Ryots prove Bt cotton has better alternatives

Ever since the much-hyped Bt cotton started virtually invading agricultural fields in the late 90s, a vast majority of farmers have almost given up growing indigenous varieties of the ‘white gold’. Their belief that the local species are inferior to those imported from abroad paved the way for Bt cotton to become completely dominant.

Amidst this seemingly unending monopolistic reign of Bt cotton, nearly 130 farmers owing allegiance to the District Cotton Growers’ Mutually Aided Cooperative Society and Rythu Rakshana Vedika (RRV) have proved that there are ample number of indigenous varieties which are equally high-yielding and remunerative.

These farmers took up cultivation of four to five local varieties, which were products of ‘public funded research’ done by institutions like the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University and achieved satisfactory results in terms of yield and quality.

What the cooperative society and RRV did was to motivate a group of farmers in each one of the 26 mandals where cotton was grown to experiment with the local varieties, which proved that the indigenous varieties were not so bad as to be completely discarded when compared with the hybrid (Bt) varieties.

They have since committed themselves to grow local species to maximum extent.

N. Venugopala Rao, retired professor of ANGRAU, who was instrumental in bringing over 200 farmers together to form the RRV, told The Hindu that the main reasons for success of Bt cotton were the policy framework that helped some well-known multi-national companies in gaining monopoly and the extensive publicity that made farmers believe that growing the native varieties was a waste of time and resources.

“The biggest danger of completely growing Bt cotton lies in the high possibility of losing our genetic resources to MNCs which already have a tremendous grip over the market.” The crux of the problem is the farmers’ ignorance about the need to grow at least 20 per cent non-Bt crop in a given area.

Though it’s an uphill task, the RRV has decided to grow indigenous varieties in about 5,000 acres next year.