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New Genetically Modified Cotton Approved in Argentina

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

Cotton is a crop of very high economic value because of its widespread demand in the textile industry, representing 38 percent of the fiber market. The uses of the cotton fiber and its seeds are widespread, ranging from clothing, upholstery, cosmetics, packaging to cottonseed-oil, paper, electrical equipment, and livestock feed. As of 2008-2009 reports, the largest producer of cotton is China, followed by USA and India. For such an important cash crop, the loss of hundreds of acres worth of harvest due to attack by pests proves to be a big loss to farmers as well as the industry. It also leads to waste of precious resources like soil, water and labor.  

Genetically Modified by the insertion of one or more genes from a common soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis. These genes encode for the production of insecticidal proteins, and thus, genetically transformed plants produce one or more toxins as they grow. The genes that have been inserted into cotton produce toxins that are limited in activity almost exclusively to caterpillar pests (Lepidoptera). However, other strains of Bacillus thuringiensis have genes that encode for toxins with insecticidal activity on some beetles (Coleoptera) and flies (Diptera). Some of these genes are being used to control pests in other crops, such as corn. What insects does it control? In 1996, Bollgard cotton (a trademark of Monsanto) was the first Bt cotton to be marketed in the United States. The original Bollgard cotton produces a toxin called Cry 1Ac that has excellent activity on tobacco budworm and pink bollworm. These two insects are extremely important caterpillar pests of cotton, and both are difficult and expensive to control with traditional insecticides. Consequently, Bt cotton was widely adopted by growers in the western Cotton Belt for pink bollworm and by growers in the Midsouth and Southeast, primarily for tobacco budworm. Bollgard toxin also has moderate activity on bollworm and to a lesser extent on loopers, fall armyworm and beet armyworm.  

GMO Cotton is the Bt cotton is an insect-resistant transgenic crop designed to combat the bollworm. Bt cotton was created by genetically altering the cotton genome to express a microbial protein from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. In short, the transgene inserted into the plant's genome produces toxin crystals that the plant would not normally produce which, when ingested by a certain population of organisms, dissolves the gut lining, leading to the organism's death. 

The secretary of Ag-Industry, Mr. Luis Miguel Etchevehere, announced the release of a new GMO cotton trait. It is that confers the crop tolerance to the isoxaflutole and mesotrione herbicides, plus glyphosate tolerance. 

Mr. Etchevehere remarked that this trait is already approved in Brazil, and that it will permit to local farmers a better control of herbicide-resistant weeds. The secretary stressed that this approval reduces the technological gap between Argentinean and Brazilian farmers. “We had four traits approved for cotton, but only one is currently commercialized”, the official said. 

The new trait that stacks tolerance to the HPPD-type herbicides over the glyphosate one, will be commercialized by BASF. “The company adds technology to our country, diversifies the offer and promotes competiveness of our farmers”, the Secretary said. 

In a meeting with the Cotton Table, where representatives of the cotton chain discussed the future of the crop, Mr. Etchevehere announced that in the next month's other traits will be released. 

The Chairman of Gensus, the only cotton breeding company in the country, Mr Pablo Vaquero explained that this will be a quadruple stack that confers cotton resistance to herbicides and insects, also the property of BASF Company. “This GMO cotton was approved last year in Brazil. We hope that BASF launches this technology in our country too. “It is much relevant for our cotton chain that BASF, that purchased the cotton unit business from Bayer, be committed with the crop and the country”, Mr. Vaquero opined. 

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