Agri-biotechnology Agriculture Policy Briefing

GM Crops Have a Beneficial “Halo” Effect on Non-GM Crops, Says Study

Genetically-modified (GM) crops are vilified but they are not only safe but also have a beneficial “halo” effect on non-GM crops around them, says a report posted on the website of the US Public Broadcasting Service,

GM crops like Bt cotton and Bt corn are naturally immune to scourges like the American bollworm and the corn borer respectively. So they do not need pesticides to control the pests. Since the pests are killed during the growth phase itself, the overall pest load on the crops is reduced. So farmers need to spray fewer pesticides even on non-GM crops, says the study. New Jersey’s non-GM green beans and pepper crops, for example, required 85 percent less pesticides after GMOs were introduced.

In an interview in 2015, the tiger conservationist Ullas Karanth told this website that GM crop technology is a tool to save natural biodiversity. The study referred to above confirms his observations.  Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) also reported increased honeybee activity in Bt cotton fields.

(GM crops are good for natural biodiversity. This photo of a flower at a greenhouse in Ghaziabad near Delhi is for representational purposes only. Photo by Vivian Fernandes).

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I Do Not Understand Bt Cotton technology; I Know It Works

Y Kallanagouda Patil, 46, of Uppinbetegeri village in Dharwad taluk  owns 52 acres jointly with his three brothers. He holds a diploma in agriculture from a school in Raichur. Patil grows cotton on ten acres, apart from sugarcane, potato, Bengal gram, jowar, tur,moong and vegetables. He uses groundwater to irrigate his fields. The water is drawn from a depth of 280 feet. Electricity is free so he flood irrigates the fields, except the one under banana  where he uses drip irrigation. He does not micro-irrigate cotton because it is closely planted and has to make way for another crop after eight months. This farmer has his cost all worked out. Making quick mental calculations, he estimates the cost of cotton crop at Rs 22,500 an acre and the realization from 17 quintals an acre at Rs 68,000. He had planted Bayer seed. ‘I do not understand technology, he says, all I know is if I use Bt seed there will be no

Pests Snack on Chilly But Not Cotton

F Basavaraj Rudagi, 48, did not grow cotton before 2008. This farmer from Saundhi village in Dharwad district’s Kundogol taluk made a partial switch to Bt cotton as chilly was susceptible to pest attack and yield was declining. From five acres in 2009, Rudagi had fifteen of a forty acre joint farm under cotton this year, when smartindianagriculture  caught up with him in February. He tried out Bayer in a change from Mahyco and Raasi seed. Rudagi says he got 11.5 quintals (100 kg) an acre from his rain-fed crop and at Rs 4,050 a quintal, his realization was a little over Rs 46,000. The cost, he says, is Rs 26,000 an acre, excluding rental earnings had he leased out the land. This does not mesh with the profit he claims he makes, but then he admits to not keeping crop-wise accounts. Rudagi also grows peanuts, coriander, gram, safflower and jowar. There is safety in diversity. And yes he plants pigeon pea or tur around the cotton crop for bollworms to feed on so they are not forced by the survival instinct to develop resistance to Bt protein.  In this sense he is quite a cut apart. Low cotton prices are worrying but what is the alternative?