Here’s another interesting/disturbing consequence of GM (Genetically Modified) crops.
According to an article on The Guardian, millions of acres of farmland in northern China have been infested with bugs following the widespread adoption of Bt cotton, a GM variety from the laboratories of Monsanto.
Traditionally, cotton farming has required huge amounts of insecticide – it’s one of the most pesticide intensive agricultural industries around. By using Bt cotton, which produces its own insecticide, farmers haven’t had to spray as much or as often.
This has reportedly made these Bt cotton farms a haven for mirid bugs, which then move from these farms into surrounding areas attacking other farmers’ crops. I guess this means those farmers then need to use more insecticide – which really just negates the benefits of the GM crop as it just shifts the use of chemicals elsewhere.
This is yet another mark against Bt cotton and GM crops in general. All these unintended consequences keep popping up.
So, what’s the answer? Return to non-GM crops and also return to dousing them with insecticide?
As Kirtana Chandrasekaran from Friends of the Earth says in the article, it’s more a case of growing crops in areas where they have adapted to the conditions and using integrated system of pest management.
There’s already a thriving organic cotton industry and sure, organic cotton costs more – but perhaps it’s worth paying a couple of bucks extra for a t-shirt given the alternative – frankencrops, increasingly toxic pesticides and pests just becoming resistant.
The problem is, organic cotton t-shirts don’t cost just a couple of bucks more. Governments need to be doing more to help the industry grow, which will then reduce the price gap and encourage consumers to buy organic cotton products.
And we shouldn’t forget, there are other amazing fiber crops such as hemp that require little in the way of pesticides, far less water than cotton and are equally deserving of support to get products to market at a reasonable cost to the end consumer.