What is BT Cotton?

Md Mahedi Hasan

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Bacillus thuringiensis cotton (BT cotton) is a genetically modified (GM) variety of cotton that has been engineered to produce a protein derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. This protein is toxic to certain insect pests, providing built-in pest resistance to the cotton plant. BT cotton has become a significant player in agricultural biotechnology, offering solutions to pest management challenges faced by cotton farmers worldwide.

BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) Cotton: 

BT cotton is a genetically modified organism (GMO) that produces an insecticide for ball-worm. Ball worms attack cotton balls in particular.

BT Cotton

What is Bacillus thuringiensis?

Bacillus thuringiensis, often abbreviated as Bt, is a Gram-positive, soil-dwelling bacterium that produces crystal proteins toxic to certain insect larvae. These proteins, known as delta-endotoxins, specifically target the digestive systems of susceptible insects, leading to their demise.

Development of BT Cotton

The development of BT cotton involved the insertion of genes encoding Bacillus thuringiensis delta-endotoxins into the cotton genome. This genetic modification allows the cotton plant to produce the insecticidal protein in its tissues, providing continuous protection against targeted pests.

How does Bt cotton work?

When insect pests feed on BT cotton, they ingest the toxic protein produced by the plant. The protein binds to receptors in the insect’s gut, disrupting cellular function and ultimately leading to paralysis and death.


BT cotton offers several advantages over conventional cotton cultivation methods. By reducing the need for chemical insecticides, it promotes environmentally friendly farming practices, decreases production costs, and increases crop yields by minimizing pest damage.

  1. Increases yield of cotton.
  2. Reduction in insecticide use
  3. No health risk
  4. Higher profits


  1. Cost is high.
  2. Effectiveness up to only 120 days.
  3. Ineffectiveness up to only 120 days.

Impact of BT Cotton

BT Cotton

Environmental Impact

  1. Effects on non-target organisms: While BT-cotton is generally considered safe for non-target organisms. But there have been concerns about its potential impact on beneficial insects such as pollinators and natural predators of pests.
  2. Resistance development: The widespread adoption of BT crops has led to the emergence of resistance in certain insect populations. To mitigate this issue, integrated pest management strategies that incorporate alternative control methods are recommended.
  3. Sustainability concerns: Critics of BT cotton argue that its adoption may lead to the loss of biodiversity and the development of resistant pests, undermining long-term agricultural sustainability.

Economic Impact

1. Cost-effectiveness for farmers

BT cotton has been shown to improve farm profitability by reducing the need for chemical insecticides and increasing yields. However, the initial cost of purchasing BT seeds and potential royalties to seed companies can be a barrier for small-scale farmers.

Despite initial concerns and controversies surrounding GM crops, BT cotton has been widely adopted in several major cotton-producing countries, including the United States, India, China, and Brazil.

Regulation and Safety Measures

a. Regulatory oversight

The cultivation and commercialization of GM crops, including BT cotton, are subject to rigorous regulatory scrutiny in many countries. Government agencies assess the safety and environmental impact of these crops before granting approvals for field trials and commercial release.

b. Safety assessments

Studies evaluating the safety of BT cotton have found no evidence of adverse health effects on humans or animals consuming products derived from these plants. However, ongoing monitoring and research are essential to ensure the continued safety of GM crops.

c. Public concerns and controversies

Despite scientific consensus on the safety of BT cotton, public perception and consumer attitudes towards GM foods remain divided. Ethical, environmental, and socioeconomic considerations continue to fuel debates surrounding the use of biotechnology in agriculture.

Future Prospects and Challenges

BT Cotton

Innovations in BT technology

Researchers are continually exploring ways to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of BT technology. This includes the development of novel BT strains with improved insecticidal properties and the integration of multiple pest-resistance traits into cotton varieties.

Addressing sustainability issues

Efforts to address the environmental and socioeconomic concerns associated with BT cotton focus on promoting integrated pest management practices, fostering biodiversity conservation, and supporting smallholder farmers in developing countries.

Global implications and adoption

The widespread adoption of BT cotton has had far-reaching implications for global agriculture, influencing production practices, trade dynamics, and farmer livelihoods worldwide. Continued research and collaboration are crucial for maximizing the benefits of this technology while minimizing its potential risks.

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BT cotton represents a significant milestone in agricultural innovation, offering a sustainable solution to pest management challenges in cotton production. While its adoption has led to tangible benefits for farmers and the environment, ongoing efforts are needed to address concerns related to resistance development, environmental impact, and socioeconomic equity.

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