Updated on 21 May 2012
The introduction of Bt cotton in India brought in a humungous change in the country's cotton cultivation pattern. The number of cotton farmers cultivating cotton increased significantly from five million in 2002-03 to eight million in 2011-12 after the introduction of Bt cotton. Notably, the number of Bt cotton farmers increased from 50,000 in 2002-03 to seven million in 2011-12, representing approximately 88 percent of the eight million cotton farmers in 2011-12 (Brookes and Barfoot report, 2012).
India's Agriculture Minister Mr Sharad Pawar praised the introduction of Bt cotton seeds in Parliament this year by saying that it was a great step towards decreasing insecticide usage in the country. "With the use of high quality hybrid cotton seeds, Indian farmers experienced the biggest gain in form of reduced insecticide usage, from 46 percent in 2001 to less than 26 percent after 2006 and 21 percent in 2009 and 2010," he said.
Farm income enhanced by $9.4 billion in the period between 2002 and 2010, and $2.5 billion in 2010 alone (Brookes and Barfoot report, 2012).
"Bt cotton has transformed cotton production in India by increasing the yield, decreasing insecticide applications, and contributed to the alleviation of poverty for over seven million small resource-poor farmers and their families in 2011 alone, and future prospects look encouraging," says Mr Bhagirath Choudhary, national coordinator, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).
Dr Arvind Kapoor, CEO, Vegetable division, India-based Rasi Seeds, says due to higher prices of cotton lint and lower costs of cultivation, farmers are earning profits. "That is why cotton sowing has increased and farmers are queuing up for good hybrids," he adds. Expressing a similar opinion, Dr Seetharam Annadana, Traits Development &Vegetable R&D Management Lead, South Asia Syngenta, says, "The best agricultural economist of India is the humble but very intelligent Indian farmer. If he is growing it, he finds value for it and, secondly, there is no better alternative to cultivation of GM cotton at present."
Quoting the report, State of Indian Agriculture 2011-2012, Dr Annadana says, "Bt crop technology has more than doubled India's cotton production. By 2011-12, almost 90 per cent of cotton area is covered under Bt cotton. More such revolutions to accelerate agricultural growth are needed."