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India Report Shows Superiority of Organic & Sustainable Cotton Farming

GM WATCH daily

The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) in Andhra Pradesh, India,
organised a press conference last week where they released two reports.

The first, given below, shows that Bt cotton growers in 2004 incurred 690%
higher costs in pest management as compared to those growing conventional
cotton varieties with the help of bio-pesticides and natural control agents.

The other report - a compilation of the experience of the 3 years of Bt
Cotton commercial cultivation in Andhra Pradesh - is to follow.

Bt cotton is coming up for review in India in March 2005, when the GEAC of
the Ministry of Environment and Forests is going to decide on the extension
or otherwise of the 3-year conditional approval granted to the 3
Monsanto-Mahyco varieties.

Together these new reports give the lie to all the hype about Bt cotton that
is being generated on behalf of the biotech industry, and show the truth of
what Devinder Sharma said at the time Monsanto's Bt cotton was granted
approval: "It is the biggest scientific fraud to have hit Independent

The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture concludes that it is also time that
Monsanto-Mahyco be made accountable for the losses that Indian farmers have
suffered. Even though time and again government committees have ordered the
company to pay compensation to farmers, the company is still refusing to do

1.Bt cotton growers in AP feel the heat: study
2.Findings of a study done by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
1.Bt cotton growers in AP feel the heat: study
Finacial Express

NEW DELHI, FEB 22: Bt cotton growers, in 2004, incurred 690% higher cost in
pest management as compared to those growing conventional cotton varieties
with the help of bio-pesticides and natural control agents.

The Secunderabad-based centre for sustainable agriculture (CSA), which
conducted a study in major cotton-growing districts of Andhra Pradesh,
namely Warangal and Medak, said farmers could benefit in the short and long
term by restraining the use of chemical pesticides and transgenic technology
which destroys ecological balance.

The CSA study was conducted by a team consisting of entomologist SMA Ali,
extension scientists GV Ramanjaneyulu and Kavitha Kruganthi. The study
covered 121 farmers growing conventional varieties of cotton with the help
of bio-control agents in an area of 193 acre and 117 farmers growing Bt
cotton in an area of 151 acre.

In 2004, about 1,82,000 acre was covered under Bt cotton varieties namely,
mech 12 Bt, mech 162 Bt, mech 184 Bt and RCH 2 Bt in AP. About 7,000 acre
was covered under conventional cotton varieties. The conventional cotton
varieties grown were brahma, maruthi, dasera, gemini, sumo, tulasi, bhagya,
durga and kranthi.

The study said Bt cotton became adverse with high cost of seeds at around Rs
1,600 per acre. The seeds of conventional cotton varieties cost about Rs 450
per acre. Thus, there is a difference of more than 355% in the cost of

The study said in Bt cotton fields a range of low-value and expensive
pesticides were used namely, monocroptophos, confidor, tracer, avaunt,
endosulfan, acephate, demethoate, imidacloprid, quinalphos, chlorpyriphos
and cypermethrin. In the conventional cotton fields bio-pesticides like neem
seed kernel extract, trichoderma, panchakavya and natural bio-control agents
were used.

It noted farmers sprayed chemical pesticides on Bt cotton fields more than
three times on an average. In some cases it was seven times. The average
cost of spraying chemical pesticides on Bt cotton fields works out to Rs
2,632 per acre, while the cost of using bio-control agents on conventional
cotton fields works out to Rs 382 per acre. Hence, Bt cotton growers
invested 690% more toward pest management.

The study said, "Yields and net income of farmers are not yet calculated as
cotton plucking was still on at the time of data collection. This data will
be presented in the final report."
2.Findings of a study done by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture

A study was taken up by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture based on
season-end interviews with cotton growing farmers in Warangal and Medak
districts, to compare various aspects of Bt Cotton as a solution for pest
problems in cotton crop and NPM (Non Pesticidal Management) approach as a
solution. This study was done with the help of partner organisations - MARI
and CROPS in Warangal district and Navajyothi in Medak district. The
following is the summary of the findings from this study.

