Cotton agenda: is Bt the alternative? (11/7/2006)

According to a new study, the pest that Indian cotton farmers are being encouraged to fight with Monsanto's Bt cotton is an exotic brought into Indian cotton fields with non-indigenous varieties of cotton (see item 2).

This fits exactly with what critics have pointed out time and again - high yielding indigenous Indian crop varieties adapted to local conditions were rejected in favour of imported chemical and irrigation dependent varieties, which with time have had adverse effects on both productivity and the environment.

Now exactly the forces that pushed India down this problematic path have been pushing Bt cotton as the perfect solution to the problems they have created. Unfortunately, its India's millions of small and marginal farmers who have to bear the consequences while the Monsantos of this world laugh all the way to the bank.

1.Farmers oppose Bt brinjal
2.Cotton agenda: is Bt the alternative?

1.Farmers oppose Bt brinjal
Financial Express, July 11, 2006

NEW DELHI, JULY 10: Farmers from Haryana and western UP demonstrated in the Capital against the proposed introduction of Bt brinjal under the banner of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). BKU along with Shetkari Sangathan of Maharashtra, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Samithi and Tamil Nadu Farmers' Association in a memorandum to the prime minister, Manmohan Singh demanded a ban on open large-scale field trials of Bt brinjal.

2.Cotton agenda: is Bt the alternative?
Financial Express, July 11, 2006

NEW DELHI, JULY 10: The notorious pest on the cotton crop in the country, the American bollworm is an exotic one. It had found its way into Indian cotton fields, when American varieties of cotton began to be cultivated in the country, said a study conducted by the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

The study found that though American cotton varieties had higher productivity, its cultivation was not sustainable in India owing to lack of agro-climatic compatibility. It has led to frequent crop failures and brought in numerous diseases. It also requires at least three times more water and other inputs and the yield plummets after 3 years, while the Indian cotton varieties give the same level of yield for 30 years.

The long-staple American cotton varieties are popular in country because machines to gin and spin Indian cotton were not readily available, the study said.

Bt cotton hybrids have introduced to the country to resist attacks by the American bollworm. In this context, the study noted that the Bt cotton hybrids were not suited in the rainfed areas of the country. About 66% of the cotton area are in the rainfed zone. The study records said that Bt cotton hybrids had resulted in higher inputs costs and at places, lower returns to farmers.

The study questions as to why the Bt technology was not tried on Indian traditional varieties of cotton which were more suited to local climatic conditions.

The study recorded researchers' findings on variation in the quantitative level of Bt toxin levels in 8 hybrids as well as seasonal decline in expression which made the plant susceptible to the bollworm attack. There was also concern that the genetic uniformity of the Cry protien could lead to pest resistance over time, the study said.

The study suggested the need for lowering the production cost of cotton in global trade as highly subsidised American cotton can enter India in a big way.

CSE's study 'The Fabric of Cotton : Seeds, Farmers and Textiles - What Should be India's Cotton Agenda' was discussed with a number of stakeholders on Monday at a round table hosted by National Academy of Agricultural Sciences and National Commission on Farmers.

Speaking to FE, Sunita Narain of CSE said : "We have prepared this study with a view to find out what should be India's cotton agenda. We would continue discussions with all stakeholders on this issue and try to find out an appropriate solution."

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