Future Perspectives

It has been two decades since the first reports on cotton transformation were published. Bt cotton was introduced in the marketplace in the United States in 1996, with herbicide-tolerant cotton a year later. In 2005, GM cotton (Bt cotton, herbicide-resistant cotton) garnered 79% of the cotton acreage in the United States (Brookes and Barfoot 2006). Especially, Bt cotton has enjoyed the same enthusiastic acceptance by the farmers in many other countries where its use was permitted by their respective regulatory agencies. In 2006, of the 11 million small farmers who grew GM crops, most were Bt cotton farmers, including 7.1 million in China and 3.8 million in India (James 2007). However, the current GM cotton varieties offer only insect- and herbicide-resistance traits that benefit largely the growers. Availability and choice of these and other input traits is likely to increase in future. The published reports described in this chapter show the efforts underway to engineer a number of useful output traits into cotton. As new genes and their regulatory sequences become available from cotton and other species, and as the genetic modification technologies are further refined and improved, we can expect cotton plants with novel input and output traits for the benefit of growers, consumers, and the environment. The current product-line is available from just a few large companies and the farmers have to pay a premium to grow their GM cotton varieties. However, some of the basic patents on various GM-related technologies will start to expire soon. This will open up opportunities for the scientists to engineer cotton to meet the more specific, local needs of the poor farmers in the developing countries.

Acknowledgements Research in the author's laboratory has been supported by funds from Cotton Incorporated, Texas Cotton Biotechnology Initiative (TxCOT), Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (Advanced Research Program), Texas Food & Fibers Commission, and Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.

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