Bt Cotton, Question and answers, a book by K.R. Kranthi


No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious’ –George Bernard Shaw.

The success story of Bt-cotton in India is obvious, but it has indeed become strangely, circumspect to affirmatively answer the ‘obviously easy to answer’ question -‘has Bt-cotton succeeded in India in combating the bollworm menace?’ The answer lies in the simple fact that farmers have endorsed the technology in a vast majority. If Bt-cotton would not have controlled bollworms, the technology would not have moved the distance it has today.

There may be a need for refinement and constant changes are always inbuilt into science. While we progress with advanced technologies for sustainable growth and prosperity, environment should always be uppermost in our minds. Questions must be asked and concerns will be raised, but, science must provide answers and solutions. Bio-safety concerns are paramount to all of us. Answers should be forthcoming from good robust scientific experiments. We need not shy away from moving forward to develop GM technologies in a manner that is profoundly acceptable to the ecology, environment and society. But, any new technology must be compared to the previously used technologies and evaluated for the trade-off benefits, checks and balances and economic gain of the farmers.

It is clear that there is hardly any technology that can be 100.0% safe to everything. Interestingly, Bt-cotton is one of the few technologies having the safest bio-safety profiles. It comes as an alternative to the previously used hazardous concoction of insecticide mixtures. The insecticides used on cotton were known to have ravaged ecology, disrupted the environment, played havoc with human and animal health, were toxic to honey bees, insect-parasitoids and predators, caused allergies and a myriad number of ill-effects. Bt-cotton removed that to a great extent. Strangely, this seems to have been less acknowledged by detractors of the Bt-cotton technology. It is true that insecticides are now being used for sap-sucking pest control on Bt cotton hybrids, but, as mentioned in this book, the increase is because of the susceptible hybrids and has nothing to do with Bt-technology. We cannot afford to move back towards the pesticide era. By all scientific standards, Bt GM Cotton technology is by far the most environment friendly technology available thus far. We must however develop varieties and hybrids that show comprehensive resistance to sucking pests through resistant germplasm sources and to bollworms through Bt genes. This is possible through good plant breeding efforts. Once this is done, it is for sure that insecticide usage will be substantially reduced.

Bt-cotton was the first of GM technologies to be introduced into India. It is beyond doubt that farmers preferred Bt-cotton instead of the hazardous insecticide-cocktails for bollworm control. It is true that because of huge investment potential, multinational companies had the edge to develop the technology more efficiently and at a faster pace, compared to many public sector institutions across the world. But, GM technologies are being developed now more easily than before, as the transformation technology itself has advanced tremendously. India cannot afford to lose the competitive edge in agriculture, in the international arena, by slowing down biotechnology applications in agriculture. While we move forward, it surely becomes everybody’s responsibility to use the best science based technologies available to the farmer after weighing out all concerns and consequences, but, we need to move forward to face future challenges of burgeoning food and clothing demands of the ever-increasing populace.

I congratulate Dr Kranthi for the good effort in bringing out all possible facets of the Bt-cotton technology, especially from the Indian perspective, in the form of questions and answers, which makes the book readable. I hope that this book will enable all stakeholders for better understanding so as to assist in proper assessment of the technology in as rationally a manner as possible.

The book is accessible in its entireness here.

On the ‘Failure of Bt Cotton’ Analysing a Decade of Experience

Given that the controversy over success and failure of Bt technology still exists, this paper discusses the available field studies that have addressed agro-economic questions of Bt cotton cultivation in India. Since a meta-analysis of studies can give only partial conclusions, owing to differences across study methodologies and coverage, this paper takes a different strategy, i e, looking not simply at differences between Bt farms and non-Bt farms, but at the experience of farmers before growing Bt and after switching to Bt. It also examines the more general problem of comparing field studies and suggests ways to use farmer behaviour as a proxy for settling different interpretations of agro-economic effects of the new technology. The study explains why there has been so much controversy given virtually universal adoption of Bt technology in cotton and concludes that in the battle of numbers around Bt cotton, those of the farmers have been curiously missing.

De volledige studie is hier raadpleegbaar en extreem aangeraden!

