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In Agriculture

It is a Genetically modified (GM) cotton plant which contain the pesticide gene from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). It has been grown in India for about twenty years now.

Background of Bt. Cotton

  • Cotton in India has been woven and used  for thousands of years now. The first cotton weaving was observed in  Indus valley civilization.

  • Cotton fabric  has also been excavated from around 3,000 BCE from the ruins of Mohenjo-daro. 

  • The archaeological findings in Mehrgarh, Pakistan further show that cotton was used in the subcontinent as far back as 5,000 BCE.

  • Until the 20th century, most of the cotton which was cultivated in India was of  the indigenous ‘desi’ variety, Gossypium arboreum.

  • The hybrid variety of the Cotton was introduced in the 1990s.

  • These hybrid varieties cannot resist a variety of local pests and they require more fertilizers and pesticides. 

  • Cotton also suffers from plenty of infection  from moth pests such as the Pink Bollworm (PBW) and aphids and mealybugs.

  • Increasing debts and declining yields of cotton, coupled with increasing insect resistance has further worsened the plight of cotton farmers.


Extent of Use of Bt. Cotton

  • As per the data presented by the Ministry of Agriculture, from 2005, adoption of  Bt cotton  rose to 81% in 2007, and up to 93% in 2011.

  • It led to the rise in the crop produce of the Cotton.


Discrepancy Between Yields And Bt Cover

  • Discrepancies between yield and the deployment of Bt cotton have been observed:

    • For example, the Bt crop area was only 3.4% of the total cotton area in 2003. However the yield of the crop increased 61% in 2003-04.

    • Increases in yield  were over 90% over 2002 levels.

  • However, the countrywide yields stagnated after 2007 even as more farmers began to grow Bt and by 2018, yields were lower than in the years of rapid Bt adoption.

Low Productivity

  • India’s productivity which is defined as yield per unit area is much lower than other major cotton-producing countries.

  • Thus a much larger area is used for cotton production and hence the Bt. Cotton has failed to increase yield.

Market Capture

  • Commercial Bt hybrids have taken over  the market, aided by the rollback of public sector cottonseed production.

  • Leaving no choice for the Indian farmers but to use Bt hybrid seed produced by private seed companies.

Farmers Distress

  • High cost of input and high risk have led to the agricultural distress among the farmers, which worsened by arrival of mutated moths.

Way Forward

Impact Assessment

  • Before extending GM technology to increase food crop yield it is necessary and advisable to assess its impact on livelihood, agrarian distress, etc.

  • Thus , the holistic study including the outcome of deploying a technology must be evaluated in a particular context.

  • If technology prioritizes the needs of the principal stakeholders (farmers), then only we should consider that implementation in particular technology,  especially in India which has a high proportion of marginal and subsistence farmers.

Change In Cropping Pattern

Biotechnology: List
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