Rubhash Jakhar, a farmer from Abhor in Punjab, has Internet connectivity at home, his son uses a laptop and his other children go to private schools. All this, he said, has happened after he switched from conventional cotton seeds to Bt cotton, or genetically modified cotton.
“While the conventional seed gave me an yield of five-eight quintal per acre, Bt cotton is giving me 12-15 quintal of cotton per acre. This also helped me get a 55% higher revenue per quintal,” said Jhakar, who has a 50 acre land in Punjab. He switched to Bt cotton in 2003 and since then his family has seen an improvement in its socio-economic status.
Jakhar’s example was trotted out to release a new report, Bt Cotton Farming in India 2007, from industry lobby Assocham. The report is a joint effort based on two independent studies, by Indicus Analytics, an economic research firm, and market research firm, IMRB International.
The report said cotton farmers earned an additional income of Rs7,000 crore in 2006 and a 50% increase in yield due to use of Bt cotton seed.
The Indicus report, which is based on surveying 9,300 households in 465 villages, talks mostly about upliftment of socio-economic conditions of farmers and its impact particularly on women and children. “We have seen high incidence of falling infant mortality rate, improvement in antenatal and post-natal health of women, and better infrastructure with the farmer, such as borewells and generators. All this is due to higher revenues earned by diversifying into Bt cotton,” said Lavesh Bhandari of Indicus.
The IMRB report is based on interviews with 5,980 farmers. “Farmers who grew Bt cotton in 2006 made a gross revenue benefit of 162% over the conventional crop. At the same time these farmers could reduce their spending on pesticides by 32%,” claimed Nikhil Rawal, executive director, IMRB International.
While the use of Bt cotton has fetched farmers Rs12,541 per acre, conventional cotton yielded only Rs4,484 per acre, the study says. About 3.8 million hectares are under Bt cotton cultivation in nine states.