Sample size and location:

A total of 121 NPM farmers (cotton growers who did not use any synthetic
pesticides and grew NPM cotton on 193 acres) were compared with 117 Bt
Cotton farmers (who grew Bt Cotton on 151 acres) for the purposes of this
study. Out of the Bt Cotton farmers, 85 farmers grew MECH 12 Bt variety, 1
farmer grew MECH 184 Bt variety and 28 farmers have experienced the
performance of RCH 2 Bt cotton. 3 farmers had grown both a MECH Bt variety
and RCH bt. In the case of NPM cotton, varieties used by the farmers include
Brahma, Maruthi, Dasera, Gemini, Sumo, Tulasi, Bhagya, Durga, Kranthi etc.

Mandals surveyed for Bt Cotton farmers include Parvathagiri, Raghunathpalli
and Sangem mandals in Warangal district (farmers drawn from 9 villages) and
Thogunta mandal of Medak district (farmers drawn from 1 village). Therefore,
10 villages from 4 mandals in 2 districts.

Mandals surveyed for NPM cotton farmers include Parvathagiri, Devaruppala,
Gundala, Raiparthi and Sangem mandals in Warangal district (11 villages) and
Thogunta mandal of Medak district (farmers drawn from 1 village). Therefore,
12 villages from 6 mandals in 2 districts.

In Andhra Pradesh, 2004-05 saw around 182,000 acres planted with approved Bt
Cotton varieties (93,374 acres with MECH 12 Bt, 1015 acres with MECH 162 Bt,
6420 acres with MECH 184 acres and 81375 acres with RCH 2 Bt variety). There
were also more than 7000 acres cultivated with NPM practices without the use
of chemical pesticides in around seven districts of the state in the same

Scope of the study:

The study looked at the incidence of various pests and diseases as well as
incidence of beneficial organisms in the Bt Cotton and NPM fields in
addition to looking at the economics of pest management in Bt Cotton and NPM
cotton on an average.

This study puts to question the current pest management paradigm in which Bt
Cotton is being promoted as a safer and better alternative to conventional
cotton cultivation, which has intensive use of pesticides. Bt Cotton is
thought to be 'the' solution by the scientific establishment to the cotton
pest problems and the industry likes to promote this on such 'humanitarian'
grounds too (saving farmers from suicides, the industry said). However, Bt
Cotton should be assessed to see if it is the best solution against safest
successful approaches known right now including NPM. This study attempts
such a comparison.

The study was designed and supervised by Dr S M A Ali, Entomologist; Dr G V
Ramanjaneyulu, Extension Scientist and Ms Kavitha Kuruganti, development

Findings of the study:

The following are the findings from the study. The first set of findings is
against incidence of harmful and beneficial insects in Bt Cotton and NPM
fields. This is for bollworm complex as well as sucking pests. The next set
of findings is for wilt. This is followed by incidence of beneficial insects
in the cotton field.

Findings also include economics of pest control in Bt Cotton and NPM cotton
in the case of pesticides used and pest management expenses.

Incidence of Bollworm complex: (Bt Cotton n=117; NPM n=121)

Level of incidence Spotted Bollworm American Bollworm Tobacco Caterpillar
Pink Bollworm
Bt Cotton NPM Cotton Bt Cotton NPM Cotton Bt Cotton NPM Cotton Bt Cotton NPM
High 15 (12.8) 4 (3.3) 38 (32.5) 5 (4.1) 8 (6.8) 2 (1.7) 20
(17.1) 25 (20.7)
Medium 23 (19.7) 18 (14.9) 59 (50.4) 24 (19.8) 34 (29.1) 22 (18.2) 67
(57.3) 57 (47.1)
Low 77 (65.8) 93 (76.9) 20 (17.1) 92 (76.1) 75 (64.1) 93 (76.8) 29
(24.8) 38 (31.4)
Nil 2 (1.7) 6 (4.9) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 4 (3.3)
1 (0.8) 1 (0.8)
(Figures in parentheses indicate the percentage number of respondents)

As can be seen above, a majority of NPM farmers have reported Low incidence
of Spotted Bollworm (76.9% of them, as opposed to 65.9% of Bt growers),
American Bollworm (76.1% of NPM growers against 17% of Bt growers) and
Tobacco Caterpillar (76.8% instead of 64.1% of the Bt Cotton growers) on
their cotton crop. In the case of Bt Cotton, however, it is interesting to
note the number of respondents who have reported High incidence of American
Bollworm (32.5%), an important pest that the Bt Cotton is ostensibly
designed to control through its endotoxin mechanism. In the case of Spotted
Bollworm, 6 of the NPM farmers reported Nil incidence, as against 2 Bt
Cotton farmers.

