New Delhi: The government is working on a solution to control spread of cotton pest 'Pink Bollworm' that has developed resistance to much-touted Bt cotton variety in parts of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
The second generation Bt cotton variety, Bollgard II, introduced by Monsanto in 2006, is supposed to be resistant to Pink Bollworm pest.
"The Pink Bollworm pest attack in Bt cotton crop is certainly visible in parts of Saurashtra and some districts of Andhra Pradesh. Such cases are not yet reported from other growing states. We are closely monitoring the situation," a senior Agriculture Ministry official told PTI.
An expert team, including officials of the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), which visited the pockets of infested cotton areas in these two states, has found that Pink Bollworm has developed resistance to Bt cotton variety 'Bollgard II', the official said.
Asked about measures to control the spread of pest, the official said, "We are discussing with Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) as well as with seed industry to find a solution. Scientists are working on this issue. Appropriate advisory will be issued to states."
The state governments have also been directed to keep a check on spread of this pest to other growing areas, he said.
Admitting that Pink Bollworm has developed resistance to Bollgard II in parts of Gujarat, Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India Ltd (MMBL) spokesperson said: "While results of the CICR study and recommendations are awaited, resistance monitoring studies conducted internally, on certain populations of Pink Bollworm, indicate resistance to the Cry2Ab protein - a key component of Bollgard II."
This has been proliferated by improper insect resistance management practices, absence of refuge planting and spread of illegal seeds in the above districts, he told PTI.
"While Pink Bollworm shows resistance, the technology continues to provide effective control of American Bollworm and Spotted Bollworm," he added.
MMBL said the company had received reports of sporadic presence of Pink Bollworm from parts of Gujarat in 2014. But in 2015, it observed unusually high infestation of Pink Bollworm in few villages in the districts of Saurashtra and Central Gujarat.
Stating that resistance is a natural evolutionary process, the company said, "In agriculture, insect resistance is said to have developed when previously effective management techniques are no longer controlling target pests."
"We continue to find that our traits are still bringing great value to farmers in all the regions where they are used. We remain committed to developing new high-performing products to give farmers a wider choice of insect-control technologies," it added.
MMBL claimed its Bollgard technologies have helped increase cotton yields by over 1.8 times from 302 kg per hectare in 2002-2003 to 552 kg per hectare in 2013-2014. India today is the world's second largest producer and exporter of cotton and stands at the cusp of becoming the largest producer globally, it added.