An article by ISIS – Monsanto Bt Cotton kills the soil… – draws attention to the toxic effects of a genetically engineered type of cotton plants. Details below. The plants are able to make poisons to deter insect attack. Whilst many plants can do this naturally, one of the major differences with genetically modified (GM) crops termed ‘Bt’ is that the toxins are made by genes from a bacterium called Bacillus thuringensis, a germ that can kill invertebrates.
Bt Cotton has been hailed as a successful and apt solution to one of the challenges behind the agriculture of this fibre-producing crop. Cotton plants, worldwide, receive the heaviest portion of the pesticides used in farming today. The Bt gene facility is intended to lessen the pesticide volumes used.
Effects on earthy ecosystems
Research in India, carried out by Navdanya, compared the soils in plots where Bt-cotton had been planted for 3 years, with neighbouring fields with non GMO cotton or other crops.
According to their data, in just 3 years Bt-cotton has reduced the population of Actinomycetes by 17%. Actinomycetes microbes living in the soil who carry out a vital role in the biodegradation of plant fibres and are thus part of the natural process of recycling nutrients.
Navdanya says that total microbial biomass in the soil was reduced by 8.9%, with bacteria reduced by 14%. Microbial enzymes which make nutrients available to plants have also been reduced, e.g. Nitrogenase enzymes which are vital to the nitrogen fixing process – down by 22.6%.
Multiply the effect for the land area where Bt-cotton is grown in India – that’s 7.6 million hectares of soil ecosystem undergoing an ecological change. Will this be permanent? Are the effects recoverable?