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Old 04-07-2005, 08:46 PM   #1
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GM Triumph in Australia

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GM TRIUMPH IN AUSTRALIA

Farmers have begun harvesting a vast crop of genetically modified cotton that has allowed them to slash the heavy use of pesticides for which they have long been been criticised. With NSW and Queensland farmers free for the first time last spring to plant as much GM cotton as they liked after nine years of caution, about 80 per cent of the 300,000 hectares sown was genetically modified to resist herbicides and fight the crop's enemy, the helicoverpa moth.

While cotton growers such as Bourke's Ian Cole would normally spray his crop up to 18 times each growing season to kill off pest insects, this season he only sprayed three times after choosing to grow a GM crop. Those three sprays were targeted to attack sucking insects such as mites and did not wipe out the "beneficials" - spiders, wasps and ladybirds - as the powerful, broad-spectrum sprays for helicoverpa used to. "I'm a big believer in technology being able to solve problems for us in agriculture," Mr Cole said. "Technology has solved a huge problem for us in cotton."

Over the years, traditional pesticides had became stronger and were applied more frequently as insects built immunity. Helicoverpa moths lay their eggs into the boll, or fruit, of the cotton plants and when the larvae hatch they eat the fruit.

GM pioneer Monsanto first won permission for Australian farmers to grow its Ingard GM cotton in 1996. Ingard contained a gene found in soil bacteria that enabled the cotton to produce a protein that killed the grubs when they ate the plant. But because there was a risk of the helicoverpa developing immunity to the single-gene product, planting of Ingard was limited to 30 per cent.

Now Monsanto has replaced Ingard with Bollgard II, which uses two genes and produces two deadly proteins. The chance of insects developing immunity to Bollgard is "extremely small", according to Mark Buckingham, a Monsanto spokesman. Ingard enabled farmers to more than halve the amount of pesticide spraying they needed to do and Bollgard requires 85 per cent less pesticide than conventional cotton.

As an ongoing safeguard, farmers planting Bollgard must also plant a "refuge crop" of pigeon pea. The theory is that any moths that do develop an immunity to Bollgard would mate with moths that have fed on the nearby pigeon pea and have not developed immunity. Their offspring would also not have immunity.

Apart from carnations, cotton is still the only GM crop allowed to be commercially grown in Australia because of strict government regulations and strident opposition from environmental and consumer groups.

Mr Cole said that as well as being great for the environment and the workplace safety of his staff, Bollgard saved farmers a lot of money because they do not have to spray as much and can devote more time to other matters such as improving water efficiency. Cotton's thirst for water is the industry's other public relations problem.

Globally, the area planted with GM crops rose 20 per cent last year to 81 million hectares - 5 per cent of the Earth's cultivated crop land. More than 8 million farmers in 17 countries planted GM crops in 2004 and 90 per cent were in developing countries. When commercial GM crops were first planted in 1996, there were 1.7 million hectares.
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Old 04-08-2005, 09:24 AM   #2
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Took me a few seconds to figure out what cotton had to do with automobile manufacturing.
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Old 04-08-2005, 11:49 AM   #3
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good stuff.
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Old 04-08-2005, 01:57 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonosSaint
Took me a few seconds to figure out what cotton had to do with automobile manufacturing.
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Old 04-08-2005, 02:16 PM   #5
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Originally posted by BonosSaint
Took me a few seconds to figure out what cotton had to do with automobile manufacturing.
That was my reaction, too. This is cool!
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Old 04-08-2005, 02:40 PM   #6
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I'm interested in looking into this a bit more.

Monsanto has an absolutely appalling track record when it comes to a number of health issues - for example, look up their history with BGH and you will be horrified by it. I have very little trust in them or in the idea they are interested in public safety.
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Old 04-09-2005, 07:18 AM   #7
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Over the years, traditional pesticides had became stronger and were applied more frequently as insects built immunity. Helicoverpa moths lay their eggs into the boll, or fruit, of the cotton plants and when the larvae hatch they eat the fruit.


This is a load of crock.

Pesticides have not become any "stronger". Most have had higher concentrations of the active ingredient but at reduced application rates so that the overall amount applied to the crop has always been identical year in year out.

Note that in the article it talks of Ingard, a cotton variety that only halves the use of cotton insecticides, and as a result of trial work over the past eight years (during which only small crops were allowed to be grown) there has already been issues with resistance by insects. Hence, Bollgard II. Note also that farmers are required to grow a refuge crop of pigeon peas in the hope that helicoverpa moths will mate with moths from the pigeon pea crop and help to reduce possible resistance. Bollgard II still requires 15% of current insecticide use.

IMO the turnover rate of varieties of GM crops as a result of resistance issues is worrying and does not bode well for the future.
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