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06.06.2018 |

Pink Bollworm Resistance to Bt Cotton in India

Pectinophora gossypiella (Saunders), the pink bollworm, has made a comeback in India, attacking genetically modified (GM) Bt Bollgard-II cotton bolls, the second-generation GM cotton created by Monsanto to confer resistance to the worm.

The pest had first showed up sporadically on Bt cotton in 2010, but by the 2015-16 season, large areas of cotton crop were affected, reducing yields by an estimated 7-8%. Surveys by the state revenue and agriculture departments in November 2017 and February-March 2018 indicate that pink bollworm infestation affected over 80% of the 4.2 million ha under cotton in Maharashtra alone. Each farmer reportedly lost 33% to over 50% of standing crop. In January 2018, Maharashtra’s Department of Agriculture predicted a dip in cotton production and bales by 40%.

The pink bollworm infestation is widespread in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana.This drove the profuse use of pesticides from July to November 2017 across Maharashtra by farmers desperate to save their cotton crop, but no pesticides were reportedly able to control the worm. The Ministry of Agriculture acknowledges the problem but has rejected the demand from Maharashtra and other states to de-notify Bt-cotton, a move that will change its status to regular cotton since Bt cotton’s efficacy is no longer there.

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