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Study „Failed promises - the rise and fall of GM cotton in India

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Cotton cultivation

The Soil Association’s latest report about GM cotton in India was launched at the Textile Exchange sustainability Conference in Washington DC last week."Failed Promises: the rise and fall of GM cotton in India", is a well-documented report about the collapse of GM cotton in the world.

Loss of $629 million and leading to the suicide of farmers

Introduced to India in 2002, the promises of GM cotton didn’t hold true, suffering severe pest attacks and tripling production costs, and tragically leading to the suicides of thousands of farmers. For example GM cotton was claimed to be resistant to the common pest of cotton in India, the pink bollworm, explains the Soil Association´s study. „While the GM technology was successfully keeping pink bollworm numbers at bay, other insects stepped into the gap, and the crops were attacked by pests like whitefly, jassid and thrips, requiring additional pesticide applications. In Punjab in 2015, whitefly destroyed two-thirds of the cotton crop, causing an estimated loss of $629 million and leading to the suicide of 15 farmers.“

Problems to supply non-GM cotton and situation today

Indian farmerAccording to the report by 2012 non-GM and organic farmers faced huge problems as supplies of non-GM, and
particularly organic seed became scarcer. GM was then considered one of the biggest threats to the future of sustainable organic cotton in the country and elsewhere. That has now changed – the 2016-17 cotton season saw a drop in Indian Bt cotton sales of about 15%. In Andhra Pradesh, the government planned to reduce Bt cotton cultivation in 2016-17 from 670,000 hectares to 450,000 hectares following the 2016 devastation by pink bollworm, in addition to suggesting alternative crops for farmers to cultivate such as millet and pulses. In Punjab and Haryana, the cotton growing area has declined by 27% as farmers move away from cotton following last season’s whitefly devastation. In Uttar Pradesh it has dropped by 19% for the same reasons.

Now government support and local initiatives are improving the availability of good quality organic seed and supporting chemical-free crop zones. India now produces 70% of the world’s organic cotton and demand is increasing, reaching USD $15.7 billion in 2015. Peter Melchett, Policy Director at the Soil Association said: “Some of the poorest farmers in the world have been subject to a crude GM experiment that has gone disastrously wrong – and many have paid the price with their lives. Thankfully, with Indian government support, non-GM and organic production is now in a positive position, offering lower production costs and supporting healthier agricultural, environmental, and social outcomes.”

Read the full Failed Promises report.


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