Measuring the Contribution of Bt Cotton Adoption to India’s Cotton Yields Leap

While a number of empirical studies have demonstrated the role of Bt cotton adoption in increasing Indian cotton productivity at the farm level, there has been questioning around the overall contribution of Bt cotton to the average cotton yield increase observed these last ten years in India. This study examines the contribution of Bt cotton adoption to long- term average cotton yields in India using a panel data analysis of production variables in nine Indian cotton-producing states from 1975 to 2009. The results show that Bt cotton contributed 19 percent of total yield growth over time, or between 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent per percentage adoption every year since its introduction. Besides Bt cotton, the use of fertilizer and the increased adoption of hybrid seeds appear to have contributed to the yield increase over time. However, if official Bt cotton adoption contributed to increased yield after 2005, unofficial Bt cotton might also have been part of the observed increase of yields starting in 2002, the year of its official introduction in India.

Volledige studie is beschikbaar via IFPRI.

GM crop produces massive gains for women’s employment in India

Research at the UK’s University of Warwick, and the University of Goettingen in Germany, has found that the use of a particular GM crop in India produced massive benefits in the earnings and employment opportunities for rural Indian women.

The research led by Dr Arjunan Subramanian of WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group) in the University of Warwick found that the use of GM insect-resistant Bacillus thuringiensis toxin (Bt) cotton  generated not only higher income for rural workers but also more employment, especially for hired female labour.

Het volledige online artikel vind je hier.
Het wetenschappelijke gepubliceerd in Nature Biotechnology vind je hier.

Agri scientists urge govt to lift moratorium on Bt-brinjal

BANGALORE: The government should remove all constraints in the research and development work of biotech crops and lift moratorium on commercial release of Bt-brinjal, agri-biotech scientists and industry bodies said today.

Online artikel vind je hier.

Adoption of Bt Cotton and Impact Variability: Insights from India

There is a growing body of literature about the impacts of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cot- ton in developing countries. While many studies show remarkable benefits for farmers, there are also reports that question these results. Most previous studies consider impacts in deterministic terms, neglecting existing variability. Here we explain the main factors in- fluencing the agronomic and economic outcomes. Apart from differences in pest pressure and patterns of pesticide use, germplasm effects can play an important role. Theoretical arguments are supported by empirical evidence from India. Better understanding of im- pact variability can help explain some of the paradoxes in the recent controversy over genetically modified crops.
Volledige rapport vind je hier, pdf.

Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India


Suicides in general, including farmers’ suicides, are a sad and complex phenomenon. Hence, their underlying causes need to be addressed within an equally complex societal framework. Here, we provide a specific case study on the potential link between technological choices and farmer suicides in India. Although officially recognized for having increased production and farmers’ income, Bt cotton, genetically-modified, insect-resistant cotton, remains highly controversial in India. Among other allegations, it is accused of being the main reason for a resurgence of farmer suicides in India.

In this paper, we provide a comprehensive review of evidence on Bt cotton and farmer suicides, taking into account information from published official and unofficial reports, peer-reviewed journal articles, published studies, media news clips, magazine articles, and radio broadcasts from India, Asia, and international sources from 2002 to 2007. The review is used to evaluate a set of hypotheses on whether or not there has been a resurgence of farmer suicides, and the potential relationship suicide may have with the use of Bt cotton.

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Bt cotton and sustainability of pesticide reductions in India


Studies from different countries show that transgenic Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) crops can reduce chemical pesticide use with positive economic, environmental, and health effects. However, most of these studies build on cross-section survey data, so that longer term effects have not been analyzed. Bt resistance and secondary pest outbreaks may potentially reduce or eliminate the benefits over time, especially in developing countries where refuge strategies are often not implemented. Here, we use data from a unique panel survey of cotton farmers conducted in India between 2002 and 2008. Accounting for possible selection bias, we show that the Bt pesticide reducing effect has been sustainable. In spite of an increase in pesticide sprays against secondary pests, total pesticide use has decreased significantly over time. Bt has also reduced pesticide applications by non-Bt farmers. These results mitigate the concern that Bt technology would soon become obsolete in small farmer environments. The survey data on actual pesticide use in farmers’ fields complement previous entomological research. Continue reading