Genetically modified crops in India produced greater yields, reduced pesticide use, new study finds

Berkeley - Cotton crops in India that were genetically modified to resist insects produced dramatically increased yields and significantly reduced pesticide use compared with non-bioengineered crops, according to the results of farm trials reported by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Bonn in Germany.

The study, published Friday, Feb. 7, in the journal Science, holds particular promise for small-scale, low-income farmers in developing nations, said the researchers. These farmers, especially those in tropical regions, regularly risk large, pest-related crop losses because they cannot afford to use the pesticides available to larger farms.

"Many critics have questioned whether genetically modified crops would be economically and environmentally beneficial to farmers in developing countries," said David Zilberman, UC Berkeley professor of agricultural and resource economics and co-author of the study. "Our research indicates that transgenic crops should be a viable option. This is the first paper to show such a substantial increase in yield for bioengineered crops."

The researchers reported the results of field trials conducted on 157 farms in three major cotton-producing states in India during the seven-month cotton season that began in June 2001. The field trials were initiated by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco), which has been studying Bt hybrids in India since 1997.

The farm sites contained three adjacent plots that measured 646 square meters each. One plot was planted with cotton bioengineered with a gene from the insecticidal bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), the second with the same hybrid of cotton but without the Bt gene, and the third with a cotton hybrid traditionally grown in the local area.

The Bt cotton, produced by the Monsanto Company and Mahyco, is resistant to the three species of bollworm that plague crops in India. Prior studies in India show th

Contact: Sarah Yang
University of California - Berkeley

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