Benefits of Bt cotton counterbalanced by secondary pests? Perceptions of ecological change in China
In the past, scientific research has predicted a decrease in the effectiveness of Bt cotton due to the rise of secondary and other sucking pests. It is suspected that once the primary pest is brought under control, secondary pests have a chance to emerge due to the lower pesticide applications in Bt cotton cultivars. Studies on this phenomenon are scarce. This article furnishes empirical evidence that farmers in China perceive a substantial increase in secondary pests after the introduction of Bt cotton. The research is based on a survey of 1,000 randomly selected farm households in five provinces in China. We found that the reduction in pesticide use in Bt cotton cultivars is significantly lower than that reported in research elsewhere. This is consistent with the hypothesis suggested by recent studies that more pesticide sprayings are needed over time to control emerging secondary pests, such as aphids, spider mites, and lygus bugs. Apart from farmers’ perceptions of secondary pests, we also assessed their basic knowledge of Bt cotton and their perceptions of Bt cotton in terms of its strengths and shortcomings (e.g., effectiveness, productivity, price, and pesticide use) in comparison with non-transgenic cotton.