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EPA clears Bollgard II for 2003 use

Monsanto has received full U.S. regulatory clearance for Bollgard II, its new insect-protected cotton technology. Approval means that U.S. cotton producers will have access to Bollgard II cotton varieties in the 2003 planting season.

Bollgard II cotton is expected to provide the grower with additional benefits, including a broader spectrum of insect-control and increased defense against the potential development of insect resistance, said David Rhylander, director of cotton marketing for Monsanto.

“The technology will also provide similar agronomic advantages as its predecessor, Bollgard cotton, including an increased yield and lint potential, improved insect control, reduction in input costs, savings in time, and reduced pesticide spraying,” he said.

Bollgard II cotton is the second-generation of insect-protected cotton developed by Monsanto. This technology contains two different insect-control genes, compared to the single insect-control gene in its predecessor and will provide producers with 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week control of target pests.

“Bollgard II cotton will provide cotton producers with excellent control of a broad spectrum of pests that typically impact end-of-the-season profits,” noted Walt Mullins, cotton technical manager for Monsanto. “These pests include cotton bollworm, tobacco budworm, pink bollworm, European corn borer, cabbage and soybean loopers, fall and beet armyworms, saltmarsh caterpillar and cotton leaf perforators.”

“Bollgard II cotton is as much an improvement over the original Bollgard cotton as Bollgard was over conventional cotton,” said Blake Layton, Mississippi State University Extension entomologist.

Monsanto's 2002 field research on Bollgard II cotton demonstrated the durability of the technology under extreme insect pressure. In some areas, cotton pests wreaked havoc on conventional cotton plots in unsprayed trials — leaving the crop with 100 percent fruit damage — where unsprayed Bollgard II sustained only 1 or 2 percent boll damage, Mullins noted.

“The technology's higher level of insect control — especially of such economically significant cotton pests — highlights the substantial improvement of this technology over Bollgard cotton and reinforces the value of this technology for cotton producers,” Mullins said.

As part of the registration conditions, EPA will require the same insect resistance management programs that growers have been following the past several years.

Insect resistance management plans for Bollgard and Bollgard II cotton are designed to maintain the effectiveness of these products against the target pest insects. These plans require planting a non-Bollgard cotton refuge within a specific distance from each Bollgard II cotton field to serve as habitat for susceptible insects.

USDA and FDA also confirmed the food, feed and environmental safety of this technology earlier this year.

“Seed companies' supply of Bollgard II cotton seed will be limited in 2003; however, we expect that seed production in 2003 by licensed seed companies will insure a significant increase in Bollgard II cotton seed availability in 2004,” noted Rhylander.

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