Cotton has been genetically modified for resistance to glyphosate (marketed as Roundup in North America) a broad-spectrum herbicide sold by Monsanto which also sells some of the Bt cotton seeds to farmers. There are also a number of other cotton seed companies selling GE cotton around the world. About 62% of the GM cotton grown from 1996 to 2011 was insect resistant, 24% stacked product and 14% herbicide resistant.
Cotton has gossypol, a toxin that makes it inedible. However, scientists have silenced the gene that produces the toxin, making it a potential food crop.
Starting a decade ago, 90% of the country’s cotton growers have adopted the GM cotton.
On January 9 an internal advisory, a copy of which is held by the Hindustan Times, was sent out to cotton growing states by the Minister of Agriculture.
The note presents a grim scenario: “Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.”
It seems that the success of the Bt cotton lasted only 5 years. Since then, cotton yields have been gradually falling and pest attacks increasing. The GM crop was genetically altered to kill cotton-eating pests. However, for farmers, the rising costs in the form of necessary pesticides have not matched the returns received. This has pushed many farmers to the edge financially and otherwise. In other words the genetically modified crop is no more profitable than it used to be.
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