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Bt cotton growers in AP feel the heat: study

by Ashok Sharma, Financial Express

NEW DELHI: 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 seeds.

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.”

©heal toxics, 2003
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