Agri Business

Experts stress the need to fall back on desi cotton varieties

K V Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on August 24, 2020

With stagnant yields, rising cost of production and resistance in pink bollworm, India now can look back at the desi cotton varieties, experts say.

At a webinar on ‘Bt cotton – Myths and Reality’ held on Monday, Keshav Kranthi, who is currently with International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), said Bt-hybrid technology has not been providing any tangible benefits to the cotton farmers.

Bt cotton supposedly helped in the reduction of insecticide use. But the use of insecticides only went up as pink bollworm developed resistance to the technology.

“Cotton yields are the lowest in the world in Maharashtra, for example, despite being saturated with Bt hybrids and highest usage of fertilisers,” Kranti said.

“Cotton yields rank 36th in the world and have been stagnant in the past 15 years. Insecticide usage has been constantly increasing after 2005 despite an increase in area under Bt-cotton,” he said.

The webinar was organised by the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture. Peter Kenmore, former FAO Representative in India, said that Bt cotton is an ageing pest control technology.

“It follows the same path worn down by generations of insecticide molecules. Corporate and public policy actors then claim yield increases, but deliver no more than temporary pest suppression, secondary pest release and pest resistance,” he said.

Andrew Paul Gutierrez, a cotton systems ecologists, pointed out that India could have easily learnt from the mistakes that happened in California in the 1960s and 70s, where the pest outbreak was mainly insecticide-induced.

“The long season Bt cotton introduced in India was incorporated into hybrids that trapped farmers into biotech and insecticide treadmills,” he said.

Published on August 24, 2020

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