Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sharad Pawar’s Big Success Story of Bt.cotton is Untrue and Contradicts of Govt. Data –VJAS

Sharad Pawar’s Big Success Story of Bt.cotton is Untrue and Contradicts of Govt. Data –VJAS.

NAGPUR -21/03/2011

This information given by Shri Sharad Pawar, Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing Industries in written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha yesterday regarding big success story of Bt.cotton in India in last decade after introduction of Bt.cotton is misleading as per Govt. data released by his own ministry regarding cotton yield and use of insecticide in fact the cotton cultivation has jumped from 7 million hector to 12 million since but surprising Bt.cotton cotton production in last five years is getting reduced whereas use of insecticide and pesticides has been increased the official data of research institutes related ICAR ,informed by vidarbha cotton farmers advocacy group Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti (VJAS.) activist Kishore Tiwari with shocking official dta that contradicts union agriculture ministry false hyped claimed and part of state owned propaganda to crate environment for allowing genetically modified (GM)seeds AND clearing BARI bill.

Shri Sharad Pawar, Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing Industries in written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha informed that and

“With the use of high quality hybrid cotton seeds Indian farmers experienced the biggest gain in form of reduced insecticide usage from 46% in 2001 to less than 26% after 2006 and 21% during the last two years 2009 and 2010. Introduction of Bt. cotton hybrids has helped in production increase from 156 lakh bales (170 Kg lint per bale) in 2001 to an estimated 356 lakh bales in 2011. Bt. cotton was introduced in 2002 and the area increased from 0.29 lakh hectares in 2002 to 95.04 lakh hectare in Kharif 2011 (Target). The productivity was 309 Kg per hectare in 2001 before the introduction of Bt. cotton which increased to 495 Kg/ha in 2010.The Bt. cotton hybrids approved till date do not require any herbicide, in addition, to those required by their non Bt counterparts for enhancing the results. Also, Cotton farmers in the country are not required to sign any contract”.

“As per ground reality the last ten years

After Bt cotton officially entered India, its manufacturers and promoters would like the world to believe that it is an unqualified success. The false hype is typified by recent advertisements by Mahyco-Monsanto claiming “Bollgard boosts Indian cotton farmers’ income by over Rs.31,500 crores,” which was pulled up by Advertising Standards Council of India for false information. The reality is starkly different.

The cotton farmers are in deep crisis after ten years of Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers. The extensive crop failure has exposed the false hype and advertising, often repeated by policymakers and regulators. In Andhra Pradesh, out of 47 lakh acres planted with Bt cotton during Kharif 2011 season, the crop failed in 33.73 lakh acres as per the state government estimates in December 2011[1]. This means two-thirds of cotton area had yield loss of more than 50%! In Maharashtra, the bad performance of cotton crop has led to lowering of the production estimates significantly in spite of increase in the area of cotton cultivation.[2]. The cotton farmer crisis has forced the Maharashtra government to take the unprecedented step of declaring Rs.2000 crore as compensation package. Maharashtra has seen the highest number of farmer suicides (3141 in 2010), particularly in the cotton-growing belt of Vidarbha and Marathwada’’ Tiwari added.

“In India where more tah 2 lakhs farmers committed suicides due to debt and crop failure are from cotton growing region of India and state sponsored Bt cotton propaganda is that Bt cotton has been primarily responsible for doubling the cotton production in India, and for phenomenal increase in yields. However, closer examination of the data shows a different picture” Tiwari said by producing official data

Cotton Yield gains – Pre-Bt and Post-Bt

While Bt cotton was approved in 2002, the initial adoption was slow, and by 2004-05, only 5.6% of the cotton cultivated area was planted with Bt cotton. The graph below is based on yield data from Cotton Corporation of India[3] and area under Bt cotton adapted from Dr. K.R. Kranthi, Director of Central Institute of Cotton Research. Considering the period from 2000-01 as the pre-Bt Cotton expansion period and the phase from 2005-06 to 2011-12 as the Bt cotton period, a different picture of the yield gains emerges In the Bt cotton period starting from 2005-06, an increase in yield is seen for a couple of years, showing a moderate 17% increase over 3 years up to 2007-08 (554 kg/ha compared to 470 kg/ha). But the yields show a downward trend since then. Presently, the cotton yields have reached pre-Bt levels – 481 kg/ha compared to 470 kg/ha. In fact, the yield estimate of 481 kg/ha for 2011-12 is only an initial estimate from the Cotton Advisory Board and the actual number is likely to be lower.

