WASHINGTON -- The government has decided against requiring farmers to cut back on planting cotton that is genetically engineered to produce its own pesticide.
Environmentalists are worried that insects are going to become resistant to the crop's pesticide, which also is an ingredient in sprays used by organic farmers.
But the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday there is no evidence that such resistance is developing. Requiring farmers to reduce their use of the crop "would result in unacceptable economic losses" and lead to more use of chemical insecticides, the agency said.
EPA gave approval for the biotech crop to be grown for another five years, renewing a registration that was to have expired on Monday. The crop is known as Bt cotton for a bacterium gene that is inserted into the plant to produce the insect toxin.
To prevent resistant insects from developing, EPA requires farmers to plant sections of conventional cotton along with the Bt varieties. Insects in the conventional fields will mate with insects from the biotech fields and ensure that successive generations of bugs are still susceptible to the Bt poison.