Fbae Logo
Home | | Support Us | Contact Us
Goals & Objectives Our Position False Propaganda Important Publications Important Links Events News Biosafety
Fbae Header Home





Bt Cotton in Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh, India: 2. The Perception of the Eshtablishment
Prof. C Kameswara Rao
Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education,
Bangalore, India
krao@vsnl.com, www.fbae.org, www.fbaeblog.org

At Hyderabad, we visited the Andhra Pradesh State Seed Certification Agency.  We met with Scientific Officers of the Warangal Research Station of the Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University of AP., the Officers at the District Office of the Government Department of Agriculture, Warangal and the dealers of Seeds and Pesticides, Warangal.

1. Andhra Pradesh State Seed Certification Agency, Hyderabad 

The Seed Certification Agency of the Government of AP is totally out of the picture as Bt cotton seed was not officially notified.  Certification of any seed is voluntary and no one applied for certification of Bt cotton seed.  While there are facilities with the Agency for testing genetic purity including the Bt event, most of the time seed certification is confined to seed viability and germination studies.  Only six to eight parental lines, some imported from Russia and Cambodia, seem to be involved in the production of over 200 cotton hybrids in the country.  With no information on the pedigree of most of these varieties, there appears to be some confusion in understanding and distinguishing varieties and hybrids. 

2. Scientific Officers of the Agricultural Research Station, of the Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University of AP, at Warangal

The Scientific Officers of the Agricultural Research Station, ANGRAU at Warangal, informed us that public institutions did not go all out to recommend Bt cotton nor spoke against it, as they do not wish to get involved in any kind of public controversy.   In addition, the level of understanding of transgenic technology, even among the agricultural scientists, is often far from desirable.  

Officers know that most farmers, not being sure of any, used two or three different Bt varieties.   Generally, refugium was not planted as farmers do not want to lose that much of the crop and also because there is a considerable area under non-Bt around the Bt cotton fields, which they inappropriately considered as the refugium.  Since 2006-07 was a low pest pressure year, chemical inputs on Bt crop were considerably lower than even the previous year.  In the Warangal district, cotton was recently afflicted with a) the black arm bacterial disease, b) grey mildew and c) the tobacco streak virus, rarely known in earlier years.   A soil borne root rot disease affected not just cotton, but also maize, red gram and chillies.  The Scientists do not relate any of these diseases to the Bt gene.

3. Warangal District Office of the Department of Agriculture

The Officers of the District Agricultural Office (DAO), Warangal, told us that the seed sellers inform them about the Bt seed varieties being marketed.  One Joint Director and four Deputy Directors monitor cultivation.  The DAO confirmed that for the past two years 95 per cent of cotton in the Warangal District was Bt and that chemical pesticide application came down by over 50 per cent.  The yield averaged eight quintals per acre of Bt while it was two to three quintals from non-Bt varieties. 

The DAO does not consider that sheep death can be attributed to Bt cotton as sheep used to die even before, may be due to pesticides. 

A local agriculture correspondent of a vernacular daily also told us that he does not believe that the Bt crop failed or sheep die due to foraging on Bt cotton stubble.

The DAO has records of payment of compensation on claims of cotton crop failure to the tune of Rs. 3.27 crore, at the rate of Rs. 1,400 per acre, during the past couple of years, of which the Excel Company alone paid Rs. 2.5 crore.  With such a big incentive, most of the protests appear to be orchestrated and even those farmers, who did not suffer crop losses, either willingly or under pressure claimed compensation or got it. 

In the Warangal field trials of several varieties of BGI and BGII (with two Bt genes) are going on with appropriate check varieties. 

4. Seed and Pesticide Dealers

We met about a dozen Seed and Pesticide Dealers on the Station Road in Warangal.  Bt cotton seed required for one acre, was sold at Rs. 750.  Farmers have preference to certain Bt cotton varieties. 

During the 2006-07 crop season chemical pesticide sales were down by 60 per cent, to about Rs. 3 crore from Rs. 7 to 8 crore.  The health of the farm workers has certainly improved on account of reduced exposure to chemicals.  

The dealers are not averse to regulated development and sale of Bt cotton seed to eliminate black market, which is dominated by the fly-by-night operators. 

The dealers do not consider that sheep died on eating Bt cotton stubble.  They are also certain that no farmer committed suicide on account of Bt cotton. 

The Scientists of ANGRAU and the Officers of the DAO are very much concerned with the problems the farmers face.  They certainly know what should be done to help the farmers in maximizing the benefits out of cultivation of Bt cotton.  However, NGO backed controversies and political complications at the State Governmental level, deter them from participating actively.

The co-operation of the Seed and Pesticide dealers is the key factor in ensuring that only authentic seed is available to the farmers.

May 21, 2007