Bt Cotton in India: A Status Report (2nd edition)

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The Asia-Pacific Consortium of Agricultural Biotechnology (APCoAB), a program of the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI), has been working to facilitate exchange of information and promote informed opinion across the region on issues of common interest related to agricultural biotechnology. In 2006, APCoAB published first status report on Bt Cotton in India when 40 Bt hybrids were being cultivated on an area of 1.26 million hectares. Besides tracing the development of Bt hybrids and their adoption by Indian farmers, the report highlighted issues that needed to be addressed to effectively harness the benefits that Bt technology promised.

 

During the past three years, Indian cotton scenario has changed dramatically, largely due to the adoption of Bt cotton. The number of Bt hybrids released for commercial cultivation till date has crossed 600 with more than 35 seed companies and public sector institutions currently engaged in their development. In addition, the first true breeding variety has also been released by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), a public sector institution. This provides an opportunity to the farmers to save their own seed without losing the efficacy of Bt gene. The area under Bt cotton reached 7.6 million hectares in 2008-09 constituting nearly 81% of the total cotton area in India. As a result, the production also reached 4.9 million tonnes. All these are indicators of the extraordinary impact and acceptance of Bt technology in cotton by the Indian farmers. This is quite comparable to the success of dwarf varieties of wheat and rice during the Green Revolution period. Several studies have established considerable economic benefits of Bt cotton cultivation to the farmers of all strata. Another significant development relates to creation of enabling environment by the Government of India. The Ministry of Environment and Department of Biotechnology simplified the regulatory procedures leading to expeditious commercial release, especially of events with well established biosafety record.

 

In view of all these new developments, it was felt appropriate to bring out an updated edition of our earlier status report on Bt cotton highlighting contemporary issues related to both technology development and its commercialization.

 

It is our expectation that this revised edition of Bt Cotton in India – A Status Report will be widely circulated and read in the Asia-Pacific region by all stakeholders. The experiences narrated in this report should also help other growing nations in evolving suitable systems of research, testing and commercialization of transgenic crops aiming at sustainability, productivity, food security and poverty alleviation, while safeguarding the environment.

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