Categories: Daily Food & Agriculture DigestAgricultural RegulationsChemicals & PesticidesCrops & FoodSustainability / GreenGenesBiotechnologyAgriculture Spotlight

How genetic engineering helped reduce cotton’s environmental footprint

| | June 7, 2017

Cotton’s environmental footprint is much less noticeable today than was the case in the early 1960s, thanks largely to science and technology.

Ryan Kurtz, director of agricultural research, Cotton Incorporated, says the highly successful Boll Weevil Eradication Program, genetic engineering, innovations in tillage, and changes in farm size and efficiency combined to reduce cotton’s impact on the environment over the past 35 years.

[Kurtz] said cotton farming has evolved from “horses to robots and drones. We’ve seen great strides in reduced soil loss, water use, and pesticide use.”

“Biotechnology now protects plants from insect damage,” Kurtz said. Herbicide tolerant varieties also allow a more efficient weed management system. “Cotton farmers also reduce energy consumption because of biotech,” he added.

“Genetic engineering has improved varieties in other ways. We have more water efficient varieties,” which improves on a plant already known for drought tolerance.

[T]he success of the Boll Weevil Eradication Program and the introduction of Bt cotton revolutionized insect control in cotton. “At one time, cotton farmers in some areas were spraying as many as 15 times in a season. The average was seven. Following boll weevil eradication, the average dropped to five, and after Bt cotton was introduced the average dipped to two.”

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Cotton’s effect on the environment continues to diminish

Articles written by GLP cite ‘Genetic Literacy Project’ as the source. All others are aggregated and excerpted from the original source to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis.


  • The underlying article in Southeast Farm Press is worth reading, and it's worth expanding upon with regard to other crops. Cotton is certainly a success with regard to insecticide usage reduction, but there are parallels with regard to herbicide usage in soybean, corn, canola, and most recently sugarbeet agriculture. There are even greater potentials for biotechnology for reducing or eliminating disease control agents in these and many other crops. Genetic engineering, whether by transgenesis or direct gene editing, holds such great potential, but it has been stymied by smarmy marketeering tactics that the "organic" sector uses to disparage it, all in the interest of creating a market cushion for the higher prices that are required to offset the higher costs of producing "organic" food. This whole system could be turned on its head if (only if) the "organic" sector could somehow see its way clear to adopt and actually promote biotechnology as a key component organic agriculture. Since the anti-GMO screamers have not yet evolved to the point where they could actually understand this point, I'm going to try to make it more clearly:

    If you adopt and promote biotech for the production of organic food, you would make it cheaper to produce than food which comes from conventional agriculture. That way you would have a pricing advantage in the marketplace. You would not need labeling laws, marketeering slogans, or all the other trappings that you are spending so much lobbying money trying to bring about, but which have so far failed to bring a commanding market share in the grocery store.

    To put it more bluntly, you who espouse organic agriculture: You are on the wrong side of the biotechnology issue. Get with the program!

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