Mention of the words “insect resistance” can cause panic; particularly among farmers growing a crop that can be devastated by the insects developing resistance. To farmers, insect resistance means the technology that prevents them from having to spray round-after-round of insecticide is in jeopardy. To farmers who rely on selling that crop to feed their families, resistance endangers their livelihoods.
In 2010, resistance to pink bollworm was detected in five districts of Gujarat state, threatening the crops of more than five million farmers who planted Bollgard® and Bollgard II® cotton in India. The detection also meant concerns could heighten about the technology and possibly halt the advancement of similar technology in India; technology that could provide added benefits to farmers growing cotton in India.
A global team of Monsanto experts stepped up to create and advocate a nationwide campaign on the importance of resistance management for preserving the long-term value of insect-control traits in cotton. The team engaged stakeholders and media through an open discussion about resistance data.
The team also organized more than 55 stakeholder meetings, two workshops, and six seminars in a span of six months. The team educated farmers about the existence of resistance in pink bollworm to Bollgard and briefed Monsanto’s technology partners about related resistance issues. This enabled the partners to make informed decisions about seed production and what to plant next season. The team also reiterated to the scientific community the importance of refuge in sustaining insect-control trait technology and highlighted Monsanto’s global policy of making public declarations regarding resistance development in pests.
“The most challenging aspect of this project was that Monsanto’s intention was to be transparent with the findings on resistance in pink bollworm populations in Gujarat state, but the message was misconstrued by regulators as a marketing ploy to promote Bollgard II,” Leigh English, director of the Monsanto research center in Bangalore, India, said. “Despite these challenges, the team continued to communicate to all the stakeholders and media through open discussion. This was followed by face-to-face meetings, workshops, seminars and a nationwide awareness campaign.”
The methodology adopted, data obtained and the team’s interpretation of resistance was shared with concerned stakeholders with complete transparency. The team also partnered with the Central Institute for Cotton Research to conduct a joint resistance monitoring program in pink bollworm populations during the 2010 growing season. Team members have also conducted a workshop aimed at adopting a uniform methodology for resistance monitoring.
“This approach is highly applicable in all geographies in handling detection and management of insect resistance for insect-protected trait crops; thereby sustaining customer value,” English said. “The technology partners and the Indian regulators, through this incidence, have realized the importance of planting refuge, thus calling for joint meetings and deliberations to develop insect-resistance management strategies.”
By Sara Duncan