EPA Continues to Be a Cheerleader for USA Frankencrops

EPA Continues to Be a Cheerleader
for USA Frankencrops

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
October 2, 2001

BY: Phillip Brasher The Associated Press


The government has decided against requiring farmers to cut back on planting
cotton that is genetically engineered to produce its own pesticide.
Environmentalists are worried that insects are going to become resistant to
the crop's pesticide, which also is an ingredient in sprays used by organic

But the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday there is no evidence
that such resistance is developing. Requiring farmers to reduce their use of
the crop "would result in unacceptable economic losses" and lead to more use
of chemical insecticides, the agency said. EPA gave approval for the biotech
crop to be grown for another five years, renewing a registration that was to
have expired on Monday. The crop is known as Bt cotton for a bacterium gene
that is inserted into the plant to produce the insect toxin.

To prevent resistant insects from developing, EPA requires farmers to plant
sections of conventional cotton along with the Bt varieties. Insects in the
conventional fields will mate with insects from the biotech fields and
ensure that successive generations of bugs remain susceptible to the Bt

The biotech crop, which was developed by Monsanto Corp., has become very
popular in parts of the South and in Arizona because it prevents damage by
several pests, including the budworm.

"This renewed registration assures that cotton growers can continue to use
this valuable technology to protect against insect pests while reducing the
use of chemical pesticides," said Randy Deaton, a spokesman for Monsanto.
But Jane Rissler, a biotechnology critic with the Union of Concerned
Scientists, said EPA should have increased the size of the conventional
cotton fields, known as "refuges." Under EPA's rules, farmers can plant as
little as 5 percent of their acreage in conventional cotton as long as they
don't spray it with an insecticide.

"I don't see how we are going to significantly delay resistance with these
small refuges," she said.

EPA will require an independent firm to monitor farmers' compliance with the
refuge limits.

The popularity of Bt cotton has led to a two-thirds reduction in the
spraying of insecticides that are most toxic to birds and fish, and a
one-third cut in the use of chemicals most dangerous to people, EPA said.

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