The contribution of cotton is more than just a fibre for textiles. Cotton fibres used in textiles around the world come from the seed hairs of a plant known as gossypium hirsutum. Cotton, which is cultivated in different countries of the world, develops in closed, green capsules known as bolls that burst open when ripe, revealing the white, fluffy fibres. Genetically modified (GM) cotton has become widespread, covering a total of 15 million hectares in 2007, or 43 percent of the world’s cotton. Most GM cotton is grown in India and the US, but it can also be found in China, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, Mexico, and Columbia. The GM cultivars grown today are resistant to herbicides or insect pests. More than half (68%) of China’s cotton production is genetically modified to produce a substance (Bt toxin) that protects it against insect pests. A few types of caterpillars are especially problematic because they bore into cotton bolls reducing yield and compromising quality. Pesticide applications for repeated times are necessary to protect the cotton bolls from these insects. GM cotton has now enabled Chinese farmers to considerably reduce pesticide use.
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