ICAC survey on GM cotton indicates rise in Herbicide usage

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A survey by the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) indicates that weed control is becoming increasingly expensive and is a major component of net cost of production. Expenditures on weed control rose from 9 cents per kilogram of lint production in 2000/01 to 21 cents per kilogram in 2009/10 and to 31 cents per kilogram in 2012/13. This translates into a 20% weight in the entire cost, up from 11% in 2000/01, and more expensive than harvesting and ginning.

Dr. Rafiq Chaudhry, Head of the Technical Information Section of the ICAC Secretariat opined that the adoption of herbicide tolerant Roundup Ready and Roundup Ready Flex cotton varieties may be contributing towards higher expenditures. Dr. Chaudhry explained that the existence of the herbicide tolerant trait encourages herbicide use. He further observed that with herbicide tolerant biotech cotton, farmers tend to apply herbicides as cotton is growing, whereas without biotechnology farmers are compelled to use pre-emergence weed control measures and that herbicide use in non-biotech cotton is expanding very little.   

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However, a possibility is considered that the use of biotech insect resistant cotton varieties is lowering insect control costs and making more resources available for weed control. While we wait for the debate over GMOs to reach a sensible conclusion, presentation of full studies on the cost of cotton production at the 72nd Plenary Meeting of the ICAC in Cartagena, Colombia from September 29 to October 4, 2013, is expected to put more reliable data on the table.

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Source: International Cotton Advisory Committee

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