The botanical name of Upland (American) cotton is Gossypium hersutum and it belong to family Malvaceae. Amerian cotton is tetraploid specie and chromosome number is 2n=52The word BT mean Bacillus thurngenises. This is an Agro bacterium cause crown gall on cotton plant. BT gene extracted from Agro bacterium and transfer in cotton plant through genetic engineering. This BT gene produces resistance against boll worm pests.
Cotton is an important cash crop for Pakistan known as “white gold”. It accounts for 8.2 percent of the value added in agriculture and about 3.2 percent to GDP; around two thirds of the country’s export earnings from the cotton made-up and textiles which adds over $2.5 billion to the national economy; while hundreds of ginning factories and textile mills in the country heavily depends upon cotton. Life of several of farmers is dependent on this crop, in addition to millions of people employed in the entire cotton value chain, from weaving to textile and garment exports. Pakistan in the world fourth-largest cotton producer, third largest exporter of raw cotton and a leading exporter of yarn in the world our yield per acres ranks 13th in the world; as a result Pakistan annually imports app. 1.5-2.00 million bales of cotton to meet growing demand from local textile mills; therefore it has become vital for Pakistan to increase its yield per acre.
Agricultural biotechnology is playing an important role to gain better crops and food for bio-safety. So, many farmers in the world are focusing genetic engineered varieties (GE) to improve cotton yield. American multinational Monsanto Company develops genetically engineered first BT cotton variety, Firstly BT cotton seed named as BT-121 smuggled from neighbouring country-India and grown in Upper Sindh.
If we seen at the Pakistan problems, there are two major types of pests which are damaging cotton crops – sucking and chewing; sucking pests controlled by strong pesticides but major challenge to control chewing pests i.e. known as Bollworms – American, Army, Pink and Spotted bollworm are major causes to decrease cotton crop yield and lint quality. Another recent disease cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV) spread in Punjab and Sindh pushed our institutes.
Pakistan also realizes the significance of BT Cotton, and the top political leadership including the Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz himself has said that government would allow to farmers to BT cotton grown openly, which confirms government’s policy of being open to genetically modified crops in the near future. Other ministers have also spoken in favor of adopting the BT Cotton.
But in order to benefit from its true potential, government and all key stakeholders including farmers, seed companies, R & D institutes, seed dealers and traders are involved in commercial activity for Agricultural development. If we choose to ignore regulatory frameworks that govern the chain of activity, and international agreements on Biosafety that Pakistan is signatory to, to make quick bucks or in an attempt to provide a speedy access of technology to the farmers, we shall end up losing the benefits from the technology in the long run by undermining it. We have to ensure effective, stringent, and transparent enforcement of Biosafety Rules 2005, Seed Act 1976, and Punjab Cotton Control Ordinance, to encourage the introduction of technology through legal means with its complete package of benefits.
These rules setup legal requirements for import, export, transport, and handling of biological agents, genetic engineering organisms or vectors, seeds, crops and foods, besides setting conditions for the researchers; seeds developers and companies. Usually it takes two to three years to do proper assessment for any Biotech crops before its commercialization.
Recently in Pakistan like Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE), Nuclear Institute of Agriculture and Biology (NIAB), Agricultural Biotechnology research institute Faisalabad,Cotton research institute Faisalabad,Cotton research institute Multan,Centre of Agricultural Biotechnology and Biochemistry (CABB) UAF and National center of Excellence in Molecular Biology (NCEMB) at Punjab University Lahore to cope with such problems; significant amount of financial resources and manpower have been committed by the Government of Pakistan for developing genetically modified (GM) local cotton varieties.
Thus different Pakistani Agricultural research institute released different BT varieties for Biosafety i.e. “IR-FH-901”, “IR-NIBGE-2”, “IR-CIM-448” and “IR-CIM-443”; and recently released NIAB-886 and NIAB-777.These BT cotton varieties have been tightly screened and evaluated by PAEC on the bases of their capacity to follow Bio-safety rules. Cotton research institute Faisalabad.released FH-113 and FH-114 BT varieties. These varieties screened and evaluated by Pakistan Agricultural research council.
