Pink bollworm and the champagne cork-popping chorus

If any Hollywood movie producers or wannabes are reading this column, read closely. You have the opportunity (and the advance notice) to capture and record one of the greatest feats in U.S. history underway before our eyes.

The western U.S. Cotton Belt - from California eastward to West Texas - plus two states in northern Mexico, could soon bid a final adios to the pink bollworm insect which has robbed cotton growers of millions and millions of dollars in lost income.

After a half century of eradication efforts and two years of not finding a single 'native' bollworm moth in field traps, the western cotton industry could be a mere three years away – 2017 – from eradicating the pest in the U.S., unless native moths are found in the meantime.

Even so, if more natives are found, the pink bollworm eradication experts in each affected state are armed with an arsenal of weapons to send the ‘pinky’ to its final grave.

And perhaps the best part of this story is science has prevailed. Yep, genetically-modified (GMO) technology, which armed cottonseed with Superman-like powers, has greatly led to the evil moth’s demise.

The very same GMO technology - that extreme environmentalists (a.k.a. whackos) claim will turn our food supply into ‘Frankenfood,’ could grow bolts on your neck, could develop extra body limbs, and could sicken the world’s population – are actually saving the planet from billions of people walking around naked.

While Bt cotton maybe the Superman of the western cotton industry, other technologies have also effectively disarmed the insect, including the release of sterilized pink bollworm moths from airplanes onto cotton fields (potential highlight scene in a box office thriller) to halt the native moth’s reproductive cycle, and state-of-the- art pheromone technology.

These three, and more, have brought the pinkie to  short-lived status so we can enjoy comfortable cotton-made jeans, absorbable towels, and bed sheets worthy of a good night’s sleep.

While technology may have turned the corner on the pest, the western cotton farmer deserves credit as well for embracing change and applying new technology. Cotton farmers are REAL environmentalists implementing new methods to make cotton even more sustainable.

While the pinkie is not eradicated yet, it’s just a matter of time before the final nail is hammered into the last pinkie’s coffin.

A boatload of folks has brought the cotton industry to near eradication; scientists, government leaders who have approved research funding, trap checkers, entomologists, and others.

I was somewhat unaware of the significance of the pinkie eradication success story until I interviewed the California entomologist in charge of the Golden State’s pink bollworm eradication program.

If the pink bollworm is eradicated, Patrick Acres said the pinkie would only be the third insect eradicated in U.S. history. The eradicated pests include the cotton boll weevil and the screwworm.

Successful pink bollworm eradication – even on the verge of it – is an amazing accomplishment to share and certainly worthy of Hollywood’s front and center attention…and yours.

Congratulations, in advance, to our progressive cotton industry. It’s almost time to put champagne on ice and get ready to pop the cork.

Eradication is near.

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