ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  28 November 2000


Here's WWF on GM cotton - the supposed GM wonder crop massively reducing pesticide use.

Background Paper, "Transgenic Cotton: Are There Benefits for Conservation?"
A case study on GMOs in agriculture with an emphasis on fresh water, WWF International, March 2000

- Download the report in either WORD or
PDF format from

No Reduction of Pesticide Use with Genetically Engineered Cotton,
Updated summary of the WWF International report, Fall, 2000

The updated summary below lacks the tables which can be seen in the pdf version
Updated summary of a report prepared for Bernadette Oehen and Christine
Bärlocher, WWF International, 2000
by Philipp Thalmann and Valentin Küng, Küng  Biotech + Umwelt, Höheweg 17, CH- 3006 Bern

The extensive cultivation of genetically engineered cotton over the past four years in the USA has brought no appreciable reduction in the use of insecticides and herbicides.

It was expected that the commercially available transgenic varieties would lead to the long overdue change of trend toward environmentally friendly agriculture with less use of pesticides.

Agricultural multinationals and university researchers promised that the environmental burdening caused through pesticides could be greatly reduced by means of genetic engineering.

In the USA the use of pesticides in cotton growing has been recorded for nearly ten years in intensive statistical surveys by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The areas under cultivation with genetically modified cotton are also accurately known as they are surveyed annually by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).

[TABLES - see pdf]

The boom of genetically modified Bt cotton gave rise to an anticipated reduction in insecticide use. Although to date one fourth of American cotton is produced with Bt varieties, no significant reductions in the overall use of insecticides could be achieved (compare figure 1). This is not so astonishing when one considers that those insecticides which could be replaced by the genetically modified Bt cotton, only make up a minor proportion of the insecticides used. Moreover a strong increase in insecticide use occurred in 1999 due to boll weevil eradication programs which
were conducted in Texas.

Herbicide use shows a similar picture. Although each year the cultivation areas of herbicide-tolerant cotton in the USA have almost doubled over the past few years, the amount of herbicides used has hardly shown any reduction at all (compare figure 2).

NASS statistics reveal even more - through the use of herbicide-tolerant cotton, sales of total herbicides that can be used with the various types of genetically modified cotton, have risen drastically.

For instance, the total herbicide glyphosate moved from the fifth place in 1997 to the second herbicide in cotton growing in 1999.  In the same period the amount of glyphosate applied per acre and crop year increased slightly, but steadily from 0.81 up to 1.06 pounds per acre.

[see pdf for TABLE]

This year was the fifth season for American farmers growing genetically modified cotton. The sobering results of the past few years offer no hope of a trend change this year either. Expectations that genetic engineering can contribute to a less environmentally burdening cotton cultivation have not been fulfilled. Therefore a broader approach to alternative cultivation strategies must be more
intensively researched and promoted, for example by controlled organic [original translation: biological] cultivation, instead of concentrating on genetic engineering.

The detailed results of the “Transgenic Cotton: Are there Benefits for Conservation?” study compiled on behalf of the WWF can be called up on the Internet on:, or may be ordered from WWF Switzerland, Post Office Box, CH-8010 Zurich. Phone: ++41 (0)1 29721 21, or e-mail:


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