GENTECH archive


re cotton, archive 1122

>Wytze wrote:
>The introduction of chemical dependant cotton in India has led to farmers
>committting suicide. Why?

Dear Wytze:

I agree with much of what you said, but you have oversimplified the
problems with Indian cotton production, and I believe you are mistaken on a
few points. Indian farmers chose to grow cotton because it is a valuable
cash crop, and like small businessman everywhere, have generally planned
out their costs well. What has trapped Indian farmers (with tragic
consequences) are problems they did not expect, such as poor yields due to
bad weather, and more often and importantly, insecticide resistance in key
pests, especially the cotton bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera.

Most cotton seed in India is NOT produced by major international "western"
companies, but is hybrid seed produced with hand pollination by numerous
small Indian companies.  Further, essentially all cotton pesticides sold in
India are produced by companies that by law have majority Indian ownership
and management.

To stay on topic with these server, the Bt transgenic cotton that so many
of you oppose has been eagerly sought by many Indian farmers, activists,
government officials and researchers (several of whom have lobbied me in
person for help) BECAUSE it can help address the problem of the cotton
bollworms.  The diversity of Indian agricultural cropping systems (and the
"refuges" for susceptible bollowrms that other crops provide) mean that the
potential for evolution of resistance in the bollworms is actually lower
under Indian conditions than in the US (where there is no detectable
resistance in the field even after three years of extensive Bt cotton use)
and many other countries. Provided that these other crops (where bollworms
cause less significant losses) are not also made Bt transgenic, Bt cotton
has the potential at the very least to reduce unintentional pesticide
poisonings of cotton farm workers in India.  I continue to be amazed at the
logic and ethics of those who would seek to prevent Indian farm workers
from receiving this benefit.