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When all trees have been cut down, when all animals have been hunted, when all waters are polluted, when all air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money. - Cree Prophecy

Friday, February 18, 2011

BT cotton Trail II

We had 5 main questions that comes to ones mind here.
Lets see each of that.
Since this BT is comparatively new in Karnataka, a first hand report should help. So this trail.
Before these investigations, one feature that made the whole trip attractive was the presence of an old traditional cotton variety called Jayadhar! This rain fed variety doesn’t need any irrigation (grows well with what ever rain is received) nor any fertilizer or pesticide. This is a proven and stabilized one in this area for ages.But with the BT coming in and the coprorate lies and lures, its on the wane. The total acreage of this Jayadhar variety has been really dwindling. Hence this trip to the prominent jayadhar belt of Harihar, Ranebennur, Dharwad.
Farmers that we met across in various villages like Savanur, Gubndura, gudigere, Samwsi, etc had heard of Jayadhar. Each of these villages still have Jayadhar planted. But the area is less. Most of them blamed the lack of labour and unseasonal rains as the main issue for moving away from Jayadhar. This variety is totally weather dependant crop meaning the yield is as good as the weather.
Rain during harvest or just after flowering screws it up. The labour comes in 2 areas- weeding and also in harvesting. The bolls of the cotton facing down in this case is tuff to harvest manually which is being weighed heavily against it. Esp with labor being rare and the cost high.

On cattle: There have been many reports from AP and other states about the various ill-effects on cattle due to BT. The AP animal husbandry ministry even had a public warning issued long back. All farmers that we met across all villages said that they wouldn’t feed BT cotton to their cattle. (n)ever! The cattle apparently developed sickness, swollen legs and becoming immobile being more common. Diarrhea being other common disease.
They also unanimously said that the animals did show clear preference for Jayadhar cotton seed oil cake. What was very striking was that many farmers who were compelled to move to BT (easy loans, tall claims of yield etc being main reasons) still grow Jayadhar in smaller areas just for the sake of their cattle. When we posed questions of if BT causes so much problem to your cattle cant you imagine what the BT cotton seed oil would be doing to us, they didn’t have any answer. The simple fact that it was not obvious (mostly BT oil comes as adulteration and hence is also a question of awareness!) lead to brushing it off.
Milk was perceived as immediate food being affected than oil!

Edible oil?? That leads us to the infamous question of how come this enters our food cycle apart from Dairy. For many years cotton seed oil has been used to be mixed in the blended oils. It’s a way of an accepted adulteration. The very fact that some of the oils like ground nut oil or packaged refined oils are cheaper than the procurement prices of the raw material should have raised doubts. But do consumers think or ask??
Also the fact that due to some skewed food & adulteration law that any branded oil can be called that particular oil, if it has 60% of the main ingredient, allows for such high adulteration tolerance.
Now that we have reasons to adulterate why think if its BT or Jayadhar?
So whose problem is it? Think..and act..
(clue: These days organic produce are not only source for chemical and pesticide free food but also adulteration free food.)

Traditional varieties? Needless to say that traditional varieties will be lost soon. There are many reasons. 90-95% of the cotton seeds available in the market today is sadly BT only. This not only due to the aggressive marketing.but also because the parental seeds have been corrupted. Such contaminations of parental lines means there can be no certification for non-BT cotton today. More problems, eh?
So if ever the Govt wakes up or the society at large wakes up, there shall be no reversibility possible.
In most states like AP,Orissa, Gujarat one can hardly get to see the traditional varieties. In this belt in Karnataka, when we enquired (farmers association and the agri department reps) we got pathetic numbers. In savanur taluk for eg, it is 600 hectares Jayadhar to 12000 hectares of BT! In Samwsi village jayadhar was 20%


Yield? That’s a big fallacy. Lotsa factors come in to play and we as a society have been letting the already sulking farmers to do the math. Firstly the Jayadhar variety is rainfed. So u save on irrigation. Seed is your own! Compare the seed cost of Rs 26 per Kg to Rs 1650/kg of BT (Rs 750/- for 450 gms). The BT2 that has come now is double. BT needs fertilizer, irrigation and 3 sprays of pesticides as per data we collected from various villages.
So where is the comparision?
But on the face of it, if u question a farmer he does say the yield is double. Many farmers who have now cultivated BT 3 times or more now say the yield keeps reducing every year. But still they claim the yield is more. Ok, even if you were to just take the total output, ignoring the input costs, there is another hue factor. The Jayadhar is always with another (companion) crop, namely chilli. Where as BT is always mono crop. This means the output per acre should also consider the tons of chilies harvested. This is largely ignored. The very fact that chilli is planted along with cotton means there is only half the area or half the number of cotton plants!
As for record: across villages the yield quoted for BT was 8-9quintals per acre (of course its dwindling as many stated)
Jayadhar was only 3-5 quintals. But 3-4 quintals of chilly is also got. The chilli also helps supporting the cotton plant from sagging after flowering! There were a couple of farmers who said there was appreciable yield from Jayadhar till year before last bcos last 2 years unseasonal rains affected its yield.
While on comparison- one issue that weighs down on Jayadhar apart from labour intensive harvesting is that with rain it becomes very tough to harvest and also loss is heavier. (both problems are due to nature’s imbalance- the boll faces down unlike the Bt where its facing up)

Seed? When a corporate esp one like Monsanto comes to the scene where is the question of sovereignty? They are not any noble hearts to help increase farmers’ yield or to help solve the food sufficiency. Seeds is their business, simple. Now the farmer has the seeds in his hand. In fact for 10000 years that was the scene. Now with such goliath corporates eyeing seeds as a business, we will lose our culture and sovereignty. The cost comparison of the cotton seeds was seen above. Nothing will stop the corporates from increasing it multifold once the traditional seeds are wiped out! So more reason to be cautious about GM. But will the govts understand that? long term or short term? What should one go for? Season after season we need to depend on them. The jayadhar seed can last years as against this! So in time, the corporates will decide what crop, what seed and what price we will get them all at.
No use crying over spilt milk, then.

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