Decrease in the yield from genetically modified Bt. Cotton and increase in the cost of fertilizers have driven many farmers in the region to distress, Sunny D'Souza, a farmer and member of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, has said.

He was speaking at a function here on Friday to release a book, “BT Cotton and Beyond”, which contains deliberations of the Afro-Asian Conclave on “Status and implications of genetically engineered crops and post-GE technologies for small farmers in Africa and Asia” held in Hyderabad in January.

The function was organised by the Centre for Sustainable Development, Social Change Management Forum, and the School of Social Work, Roshni Nilaya. Mr. D'Souza said getting yield from Bt. Cotton had been found to be cost-intensive as the crop was consuming more fertilizers that were expensive. “This is unlike the claims made in 2000 that the crop would be free from pesticide.” He said the yield from Bt. Cotton crop had come down drastically.

“A farmer now gets about 400 kg of cotton from one hectare (2.5 acres). We were getting better yield from local varieties such as Devdhar, which was giving good yield even with only one rain,” he said.

Mr. D'Souza said Bt. Cotton seeds had also become expensive.

Mr. D'Souza said these were the factors that led to suicide of 1.7 lakh cotton farmers in Vidharba and other regions of the country. “So far we have got technologies that help us. It's unfortunate that we are being advised by experts, who do not plough the land and are unaware of the ground situation,” he said.

Rita Noronha from the School of Social Work, Roshni Nilaya, said genetically modified varieties such as Bt. Cotton harmed small farmers. The use of these genetically modified crops would lead to corporatisation of agriculture with companies establishing their hold over seed production and water resources. There should be greater awareness about genetically modified crops. Farmers should be provided technologies that helped in improving their quality of life.

Principal of the School of Social Work Sophia Fernandes spoke.

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