Once a poster village for BT Cotton but not anymore


This is part I of a series of blog posts I will be doing based on a 2012 report titled “CULTIVATION OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD CROPS – PROSPECTS AND EFFECTS” the published by the standing committee. Although this is based on an old report published in 2012, it is important to keep this in the context given the recent push by the government to embrace GM Mustard seeds by the government.

Maregaon has a population of 569 with 278 males and 291 females. The village has 185 people engaged in agriculture.

134 farmers own lands between 0 – 2.02 and 51 own above 2.02 hectares. Average annual rainfall varies from 910-924mm. The village has 28 wells. The total cultivable area is 418.66 hectares, out of which 37 hectares is the irrigated area.

Malegaon and other villages in Yavatmal district of Vidarbha region were part of a study conducted by a committee in March 2012. The committe visited Maregaon village in Yavatmal District on 2 March 2012. The district had witnessed the maximum number of farmer suicides totalling 1874 for in 5 years from 2006 to 2011.

Cotton is grown in 252 hectares, Soyabean in 84.2 hectares, Tur in 50.43 hectares, Jowar in 27.11 hectares, wheat in 14.60 hectares and Moong in 1.68 hectares

The farmers views on the current crisis

  • Bad policies of the government
  • In particular, the BT Cotton – Inception of BT cotton drove the input costs higher pushing the farmers further into debt
  • Falling price of cotton in international market meant farmers were not getting remunerative price for their produce
  • The villagers implored the committee to voice their request to the concerned central authorities to ban farming of BT Cotton in the country
  • The villagers were unhappy with the PM’s relief package especially in terms of milch animals since they were given exotic breeds like Jersey and Holstein who were unable to adjust to local environmental conditions and died as a result.

The committee had also visited Bhambraja village in Yavatmal district. The village was in the news in the national daily under the caption “Reaping Gold through BT Cotton”. The villagers rubbished these claims and said

  • BT Cotton was not driving farmers towards prosperity but it was driving them away from agriculture
  • The farmers have instead shifted to soyabean
  • More than 100 people including cultivators migrated from this model farming village showcasing Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech’s BT Cotton
  • The farmers did not relate the issue of suicides or the crisis only to BT Cotton. But they did puncture many myths about its miracles, costs and savings

The field study clearly highlights the reasons for the farmer suicides

  • Moving away from food crops to cash crops and thus taking on more risks
  • Higher input costs, higher expenditure, higher bank loans and money lender’s loans
  • Cash crop prices are controlled in the international markets their by denying the farmers of their remunerative prices

Source:  Standing committee report on GM crops, 2012 – http://164.100.47.134/lsscommittee/Agriculture/GM_Report.pdf

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