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.

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Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India

ABSTRACT

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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