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The US company Monsanto has started field trials of GM crops in Burkina Faso – the first time that such trials have been conducted in West Africa.

The tests involve Bollgard II, Monsanto’s second generation of insect-resistant (Bt) cotton. Monsanto says that the new variety will reduce farmers’ use of pesticides.

At present, when planting non-GM cotton seeds, farmers need to spray pesticides eight to ten times per season, but they still lose half of their crops. "If we are able to increase the yield per hectare by only 50 per cent, that would be a way to reduce poverty," says Celestin Tiendrebeogo, manager of Burkina Faso's state cotton firm, Sofitex.

The trials are part of a research agreement signed between Monsanto and the government of Burkina Faso.

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