An 11-year investigation spanning six Chinese provinces suggested that the black-market cotton seeds cut pesticide use and boosted cotton yields thanks to their long-term resistance to pests. The study published this month in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS) said the seeds were a hybrid of genetically modified (GM) and traditional cotton plants. The production and trading of such seeds are banned in China…Full Article: South China Morning Post May 2017

Key Point

  • The study focused on the illegal planting of F2 cotton seeds in China’s Yangtze River region [i.e. Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu, and Sichuan]. F2 cotton seeds are created by:
  1. Crossbreeding Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton and non-BT cotton (i.e. non-GM cotton)
  2. Crossbreeding the resultant offspring (first generation, aka F1 seeds)
  3. Sowing the second generation of cotton seeds (aka F2 seeds) which have a random mixture of 75% Bt-resistance and 25% no special traits (conventional cotton)
  • In 2010, large-scale planting of F2 cotton seeds was taking place in China.

ChinaAg Comments

  • In 2014, GM cotton was planted on approximately 3.9 million hectares, or roughly 93% of China’s total cotton planting area. Northern China’s Xinjiang Region is the country’s largest cotton grower, accounting for 46% (~1.9 million ha) of cotton farmland and an impressive 60% (3.6 million metric tons) cotton output in 2014. During that year, thanks in part to improved GM cotton yields, Chinese cotton reserves reached 11 million MTs, equal to roughly half of global cotton trade volumes.
  • From 1997 to 2010, northern China’s mirid bug population increased 12-fold, threatening GM cotton crops with 50% losses if not properly contained by insecticide, a resource that GM cotton was originally designed to bypass.
  • Introduced in 1997 (GK12) and 1999 (SGK321), GM cotton is the most widely cultivated GM crop in China.

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