BIO Fears Bt Cotton Report in Nature Could Mislead Public, Farmers

Washington, D.C. (August 4, 1999) -- In response to a study by University of Arizona entomologists appearing in the scientific correspondence of the Aug. 5 Nature, Michael Phillips, Ph.D., the Biotechnology Industry Organization's executive director of food & agriculture expressed surprise that the researchers claim their narrowly focused laboratory study of larval insect development has relevance to the effectiveness of refugia strategies for insect resistance management.

ôWhile we appreciate and encourage ongoing research on techniques that farmers are successfully using to grow crops in a more sustainable manner, we're concerned that these preliminary studies are being misrepresented or exaggerated in ways that are misleading to farmers and the public,ö Phillips said.

ôToo often scientific journals publish findings that are preliminary or so narrow in scope that they lead people to jump to the conclusion that they offer substantial new scientific information,ö Phillips said. ôUnfortunately, that first shot is heard 'round the world. Yet when further research puts the findings in context, rarely is that fuller perspective reported,ö Phillips said.

According to Phillips, ôThis laboratory study does not represent anything new to entomologists who commonly observe developmental asynchrony in nature. In fact, the current resistance management practices for Bt cotton were formulated assuming that developmental asynchrony would occur,ö Phillips said.

ôBecause most insects in nature emerge and develop at different times, there is a significant overlap or mixing of generations. Consequently, populations of susceptible insects will be present to mate with any resistant insects,ö Phillips said.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is an association representing more than 850 companies, state centers and academic institutions involved in the research and development of healthcare, industrial and agricultural biotechnology products.