India: Global Impact of Biotech Crops: Economic and Environmental Effects, 1996-2018

Alliance for Agri Innovation and Federation of Seed Industry of India co-organized the webinar for India.

Brookes reported that insect resistant (IR) cotton has impacted the lives of Indian farmers since it was introduced in 2002. In 2018, 95% of Indian farmers were using Bt cotton technology. PG Economics data show that its yield impact is +29% and the average farm income gain amounts to US$ 193.56 per hectare. In terms of return on investment, a farmer earns an extra US$ 12.95 for every US$ 1.00 spent on IR cotton seed.

The reported socio-economic impact of GM crops was supported by the success story of V. Ravichandran, an influential farmer in India and Director of the Global Farmer Network. Prior to planting Bt cotton, Ravichandran encountered the same problems that other cotton farmers had which led to a cycle that drained his resources. During a meeting organized by the South Indian Cotton Association in 2004, one of the experts suggested to him to plant one acre of Bt cotton and another acre with non-Bt hybrid cotton and compare the results. "I trust science always," he said. He followed the suggestion and added OPV for comparison. He found that Bt cotton planting was the cheapest and most profitable option. Ravichandran continues to enjoy the benefits of GM technology until today.

Dr. C.D. Mayee, President of the South Asia Biotechnology Center, talked about the impact of Bt cotton in India. He stressed that the Bt technology helped revive the cotton industry in India because of the yield advantage with reduced cost. Dr. K.C. Bansal of the Indian Agriculture Research Institute explained the biosafety aspect of biotech crops for Indian Agriculture. He highlighted the importance of employing a science-led approach that can provide a secure, economically and environmentally sound, and sustainable global food system. The webinar was moderated by Ram Kaundinya of the Federation of Seed Industry of India.