Biotech Updates

Bt Cotton Key in Eradicating Destructive Pest from the US and Mexico

January 6, 2021

Photo Source: USDA Agricultural Research Service

A powerful combination of genetically engineered cotton and traditional pest control strategies successfully eliminated pink bollworm from the continental U.S. and Mexico, reported by study leader Bruce Tabashnik and colleagues in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The destructive pink bollworm has negatively impacted cotton production in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, which cost tens of millions of dollars in damage per year. "By analyzing computer simulations and 21 years of field data from Arizona, we discovered that genetically engineered cotton and the release of billions of sterile pink bollworm moths acted synergistically to suppress this pest," said Jeffrey Fabrick from the USDA Agricultural Research Service and one of the co-authors of the study.

With the eradication technique, the cotton growers saved USD192 million from 2014 to 2019. The approach is also recognized as environmentally-friendly since it helped decrease insecticide sprays by 82%.

Within 10 years, the use of Bt cotton reduced pink bollworm populations by 90%. For the first time since the pest's first reported infestation, complete eradication seems to be possible.

Read more findings from the University of Arizona and in PNAS.

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