New crop technology:

Brings joy to Bathinda farmers

BHATINDA: The fields look like they’re covered in snow. Except they’re not. In Bhatinda, genetically modified cotton is king and farmers are reaping the benefits of a good crop. But all was not well till a few years ago. In fact, as recently as 2002, the crop was on a decline in the state of Punjab.
Back in 2002, Gagrana village’s Mewa Singh was on the verge of commiting suicide. A Rs 7.5 lakh debt and declining yield left him with no other option. ”It became impossible to survive,” he says. But that was then. Today Mewa Singh is a happy man. He cultivates Bt cotton on his five-acre plot and as a result of higher yields and earnings he has paid back his debt and has purchased a new tractor, motorcycle, and has sent his son to study in Punjab University.

Gurtej Singh Siddhu, also from Gagrana, proudly shows off his newly built pucca home, Siddhu House. “I have spent Rs 20 lakh on this house,” says Siddhu, pleased with his decision of using Bollgard Bt cotton seeds. “Life has changed. My father was facing crop failure every year because cotton from the older seeds was afflicted by an insect known as spodoptera, making it useless,” he adds. Siddhu’s produce has increased to 12-14 quintal per acre, compared to only six quintal per acre with conventional seeds. “My income has risen by Rs 32,400 per acre, enabling my family to lead a better life,” he explains.
The shining faces of farmers in Bhatinda are all thanks the new biotech technology that has renewed their cotton crop, locally called ‘narma’.

Mahyco Monsanto Biotech was the firm that brought the Bollgard technology to India in 2002. MMB has sub-licensed the Bollgard II and Bollgard technologies to 23 seed companies, each of whom has introduced the Bollgard technology into their own germplasms.

Bollgard cotton provides in-built protection for cotton against destructive American Bollworm Heliothis Armigera (locally called American gundi) infestations, and contains an insecticidal protein from a naturally occurring soil micro organism, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

Amidst the many challenges in agriculture, India’s Bollgard Bt cotton success story stands out as one of hope and pride. From a net importer of cotton with production at 158 lakh bales in 2001, India is now the world’s second largest producer and exporter of cotton, with production at 315 lakh bales.
Bollgard Bt cotton is India’s first biotech crop technology approved for commercialization in 2002. This was followed by Bollgard II in mid-2006, by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the Indian regulatory body for biotech crops. Approximately 4 million farmers cultivated Bollgard Bt cotton seeds on 76% of the total 225 lakh cotton acres in 2008, up from 72,000 acres in 2002.