Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Biotech Cotton 8: Bugs 0

There's an important principle at work here.
"The key to Bt cotton's continued efficacy is the use of refuges -- patches of traditional cotton intermingled with the fields of Bt cotton.

The refuges ensure that the few pink bollworm moths that are resistant to Bt are most likely to mate with Bt-susceptible pink bollworm moths that grew up in the refuges. The offspring from such matings die when they eat Bt cotton.

In contrast, if all of Arizona's cotton was Bt cotton, only pink bollworm caterpillars that were resistant to the Bt toxin would survive. If resistant pink bollworm moths mated with each other, their offspring would be resistant and could feed on Bt cotton. Bt cotton would then become useless against pink bollworm."
It's the principle of integrating the new ways with the old ways. Use genetically engineered crops but keep plenty of non-engineered crops around to keep the selection pressure small on the pest population. It's like having a marine reserve so fish stocks will stay strong. Or preserving wilderness to maintain floral and faunal genetic diversity. It's almost like knowing how to live without utilities just in case.

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