A Greenpeace report released today said the monetary benefits of organic cotton farming are much greater than using the Genetically Engineered variety that makes farmers more vulnerable to financial collapse due to high debts and increased costs of cultivation.
The report, “Picking Cotton: The choice between organic and genetically-engineered cotton for farmers in South India“, shows that in the 2009-10 season, farmers cultivating cotton through organic practices earned 200% more net income than farmers who grew Genetically Engineered cotton [Bt cotton].
The Greenpeace report is a comparative analysis of two methods of agriculture among cotton farmers in Andhra Pradesh. It not only shows the economic benefit of ecological farming (in this case organic) but also that Genetically Engineered (GE) cotton, despite using many toxic pesticides, still has greater crop loss to pests.
“Our study illustrates how farmers growing GE cotton face high debts and high costs of cultivation, becoming more vulnerable to financial collapses”, said Dr Reyes Tirado, Scientist, Greenpeace International, who authored the report.
Bt cotton1 farmers not only use 26 different pesticides, including pesticides targeting pests that the GE cotton is supposed to control, but also lose financially due to their higher input costs.
In the region of Andhra Pradesh the cost of cultivation is much higher for Bt cotton farmers. The Bt cotton farmers incurred 65% higher debt –accumulated during 2008/09 and 2009/10– than the non-Bt organic cotton farmers.
The farmer distress in the state had lead to the central government announcing a 5 year relief package for farmers amounting to 20,000 crores in the year 2008.
“It is preposterous that on the one hand government dolls out thousands of crores in the name of bringing relief to farmers while on the other they permit and promote Bt cotton cultivation and ensure that the farmer can never escape the debt treadmill.” said Dr G.V Ramanjaneyalu, Executive Director of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture who was present at the report release.
The controversies around Bt cotton have finally forced the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the agency responsible for the commercial release of GE crops in the country, to do a review of its performance since 2002, the year it was released.
“Bt cotton has only benefitted the multinational seed giants like Monsanto who has earned 1580 crore Rupees as royalty from its patented Bt cotton seed since its release”  said Rajesh Krishnan, sustainable agriculture campaigner with Greenpeace India. He concluded that “Cotton farming that uses ecological practices and avoids genetically engineered seeds and agrochemicals is the most beneficial for Indian farmers”,
Greenpeace is demanding that the Indian government bans Bt cotton cultivation, takes an active role in supplying sufficient quantity and quality of non-Bt seeds and supports organic and ecological cotton farming.
Dr Reyes Tirado, Scientist, Greenpeace International,
Mob: 0 97316 43053, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rajesh Krishnan, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India
Mob: 0 98456 50032, email: email@example.com
Syed Mehaboob, Media Officer, Greenpeace India, syed.mehaboob@greenpeace, +91 9731301983
Dr G.V Ramanjaneyalu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Mob; 0 9006 99702, email: Your browser may not support display of this image. firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Battle royal over Bt cotton royalty, 28/05/2010, Latha Jishnu, business rediff, http://business.rediff.com/report/2010/may/28/battle-royal-over-bt-cotton-royalty.htm; last checked on 13/6/2010.
2. The report is available at