It is only in the case of Pink Bollworm that NPM farmers reported
differently. Here, most of the respondents reported Medium incidence (47.1%
of NPM farmers), as in the case of Bt Cotton growers too (57.3% of these
farmers). However, more number of NPM farmers also reported Low incidence of
this pest too (31.4%), compared to number of Bt Cotton farmers who reported
Low incidence (24.8%).

Incidence of sucking pests:
Level of incidence Jassids Thrips Whitefly Aphids Mites
High 52 (44.5) 7 (5.8) 1 (0.8) 0 (0) 39 (33.4) 2 (1.6) 35 (29.9) 1
(0.8) 21 (17.9) 3 (2.5)
Medium 42 (35.9) 20 (16.5) 21 (17.9) 8 (6.6) 35 (29.9) 15 (12.4) 43 (36.8)
20 (16.6) 45 (38.6) 10 (8.3)
Low 22 (18.8) 94 (77.7) 92 (78.7) 107 (91.5) 41 (35.0) 90 (74.4) 39 (33.3)
95 (78.5) 50 (42.7) 101 (83.5)
Nil 1 (0.8) 0 (0) 3 (2.6) 6 (4.9) 2 (1.7) 14 (11.6) 0 (0) 5
(4.1) 1 (0.8) 7 (5.7)
(Figures in parentheses indicate the percentage number of respondents)

In the case of sucking pests too, majority of NPM farmers have reported Low
incidence while several of them have reported Nil incidence for pests like
Whitefly, Aphids and Mites. In contrast, there were many Bt Cotton farmers
who reported High incidence of Jassids, Mites and Aphids in their Bt fields.
Most of the Bt Cotton farmers reported Low incidence in the case of Thrips.

In terms of Wilt, only about 17 of the Bt Cotton farmers said that their
crop did not suffer any wilt during the season (14.5%). In comparison,
around 50 NPM farmers said that they had not experienced any wilt problems
with their crop (41.3%). The degree of wilt on the crop ranged from 30% to
70% in the case of Bt. while it was reported to be around 10-15% in the case
of NPM approach to cotton.

Incidence of Beneficial Insects:

An important aspect of the current study is the incidence of beneficial
insects in Bt cotton fields and NPM fields. Farmers surveyed were asked to
report the level of incidence of a variety of beneficial insects. The
findings reiterate a fear expressed by many environmentalists on the effect
of Bt Cotton and its endotoxin on beneficial insects.

Level of Incidence reported of beneficial insects Bt Cotton fields NPM
High 0 (0) 85 (70.2)
Medium 7 (5.9) 26 (21.5)
Low 97 (82.9) 8 (6.6)
Nil 13 (11.2) 2 (1.7)

The main mechanism by which NPM farmers control pests in their fields is
through predators or beneficial insects. As the above table shows, there is
a High incidence of such insects reported in NPM fields (70.2% of the NPM
farmers reported High incidence). The contrast with Bt Cotton fields and the
reported incidence of beneficial insects there is telling (only 0%). Not a
single farmer reported High incidence of beneficial insects. In contrast,
about 13 of the Bt Cotton farmers (11.2% of farmers) actually reported Nil
incidence of beneficial organisms on their crops.

Economics of Pest Control:

As is obvious, the economics of Bt Cotton start becoming adverse with the
cost of the seed itself ­ while the NPM farmers used seed worth around Rs.
450/- per acre of land, Bt Cotton farmers used seed that costs Rs. 1600/-
per acre. This is a difference of 355% more in the case of Bt cotton.

