GM cotton trialST LOUIS – Monsanto has been hit with a fine of US$2.5 million for failing to inform US cotton farmers about restrictions imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency on its genetically-modified Bt cotton.

The Reuters news agency reports that Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, violated the US Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act when it sold and distributed some cotton seed products in a way that violated restrictions Monsanto had told the US Environmental Protection Agency it would adhere to.

The EPA limits the planting and selling of this GM cotton seed to protect the environment from the ‘potential harm associated with the uncontrolled spread of the genetically engineered component of these pesticides, Bacillus thuringiensis (BT).’

It is reported that over a five year period to 2007, Monsanto distributed or sold Bollgard and Bollgard II cotton seed, which contained genetically engineered pesticides without the planting restrictions required by the EPA to protect against pest resistance, more than 1,700 times nationwide.

“People who manufacture and distribute pesticide products must follow the federal registration requirements,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “These requirements are critical to preventing the development and spread of insect resistance.”

Monsanto said the problems stemmed from an oversight in issuing a grower guide that was supposed to contain a statement prohibiting planting the cotton in 10 specific counties in Texas where insect resistance management was a concern and Monsanto’s biotech cotton was not allowed. The grower guide did not contain the required language. Monsanto said it discovered the error in 2006 and reported it to EPA.

“As a result of this matter, we have implemented new internal review processes to prevent such errors in the future,” said Rob Nixon, head of Monsanto’s stewardship program.

St. Louis-based Monsanto said subsequent evaluation determined that no resistance had occurred in the counties in question, and in 2008 the EPA lifted the restriction and authorised the planting of Bollgard II in those counties.

Elsewhere, a recent report suggests that GM cotton grown in China, designed to resist insect attack, has had an unintended consequence: reduced insecticide use has allowed outbreaks of non-target organisms to infest crops across the agricultural landscape and emerge as new pests.

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