GM Bt cotton devastated in India

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Jane Arnold

Dec 14, 2015, 1:12:43 AM12/14/15

Corn earworm, pink bollworm and whitefly devastate Bt cotton in India

10 December 2015

Press articles document the destruction of GM Bt cotton – and farmers’
livelihoods – by three different pests

Corn earworm, pink bollworm and whitefly have lain waste to Bt cotton in
India this year, as articles from the Indian press report.

The first article below also reminds us of the reliance of Bt cotton on
irrigation, which is reported to be inadequate.

The Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) referred to in the first article
is a farmers’ movement.

1. KRRS seeks relief from seed companies for failure of Bt cotton
2. Pink bollworm a nightmare for Bt cotton growers
3. Black clouds over Bt cotton as whitefly runs amok

1. KRRS seeks relief from seed companies for failure of Bt cotton

Kumar Buradikatti
The Hindu, 2 Dec 2015

Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) has asked the State government to
ensure that Bt cotton companies pay compensation to farmers whose crops
were destroyed by corn earworm across the State. Addressing a media
conference here on Tuesday, State president of the organisation Chamarasa
Malipatil said that nearly half of the Bt cotton crop was destroyed due to
the Helicoverpa pest.

“At the time of introducing Bt cotton in India a few years ago, there was
a big propaganda that it was pest-resistance. Now, we find that the
genetically modified organism, Bt cotton, is vulnerable to corn earworm.
An overwhelming majority of cotton growers have cultivated Bt cotton this
time. Over 50 percent of cultivated Bt cotton of all brands have now been
destroyed by the pest attack. The seed companies that sold Bt cotton seeds
to farmers are liable to pay compensation and the government should ensure
that they do,” he said. He added that vast tracts of Bt cotton fields in
Andhra Pradesh were also destroyed by the corn earworm. He suspected that
seed companies might have supplied substandard seeds to farmers in order
to deal with growing cotton stock in the international market.

<< snip >>

2. Pink bollworm a nightmare for Bt cotton growers

Kumar Buradikatti
The Hindu, 5 Dec 2015

<< snip >>

Disheartening stories of Bt cotton farmers are unfolding across Raichur
district, which is one of the major cotton growing districts in the State.
The extent of loss is yet to be measured as no survey has been conducted.
Cotton is cultivated on nearly 60,000 hectares of lands in the district,
most of which is Bt cotton. Farmers started switching to the crop in big
numbers in 2007-08 and there has been increase in acreage over the years
since then.

Chamarasa Malipatil, State president of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha,
claimed that around 40 per cent to 50 per cent of Bt cotton was destroyed
by the pink bollworm this year, not only in Karnataka but also in

Bt cotton is genetically engineered with a gene from the bacteria Bacillus
thuringiensis (Bt) and is toxic to the bollworm, a pest that preys on the
cotton plant. There’s also the possibility that the plant is being
attacked by other insects. A team of agricultural scientists from the
University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur (UAS-R) will be visiting some
of the affected fields to study the pest menace.

“The pink bollworm, with its negligible population, was not a threat to
cotton crop when the Bt technology was developed. But over a period of
time, the worm massively increased its population and is now causing
maximum damage to the crop,” said Dr. Jayaprakash Nidagundi, associate
professor, Plant Breeding, UAS-R.

<< snip >>


3. Black clouds over Bt cotton as whitefly runs amok

Ikhhlaq Aujla
The Times of India, Sep 9, 2015

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana are perturbed over a sense of deja vu they
are experiencing ever since the attack of the pest - the whitefly - on
their BT cotton crop. It has unnerving similarities to attack of the
American bollworm, colloquially known as 'Amrikan sundi,' in the 1990s and
2000s on hybrid cotton varieties. The bollworm attack had led farmers to
shift to the BT variety post 2004 which resisted the pest. But the whitely
has shown that the BT cotton too can be vulnerable, creating a crisis at a
time when the monsoon has failed.

Both Punjab and Haryana account for about 11-12% of country's total cotton
output, but the pest could cause a noticeable drop in average yields
thereby hitting output as picking of cotton has begun in the region. In
Haryana, area under cotton is 5.80 lakh hectares and in Punjab it is 4.50
lakh hectares this season.

In fact, much like the bollworm, pesticides sprayed have not been able to
eliminate the whitefly that attacks the leaves of cotton plants. In the
early 2002, cotton farmers had used so much pesticide against the whitefly
that the chemical is believed to have affected the soil and groundwater.
Many believe this is the reason behind a large number of cancer cases
being detected among people in the cotton belt.

<< snip >>

As per the data from the Cotton Advisory Board (CAB), average yield of
cotton in Punjab fell to 170kg per hectare in 1997-98 from 367kg per
hectare in 1996-97, and in Haryana the average yield declined to 240kg per
hectare from 354kg per hectare in the same period. Average yield of cotton
dropped further to 151kg per hectare in 1998-99 in Punjab while Haryana
also saw a decline to 204kg per hectare. However, the average yields
started improving from 2005-06 as BT cotton cultivation was allowed in
both states. Provisional figures from CAB put the average yield of cotton
in 2013-14 to 704kg per hectare and 702kg per hectare in Punjab and
Haryana respectively. With BT cotton being resistant to American bollworm,
area under these varieties shot up rapidly in Punjab and Haryana, which
stands at over 90% in both states. While BT cotton varieties offered
resistance to American bollworm, these are under the attack of whitefly in
both Punjab and Haryana this season.

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