Did Bt cotton fail AP again in 2003-2004?

Executive summary

In Kharif 2002 [the Indian rainy season extending from June to September], around 1200 farmers
cultivated Bt cotton in Warangal district in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. More than 90% of them cultivated Bt MECH-162 cotton hybrid, which was marketed by Mahyco-Monsanto. A season-long study conducted by AP Coalition in Defense of Diversity in 2002-03 showed that the
cotton hybrid MECH-162 failed miserably on the farmers’ fields in Warangal district. This study and
other studies which endorsed these results forced Mahyco-Monsanto to replace MECH – 162 with

As a continuation of its earlier research in 2002, the AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity decided to
enlarge its study for Kharif 2003 to three cotton-growing districts in Andhra Pradesh viz., Warangal,
Adilabad and Kurnool covering 28 villages with a sample size of 164 farmers. The season long study systematically collected field data from farmers using structured interview schedules which recorded each and every farmer’s income and expenditure patterns with regard to cultivation of cotton, both Bt and Non-Bt. This was done at fortnightly intervals right from sowing of the cotton crop till it was harvested. The data collection was helped by 11 NGOs working in these districts.

Besides the written interview schedule, video documentation was also done with eight farmers from three villages at monthly intervals. In addition, monthly meetings were held in Warangal to collect
the data sheets from data writers and to identify the villages to be covered during every month. All
the data was collated and analysed to arrive at the following results.
– Farmers had to incur an expenditure that was 230% more for Bt seeds than Non Bt hybrids
– Total investments for Bt was 8% higher than for the cultivation of non-Bt cotton.
– The reduction in pesticide consumption by Bt farmers was just 12%
– Net profits from Bt was 9% less compared to profits from Non Bt hybrids
– The Benefit cost ratio was in favour of Non Bt hybrids
– For small and medium category of farmers, the yield difference between Bt and non-Bt
was negligible.

The study clearly showed that, even though the over all yields were marginally more for Bt cotton,
the overall Benefit cost ratio is still in favour of Non Bt hybrids. This was caused by the higher
investments incurred for the cultivation of Bt cotton hybrids which was 8% more than the investment for Non Bt hybrids. In addition, the results explicitly show that, for small and medium farmers Bt is not a viable option as the net profit from Bt was 9% less than Non Bt hybrids.

The study underlines the argument that Genetically Altered crops need more investment per unit
area than their non GM counter parts while the net profits are higher for non-Gm crops. This is a
worldwide phenomenon. Therefore, in a country like India, where majority of the farmers are small
and medium, while looking for GM options, we need to explore a policy that takes a long term
perspective on the sustainability of different options available.

Over and above all this, there is a definite impending danger of major Lepidopteran pests- such as American Boll worm, Spotted Bollworm and Pink bollworm developing faster resistance to the
deltaendotoxin, which will be catastrophic to the other alternate host crops like redgram, sorghum,
maize, sunflower, groundnut and beans besides cotton. This will be highly disastrous for farmers
who grow crops like pigeonpea and above-mentioned crops for their food and other needs.

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