Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bt Cotton: A GMO

GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM!!! Many people when they hear this term automatically think the worst and will not even think twice about buying the product. Because they have not been properly educated about what this term means, many people are afraid of the possible effects of genetically modifying an organism. People don’t understand the possible benefits that could come with altering the genetics of an organism to help boost yield or to reduce the amounts of pesticides needed to control pests on the crops. They just hear the term “genetically modified organism” and refuse to have any part in it.

There have been many commercially important genetically modified organisms produced that have reduced the need for so many pesticides and other chemicals that are used on crop fields. One crop in particular that was developed was Bt cotton. In this strain, a gene from the bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis, was inserted into the cotton. The gene allows for insecticidal crystal proteins to be formed which can keep harmful insects from feasting on the plant.

In one study in India, it has been found that there have been positive as well as negative effects of using the genetically modified cotton strain. One positive is that the farms that are using the Bt cotton have been seeing higher yields than those farms using non GM cotton. They also have been able to reduce the use of pesticides throughout their crop fields. Although there have been higher yields and less pesticide use on the farms using the Bt cotton, there have been some other negative effects that the farmers did not foresee when planting these cotton strains.

Possible problems in long-term farm management efforts may have been uncovered in the recent study in India. Non-target pests, pests not affected by the Bt, have seen a drastic rise in population numbers. Because the farmers are not using as many pesticides, there has been an increase in populations of pests that are resistant to or are not affected by the Bt toxin.

In my opinion, genetically modified organisms are going to be a good thing in the future. It just may take a while for them to be fully figured out and to determine the possible effects of introducing them into the environment. Modifications to these organisms could have many benefits for agriculture and it could be very useful for boosting future crop yields as well as controlling more pests. We just need to figure out how to effectively manage the crops and the pests and all the other farm factors at the same time.


  1. I agree with your opinion. I don't know why people are so bugged out by GMOs as long as they aren't causing any harm to one's health or environment. It is necessary to figure out which causes the most negative effects overall: GMOs or non-GMOs. Both are going to have pros and cons associated with them.. It's just about finding what's less harmful.

  2. I think GMOs are potentially great tools for farmers. During the summer my family and I grow pumpkins and I know its difficult to keep up with pests in an acre sized patch. If pumpkins could be genetically modified to resist or even kill the pests that feed on them I know it would save my family a lot of time, money, and frustration. The first step in having this method of farming more widely accepted is truely educating the public on the benefits of genetically modified organisms and what a GMO is.

  3. The issues of evolving resistance to Bt are significant, and some population geneticists recommend that a certain proportion of crops lack Bt to reduce the selection for Bt resistance. Another ecological consideration of GMO crops is when they are grown in proximity to landraces or wild relatives in the areas in which the crops were developed. Once the genes get out, there is not way to get them back "in the bottle". If there is a possibility for gene transfer, there is almost a certainty that it will happen at some point. That said, there are still many who see transgenic modifications as beneficial when done with consideration of the potential environmental effects.