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The success of Bt cotton in India

Your article (see GM in India: The Battle Over Bt cotton) presents an unbalanced view on Bt cotton in India. We would like to highlight the following facts.

1. With regard to insect resistance, a 2005 press release issued by the Indian government described how the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) had conducted a study on American bollworm resistance to Bt-cotton (Bollgard™ technology). The resistance of this pest depends on the area planted with Bt cotton and usage of proper insect resistant strategies. With the implementation of proper strategies as suggested by CICR, it is possible to delay resistance by at least 30-40 years, if not more.

2. Dr Keshav Raj Kranthi, a senior scientist at the department of biotechnology in CICR whose study has been quoted in your article has said that Bt technology is a good pest management tool that has helped farmers. In a press report, he clearly says: "It's unfortunate that our results are being cited to wage a war against genetically modified products. This technology is important for the future, but it needs to be refined."

3. A recent study commissioned by the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad has reported that the net profit per hectare to farmers from Bt cotton cultivation has more than doubled. Another key finding was that spraying against the bollworm was reduced in fields planted with Bt cotton by an average of four to five sprays, which translates into a saving of Rs 1137 (about US$25) per acre.

4. Based on 2005 data by the Indian Market Research Bureau , farmers who have planted Bollgard™ cotton in 2006 are likely to earn an additional Rs 7026.5 crores (US$1.5 billion) in income, based on the planting of 8.6 million acres achieved during this crop season. The rural income is expected to increase by 36 per cent over the total generated in 2005.

5. Since its introduction in 2002, Bollgard™ technology has been rapidly adopted by cotton farmers across India's nine cotton-growing states. The year 2006 witnessed a phenomenal increase in Bollgard™ acreage in these states, with more than 2 million farmers. This increase in acreage and number of farmers adopting Bollgard™ is a testament to the continuing success and acceptance of the technology in India since it was introduced in 2002.