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LOGO: Journal of Cotton Science


(Contemporary Issue) Bollgard Cotton: An Assessment of Global Economic, Environmental, and Social Benefits

Authors: Julie M. Edge, John H. Benedict, John P. Carroll, and H. Keith Reding
Pages: 121-136
Breeding and Genetics

Insect-protected crops like Bollgard (Monsanto Company, St. Louis) Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton are bringing cotton growers new alternatives to broad-spectrum insecticide use in integrated pest management. After five years (1996-2000) of commercial use, a number of benefits of Bt cotton technology to growers, the environment, and society at large have been reported; however, the benefits of the technology have not been examined to date from a holistic point of view. Accordingly, the objectives of this paper were to examine the potential economic, environmental, and social benefits of Bt cotton compared with broad-spectrum insecticide use, as reported in current literature, and to determine whether the benefits are directly (primary) or indirectly (secondary) related to growing Bt cotton. Data reported are from current scientific literature, conference proceedings, government and institutional reports, market research, and company literature. The direct benefits of Bt cotton include reduced broad-spectrum insecticide use, improved control of target pests, better yield and profitability, lower production costs, and farming risk, expanded opportunities to grow cotton, and a brighter economic outlook for the cotton industry. The indirect benefits of Bt cotton are associated with a reduction in broad-spectrum insecticide use and include increased effectiveness of beneficial arthropods as pest control agents, and better control of non-target pests, reduced risks for farmland wildlife species, less runoff of broad-spectrum insecticides, reduced fuel usage, lower levels of air pollution and related waste production, and improved safety for farm workers and neighbors. While more focused research is needed to fully assess the economic, environmental, and social benefits and risks of Bt cotton, the findings after 5 yr of commercial use on >2 × 106 ha globally indicate that Bt cotton provides an effective method for lepidopteran control that is safer to humans and the environment than conventional broad-spectrum insecticides, making Bt cotton a valuable new tool in integrated pest management.