This trend is corroborated in the paper of Dr. Keshav Kranthi (CICR) reviewing the 10 years of Bt Cotton. “The main issue that worries stakeholders is the stagnation of productivity at an average of 500 kg lint per ha for the past seven years. The gains have been stagnant and unaffected by the increase in area of Bt cotton from 5.6% in 2004 to 85% in 2010. The yield was 463 kg per hectare when the Bt cotton area was 5.6% in 2004 and reached a mere 506 kg per hectare when the area under Bt cotton increased to 9.4 M hectares at 85% of the total 11.1 M hectares.”

· The same paper provides numbers which show “progressive problems and stagnation of production and productivity” The data, shown pictorially indicates declining productivity, and the trend would be even clearer if the 2011 numbers are included. Please note that there are small differences in the numbers put out by the Cotton Advisory Board and CICR but these do not impact the trends.

High input requirement of Bt Cotton

The high-input requirements of Bt cotton in terms of fertilizers and water make the crop an increasingly risky investment for small farmers, particularly in rainfed areas which constitute a majority of the cotton-growing area in India. The depletion of nutrients and soil health is also a related problem.

Fertilizer requirement in Bt cotton and soil health: According to Dr C D Mayee (ISAAA Board Member) and former Co-Chair of GEAC, “If the area under advanced transgenic seeds increases to 10 per cent in a few years from the present level of 4 per cent, the country’s fertiliser consumption will increase 107 per cent to 220 kgs per hectare (ha) from the current levels (the latest available figure 2005-06), at 106 kgs per ha.” According to recommendations to farmers from ANGRAU, one of the few universities doing research on Bt cotton and Non-Bt cotton, Bt cotton requires 15% more fertilizers. (Agricultural Almanac, ANGRAU 2009) . According to Dr.Kranthi there has been depletion of nutrients in the soil due to repeated cultivation of Bt cotton hybrids, which draw more nutrients and water from the soil. The crop is exhibiting nutrient deficiency especially in rain-fed zones where wilt and leaf-reddening problems are also getting more severe over the years.

Irrigation and water requirement in Bt cotton
Bt hybrids need to be irrigated more frequently at peak bolling around October when the need for water is high and temperatures are also high. It may otherwise lead to wilting. Bt hybrids need more water in a short span because of shorter duration (reproductive phase) vis-à-vis conventional hybrids. This is problematic particularly in the rain-fed cotton areas.

Pesticide Usage, Pest Resistance and Emergence of New Pests

While Bt cotton came in with the promise of drastically reducing the use of pesticides in cotton, the experience of these 10 years shows that there is no sustained reduction in pesticide usage. The experience of farmers clearly shows that while a lower number of pesticide sprays was required in the first two years of Bt cotton adoption, thereafter the pesticide requirement has increased, and now the number of pesticide sprays required is equal to or more than that in the pre-Bt cotton period.

Table: Pesticide usage in Metric Tonnes technical grade.

Table: Pesticide usage in Metric Tonnes technical grade.






Andhra Pradesh






























Madhya Pradesh






All India






The pesticide usage trends in the major cotton-growing states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are shown above. While Maharashtra shows a significant upward trend from 3198 MT to 4639 MT, the other states show only marginal change, except for the downward trend in Andhra Pradesh. Increased use of low-volume pesticides: This same period has seen an enormous increase in the use of low-volume pesticides which require a much smaller quantity per acre. Therefore, the statistics of pesticide usage in metric tonnes in fact masks the increased use of pesticides. Pink bollworm becomes resistant: In early 2010, Monsanto disclosed that the cotton pest -pink bollworm- had developed resistance to the Cry 1Ac toxin (Bt) in Bollgard I in Gujarat[10] (the first State where Bt cotton was planted commercially).
Bollworm resistance to Bt: Resistance monitoring studies done at CICR have demonstrated that bollworm (helicoverpa armigera), the target pest of Bt cotton, has developed tolerance for it. Other studies have also shown bollworm surviving and reproducing in Bt cotton both single gene and double gene Bt (Renjith et al, 2010). Emergence of secondary pests: In his 2011 report Dr.Kranthi states: “Productivity in north India is likely to decline because of the declining potential of hybrids; the emerging problem of leaf curl virus on the new susceptible Bt-hybrids; a high level of susceptibility to sucking pests (straight varieties were resistant); problems with nutrient deficiencies and physiological disorders; and mealy bugs, whiteflies and miscellaneous insect problems that are likely to increase.”

