Why Indian farmers are buying unapproved herbicide-resistant GMO cotton seeds

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A worker harvests cotton in a field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

If market and industry estimates are true, Indian farmers have, in the current kharif season, bought and planted about [350,000] packets of genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds incorporating unapproved “herbicide tolerance” or HT technology.

Right now, the only GM cotton permitted to be grown in India are hybrids/varieties that contain ‘cry1Ac’ and ‘cry2Ab’ genes, isolated from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and coding for proteins toxic to bollworm insect pests. The government hasn’t so far approved cultivation of cotton harbouring other GM traits, including resistance to specific herbicides.

Cotton cultivation typically entails three rounds of weeding, each requiring 9-10 laborers per acre. At Rs 1,500-2,000 for every round — plus 2-3 times of bullock inter-culture operations, each costing Rs 500-600 — the farmer would spend upwards of Rs 6,000 per acre on removing weeds that compete with his crop for nutrients and water. If all this trouble — including finding labor just when most need — can be avoided by spraying herbicide, and there is technology enabling that, one can easily understand why nine [hundred thousand] farmers may have planted HT cotton, even without official approval.

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If only the government and the NGOs, too, understand.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Grey Market: When nearly a million Indian farmers plant ‘unapproved’ GM cotton

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