Although Pakistani BT cotton varieties good staple length (22mm-30mm) and fitness, germination of these BT cotton seed varieties vary from 55 % to 80 %, but mixing or impurities were less than 2 %.
BT cotton varieties significantly more yielded per acre as compare to non Bt cotton varieties i.e. up to 40 mound (1 Mound = 40 Kg) of BT cotton per acres but 17-20 mound per acre to traditional cotton varieties. This translates into more than 35 percent increase in yield. It is noted that in BT cotton crops average number of cotton Bolls per plant are 125 while average Boll weight is appro. 1.95 grams including seeds and number of plants per acre are as recommended by the department of agriculture. In Pakistan average cotton grower has 10 acres of land; increase in such small income per acre would improve his quality of life. Recently, it is expected that more than 80% cotton area covered by BT varieties in Pakistan Punjab Cotton belt farmers ( Bahawalpur, Multan, Muzaffer Garh and Karor Pakka;) observed and evaluated independently its resistance and susceptibility to different biotic stress, abiotic stress and yield compared it with non Bt cotton varieties grown in the same locations. A large number of farmers have visited these fields, and become aware of the benefits of the locally developed BT cotton.
Although, the overall attack of “Army boll worm” “American bollworm” and other bollworms remained low as compared to previous years but attack of sucking pests like Jassid, Whitefly, Thrips and other Aphid were high in both BT and non BT cotton crops. No serious incidence of cotton leaf curl virus disease was reported in BT cotton varieties. Heat stress in cotton crop was also recorded in different region, Army, Pink and Spotted bollworm were active from July to October but severe attack during September and Army boll worm remained in the field after spray for limited time period.
It is also important that newly hatched Helicoverpa Armigera when eat leaves of the BT cotton plants, they died after few days; no larvae reached to pupal stage while in non BT it has developed into pupa. Significant number of spray has decline in BT cotton varieties; 4 – 5 applications as compare to non BT cotton crop 6 – 9; most of chemicals application used to control sucking pests; however in chewing; pests spray was required to control Army boll worm. Although BT cotton also play significant control the target bollworms but partial foliar insecticide sprays are required to control other bollworms from causing excessive damage in BT fields.
Right dose of BT toxin “Cry-protein” in very crucial in each BT seed; if we grow the same BT seed repeatly on same location; the right dose of BT toxin will be reduced and cotton plant susceptible to pest. So it will harmful for our agriculture, may be hazard for health and environment.
Besides the cotton lint; more than 70% of edible oil is extracted from cottonseed and in addition to that more than 2 million tons of oil seedcake is also produced as a feed for livestock and poultry.
WTO passed the rule that all the Biotech. Applications in crops and food being decided on scientific rather than political grounds for human and animal health Being health safety studies prove that, BT cotton oil, leaves and feed has no health hazards and side effects on human, animals and it safe for environment. These studies created a positive consciousness and confidence between the international and Pakistani scientists and people about BT cotton.
Today, all major cotton producing countries are benefiting from the cultivation of BT Cotton. In the last season Up to 70 percent of BT cotton in USA, 76 percent in China and 80 percent in Australia ,more than 80 percent in Pakistan and India grown with “single” or “double” BT gene technology. It is expected that within two years more than half of the world’s cotton may be grown from genetically modified crops.
BT genotypes are highly dependent on agro climatic conditions, plant genetics and crop management. In some areas, certain BT varieties may be show non significant result, for example under high night temperatures and under hot dry conditions, bolls may drop off the plants. Therefore use only those approved BT cotton varieties; which are screened under your local agro-climatic conditions.
And the scientists have no claimed that BT cotton varieties increase yield due to presence of genetically modified organism; however, the increase in yield can be gain by crop protection from boll worm pests.