Bt Cotton

external image cotton_india.jpg
Picture of Bt cotton being used at a farm in India.
Courtesy of at

Discovery/History of Bt Cotton

Bt Cotton was introduced in 1996 as a way to combat these new found problems that farmers had been facing. Bollworms were becoming an increasing problem for they had been harming the crops that farmers were attempting to grow, such as cotton bollworms, tobacco bollworms, and pink bollworms ("Bt Cotton", n.d.). This need was generated predominantly by a major rash in the crops that farmers were attempting to grow. In 1995, farmers lost on average about 4% of their crop yield in cotton due to attacks from pests ("Bt Cotton", n.d.).

Modern Uses of Bt Cotton

Today, Bt cotton is used as an organic measure to kill the specific insect for which it is intended. It is most commonly used on organic farms and in wide spraying of urban areas to prevent the spread of pests (Cartmell, April 2010).

Effect that Bt Cotton Has Had

external image btconvmon.gif

This graph shows in relation to the previous insect problem and the effect that it has had. As was stated previously, there were problems of insects infecting the crops such as cotton and tobacco and Bt products (with Bt cotton being used for cotton crops) are used to target specific insects, such as the pink bollworm, as is is displayed in the graph.

Current Problems Surrounding Bt Cotton

Today, Bt Cotton has a large presence in India amongst their farms. In 2002, the government of India approved the use of Bt Cotton in farms after years of debate amongst themselves regarding the issue of whether it would actually improve the farms. In 2006, it was revealed that Bt Cotton had led to a decreasing use of insecticide amongst farmers and had improved their crop yields ("GM in India: the Battle over Bt Cotton", December 2006).

Much of the debate, however, that had been surrounding the implementation of Bt Cotton was not its effectiveness, but rather the implications that it would hold for India politically. It was believed that Bt Cotton was merely an attempt by multinational nations to try to control the agriculuture of India ("GM in India: The Battle over Bt Cotton", December 2006).

In 2003, however, the problems surrounding Bt Cotton rose to unforseeable levels. Rather than problems regarding its political implications, it is believed that the use of Bt Cotton by farmers actually led to suicide. Many farmers in India, particularly in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh had purchased Bt Cotton for a large sum and had expected the crop yields as a result of Bt Cotton to be much larger than they actually were. They had heard that Bt Cotton was going to help crop yields rise by as much as 80 percent and when these figures were not met, many of the farmers committed suicide ("GM in India: The Battle over Bt Cotton", December 2006).

Future of Bt Cotton

Although Bt Cotton originally had great success, as displayed in the graph above, these successes have declined rapidly in recent years. It is estimated that farms in India alone lose up to $550 million worth of their crops annually to the bollworm pest, despite using products such as Bt Cotton and spending well over $550 million in trying to prevent it. Scientists are trying to be optimistic about biotechnology but it is not certain whether they will be able to create a Bt Cotton product that will be able to combat the immunity that the bollworm has gained to Bt Cotton and other related products ("GM in India: The Battle over Bt Cotton", December 2006).

Discovery/History of Bt

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) was discovered in 1901 by a Japanese biologist, Shigetane Ishiwatari. In 1911, it was rediscovered by Ernst Biler, another biologist that was isolating a baceteria that had killed the Mediterranean flour moth. It was named Thuringiensis, after the town of Thuringia in Germany where the moth was found ("History of Bt", n.d.). Ultimately, Biler won credit for the discovery of Bt because the name used by Shigetane Ishiwatari, "bacillus sotto" was ruled invalid ("History of Bt", n.d.).

Bt was used as a pesiticide as early as 1920 by farmers in France ("History of Bt", n.d.). At first, it was used simply to kill moths that were infesting the farmlands in France. In 1938, France began mainlining the product with actual brand names such as "Sporine" to sell to the general public ("Using Bt Toxins in New Zealand", n.d.).

Until the 1970's, Bt products were used only to kill moths and butterflies ("Using Bt Toxins in New Zealand", n.d.). However, as these insects became increasingly resistant to these pesticides and as different insects became troublesome for farmers, a need to fund new research regarding the future uses of Bt products in farms arose ("History of Bt", n.d.).

Pictures of Unmodified and Modified Cotton


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Picture of unmodified Cotton, naturally grown cotton.
Courtesy of at

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Picture of Bt Cotton.
Courtesy of The Hindu Business Online at


1. History of Bt. (n.d.). Retrived from
2. Using Bt toxins in New Zealand. (n.d.). Retrieved from
3. Bt Cotton (n.d.). Retrieved from
4. Cartmell, Paul. "What Is Bt Cotton." 22 Apr. 2010. Web. <>.
5. GM in India: The Battle over Bt Cotton (December 2006). Retrieved from from