BT Cotton Seeds Failed Us: Karnataka
June 28, 2003

Bangalore: Karnataka declared that the new genetically modified BT cotton seeds being used by its farmers were a failure.

State Agriculture Minister V.S Koujalgi said the transgenic seeds, developed and marketed by mulinational seed giant Monsanto, had not shown any of the promised results even a year after its use was approved by the Central Government.

"In the beginning, we were thinking it will give better yield and involve less use of pesticides, so that it will be more profitable and economical. But when I contacted the farmers, I realised they are not happy. The yield is not much. Only thing they can do is save on the pesticide but the per hectare yield is not good," Koujalgi said.

Farmers across the State have been continuously protesting against the utilisation of this seed. Most say they were misled by Monsanto and ended up with huge losses.

Monsanto, however, denied the charges, saying its own surveys prove otherwise.

"Our observation has revealed that in most places the yield increase has been about 10-15 percent more because the pest was effectively controlled as there was no need to apply chemical pesticides. There is a 65 to 75 (percent) reduction in the application of chemical pesiticies and so farmers were able to get a benefit of anywhere between 5,000 to 6,000 rupees per acre. As far as we are concenrned, BT cotton is a success in India," Monsanto's Director (Research), T M Manjunath, said.

Branded as BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) by Monsanto, the cotton seed had been designed to control bullworm infestations that destroy crops heavily.

The country's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee has approved the release of BT cotton into the environment of the country with certain conditions.

However, the seed has been constantly under attack by environmentalists and indigenous farmers who say the harmful effects far outweigh its benefits.

Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Limited, Indian partner of Monsanto, distributes the seeds in the country.

The farmers of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra are also growing BT cotton.

Traders say India has the world's largest cotton-growing area but its yield is just 300 kg per hectare, less than half the global average of about 650 kg.

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