She forwarded a message from Dr Michael Hansen giving a link to news that there have been whitefly outbreaks in the Bt cotton crop and that a resistant pink bollworm has been doing significant damage to cotton crop in states like Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
This follows December reports in the Hindu of a ‘spot’ investigation into an 80% infestation of the Bt cotton crop in Raichur by an independent team of experts at a Bt cotton field affected by pink bollworm attack at Gonal village near Raichur district.
The report, in Livemint, an online business paper published by Hindustan Times Media, summarises: “Almost 90% of the country’s cotton cultivation area is under Bt cotton, which was introduced in 2002 but a report from New Delhi says that with bollworm developing resistance to Bt cotton crop, the government has decided to promote cultivation of indigenous varieties of the crop in a big way this year”.
The government-recommended local varieties yield less but require far fewer pesticides, cost less than GE varieties and can be replanted.
The decision to revive cultivation of indigenous varieties of cotton was taken in a meeting headed by agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh. Senior officials of the agriculture ministry, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) and seed industry companies were also present in the meeting.
A senior agriculture ministry official said: “The issue of pests like pink bollworm and whitefly developing resistance to Bt cotton crop was discussed at length with all stakeholders yesterday. To protect farmers, it was decided to popularise cultivation of desi varieties this year”. He pointed out that, though the productivity of native varieties is lower by 10-15% as compared to Bt cotton, expenditure on pesticides and sprays would be less and farmers can reuse the seeds for next sowing.
Before the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002, at least 25% of the cotton cultivation area was under indigenous varieties and the ministry has now issued directives to states like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to use only recommended native seeds for preventing pest attacks, sow the crop at the right time and keep watch on the movement of whitefly ensuring timely sprinkling of pesticides.
Kariyappa, a farmer from Turakanadoni village in Raichur taluk, has filed a private complaint with the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Raichur, against 15 Bt cotton seed companies, with regard to crop loss caused by pink-bollworm pest this year.
Three days ago, The Hindu named the companies which included arms of multinationals Bayer and Monsanto, reporting that the complainant said that Bt cotton crop was completely destroyed by pink-bollworm, contrary to the claims made by Bt cotton seed companies in pamphlets that came with the seed packets, clearly promising protection from this pest. The farmer said: “Taking advantage of illiteracy and poverty of farmers, the seed companies knowingly sold the seeds that were of no use and cheated them. The government should book criminal cases against the companies and initiate an inquiry.”
Many Indian newspapers, including the Hindu Businessline, are recording the inspiring story of young Indian entrepreneurs who have founded the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO), which cites the example of Australia, Canada, Germany and several Eastern European countries, where varieties of fibre hemp are grown and used in many products, including a textile used by fashion houses like Calvin Klein and Versace.
Have farmers looked into the possibility of diversifying – cultivating the more robust textile hemp plant, as recommended by Hemp India?