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Question – Explain the positive and negative effects of BT-cotton and discuss its impact on Indian farmers. – 1 May
There is a long history of cotton production in India. Before the British came to India, many varieties of cotton were produced in the country.According to the data, in 2003-04, India was the world’s third largest cotton producer and the seventh largest exporter of cotton.With the advent of genetically modified BT cotton hybrids (BT-cotton hybrids) in the year 2002, the country’s cotton sector had completely changed. Currently, BT cotton covers about 95% of the country’s cotton area.However, critics point out that BT cotton hybrids have negatively affected the livelihoods of farmers, especially those struggling with resource scarcity, and have contributed to the agrarian crisis.
History of cotton production in India
- Before the arrival of the British in India, different varieties of cotton were grown indigenously in different parts of the country, each adapted to the local soil, water and climate.
- The British started producing bourbon cotton in the year 1797, according to the requirement of US-based mills, considering the cotton varieties grown in India to be of low standard.Bourbon cotton ignored varieties of cotton that were resistant to pests and fighting the vagaries of weather, as a result, traditional seed selection, management of cotton farming and farming practices were adversely affected.
- New varieties of cotton were profitable, but were not able to deal with problems such as weather and pests. Its production continued even after independence.To overcome the problem of pests, a large amount of pesticides was being used. Finally, in order to control this problem, the government introduced BT-cotton in the year 2002.
What is BT?
- Bacillus Thuringiensis-BT is a bacterium that naturally produces crystal proteins. This protein is harmful for insects.
- BT crops have been named after it. BT crops are crops that produce the same toxin as a bacterium called Bacillus Thuringiogenesis (BT), so that the crop can be protected against pests.
Hybrid Cotton Policy
- It may be noted that India is the only country that produces cotton in hybrid form. Hybrids are made from the confluence of two basic strains with different genetic properties.
- Commercial use of BT cotton hybrid in the country was approved by the government in the year 2002.These types of plants have higher yield potential than the original strains. Hybrids require much more fertilizer and water to produce.
- It is noteworthy that, apart from India, all other cotton producing countries do not produce a hybrid form of cotton; instead they use varieties for which seeds are produced by self-fertilization.
Impact of Hybrid Cotton Policy on Indian Farmers
- Since farmers have to buy new seeds every time to produce through hybrid seeds, it affects the farmers financially a lot.
- Hybrid seeds are produced only by the companies, due to which they have the power to determine the price, which makes it difficult to control the prices.
Is BT cotton beneficial for Indian farmers?
Different analysts have different views on this subject. Certainly large farmers and the corporate sector have benefited from the introduction of Bt-cotton, but the country’s medium and small farmers are at a disadvantage due to Bt-cotton.
- According to the report of the 301st Committee of the RajyaSabha, the use of pesticides has increased both in value and quantity considerably.
- Farmers were forced to pay nearly three times the price of traditional seeds for Bt cotton seeds, increasing their indebtedness and dependence on produce significantly.
- The increase in indebtedness increased the suicide rate of farmers.
There is no denying the fact that BT-cotton gave great impetus to the Indian textile sector in India and thus created a lot of employment, but the gains made through this medium were short-lived in nature, how it has affected the country’s cotton industry in the long run can be seen in the recent crisis.
Hence, this is the right time to look for a better and faster alternative to replace Bt-cotton. Indigenous grown cotton seeds can be resorted to in this context.