Test efficacy of Bt cotton: Parliament committee to Centre

The committee noted that the incidence of white fly, mirid bugs and other such pests in Bt cotton crop has led to increased use of chemical insecticides.

Published: 28th August 2017 08:26 PM  |   Last Updated: 28th August 2017 08:26 PM   |  A+A-

A farmer harvests cotton in his field at Rangpurda village in Gujarat, India, October 20, 2015. | Reuters

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Raising doubts about government claims that production of cotton has increased post commercialisation of Bt cotton, a parliamentary panel has asked the union ministry of environment and forest to undertake a comprehensive study to bring out clarity in the matter.

The parliamentary standing committee on science & technology and environment and forests in its report observed that India’s cotton yields increased by 69 percent in the 5 years (2000-2005) when Bt cotton was less than 6 percent of total cotton area, but by only 10 percent in the ten years from 2005 to 2015 when Bt cotton grew to 94 percent of total cotton area. Bt cotton was introduced in India in 2002.

“The Committee is of the considered view that this duality of the claims about the increase in the yield of cotton after its commercialisation in the country needs further examination and clarification. The environment ministry should undertake a comprehensive study to bring out clarity in the matter,” said the committee headed by Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury. 

The Committee was of the view that the relevant data furnished by the government agencies for its consideration speaks volume about the success of Bt cotton in the country but on the contrary, the members of the civil society informed it that the production of cotton in the country has increased largely due to an increase in area under cotton, significant increase in irrigation and fertile groundnut areas shifting to cotton.

“The Committee, therefore, feels that the Government agencies have made attempts to portray a rosy picture with regard to the success of Bt Cotton in the country which actually is not the case,” said the report.

The Committee also noted that the data provided by the government agencies speak only about the production and not the average yield in area which the Committee believes would be the true assessment of the potential of GM technology to find out as to what has been the increase in yield of cotton since the introduction of Bt cotton in the country.

Expressing concern that dependence on pesticides has increased following cultivation of Bt cotton, the committee noted that the incidence of white fly, mirid bugs and other such pests in Bt cotton crop has led to increased use of chemical insecticides with the result that at the end of 15 years of Bt cotton cultivation and expansion to nearly 95% of the cotton cultivation area, India’s pesticide use on cotton has only increased and not decreased.

“Such usage of pesticides will have their own environmental impacts in terms of contamination of resources and impact on unintended organisms. The Committee, therefore, recommends that the Ministry should make a scientific study to examine the impact of pesticides on the environment in general and ecology in particular of the areas under cultivation of Bt cotton and submit the findings of the study for the consideration of the Committee,” the report further added.

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