Bt cotton

Do Not Need Monsanto, CICR Can Do It, Maharashtra Minister Announces in Assembly

The Maharashtra government announced in the state assembly on 14 December it will not allow Monsanto to develop Bt cotton seed varieties, according to Alok Deshpande of The Hindu. Instead, four agricultural universities and the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) will do the work.

According to The Hindu, State Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar said the decision was taken allegedly because the company’s patented insecticidal Bt traits were financially disastrous for farmers. He was replying to a calling attention motion raised by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA Amarsinh Pandit,

According to Fundkar, of Maharashtra over 38 lakh hectares under cotton, 98 per cent is under genetically-modified Bt cotton since 2002. As per the Maharashtra Cotton Seeds Act, 2009, the state government periodically revises seed prices. In June last year, it issued a notification pricing Monsanto’s Bollgard I (BGI) Bt seed at Rs. 730 and Bollgard II (BGII) at Rs. 830 per packet of 450 grams.

“At a time when drought has already had a terrible impact on farmers, such seeds with serious faults are making conditions worse for farmers. While these private companies are minting money, the research sections in government universities are doing nothing,” Pandit said. The minister said the seeds developed by the government institutes would be made available from 2018, and no private company would be allowed to develop seeds. The seeds would be priced Rs. 350 per packet.

“The Maharashtra State Seeds Corporation Limited and agriculture universities have signed a pact for improved varieties of cotton seeds. CICR is at present experimenting on including BGI in 21 varieties, while Panjabrao Deshmukh Agriculture University is developing a special seed for rainfed farming,” Fundkar said.

Unlike hybrids, the Bt varieties can be saved for sowing the next season. CICR is developing them with Monsanto’s off-patent BGI technology. Bt technology has also been licensed to CICR by a Delhi University team led by geneticist Deepak Pental.

CICR’s director, K R Kranthi, has been saying that India does not need Bt technology if it goes in for ultra-high density planting of Indian cotton varieties. Bt technology is effective only in American cotton species. Monsanto had released BGII in 2006 because the pink bollworm had developed resistance to the earlier version. Nascent pink bollworm resistance has also been seen in BGII. But the company withdrew earlier this year an application for a more potent technology which it had submitted to the regulator for approval, after an aborted agriculture ministry move to waive genetically engineered plant patents.

(Top photo of Central Institute of Cotton Research’s K R Kranthi (in hat) inspecting Bt cotton and long-staple desi cotton varieties at Faridkot, Punjab, research station in September. Photo by Vivian Fernandes). 

Hit Counter provided by technology news
Web Design MymensinghPremium WordPress ThemesWeb Development

I Do Not Understand Bt Cotton technology; I Know It Works

Y Kallanagouda Patil, 46, of Uppinbetegeri village in Dharwad taluk  owns 52 acres jointly with his three brothers. He holds a diploma in agriculture from a school in Raichur. Patil grows cotton on ten acres, apart from sugarcane, potato, Bengal gram, jowar, tur,moong and vegetables. He uses groundwater to irrigate his fields. The water is drawn from a depth of 280 feet. Electricity is free so he flood irrigates the fields, except the one under banana  where he uses drip irrigation. He does not micro-irrigate cotton because it is closely planted and has to make way for another crop after eight months. This farmer has his cost all worked out. Making quick mental calculations, he estimates the cost of cotton crop at Rs 22,500 an acre and the realization from 17 quintals an acre at Rs 68,000. He had planted Bayer seed. ‘I do not understand technology, he says, all I know is if I use Bt seed there will be no

Pests Snack on Chilly But Not Cotton

F Basavaraj Rudagi, 48, did not grow cotton before 2008. This farmer from Saundhi village in Dharwad district’s Kundogol taluk made a partial switch to Bt cotton as chilly was susceptible to pest attack and yield was declining. From five acres in 2009, Rudagi had fifteen of a forty acre joint farm under cotton this year, when smartindianagriculture  caught up with him in February. He tried out Bayer in a change from Mahyco and Raasi seed. Rudagi says he got 11.5 quintals (100 kg) an acre from his rain-fed crop and at Rs 4,050 a quintal, his realization was a little over Rs 46,000. The cost, he says, is Rs 26,000 an acre, excluding rental earnings had he leased out the land. This does not mesh with the profit he claims he makes, but then he admits to not keeping crop-wise accounts. Rudagi also grows peanuts, coriander, gram, safflower and jowar. There is safety in diversity. And yes he plants pigeon pea or tur around the cotton crop for bollworms to feed on so they are not forced by the survival instinct to develop resistance to Bt protein.  In this sense he is quite a cut apart. Low cotton prices are worrying but what is the alternative?