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Trials successful on growing Bt cotton
15
Oct '09
According to statistics of the Cotton Development Organisation (CDO), pests, weeds and bollworms cause very high yield losses, sometimes as high as 80 percent, which discourages cotton farmers from growing the crop. But all that is set to change now.

In a move to counter the challenge, Uganda has started testing its first-ever genetically-modified cotton (GM cotton). The two-type GM cotton varieties-Herbicide Tolerant (Ht) Cotton and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton- are being tasted by scientists at the National Semi-Arid Resource Research Institute (NaSARRI) at Serere in Soroti District.

The early indications are very good as these varieties are showing resistance to pests and herbicides. Thomas Areke, Director, NaSARRI says, Bt cotton has the ability to withstand bollworms and Ht cotton tolerates roundup chemicals sprayed to destroy weeds in confined fields trials.

Dr Areke informed a seminar on cotton that, the crops are vigorously growing and have flowered without any disease, pest or weed infestations and they are now trying to improve the crop using biotechnology to get varieties that would increase productivity and benefit farmers.

According to him the crop is environmentally friendly, as it reduces the spread of chemicals. The Bt cotton also produces a protein that paralyses the larvae of some harmful insect, including the cotton bollworm.

Bananas were the first crop to be genetically modified, followed by these trials on cotton.
The testing however comes at a time when genetically modified organisms (GMO) crops are facing criticism all over the world. Those opposing the technology claim the crops may have future side-effects to human beings.

60 per cent of cotton produced in the world is GM cotton and if this technology is being utilised elsewhere in the world, why we don't try it in Uganda?" ask, experts. They say the new technology would not deny farmers from applying indigenous knowledge currently used in growing cotton.

Mr Amos Mugisha, the Chairman of the Uganda Ginners and Cotton Exporters Association said once the two varieties are released for commercialization, they (varieties) would benefit small scale farmers. He said, more cotton would be produced to feed ginneries that are currently operating below capacity at 30 percent.

Cotton growing had declined due to conflicts in the sector, pests and diseases, unstable international market prices and drought. However, since most of Uganda's cotton is exported in its raw form, it currently contributes only 1.5 per cent to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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