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India: Bt Cotton’s resistance to pests weakensqrcode

Favorites Print Jul. 6, 2017
The effectiveness of genetically-modified Bt cotton is waning as it has lost resistance to pink ballworm, the main pest that affects cotton plants.
The Maharashtra government, concerned over the vulnerable condition of Bt cotton, has written to the Centre asking for help, says a Times of India report. Maharashtra is the largest producer of cotton in India.
The key reason why Bt cotton became popular was that it resisted threat from the ballworm and hence, required lesser use of insecticides.
An official from the state’s agricultural department told the newspaper that there have been many complaints of crop failures from Bt cotton farmers. Around 96 percent of cotton farmers in Maharashtra use Bollgard-II seeds, a Bt cotton variant introduced in 2010.

Maharashtra is facing this crisis for the second time. Last year, a large amount of cotton produce was destroyed in Jalna and farmers asked the state government to compensate for losses. This time, the state wants the Centre to launch an awareness programme to inform the farmers regarding pest-resistance capabilities of Bt cotton varieties.
Cotton attracts various kinds of pest attacks and thus requires heavy use of pesticides. Bt cotton was a farmer’s way out of that problem. But recent developments indicate that ballworms have adapted to Bt cotton and can attack it now.
Unlike farmers’ traditional ways of saving seeds from their own harvest, Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds require to be brought afresh every year. Monsanto’s cotton seeds are also costly compared to the traditional varieties. With the failure of Bt cotton to resist pests, farmers have to spend even more on chemicals and pesticides.
Through their patents, corporations such as Monsanto prevent farmers from saving seeds.
Recently, Punjab Agricultural University announced that it had developed a variety of Bt cotton that does not impose commercial restrictions on farmers and they can save from one year’s harvest to sow cotton next year.
Monsanto's Bt cotton sales in India fell 15 percent in August 2016, Kalyan Goswami, executive director of the National Seed Association told Reuters last year. According to the report, more and more farmers are shifting back to homegrown non-GMO cotton seeds.
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