Friday, 29 June 2012

Brazilian model to nudge Bt cotton out -DNA

Brazilian model to nudge Bt cotton out -DNA

DNA / Yogesh Pawar / Friday, June 29, 2012 8:45 IST

While farm rights groups have welcomed the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) and Maharashtra government’s pilot project of the Brazilian model of non-Bt cotton promotion in eight districts of Vidarbha region, calling it a rethink of its policy of blindly promoting Bt cotton, they are also wondering if this is a case of “too little, too late.”
“This confirms the complete failure of Bt cotton seed technology. One wonders how this will help when nearly 90% of the area under cotton in India is under Bt varieties. This covers over 12 million hectares. Any trial in a mere 160 acres of land belonging to 160 farmers is too small a sample size to give any definitive findings on the benefits of switching from the genetically modified varieties,” Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) told DNA.
According to many like him, the only way any relief can come to cotton farmers in Vidarbha is a complete ban on Bt cotton cultivation in the region. “The government should make it compulsory for cotton farmers to cultivate non-Bt indigenous varieties, which have a proven track record of hundreds of years,” Tiwari added.
It should be recalled that the state agriculture commissioner, Umakant Dangat, has formally admitted that India has the lowest cotton productivity in the world and Maharashtra, the lowest in India. Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has also admitted that Vidarbha’s farmers have lost more than Rs2000 crore per year since the introduction of Bt cotton in 2005.
Many have expressed shock and dismay over the statements of CICR director Keshav Kranthi claiming that the cost of seeds of non-hybrid varieties is lower than the Bt ones. “The indigenous ones are ready for picking in 150 to 160 days, whereas the Bt ones need 180 to 200 days. This reduces the need for fertilizers, pesticides and other nutrients substantially,” he said.
In fact, he has claimed that these straight varieties are better suited to the shallow, marginal soil found in Vidarbha. When asked about what many are calling “a complete volte-face” from the CICR’s earlier aggressive stance of promoting Bt cotton varieties, Kranthi told DNA, “We aren’t going by what people say. We are doing what is best for farmers. If a mid-course correction is seen to be viable, then why not?”
It is an argument which could be difficult for the families of the 9,000 plus cotton farmers who have ended their lives due to their Bt cotton crops’ failure since June 2005 to digest. Tiwari said, “The government must come clean and admit that its policy of promoting Bt cotton in this region was completely wrong.”
“We need a long-term plan on crop patterns and methodology.Neighbouring states like Andhra Pradesh have revised their stance long back and net returns for their farmers are increasing. Time has come to go back to our traditional, sustainable agriculture,” he added.

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