GENET archive

[Index][Thread]

AGRICULTURE & DEVELOPMENT: Indian cotton revolution without Bt



                                  PART 1


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

TITLE:   COTTON REVOLUTION WITHOUT BT

SOURCE:  Business Standard, India

AUTHOR:  Surinder Sud

URL:     http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/cotton-revolution-without-bt-113031100589_1.html

DATE:    11.03.2013

SUMMARY: "Growing genetically modified Bt cotton hybrids is not the only way to bag high yields. Other agronomic methods have now emerged for reaping copious harvests of this natural fibre, even in the wholly rain-dependent areas where cotton is largely cultivated in India. An outstanding new technology is the ?high-density cotton planting system?, evolved by Nagpur-based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR). This new system, which involves sowing a relatively higher number of plants a hectare, has been found to almost double the yield of cotton, even in an area like Vidharba, Maharashtra, which is infamous for farmer suicides owing to frequent failures of unirrigated cotton crops."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


COTTON REVOLUTION WITHOUT BT

Growing genetically modified Bt cotton hybrids is not the only way to bag high yields. Other agronomic methods have now emerged for reaping copious harvests of this natural fibre, even in the wholly rain-dependent areas where cotton is largely cultivated in India. An outstanding new technology is the ?high-density cotton planting system?, evolved by Nagpur-based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR).

This new system, which involves sowing a relatively higher number of plants a hectare, has been found to almost double the yield of cotton, even in an area like Vidharba, Maharashtra, which is infamous for farmer suicides owing to frequent failures of unirrigated cotton crops. Normally, farmers sow 50,000 to 55,000 plants a hectare. This number is increased to 200,000 plants a hectare, or even more, under the new production system, by planting seeds at closer spacing.

A higher total count of cotton bolls in the field, as a result of larger plant population, leads to bulkier harvest. The relatively quicker maturing cotton varieties, which have dwarf and compact plants and do not compete with each other for sunlight and input uptake, are deemed ideal for such dense planting. Here, rainwater conservation could be of additional help. Vast stretches of rainfed cotton in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, besides other states, which face production uncertainties owing to recurring moisture stress, can benefit from this technique.

CICR?s cotton scientists maintain that the crop productivity is usually low in rain-reliant fields because of the post-monsoon moisture paucity, when the crop is normally in the boll-formation stage and needs water the most. The monsoon rains that normally begin in June usually cease by September, whereas the boll formation starts in October and peaks in November. The cotton bolls, therefore, fail to develop fully for want of water, especially in shallow soils with low water-holding capacity, adversely hitting the final crop outturn. Obviously, cotton varieties with longer lifespan are the worst performers, since these suffer the most from moisture paucity at vital stages of crop growth. The shorter duration varieties, on the other hand, allow crops to complete their lifespan before the post-monsoon residual soil moisture dries up.

Several cotton varieties have already been identified by CICR through field trials - that are deemed suitable for dense planting - owing to the compact architecture of their plants. These include varieties like PKV081 (released way back in 1987 by the Akola agriculture university), NH615 (evolved recently by the farm varsity in Parbhani) and Suraj (developed by CICR in 2008).

Field experiments carried out in the last kharif, involving farmers at about 155 locations in Vidharba and the adjoining areas, produced encouraging results despite erratic monsoon rainfall and an outbreak of the cotton?s most dreaded pest, boll worm, in some areas that had to be controlled by spraying pesticides. Cotton yields rose by at least 35 to 40 per cent at most of these sites. The overall average yield in the entire experimental area turned out to be between 15 and 18 quintals of seed cotton a hectare - almost double the normal productivity in Vidarbha district.

The highest output was noticed in Chandrapur, Amaravati and Nagpur. Significantly, farmers pocketed a net profit of between Rs 12,000 and Rs 90,000 a hectare, against the estimated cultivation cost of Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 a hectare.

The success of this technology has generated excitement among cotton growers, says CICR Director K R Kranthi. Some farmers have opted for trying out the concept of high-density cotton cultivation even for growing organic cotton.

Going by the enthusiasm of cotton scientists and the response of cotton growers, it seems the new technology has the potential to trigger another cotton revolution of the kind that was brought about by Bt cotton in the last decade. More importantly, this technology has the potential to prevent cotton farmers? distress owing to frequent crop losses in unirrigated areas. Of course, the new technology will need to be promoted by the state agriculture departments in collaboration with the research institutes.



