Letters

The business of Bt

Coming from a representative of the seed industry, “A case of wholehearted biotechnology adoption” (Jan. 28) is essentially a defence of an industry that has been the main beneficiary of India’s move to adopt Bt cotton. Its contention is that Bt cotton has benefited cotton farmers, and has gained their wholehearted acceptance. Although written as a refutation of an earlier piece (“The flawed spin to India’s cotton story,” Jan. 23), the article does not address the main question raised by the original article: Why has India been growing cotton as hybrids for so long when other major cotton-producing countries obtained better productivity using selected strains — the ‘compact’ varieties? As data show, the lower productivity of hybrids compared to compact varieties holds for GM cotton too.

Uzramma,

Hyderabad

The fact is that private industry in India doesn’t give farmers much choice other than Bt hybrids, and the public sector pureline varietal development has not been pursued vigorously enough to reach the farmers, especially after the advent of genetic modification. Therefore, to say that the farmers love Bt hybrids is half-truth at best (“A case of wholehearted biotechnology adoption” Jan. 28). In any case, the writer doesn’t answer the question on why India did not pursue the development of compact pureline varieties that succeeded in many countries, as the experience with other crops does not necessarily apply to cotton. I documented many other issues surrounding Bt cotton very early (in 2002). I also recently witnessed a similar situation with perennial rice developed in Yunnan University, China, using African ratooning rice that saved farmers a lot of time, labour and money apart from avoiding stubble management/burning. India doesn’t have any research programme to even use its own indigenous ratooning rice germplasm. These are important policy questions of omission and commission that should be discussed openly in public interest.

N. Raghuram,

New Delhi

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 12:40:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/the-business-of-bt/article30696795.ece

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