A genetically engineered (GE) variety of cotton, which recent research has shown
could have adverse environmental effects, is being grown in Cambodia,
agriculture officials confirmed to the Post.
Although the Ministry of
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries does not know how much Bt cotton is being
grown here, the number of hectares under trial is set to increase in the next
A final mission report from the Agricultural Materials
Standards Specialist confirmed the presence of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis)
cotton in several trials at Chamkar Leu district, Kampong Cham
"According to the final report of the seed industry specialist
under the Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project, there is some Bt gene
modified cotton in variety trials at Chamkar Leu," the report stated.
Vuth, deputy director at the department of agronomy and land improvement at
MAFF, confirmed Bt cotton was being grown in Cambodia.
His department had
yet to research the impact of genetically modified organisms (GMO).
seeds have been growing in Memot and some in Chamkar Leu," he said. "This seed
is resistant to bollworm."
Bt transgenic cotton is the main GE cotton
variety. A gene from a soil bacteria that is toxic for the bollworm is inserted
into the plant. However, research by Greenpeace showed that resistance to the
gene could rapidly build up in the target bollworm population, leaving the
cotton "ineffective in controlling pests after eight to ten years of continuous
The June 4 report reviewed the impact of Bt cotton in China,
where it accounts for 35 percent by area of the total crop. The results showed
adverse environmental effects after only five years of commercial growing.
The bollworm can develop resistance to the gene, and tests using
bollworms that had acquired Bt resistance showed their susceptibility to the
toxin decreased to 30 percent by the 17th generation. By the 40th generation
bollworm resistance had increased 1,000 times, making Bt cotton practically
useless at combating the pest.
Other worrying findings were natural
parasitic enemies of the bollworm were drastically reduced, the numbers of
secondary pests increased, and farmers were forced to continue using chemical
Larry Kao, general manager of the Manhattan Textiles and
Garment Corporation in Kampong Cham, said his company had provided cotton seed
to farmers since 2000 to test and grow.
Kao said he purchased the seed
from a Chinese company in China's Kwantong province, but did not know whether it
was Bt cotton. The Post asked him to translate the label on the cotton seed can,
which is in Chinese, and it read: "Transformed by the gene to [ensure] a pest
He said his company planned this year to grow between
500-1,000 hectares in three provinces: Kratie, Stung Treng and Kampong
The chief of the cotton seed station in Chamkar Leu, Sing Bunny,
said Chinese businessmen providing him with three types of seed to try on his
land two years ago.
They called it Chinese I, II, and III. He
acknowledged the cotton was not destroyed by bollworm, but said after
experimenting for two years, it had generated far less revenue than the normal
He said the experimental station would not grow any more of the GE
The report from MAFF's specialist stated that the presence of GE
cotton in Cambodia appears limited at the moment. However it said Vuth's
department should draft a policy on GMO crops, and provide information to
farmers on potential health and environmental impacts. It concluded that
controls over the use of GMOs should be enforced.