Let us look at the findings with regard to Pest Management Costs in Bt
Cotton and NPM fields, as reported through the current survey. In the case
of Bt Cotton, pesticides like Monocrotophos, Confidor, Tracer, Avaunt,
Endosulfan, acephate, demethoate, imidacloprid, quinalphos, chlorpyriphos,
cypermethrin etc., have been used by the farmers. This includes low-value as
well as expensive pesticides.

The average number of sprays used on Bt Cotton crop per acre is 3.5 times.
While two farmers reported that they did not spray any pesticides at all on
their Bt Cotton crop, in the other fields, the number of sprays ranged from
2 to 7 sprays. In the case of NPM farmers, there are no synthetic pesticides
used. Material like Neem Seed Kernel extract, trichoderma, panchakavya etc.
have been used here. The difference in costs is reflected in the following

Cost of Pest Management in Rupees, per Acre
Bt Cotton Rs. 2632/-
NPM Cotton Rs. 382/-

This is a difference of Rs. 2250/- per acre between Bt Cotton and NPM cotton
fields. This is a 690% higher cost in Bt Cotton than in NPM cotton. This is
the edge that NPM cotton has over Bt Cotton. Yields and Net incomes were not
calculated in the study since cotton picking was still going on at the time
of data collection. This data would be presented in the final report.

The above study clearly proves that restoring the natural ecological balance
in the cotton fields by removing both synthetic chemicals and endotoxins
(through GE) from the scene is an important step towards farmers benefiting
in the short and long term.

Based on the above data and earlier fact finding visits made by Centre for
Sustainable Agriculture, the organisation demands that:

- The government admits that Bt Cotton is not the best or safest technology
available to solve the pest problem on cotton in the state

- the government admits that Bt Cotton has been a failure given its
extremely uneven performance in all the three years of its approved
commercial cultivation and that the AP government presents the same picture
to GEAC which would review the first approval in the month of March 2005

- that the government cancels the approval of Bt Cotton commercial
cultivation in Andhra Pradesh

- that the government makes arrangements to pay compensation to all farmers
who have incurred losses in the past three years with Bt Cotton cultivation
by taking up a comprehensive survey as well as by taking independent studies
on board

- that the government fixes liability on the company for the failure and all
negative impacts seen so far

For more information, contact:

1. Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu at 9391359702 or

2. Annexure : NPM Approach to Crop Cultivation

Non-Pesticidal Management of crops believes in removing synthetic chemicals
from agriculture. For this, a complete recasting of the current pest
management paradigm is needed, which at present incorporates a lot of myths
and false notions.

First, the myths in current pest management paradigm:

- "Pests can be controlled only by killing them²: this is the gravest
mistake that the current pest management paradigm makes ­ it believes that
pests can be controlled only by killing them. The pesticides and pesticide
incorporated plants (for eg. Bt cotton) are based on this wrong premise.
They all act only on larval stage when the damage already starts happening.
A pest outbreak is waited for, after which powerful pesticides are brought
in. This is only a 'curative' attempt rather than a 'preventive success'.

- "All insects in the field are pests": there is an indiscriminate outlook
towards the various insects that are present in an agricultural field and
around it. Even though the modern science is talking about the natural
enemies the pesticides they produce and promote kills all the insects
indiscriminately. This obviously destroys the natural predators of the pests
also. When the ecological balance is thus destroyed, the pesticide-resistant
pests take over.

- "No relationship exists between mono-culture and pest incidence": the
current pest management paradigm either does not appreciate or chooses to
ignore the relationship between monocultures and pest incidence. It is
well-established that such mono-cropping over large contiguous areas,
reduced genetic base with mono-culturing germplasm results in an
unobstructed proliferation of the pest. Now with the Pesticide incorporated
plants have made these monocultures to gene level, trying to put 'Cry genes'
against all pests across crops.