                                  PART 2

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

TITLE:   DEATH BY COTTON

SOURCE:  The Hindu, India

AUTHOR:  Pavan Dahat

URL:     http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/death-by-cotton/article4462518.ece

DATE:    01.03.2013

SUMMARY: "Mansawali falls in the cotton belt of Yavatmal and Wardha district. Almost all the farmers in this village grow Bt cotton. The latest case of farmer suicide here was on September 28 last year when 40-year-old Chakradhar Choudhary hanged himself in his house. Chakradhar owned three acres of land and cultivated Bt cotton. [...] ?Every year, he hoped for profit but we could hardly recover the input cost of the BT cotton. He had taken a loan of Rs. 50, 000 from a bank and that year our bull also died,? adds Kavita. Kavita received no help from the government and according to her the police did not count her husband?s suicide as a farmer suicide for ?lack of documents?."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


DEATH BY COTTON

In Maharashtra?s Mansawali village the story of farmer suicides continues as they continue to get entangled in the debt cycle of Bt cotton cultivation

The former Sarpanch of Mansawali village, Ashok Khadase, does not stop counting the honours his village received during his tenure as the village head. Mansawali is located in Hinganghat tehsil of Wardha district, around 60 km away from Wardha city.

?My village has been honoured with many State prizes. Mansawali was declared Tanta Mukti Gaon (dispute free village) three years ago. We also received Nirmal Gram Puraskar two years ago.?

But Ashok falls silent when it comes to farmers from his village who have committed suicide in the past few years. According to him, 15 farmers have committed suicide in the last 15 years and three in the last eight months.

Mansawali falls in the cotton belt of Yavatmal and Wardha district. Almost all the farmers in this village grow Bt cotton.

The latest case of farmer suicide here was on September 28 last year when 40-year-old Chakradhar Choudhary hanged himself in his house. Chakradhar owned three acres of land and cultivated Bt cotton.

?He never told me what he was going through but his frustration with farming was visible on his face,? says Jyoti, Chakradhar?s widow.

Jyoti is now left with a three-year-old son, a seven-year-old daughter and three acres of cotton field to look after which she does not want to visit. ?Since our marriage, I worked in our field with my husband. Now without him, I don?t want to go there,? she says with tearful eyes.

?Depression due to debt was the main reason behind my husband?s suicide,? says Kavita Maroti Lohghare, whose husband Maroti committed suicide by consuming pesticide in 2008. ?Every year, he hoped for profit but we could hardly recover the input cost of the BT cotton. He had taken a loan of Rs. 50, 000 from a bank and that year our bull also died,? adds Kavita.

Kavita received no help from the government and according to her the police did not count her husband?s suicide as a farmer suicide for ?lack of documents?.

When asked about the reason behind the suicides, Mahesh Ingole, a farmer from the village who owns 30 acres, says: ?Fluctuation in the prices of cotton seeds and fertilisers is the main reason for these suicides, because it increases the production cost of cotton.?

According to Mahesh, on a half-an-acre cotton field, a farmer has to spend Rs. 930 for a 450 gm seed bag of Bt cotton, Rs. 3,500 on DAV (fertilisers), urea and pesticide of around Rs. 2,500. ?Including the labour cost, a farmer spends around Rs. 13,000 to Rs. 15,000 on half-acre from which he gets four quintals of cotton if the weather is conducive; otherwise it is 2.5 quintals. The market price of per quintal of cotton is Rs. 3,900 this year. So you can see the farmer is not getting even the production cost. A farmer gets into a debt trap due to this and ultimately decides to take an extreme step.?

Apart from Chakradhar and Maroti, 13 more farmers have killed themselves in Mansawali in the past few years. Chakradhar?s uncle Padmakar Chaudhary committed suicide in 2001. Padmakar?s 25-year-old son Vaibhav killed himself in early 2012.

Suresh Sabale (2004), Tukaram Balaji Bawane (2005), Vinod Kamble (2007), Gangubai Bhoir (2009) and seven other farmers have committed suicide in the last 15 years whose names Ashok Khadase do not remember.

According to some elderly villagers, Vinod Dadaji Khaire, Ganesh Gangadhar Bawane, Kawadu Pandurang Bonde, Chandu Tukaram Bawane, Sharad Janardan Kamble and Nitin Bawane are the other farmers who decided to end their lives.

Chandu Bawane?s wife Nirmala also killed herself three years ago.

There was a suicide of Ritesh Khateshwar Jawade, but the reason could not be confirmed.

According to Ashok, Bt cotton crop requires large quantities of water but irrigation facilities in the village is very limited. Though the seeds companies promised that there won?t be any need to use pesticide, farmers have to spend more on pesticide. Padmakar Choudhary?s elder brother Vaikunth Choudhary, who has seen three suicides in his family, says, ?None of the three had any addiction or any dispute with other villagers. The mains reason is the inability to even take out the production cost which drives a farmer into debt trap.?

Vijay Jhawandia, a farmer and a social activist, says ?You can see farmers killing themselves. But one should also look into the conditions of farmers who are continuing with the farming. Their condition is no better.?



