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Overview of Bt Cotton

Considered a superior variety to other conventional cotton types, in several ways, Bt cotton is a transgenic variety that is genetically enhanced with an intrinsic mechanism to protect itself from caterpillar pests. This cotton variety, gets its defense mechanism from a naturally-occurring, soil-dwelling bacterium called Bacillus thuringesis (Bt). The bacterium enables the Bt cotton plant to protect itself from the African bollworm -one of the crop’s biggest threats -as well as several other pests. The Bt bacterium enhances the production of a protective protein in the plant, which is harmful to the digestive system of the caterpillar pest.

The bollworm, a vastly prevalent pest in many cotton growing areas, mostly feeds on the different parts of the cotton plant during the course of its growth. However, when the pests feed on the Bt cotton plant, their own digestive enzymes activate the toxic component of this protective protein, which in turn mutilates parts of their intestinal tracts. The process weakens the pests’ digestive system making them unable to feed, and eventually they die.

For many years, the Bt has been used in organic farming as a crops’ spray to control different pests and insects that are damaging to plants. Bt is not detrimental to the environment, humans, and animals and is specifically harmful to, and kills specific groups of insects and other organisms like the caterpillar pests that it targets. Commercially grown for the first time ever in 1996 in the United States, Bt cotton is now commercially grown in more countries.

Benefits of Bt Cotton

Bt cotton is beneficial in many ways. Because of the protective mechanism incorporated into the crop, it saves the farmer in many ways, maximizes their yields, protects the environment, enhances livelihoods, and spurs economic growth. As indicated, the protective protein that Bt cotton has protects the plant against its biggest pest threats. This means the number of times the farmer will be required to spray their crop reduces from roughly 12 to about three or four per season. This saves farmers the resources they would have spent in the spraying process. The fact that the plant is able to protect itself from pests also means that there will be minimal pest attacks and the yields are bound to be more. Farmers therefore see an increase in their yields, which translates to their improved livelihoods.

Further to this, the reduced number of sprays required for the cotton plant means farmers are protected from some of the sprays that may be harmful if inhaled or used incorrectly -a benefit to their health. The environment is similarly protected from some harmful chemicals that may have been used as ingredients in some of the sprays deployed against pests. As a cotton farmer, cultivating Bt cotton also means there will be reduced labor requirement by the farmer as the crop’s self-protective nature minimizes the necessity for extra workforce to spray the plants. Besides, such a successful crop venture certainly appeals to more people -especially youths- a factor that, alongside the better yields, enhances economic development.

Cotton is grown in 17 states stretching across the southern half of the United States: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Tex
One bale of cotton can make 1,217 men's T-shirts or 313,600 $100 bills. Click for a list of other items.

About Us

The better yields expected from Bt cotton saw the government bank on the crop to boost the implementation of some of its Big 4 Agenda action plans. Bt cotton has the potential to revitalize some of the country’s industries -especially textiles- and create at least 50,000 jobs, while generating up to Sh20billion

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