Bt cotton and Its Impact

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    A recent study states that Bt Cotton adoption in Punjab has resulted in net economic, environmental benefits.

     

    About

    • Amid the perpetual debate surrounding Bt cotton’s positive and negative impacts, a recent study titled — ‘Long-term impact of Bt cotton: An empirical evidence from North India’ — has said its adoption in Punjab in the past over a decade has resulted in net economic and environmental benefits.
    • The research was funded by the Agricultural Extension Division of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research under the extramural project “Impact evaluation of integrated pest management technologies”. 
    • The study was jointly done by:
      • Punjab Agricultural University at Ludhiana, 
      • Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology in Jammu (SKUAST) and 
      • Noida-based Amity University, 

     

    Bt cotton

    • Bt cotton is a genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically modified pest resistant plant cotton variety, which produces an insecticide to combat bollworm.
    • Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton has been commercially grown in India for the past 19 years. 
    • The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) approved the release of Bt cotton for commercial cultivation in 2002 in western and southern parts of the country. 
    • In Punjab, Bt cotton was released for cultivation in 2005. Before the release, it was adopted by 72% farmers on 22% of the cotton area.

     

    Benefits

    • Reduction in insecticide use: Reduction in the use of highly hazardous and riskiest insecticides by volume and their applications.
    • Reducing Impacts: Decline in environmental and human health impact associated with insecticide use.
    • More profits and income: Reduction in the expenses associated with insecticide use. With reduced investment on insecticides and pesticides, farmers are able to save more even after paying high for Bt Cotton seeds.
    • Employment to Women: Traditionally, plucking the flower of cotton had been the task of Women. It has led to better income opportunities for women.
    • Better Soil Health: Soil health remains intact by their use. In a normal scenario, a lot of tilling has to be done thereby making the soil prone to soil erosion.

     

    Challenges

    • Uncertain Resistance: The complete reliance on Bt cotton without incorporating it into the integrated pest management (IPM) system led to outbreak of whitefly in northern India and pink bollworm in western India in 2015. Thus, resistance to Bt cotton is yet to become a significant problem. 
    • Lack of Evidence: The compatibility of Bt with IPM is not known. Thus, the contrarian view that Bt cotton has been a failure in India, in this case Punjab, lacks empirical evidence.
    • Awareness & Education: Small farmers generally don’t benefit from Bt cotton much because of lower awareness and education about the same.

     

    (Image Courtesy: TOI)

     

     

    Way Forward

    • Bt Cotton, the only GM crop introduced in India in 2002, transformed India’s cotton sector, as cotton productivity almost doubled in six years. India’s share in the global production of cotton increased from 12 per cent in 2002 to 25 per cent by 2014. From a net importer of cotton, India became the second-largest exporter of cotton.
    • It is high time Indian agriculture transforms into precision agriculture by using modern tools of biotechnology. 
    • The potential of genetic engineering is immense, it can be utilised to benefit the Agriculture sector in India.

    Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

    • It functions under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
    • As per Rules, 1989, it is responsible for appraisal of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle. 
    • The committee is also responsible for appraisal of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms and products into the environment including experimental field trials.
    • GEAC is chaired by the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of MoEF&CC and  co-chaired by a representative from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
    • Presently, it has 24 members and meets every month to review the applications in the areas indicated above.

     

    Sources: TH