Fight for crop biotechnology faces political blackmail

Cotton has been one of the biggest benefactors of biotechnology. Cotton was the first crop to have commercially available plants resistant to insects and herbicides.

At the recent Beltwide Cotton Production Conferences in Nashville, there was considerable conversation about second generation Bt and herbicide resistant genes, which will broaden the pest control options of this new technology. Monsanto has been the leader so far in this technology, but at Beltwide others announced they will be challenging Monsanto in the marketplace with their own biotechnology products. The number of cotton varieties from many different companies containing these genes is expanding rapidly.

Now herbicide-resistant alfalfa is on the horizon. It is expected to have a major impact on forage production in the West.

Dr. Roy Cantrell, vice president of agricultural research for Cotton Incorporated, says that new technologies for cotton will come at a pace more rapidly for cotton than any other crop over the next few years.

Unfortunately, in the long term the outlook is not so good, warned Cantrell. Life science companies are divesting from agricultural biotechnology in pursuit of medical biotechnology and this will have a “profound negative impact on the technology pipeline in the mid and long-term for cotton and all crops,” he said.

Consolidations and turmoil in the biotech industry are dark clouds on the horizon, he said. While this is understandable in today's Wall Street financial climate, it flies in the face of humanity's greatest threat — starvation.

The World Health Organization identifies starvation as the greatest threat to man — not AIDS or cancer.

“We should all a be concerned about how to feed and clothe a rapidly growing human population who, for the most part, cannot afford the drugs developed by the miracles of medical technology,” he points out.

It's all about politics and money, not food safety or any other valid health concern. There are leaders of African nations denying biotech food to starving people because they are fearful they will loose trade with European nations. That's blackmail, and the price is human life.

It begs for the cotton industry to cry out even louder against that kind of unfathomable political blackmail.

The cotton industry knows it is one headline away from being dragged into a political biotechnology morass corn often finds itself it. Cotton has defended the use of biotechnology. However, it may not have defended it as strongly as it could for fear of being drawn into a seemingly no-win fight with radicals.

Cotton must be in the middle of the fight not only to preserve biotechnology, but for mankind. It's time cotton fights as vigorously for biotechnology as it has on some other issues.

Quit shipping cotton to nations opposed to biotech food crops. “Impossible! It would be financial suicide! They'll just buy cotton from other nations. It's not our political fight!”

It is everyone's fight to turn back the radicals who are willing to let millions starve for the sake of political or economic views.

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