Papers in the Biological Sciences


Bollgard Cotton: An Assessment of Global Economic, Environmental, and Social Benefits

Julie M. Edge, Fleishman-Hillard Inc.
John H. Benedict, Texas A&M University
John P. Carroll, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
H. Keith Reding, Monsanto Co.

Copyright © The Cotton Foundation 2001.


In the late 1980s, Monsanto began development of Bollgard (Bt) insect-protected cotton by transformation with a construct containing the cry1Ac gene from Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki. The goal was to provide constitutive in-plant control of key lepidopteran pests in an environmentally friendly manner at a reduced cost. After receiving appropriate regulatory approvals, Bt cotton was launched commercially in the United States in 1996, and subsequently in Argentina, Australia, China, Mexico, and South Africa. In 2000, Bt cotton was commercially grown on approximately 4 million acres of cotton globally, with >97% grown in the United States. The registration of Bollgard cotton has brought cotton growers an inplant protection method for use as part of an integrated pest management system.

Numerous published reports have examined the impact of Bt cotton on insect pest control, grower cropping methods and lifestyle, and the environment. Yet, few reports have viewed the benefits from a holistic perspective and fewer still have focused on risks associated with Bt cotton. In an effort to understand the totality of the benefits associated with Bt cotton, this paper focuses on the economic, environmental, and social effects of Bt technology as reported in peer-reviewed scientific literature, conference proceedings, government and institutional reports, market research, and company literature.