Bt cotton – various reports

There have been several reports, right from the field trials stage (in one much-publicised case, field trial information was sought to be projected as the performance report from farmers’ fields) about Bt cotton and its performance. While the GM crop developers commissioned market research agencies to do surveys and come up with positive findings, there have also been several academic papers from researchers in different institutes.

However, many civil society monitoring reports did not receive much attention and here we present such reports along with some relevant academic and official papers:

“Did Bt Cotton save farmers in Warangal district?”, a report by Deccan Development Society & AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity, based on season-long monitoring in Kharif 2002-03.

Their next year’s report called “Did Bt cotton fail again in Andhra Pradesh” was based on studying Kharif 2003-04.

“Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh: a three-year assessment” by Deccan Development Society, AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity and Permaculture Association of India presented 3 years’ findings, including for Year 2004-05. The 2005-06 report by the groups is present here.

Civil society fact finding reports from different locations (Warangal, 2004; Madhya Pradesh, 2005; Maharashtra, 2005; Tamil Nadu, 2005; Farmers’ observations on Bt cotton impacts on soil in Punjab, 2005;  Andhra Pradesh – Khammam, Guntur, Adilabad, Warangal, Warangal2, 2005) have pointed to various problems in Bt cotton cultivation including massive failures. Centre for Sustainable Agriculture brought out a report called “The story of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh”, based on compiling data from other sources.

A report by a network of civil society organisations who called themselves the “Monitoring & Evaluation Committee”captured how Bt cotton has been marketed aggressively and unethically, like no seed had ever been marketed in India before (2005).

In 2005, a report emerged from a preliminary epidemiological investigation in Madhya Pradesh, from Jan Swasthya Abhiyan and Narmada Bachao Andolan, about the health impacts of Bt cotton on agri-workers and ginning factory workers.

A public hearing was organised by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture in January 2006, to capture the experiences of farmers from different districts of Andhra Pradesh. The proceedings of the Hearing, available here, captures the numerous problems that cotton farmers had to contend with after the advent of Bt cotton.

In April 2006, after reports of mortality and morbidity of animals grazing on Bt cotton began coming in, a fact finding by Anthra, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and the Sheep & Goat Rearers’ Union in AP was taken up and their report is available here. Another report was put out in February 2007 by Anthra and the Union. A preliminary assessment was done by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture in January 2007, after reports of adverse impacts on livestock emerged. In March 2007, the phenomenon of animal deaths was captured from Adilabad this time.

The Planning Commission sent a fact finding team to Vidarbha, at the behest of the Prime Minister to look into the agrarian distress there and also study issues around Bt cotton. The report of this Fact Finding Team is available here.

A report by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture called “Cotton, Contaminated?” (2008) explores the supply chain from seed production onwards and points to the inevitable contamination from Bt cotton all through the chain.

“Another Year of Doom” was a report brought out by Deccan Development Society and AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity in 2008.

A review of various studies that emerged on Bt cotton by Dominic Glover found that that the pro-poor narrative put out by biotech proponents is just a ‘spin’.

A field based study (2007) by Washington University anthropologist Glenn Davis Stone concluded that Bt cotton adoption was actually an irrational fad, with farmers getting ‘de-skilled’. A follow up survey concluded that while Bt cotton might be good for the field, it is not so for the farm.

A paper published in Economic & Political Weekly by Kavitha Kuruganti tried to unravel the hype and myth around Bt cotton being the cause for yield increases in Indian cotton.

A 2010 report called “Picking Cotton” by Greenpeace finds that organic cotton has better results and profits for farmers.

YUVA and Hamara Beej Abhiyan brought out a report (2010) on the dismal performance of the “indigenous” Bt cotton variety released by Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur.

Sahaja Samrudha released a review of Bt cotton performance in Karnataka over the years (2010), based on a compilation and analysis of official data.

Based on compilation and analysis of data from two official sources mainly, Safe Food Alliance came up with a report on“A Decade of Bt cotton in Tamil Nadu” (2011).

10 years of Bt cotton: False Hype & Failed Promises: Report released by the Coalition for a GM-Free India based on official information and materials and released on March 20th 2012.

SOME SCIENTIFIC STUDIES:

In 2005, Keshav Kranthi and team published a paper in Current Science showing that Bt toxin production is variable across plant parts, season and hybrids and is even sub-lethal in vulnerable parts, leading to greater chances of pest resistance building up.

In 2008, an experimental study by an IARI scientist along with others showed that Bt cotton cultivation leaves its own impacts on soil nutrients.

A 2011 study by Deepak Pental and team of other scientists showed that Bt toxin expression had detrimental effects on the growth and development of the modified plant!

A very recent paper (2011) by Indian scientists shows that Bt toxin expression is indeed dependent on soil depth and moisture – showing once again that this is not a technology that is universally suitable though it has been promoted that way, at the expense of farmers…..

A 2015 scientific paper called “Deconstructing Indian Cotton – weather, yields and suicides” concludes that: Bt cotton may be economic in irrigated cotton, whereas costs of Bt seed and insecticide increase the risk of farmer bankruptcy in low-yield rainfed cotton. Inability to use saved seed and inadequate agronomic information trap cotton farmers on biotechnology and insecticide treadmills. Annual suicide rates in rainfed areas are inversely related to farm size and yield, and directly related to increases in Bt cotton adoption (i.e., costs). High-density short-season cottons could increase yields and reduce input costs in irrigated and rainfed cotton. Policy makers need holistic analysis before new technologies are implemented in agricultural development.

Another scientific paper from 2015 shows that Asiatic cotton can generate similar economic benefits to Bt cotton under rainfed conditions.