Bt Cotton

GS 3 ENVIRONMENT:AGRICULTURE;GM Crops and its Impacts

Introduction

     Cotton has been cultivated in India for thousands of years.

History

  • Cotton fabric from around 3,000 BCE has been excavated from the ruins of Mohenjo-daro and in Mehrgarh(5000 BCE).
  • India also had cotton trade relations with Greece, Rome,Persia, Egypt, Assyria and parts of Asia.
  • Until the 20th century, it was the indigenous variety- Gossypium arboreum.
  • From the 1990s, hybrid varieties of hirsutum were promoted.
  • From 2005, adoption of Bt cotton rose to 81% in 2007, and up to 93% in 2011.

Why HYV’s to GM Crop:

       With the adoption of the hybrids,cannot resist a variety of local pests and require more fertilizers and pesticides.Cotton suffers from plenty of infestation from moth pests (Lepidopteran),Pink Bollworm (PBW) and sap-sucking (Hemipteran),pests such as aphids and mealy bugs.

       With the increased use of the pesticides, there was  increasing acreage under the American long-duration cotton.This led to a further issue which was the emergence of resistant pests.(Resistant Pink and American Bollworm (ABW).)

Leading to rising debts and reducing yields, worsening the plight of the farmers.This was when the Bt Cotton was introduced in India in 2002.

Bt Cotton:

        It is a Genetically Modified cotton. It contains the pesticide gene from bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). It has now been grown in the country for almost 20 years.

        The data generated by the applicants is reviewed at every step in the development process of GM crops by various Statutory Committees under the Rules,1989 such as Institutional Biosafety Committee on Genetic Manipulation and Genetetic Engineering Appraisal Committee.

        Only Bt Cotton is the approved GM Crop in India.

Data:

  • By using Bt Cotton Tripling the cotton yield between 2002-2014 in India.(scientific journal Nature Plants).
  • 15.7% Bt cotton coverage by 2005, yield increases were over 90%over 2002 levels.
  • Countrywide yields stagnated after 2007 even as more farmers began to grow Bt.By 2018, yields were lower than in the years of rapid Bt adoption.
  • In Maharashtra,the decade after 2000, with no change in the rate of increase when Bt cotton was introduced.
  • Gujarat’s surge in cotton yields was 138% in 2003, even as Bt cotton was used only for 5% of land under cotton.
  • Punjab, Haryana,Andhra Pradesh,Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where yield increase is incongruous with the spread of Bt cotton.

Assessment:

  • The rise in cotton yields can be explained by improvements in irrigation.(Gross fertilizer use for cotton more than doubled from 2007-2013)
  • There is a strong correlation between the rise in use of fertilizers in individual States and yields.
  • The Pink Bollworm has developed a resistance against it by 2009.
  • Sap-sucking insects have surged for the hybrids, as the hirsutum Bt cotton hybrids are quite vulnerable.
  • By 2018, farmers were spending an average of $23.58 per hectare on insecticide — 37% more than the pre-Bt levels.
  • India’s global rank for cotton production is 36.(below the national average of some resource-poor African countries that don’t have Bt, hybrids or good access to inputs.)

Additional Points

      Cotton- fibre, oil and protein yielding crop of global significance.

Growing conditions of Cotton in India:

  • Temperature: Between 21-30°C
  • Rainfall: Around 50-100cm.
  • Soil Type: Well-drained black cotton soil of Deccan Plateau.

Top Cotton Producing States: Gujarat > Maharashtra > Telangana > Andhra Pradesh > Rajasthan.

  • over 800 hybrid Bt cotton seed brands from over 40 Indian and global seed companies
  • 5 approved ‘in-the-seed’ insect protection Bt cotton technologies and non-Bt varietal cotton seeds.

Way Forward

Research suggests that with pure-line cotton varieties, high density planting, and short season plants, cotton yields in India can be good and stand a better chance at withstanding the vagaries of climate change.

Conclusion

       The cost of ignoring indigenous ‘desi’ varieties for decades has been high for India. These varieties resist many pests and don’t present the problems faced with hybrids

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