                                  PART 3

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

TITLE:   INDIAN AGRICULTURE CAN DO WITHOUT QUICK TECHNO-FIXES

SOURCE:  Deccan Herald, India

AUTHOR:  Kavitha Kuruganti

URL:     http://www.deccanherald.com/content/315430/enable_javascript.html

DATE:    27.02.2013

SUMMARY: "It was ridiculous to accuse a group of scientists, nominated both by petitioners of a PIL in the SC and the Government of India as being influenced by anti-GM propaganda [...] one of the two members nominated by the government in fact was coopted into the Sopory Committee inquiry into desi Bt cotton scam, for his expertise, reflecting once again on his credibility as an independent scientist. In fact, the new nominee to the committee, Dr R S Paroda, has been associated with Monsanto in its Biotech Advisory Council in the past; may be Shantharam would be happy to claim that Dr Paroda is the most scientific of all the members of the TEC."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


INDIAN AGRICULTURE CAN DO WITHOUT QUICK TECHNO-FIXES

The writer is one of the national conveners of Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture

Shanthu Shantharam?s piece on February 13, 2013 in this paper had a screaming headline that said, ?Ban on GM crops will imperil Indian agriculture?.

He was referring to the recommendations of a Technical Expert Committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court to advise it on issues related to GMOs, bio-safety assessment regime in India, open air field trials, and alleges that they were ?influenced by the anti-GM propaganda?. In the first instance, the TEC did not call for a ban on all GM crops or their trials.

It was ridiculous to accuse a group of scientists, nominated both by petitioners of a PIL in the SC and the Government of India as being influenced by anti-GM propaganda ? obviously, the Government of India reposed its faith in these scientists when they were named and nominated (one of the two members nominated by the government in fact was coopted into the Sopory Committee inquiry into desi Bt cotton scam, for his expertise, reflecting once again on his credibility as an independent scientist). In fact, the new nominee to the committee, Dr R S Paroda, has been associated with Monsanto in its Biotech Advisory Council in the past; may be Shantharam would be happy to claim that Dr Paroda is the most scientific of all the members of the TEC.

What is interesting to note is that most independent scientists and scientists who work on aspects related to safety assessment have reservations on transgenics and often, the very need of GMOs in the field of food and farming.

However, the ones who have mastered the art of tinkering with genes and creation of GMOs are fully in favour. The latter may even be called as technicians (with due respect to them), while the former in fact are true scientists because figuring out if a gene is performing after integration into a new organism is easy enough, but finding out what else has changed in a complex regulatory web (at the molecular level as well as up to the external ecosystem level) is a challenging task which requires fine scientific brains.

Shantharam is quite wrong in lumping activists on one side and the ?scientific community? on the other side, claiming that the scientific community that ushered in green revolution ?successfully? has a different take on the matter.

What he is missing out in the old strategy of trying to showcase activists as ?anti-science? or ?unscientific? on one side, and the scientists on the other side, is that hundreds of scientists across the country, representing different streams of expertise, are actually coming out into the open to ask for ?good science? or ?true science? to emerge in the case of modern biotech. They are advocating caution with regard to transgenics and are citing much scientific evidence to prove their point. It?s time that the proponents give up their fig leaf arguments around activists and actually engage in an informed debate.

Repeated claims

The repeated claims that modern biotechnology is a ?million times? more refined does not behoove of true scientists. There are many studies that show that genetic engineering is imprecise and does induce instability in a genome. The proponents are repeatedly refusing to use latest science around proteomics, transcriptomics etc., to take up risk assessment.

Coming back to the TEC recommendations, Shantharam is willfully choosing to misrepresent the recommendations. The TEC did not recommend a ?ban? on field testing. They have made recommendations on how, when and where open air field trials can happen, while asking for a moratorium on two particular kinds of GMOs (Bt food crops for ten years and HT crops until an independent assessment on their impact and suitability). The ban was recommended on those crops for which India is the Centre of Origin and Diversity, which is a perfectly scientific recommendation.

In fact, the government should have pro-actively put in a policy directive on this itself, rather than wait for a TEC to come along and say this. It is worth noting that China, which is the Centre of Origin and Diversity for Soybean, which is also the largest consumer of soy, has not opted for GM soy, even though GM soy is the largest cultivated GM crop around the world.

Shantharam claims that almost 30 countries which have opted for GM crops have been eating GM foods without a shred of scientifically verifiable harm. He is not correct in announcing this ? it is only a few countries which have gone in for GM food crops; in any case, most of the corn and soybean is also going into industrial, bio-fuel and feed uses. More importantly, in a country like the USA which does have GM food crops which are being consumed by American citizens to some extent as processed ingredients in their foods, can Shantharam and others show sound scientific evidence that the increasing illnesses in USA (be it of allergies or gastro-intestinal disorders and the like) are not connected to consumption of GM foods?

If one is truly concerned about Indian agriculture and doesn?t want to imperil it, the first requirement might be that we acknowledge the complexity of issues and not look at quick techno-fixes. There is no dearth of technologies out there (as acknowledged by the Planning Commission in its Plan documents too) ?we need to think about recasting our extension systems, spread agro-ecological innovations that bring down costs for farmers, remove toxins from our environment and improve net incomes. We need to ensure remunerative prices. This is not just about agriculture, but about not imperiling our farmers too.