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2-Plants: Bt cotton's ready for a big splash in India

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Bt cotton's ready for a big splash
SOURCE: Economic Times, India
DATE:   8 Apr 2005

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Bt cotton's ready for a big splash

NEW DELHI: Cotton prices may have dropped by close to 30%, thanks to a
bumper production -- plus a record 213 lakh tonnes output projected this
year -- but the Bt cotton brigade is all set for the big biotech push on
this front in '05.

A study commissioned by Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech, one of the three
companies countrywide allowed to sell Bt cotton here, in January '04, has
projected a 3.3 times higher growth in genetically modified cotton for
'04-05. In terms of numbers, the IMRB survey holds the penetration of Bt
cotton among farmers would go up from a lowly 18% in '03-04 to a whopping
52% in '04-05.

The survey conducted across six states and 20 districts contacted some
3,199 farmer respondents in 295 villages. Ironically, the plans for the
big push by Monsanto-Mahyco, Ankur and Rasi comes at a time when the glut
in cotton production -- despite all the hosannas sung by the Indian Cotton
Mills Federation on a healthy post-textile quota regime era and the
demand it will generate -- has left cotton farmers high and dry economically.

Some of the findings of the survey, however, only serve to reinforce the
big question marks that persist on the "success" of genetically modified
(GM) crops in the country since regulatory approval in March '02 and 10
years of world-wide presence. In that, they also contradict to some
extent the claims of 52% farmer penetration countrywide for Bollgard (BG)
in '04-05.

The study has claimed that the average yield per acre under BG is 58%
higher than for other cotton. At an all-India level, it has shown average
yield for BG at 8.1 quintal per acre as compared to 5.1 quintal per acre
for non-BG cotton. However, in specific states, the difference in yield
varies drastically under BG.

In Karnataka, for instance, the yield is shown to be 7 quintal per acre
under BG and 5.3 quintal per acre for non-BG. In AP, which is being
showcased as a highly successful BG state, the BG yield is 7.3 quintal
per acre to non-BG's 5.02 quintal per acre. In Maharashtra, the BG level
is 5.8 quintal per acre as compared to non-BG's 3.9 quintal per acre.

But in Gujarat, the BG yield is 10.2 quintal per acre while non-BG is
yield is a significantly lower 2.8 quintal per acre. In MP, the BG yield
is shown to be 9.3 quintal per acre while for non-BG, it is 6.5 quintal
per acre.

Again, on profits, the details emerging from the IMRB study do not
exactly make up a foolproof case in favour of the farmer's unstinting
preference to BG. The profit per acre countrywide average under BG is
shown to be Rs 9,610 per acre compared to non-BG's 3,660 per acre. But in
Karnataka, the non-BG profit per acre is shown to be Rs 5,641 per acre as
compared to BG's Rs 6,109 per acre.

In contrast, the profitability in Gujarat under BG is shown to be Rs
16,072 per acre as compared to Rs 977 per acre under non-BG. "At an
overall level, an average profit of Rs 6,000 per acre higher than with
non-BG is evident," the study says.

Monsanto-Mahyco agronomists held that the far lower yield and profit in
Karnataka could be due to an extremely low level of pest incidence seen
in that year. BG's superior performance was more evident in cases of high
pest incidence.


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