Comparing the Performance of Official and Unofficial Genetically Modified Cotton in India
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Genetically modified (GM) cotton was approved for commercial cultivation in 2002. Hybrids to date have carried the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) gene, which confers resistance to Lepidoptera and certain Coleoptera. As well as “official” Bt hybrids (i.e., those that have gone through a formal approval process), there are “unofficial” Bt hybrids produced without such approval. The owners of the official hybrids, Monsanto-Mahyco, claim that the unofficial hybrids are not as good and could even damage the perception of Bt cotton amongst farmers. Anti-GM groups claim that neither type of Bt hybrid provides either yield or economic advantages over non-Bt hybrids. This paper reports the first study of official versus unofficial versus non-Bt hybrids in India (622 farmers in Gujarat State) with the specific aim of comparing one hypothesized ranking in terms of gross margin of (a) official Bt hybrids, (b) unofficial Bt hybrids, and (c) non-Bt hybrids. Results suggest that the official Bt varieties (MECH 12 and MECH 162) significantly outperform the unofficial varieties in terms of gross margin. However, unofficial, locally produced Bt hybrids can also perform significantly better than non-Bt hybrids, although second-generation (F2) Bt seed appears to have no yield advantage compared to non-Bt hybrids but can save on insecticide use. The paper explores some of the implications of this ranking.
AgBioForum, 8(1): 1-6.