Bt cotton has benefited farmers greatly, says study | SupportBiz

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Bt cotton has benefited farmers greatly, says study

Cotton production in India has risen with the use of the hybrid Bt cotton seeds, benefitting farmers and helping the country to become net exporter of the cash crop, says a study. The study, jointly undertaken by the Council for Social Development (CSD) and Bharat Krishak Samaj, says that the overall production of cotton has grown by 9.25 percent since the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002-03, and farmers' income jumped up by nearly 375 percent.

"Cultivation of hybrid Bt cotton seeds, which began in 2002-03, has seen the average income of farmers increasing by almost 375 percent, the average cotton yield by 4.95 percent, cotton areas by 4.91 percent and production by 9.25 percent across India's major cotton growing states," said the study.

Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton is a variety of cotton seed developed with Bt, a bacterium which produces toxins to keep insects away. Concerns have been raised over toxins produced by the Bt variety of crops.

Scientists and environmentalists, however, say that local crops are being polluted through cross pollination.

Ajay Jakhar, Chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj, said that the study was aimed at 'separating truth from perception'.

"In the last 10 years, India has become the second largest cotton producer in the world, with over 90 percent of the total cotton acreage in our country under Bt Cotton," he said.

The study titled 'Socio-economic Impact Assessment of Bt Cotton in India', was undertaken to validate farmers' experience of using Bt Cotton in the nine cotton growing states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharshtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, surveying more than 1050 farmers and 300 agricultural labourers.

CSD director T. Haque said that 'farmers' responses have underlined significant improvement in livelihoods, better yields and higher returns'.

According to the study, 85 percent of farmers and landless labourers invested in better-quality education for their children, and 77 percent reported intake of high-value and nutritious food after the use of Bt cotton.

"The country has also benefited immensely, as India has become a net exporter from being a net importer in recent years," said Haque.

Jhakhar dismissed reports of the use of Bt Cotton seeds being one of the reasons behind the indebtedness of farmers and their suicides.

"CSD's field research has indicated poor institutional credit access in rain-fed areas and fluctuating prices as the main reasons for this tragedy. Clearly, the government needs to invest more in agriculture infrastructure, and ensure that farmers have access to cheap institutional credit."