Bt cotton area reaches 90% share in India seven years

The adoption of genetically modified BT Cotton, from Monsanto, has reached 90% of the total cultivated area, the Government said today.

It has, meanwhile, slightly revised the cotton production for the just concluded financial year (2010-11) downwards from 33.5 million tonnes to 33.43 million tonnes.

The 90% achievement for Monsanto’s Bt Cotton in India has come just seven years after it was introduced on a commercial scale in 2003. In 2003-04, it accounted for just 1.3% of all the cotton sown areas of India, which rose to 65% by 2007-08.

The use of Bt Cotton has reduced the use of insecticides in Indian cotton industry to a small fraction of what it was before its introduction. Cotton industry used to account for more than 50% of India’s total pesticide consumption.

Bt Cotton is the only major genetically modified agricultural crop produced in India. A recent move to allow Bt Brinjal had led to an outcry.

Bt Cotton, developed by the Monsanto Corporation of the US in 1986, is named after the Bt baceria which has pesticide properties. Instead of extracting Bt from the bacteria and spraying it over crops, Monsanto’s cotton manufacturers Bt’s pesticide toxin by itself, thanks to the presence of genes originally extracted from the Bacterium.

Other Bt crops include Bt Maize and Bt Potato.

Genetically modified crops — in which the genes are changed, often by injecting those of another organism — are a controversial lot as many consider the risk of ‘genetic pollution’ too great, especially when the genes don’t work as intended or have side-effects.