in four States in Western India.
Just around that time the company launched Bollgard-II promising protection against pink bollworm and other smaller pests. The technology is based on the premise that if the plant has the protection from within, farmers are not required to go for expensive pesticide sprays.
While Monsanto asserts that it is imperative to stay ahead of insect resistance through research, activists fighting against the genetically-modified crops argued that Bt is a classic example to show that it was futile to taking on monophagous (animals living only on one kind of food) as their ability to develop resistance is immense.