Mealy bug menace: According to Dr.Kranthi, a mealybug not observed in India before, has spread in the cotton regions and farmers have been spraying “extremely hazardous” pesticides to eliminate this hard-to-kill pest. The prolific spread of Bt cotton hybrids has created a conducive climate for the rapid spread of this pest.

Pesticide expenditure increases: At a meeting of the GEAC in early 2011, Dr KR Kranthi cautioned about the lack of refugia and resistance management. In his report to the MoEF, he said that with 90% of cotton area under Bt, resistance will develop sooner than later. There has been emergence of new sucking pests and pesticide expenditure has risen from Rs 597 crore in 2002 to Rs 791 crore in 2009”.

Manipulation by Seed Companies
Aggressive and unethical promotion: No other seed was sold like Bt cotton has been sold in the country by Mahyco-Monsanto.One such misleading advertisement was recently pulled up by Advertising Standards Council of India. [16] Paid news, advertorials with fake success stories have been exposed in 2011 in Maharashtra. Windfall profits for seed companies: Bt cotton cultivation in India is completely through hybrids and not through varieties and the seed is from proprietary sources; this means that farmers have to buy seed from companies every season. Bt cotton seed market is about Rs. 4000 cr. out of the total seed market of Rs. 10,000 crores.[17] In 2011, word spread from industry about projected shortage of Bt cotton seeds; so farmers bought seeds in black at prices up to Rs 2700, three times the MRP of Rs 930.
Monopolistic control over seed market: An estimated 93% of the seed represents the proprietary technology of Monsanto (Bollgard I and Bollgard II). Rs 1600 crores have gone from cotton farmers as royalty to one company, Monsanto.

Exorbitant Seed prices: The monopoly control by one company has led to exorbitant pricing of Bt cotton seeds which were initially priced between Rs 1650-1800 for 450 gms of Bt cotton seeds ( in 2004), as against Rs 350 for hybrid seeds and less than Rs 100 for desi cotton seeds.[18] After the seed prices were brought under control through the MRTP Act and Essential Commodities Act, Monsanto has taken the A.P. and Gujarat governments to Court to decontrol seed priced. the hype around Bt cotton as revolutionizing the cotton production in India is clearly wrong. The contribution of Bt cotton to the productivity is questionable, with gains in cotton productivity being steady and impressive in the pre-Bt cotton phase.
The wide-scale adoption of Bt cotton in India has been due to various reasons which include aggressive promotion, often with the involvement of state agencies, wide publicity to the initial short-term benefits with respect to bollworm incidence and frustration of farmers with pesticide usage, and unavailability of non-Bt seed. But the adoption of Bt cotton has been wrongly used as an indicator for its success. The distress among cotton farmers has clearly continued after widespread Bt cotton adoption, especially in rainfed areas – as shown by farmer suicides, crop failures and rising debt.
The negative impacts of Bt cotton are being clearly documented and articulated including by government scientists – nutrient depletion, impact on soil health, pest resistance, emergence of new pests – and these are already showing serious impact on the cotton crop and the farmers. However, no nuanced analysis is allowed to be established in the face of aggressive PR tactics of the proponents. It should be seen by policy-makers that Bt cotton has not been a magic bullet for sustaining either farmer incomes or productivity. At best, it is a technological input that has shown moderate short-term gains that have already disappeared. The Bt Cotton story holds clear precautionary lessons to reject similar hype around other Genetically Modified crops as the inevitable solution. There exist more sustainable and farmer-friendly solutions such as Non-Pesticidal Management in A.P. which has expanded through the state government’s Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture program registering a 125-fold increase in 6 years (from 25000 acres in 2005 to 32 lakh acres in 2011). There have been no suicides among the farmers who have adopted this model.

“The story of Bt cotton is clearly that of false hype and failed promises. Bt cotton has failed to meet its promise in terms of sustained yield gains, pest protection and reduction in pesticide usage. It is time for the government, scientists and policy-makers to reject the hype around Bt cotton, and focus on sustainable solutions and pro-farmer measures to achieve production, environmental safety and farmers’ welfare that are long-lasting” Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti (VJAS.) activist Kishore Tiwari urged .

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