India: False Hopes, Festering Failures Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: 2005-2006 Print E-mail
A.P. COALITION IN DEFENCE OF DIVERSITY
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PRESS RELEASE April 8, 2006

False Hopes, Festering Failures Bt Cotton in AP : 2005-2006

It is a Déjà vu.

The same thing happens again and again, almost in a surrealistic manner. Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh has failed once again.

Every year, the failure is recorded. There are strong agitations, angry statements and soothing assurances from the government.. But the industry has learnt how to cope with these issues and continue with its deceit. And the government is a half hearted actor.

False promises, Festering Failures is a  report that has systematically studied Bt Cotton performance in three districts of AP viz., Warangal, Adilabad and Nalgonda with a sample of nearly 180 farmers over a period of nine months. The data has been methodically collected every fortnight, collated and analysed in the best scientific traditions possible.

And what are the results?

In terms of cost of cultivation, Bt was the most expensive. It cost farmers Rs.9689 per acre for Bt cultivation while Non Bt farmers incurred Rs.8074 per acre, about Rs 1600 or 17% less than Bt farmers

Farmers practicing NPM [those who do not use pesticides at all] were the highest gainers. They spent only Rs.7477 per acre, a whopping 23% less than Bt farmers.

In terms of Yield, Bt cotton yielded just about 25 kgs more than Non Bt farmers. A paltry 6% yield advantage to the Bt farmers.

But in terms of Net Returns, Bt farmers were at the bottom of the heap. They earned just about Rs 2279 per acre, while the NPM farmers who used no pesticide at all, earned a net gain of Rs.3085 per acre, which is 35% more than the Bt farmers.

Bt industry constantly proclaims that farmers save significantly in Pest management costs if they cultivate Bt because Bt resists pesticides which other cotton hybrids cannot. This is the greatest lie by the industry as proved by the data for 2005-2006.  The study shows that the cost of Pest Management was lowest for farmers practising NPM methods. They spent only Rs. 679/- per acre as against Bt.cotton farmers who spent Rs.1351/- per acre, nearly 100% more than the NPM farmers. Even Non.Bt farmers who sprayed pesticides on their fields spent Rs.39 less per acre than Bt farmers. Thus the only concrete  promise that came with Bt also proved false.

ONE OF THE GREATEST REVELATIONS OF THE FOUR YEAR STUDY IS THAT THE GAP IN THE MANAGEMENT OF BOLLWORM BETWEEN Bt AND NON Bt FARMERS IS NARROWING DRAMATICALLY. THE INDUSTRY CLAIMS THAT THE PRIMARY TARGET OF Bt IS AMERICAN BOLLWORM, A DREADED COTTON PEST. BUT THE INVINCIBILITY OF Bt AGAINST BOLLWORM HAS PROVED A MYTH.

Bt FARMERS HAD SPENT Rs 450 LESS THAN NON Bt FARMERS IN 2003-4 WHILE IN 2004-5 THEY SPENT ONLY Rs 100 LESS. LAST YEAR ALSO THE GAP BETWEEN Bt AND NON Bt FARMERS WAS JUST ABOUT Rs.183, WHICH WAS A PALTRY 2% OF THEIR TOTAL COST OF CULTIVATION. ON THE OTHER HAND THE N P M FARMERS USED NO INSECTICIDE AT ALL ON THEIR COTTON FIELDS.

Bt farmers on the other hand are spending progressively more amount of money to control another set of pests called Sucking Pests. In just three years between 2003 and 2005, this cost has gone up by more than 800% for Bt farmers.

But the biggest concern is the first signs that Bt might be spreading previously unknown diseases into cotton cultivation. Last year our study reported the first signs of Root Rot by making makes soils on which Bt was grown into toxic fields.

This year we find a new virus infestation called Tobacco Streak Virus. This began on Bt fields and slowly spread to other cotton areas.

Bacterial leaf blight were also observed and were more intense on Bt and lesser on Non Bt.


Therefore based on the Study 2005-2006, the AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity makes the following demands from the governments of India and AP:

Extend the ban on Bt cotton to cover all Genetically engineered cotton till all materials are adequately tested and found safe for soil borne and beneficial organisms, grazing cattle and human beings.

The field trials and tests on the new GM Bt. or other crops being conducted by government institutions or proposed to be conducted  should be  widely publicized and the NGOs or farmers organization be invited for regular periodic review.

The current regulatory mechanisms are almost non existent. They should be installed immediately, regulatory standards imposed strictly and citizen and farmer groups along with civil society organizations must be included in constant monitoring and checking of regulatory mechanisms in operation.

The National Institute of Nutrition and concerned health department should take active steps to test Bt cotton for the effects on humans, animals and soils of the Bt or any other toxins contained in its crops by subjecting them to rigorous chemical tests and feeding trials.    

It has to be clearly recognized that Bt has proved that it is no alternative to the present cotton cultivation problems. The viable alternative is in the form of NPM approach which has not only proved to be safer, self supporting, sustainable but also economically a sound proposition. Therefore NPM in cotton must be given all kinds of government support, including special environmental subsidies, special insurance and the cotton must be marketed at a premium price.

Organic cotton production must be started immediately in the state with governmental support.

[p v satheesh]
 Convenor