- "Chemical fertilisers and pest incidence are not related": though it is
scientifically known that a plant's vulnerability to pest incidence is
higher with the use of chemical fertilisers (due to increased 'succulence'
in the plant), the connection is not made in real life. Pests are sought to
be dealt with in isolation to the land fertility management issues. This is
a classic example of the reductionist views that modern science can take

- "Pest resistance is a genotypic issue rather than an environmental one":
there is much research going on to develop varieties of plants that are
pest-resistant by playing around with the genes. The game plan is obvious
here ­ genes will go hand and in hand with intellectual property rights,
which in turn ensure secure markets and profits for the industry. Pest
resistance therefore is made a genotypic issue rather than one that involves
broad ecological management in the farm. That is where Genetic Engineering
in agriculture also finds its space. In this narrow perspective, what is not
understood is that the problem only gets accentuated especially in
pest-resistant GE crops when other environmental factors related to the
pest¹s life cycle etc., are not managed.

- "Resistance management is about using newer and newer generation
pesticides" [as per the industry], and "about using more pesticides,
including mixtures of upto five pesticides" [as per the farmers]: The way to
get around the problem of resistance is usually seen in inventing newer and
newer molecules by the industry. In a patent regime, such newly developed
pesticides mean more profits through secure markets. First came the OCs
[organochlorines], followed by the OPs [organophosphates] and Carbamates,
followed by the much-touted Synthetic Pyrethroids. Each generation¹s
problems were sought to be solved by the next generation, only to end up by
creating more problems. The cost went on increasing for the farmers. A 100
ml. pesticide of the newest generation can cost upto Rs 1000/ per container.
The industry continues to grow at 4-5% per annum. However, the older
molecules which were found to be problem-causing or ineffective were not
removed from the scene. For some farmers, the way out is to mix four to five
different pesticides and spraying them together ­ no one knows the
ecological and health disaster that such desperate measures might be

- "Prevention of pest/disease incidence is about spraying pesticides even
when the pest is not present": Farmers in many parts of the country have
made pesticide spraying a part of their daily routine ­ they take a tanker
on their back to go and spray pesticides in their fieldsS. "just in case".
Pesticide use is no longer related to a pest and its manifestation in the
field. Prevention is understood as spraying regularly, as per a schedule
drawn up by the farmer or his industry-advisor irrespective of whether such
treatment is needed or not

- "The benefits from the use of synthetic pesticides outweigh the risks":
Finally, it is genuinely believed by many in the scientific establishment
and the industry that the benefits from the use of synthetic pesticides
outweigh the risks and problems associated with it. However, this is simply
not true. It might appear to have an advantageous cost-benefit ratio given
their simplistic and reductionistic economic calculations. In fact, the
suicides in the cotton belts of the country prove that even the economics
has turned adverse with pesticides. However, complete calculations of the
entire social, economic and ecological disaster that pesticides have
created, especially in the face of safer alternatives, instructs us that the
risks and hazards far outweigh any probable benefits.

The message is clear - 'Nature makes insects, humankind makes pests'.

The approach that needs to be taken towards pest management, to ensure
economic, ecological and social benefits to farmers is completely different
from the above, of course.

Such an alternative non-pesticidal approach recognises the importance of the

* that natural insect balances in a farm are important to control what we
consider as "pests". For this to happen, the fields cannot be in a
toxic-contaminated state
* that pest life cycles have to be understood and pest management has to
begin right from the beginning ­ before the eggs are laid. Several steps
along the way at each stage are needed. This understanding includes close
pest surveillance and decisions based on the incidence· that crop diversity
plays an important role in pest management; in that sense, seeds play an
important role and therefore, control over seeds by the farm communities.
Trap crops and repellent crops have a role to play too
* that local and naturally-occurring materials can be used for pest control;
this will also have its own political-economy dimensions which are of
benefit to the farmers
* that since many of the pests are polyphagous, these pest management
principles have to be applied across different crops and at a particular
scale, for maximum benefits
* that soil nutrient management in organic ways plays a crucial role in the
plant¹s ability to withstand pest and disease incidence
* that a new paradigm of pest management can not only benefit the farmers
economically and ecologically but can also address certain developmental and
social issues including gender
* that such pest management need not result in decreased yields, as it is
usually made out to be
* that such pest management principles and practices are pretty often drawn
from farmers' experiential knowledge

This GMO news service is underwritten by a generous grant from the Newman's
Own Foundation, edited by Thomas Wittman and is a production of the
Ecological Farming Association <>