New study on Bt cotton shows millions of dollars in losses (29/3/2006)

A new study - details below - has found that the collective losses incurred by Bt cotton farmers in Andhra Pradesh was around 400 crores of rupees - over 80 million US dollars. For generally poor Indian cotton farmers, these are enormous losses. Interestingly, the government's own assessment of Bt Cotton backs up several of this study's findings.

The full study report, including annexures containing reports of various fact finding visits, can be obatined as a pdf file from Kavitha Kuruganti [email protected]

Bt Cotton - No Respite for Andhra Pradesh Farmers More than 400 crores' worth losses for Bt Cotton farmers in Kharif 2005
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture: Press Release

Hyderabad - March 29, 2006: Even as companies like Mahyco-Monsanto are lobbying with the state government of Andhra Pradesh to come back into the state with their Bt Cotton hybrids, a study done by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and partner organizations like CEAD, MARI, Navajyothi, SECURE, Krushi and SYO has shown that even in Kharif 2005, there has been no respite for Bt Cotton farmers in the state and the collective losses incurred by the farmers are estimated to be around 400 crores of rupees.

The study, based on season-long fortnightly monitoring of 120 Bt Cotton fields from five districts of Andhra Pradesh, used a comparative design to compare the results from these fields with those of 123 NPM/Organic cotton farmers from four districts. The findings showed that the cost of cultivation per acre on Bt Cotton was around 67% higher than NPM/Organic Cotton, while the net incomes were lower in Bt Cotton by at least 37% compared to NPM/Organic Cotton.

Reflecting on the findings of this intense monitoring effort, Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture said, "Our fact finding visits throughout the season as well as this scientific study point out that Bt Cotton not only does not deliver the promises made by the companies in their marketing propaganda - it also fares badly compared to non-Bt Cotton, especially NPM/Organic approaches to cotton cultivation. On the other hand, the risks involved in cultivating Bt Cotton are high and often times, unknown and unpredictable. In this context, it is incomprehensible why the government is promoting a technology that asks poor, unsupported cotton farmers to take more and more risks and land themselves in big losses".

The study found that the pest incidence in Bt Cotton was higher than in NPM/Organic Cotton and that the pesticide cost on Bt Cotton was 378% more than on NPM/Organic Cotton. The study was taken up as part of the efforts of the MEC [Monitoring & Evaluation Committee] on Bt Cotton, set up by 20 civil society organizations across the country.

"It is interesting to note that even the government's assessment of Bt Cotton for Kharif 2005 points out that the pest and disease incidence on Bt Cotton was higher than on non-Bt Cotton, reiterating some of our findings. Information obtained from the agriculture department by CSA also shows that the yields with Bt Cotton ranged from 4-6 quintals per acre, far below the yields and yield increases promised by the Bt Cotton companies. The stress intolerance of Bt Cotton was also acknowledged in the governmental assessment. Further, Bt Cotton’s high susceptibility to sucking pests was also recognized. The government feels that Bt Cotton is suitable only under fertile soils, with good INM and with assured irrigation. If the government knows all of this, why is it allowing hyped-up propaganda on Bt Cotton? Why is it not making the companies liable for the promises that they are not keeping? Why is it not taking appropriate decisions on the technology itself and its desirability, rather than taking a hybrid-by-hybrid approach to decision-making related Bt Cotton?", asked Ms Kavitha Kuruganti of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

In Andhra Pradesh, the government is yet to acknowledge that there has been failure of the Bt Cotton crop in Kharif 2005 and it is busy trying to resolve pending liability and pricing issues from the earlier years. Meanwhile, the Bt Cotton companies, in blatant violation of existing laws, are going ahead and publicizing their products without clearance. Some companies are also taking up ‘advance bookings’ with farmers.

In this context, CSA demands:

1.that the government present a comprehensive white paper on the performance of Bt Cotton (against intended benefits and promises made as well as the other results observed and recorded) in the past four years and decide whether it is a sound and sustainable pest management option for the cotton farmers in the state

2.that the government put into place accountability mechanisms right at the time of providing marketing licenses and address pending liability issues immediately

3.that the government put strong curbs on aggressive and false marketing being indulged in by the companies and fix liability for violations of the Environment Protection Act

For more information, contact:

1.Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu at +91-9391359702 or [email protected] 2.Ms Kavitha Kuruganti at +91-9393001550 or [email protected]


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