Friday, November 11, 2011

Report on 10 years of Bt Cotton usage in Tamilnadu released

A review of the usage of Bt Cotton in Tamilnadu was released during the Press Meet as part of the Roundtable on BRAI at the ICSA Centre in Chennai. The report was compiled by Ms. Kavitha Karugunti, Convenor of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), a national coalition of organic farmers and organic farming enthusiasts. Other who addressed the media included:
Dr. V. Suresh, National Secreatary, PUCL
Mr. Vellayan, President, Tamilnadu Traders Sangham
Mr. Vettavalam Manigandan, Farmer's Movement leader
Mr. R. Selvam, Convenor of the Organic Farmers federation of Tamilnadu and
Mr. Jayaraman, Federation of Consumers Organizations of Tamilnadu

Earlier as part of the meeting, Mr. Sridhar Radhakrishnan, from Thanal spoke of the field trials in Tamilnadu of GM Crops.
The key points of the report are:

  • Bt cotton expansion in Tamil Nadu did not increase in steady yield increases as claimed and hyped up. Tamil Nadu had high yields in cotton even in the years when it predominantly grew non-Bt varieties (not even hybrids).
  • Bt cotton cultivation in larger areas did not bring down the per-hectare or per quintal cost of cultivation as projected. The trends on this front have always been fluctuating and this continues.
  • Bt cotton cultivation and expansion to larger areas did not bring down the insecticide usage in cotton crop in Tamil Nadu. Further, Tamil Nadu had low average cost incurred on pesticides (indicative of lower use in volume too) even prior to Bt cotton introduction and the rationale for its approval is not clear in such a context. Spending on chemical fertilizers appears to be on an upward trend in cotton cultivation now.
  • There has been a large scale shift away from cotton varieties to sowing of Bt cotton hybrids raising many serious concerns around seed choices, seed prices and seed sovereignty, in addition to increasing chemicalisation of agriculture. This also raises valid questions on why Bt technology is seen as the cause for cotton yield increases, even by scientific institutions like the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University; this is all the more perplexing in a context when pest incidence itself is reported low!
  • There have been major failures of Bt cotton crop over the years and the unpredictability of performance is apparent from this. However, farmers have not always obtained a redressal from such failures. There are serious questions around the lack of a liability regime which covers both penalties as well as compensation in addition to remediation where necessary.
(the report can be downloaded directly from the SFA site soon)

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