We Don’t Cotton to This Idea
Farmers in India are harvesting the nation’s first approved biotech cotton crop, a development that has environmentalists and some nationalists nervous. About 55,000 growers, an estimated 2 percent of India’s cotton farmers, have planted Monsanto’s Bollgard cotton seed, genetically engineered with the Bt bacterium to be resistant to the bollworm, a troublesome cotton pest. The crop should allow farmers to significantly cut their use of pesticides, say biotech boosters. But critics argue that pests will develop resistance to the Bt cotton and that genetically engineered crops could wreak untold havoc on the natural environment. Some Indians also worry about what they say is a new form of colonization by foreign multinationals. “A handful of Western companies want to control the agricultural foundations of the Third World nations by robbing the farmers economically,” said Afsar Jafri of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, which leads an anti-biotech campaign and promotes organic agriculture.