Is Bt cotton enhancing yield?

Cotton provides livelihood to more than 60 million people in India by way of support in agriculture, processing, and use of cotton in textiles. It is an important element of the agriculture GDP contributing 29.8%. In terms of quantity, India is the third largest producer of cotton. Compared to other countries yield is substantially low. The major reason for the low productivity is due to damage caused by insect pests, mainly American Bollworm. Farmers need to invest heavily in pesticides (worth Rs 12 billion) to control the same. As a solution, Bt cotton technology in India was introduced by Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company), in collaboration with Monsanto. Bt cotton has already been commercialized in six countries: the United States (1996), Australia (1997), South Africa (1997), Argentina (1998), Mexico (1996), China (1998), and Indonesia (2000).

In India, Bt cotton now constitutes nearly 90% of total area under cotton cultivation. The state wise cotton crop data released by the ministry for 2010-11 has shown that Bt cotton has emerged as the largest cotton crop in all the major cotton producing states.

Slowly Bt cotton is appearing to improve the productivity, though there are arguments that it is not appropriate for rain-fed areas. However, the improvement in overall production of 334.25 lakh bales in 2011 compared to previous year’s 242.25 lakh bales; while the cultivation areas has more or less remained constant (110 lakh hectares) indicates that perhaps there is a need to further study the impact of Bt cotton.

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4 Responses to Is Bt cotton enhancing yield?

  1. c udayashankar says:

    Income/profit depends on market price / farm gate price. Despite increase in yield, because of increased costs of inputs and non-remunerative market prices, farmers’ debt burden mounts.
    Assuming the savings on account of drastically reduced pesticidal/ insecticidal use to be true in case of Bt cotton, is it not the market price of the harvested produce that determines income or profit? It appears that MAHYCO/MONSANTO took savings on input-expenditure as income what ever are the market- vagaries in post-harvest prices. Reduction in cost of cultivation or even sustainable agriculture does not guarantee enhanced incomes / profits.

  2. Subhash Mittal says:

    Dear Uday,

    I had read the article referred by you in Hindu. In fact that was the reason we thought of writing on the subject. However when we at SRRF researched we came across the data quoted in our post, which indicated that production of cotton has gone up by 38% in 2011 compared to previous year, while the cultivation area has only gone up marginally to 111.4 lakh hectares compared to 110 lakh. There is some contradiction, when the Hindu article quotes farmers saying that there is hardly any profit in the Bt Cotton, but then if the yield has gone up, there should be more income compared to earlier periods. I know there are a number of persons on these network who are from AFPRO and other agencies with agriculture related background, perhaps some of them can provide us with some answers.

    Please keep posting your views as I always find them quite incisive and often have no answers to the same. That’s why many times they remain unanswered.

    warm rgds


    • c udayashankar says:

      The artcle in THE HINDU deals with the Bt tale of two villages about which factually incorrect advertisements were released by the companies. That is what has been exposed by THE HINDU.
      Just as any pest or insect develops resistance to a given pesticide/insecticide, Bollworm develops resistance to Bt content of the Bt cotton over time.
      Another valid point the Pundits raise is Bt variety is allowed, by the powers that be, to replace all most all other cotton varieties. The cotton farmers have no other choice but to go for Bt cotton. Sir, it is said that ICAR withdrew cotton varieties developed by its own resaerch stations to facilitate the spread of Bt cotton and breeding dependence on MAHYCO/MONSANTO.
      I am sure other friends in our group will throw more light on the subject.

  3. Udayashankar says:

    Dear Friends,
    Bt Cotton is not a sustainable variety. Only MAHYCO /MONSANTO REAPED THE HARVEST where ever Bt cotton is grown. You may read an article from the link mentioned below.


    Click to Read More

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