HTBT Cotton Crop -UPSC NOTES (Prelims & Mains)

What are GM Crops?

  • Genetically modified crops (GM crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques. More than 10% of the world’s crop lands are planted with GM crops.
  • In most cases, the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species like resistance to certain pests, diseases, environmental conditions, herbicides etc.
  • Genetic Modification is also done to increase nutritional value, bioremediation and for other purposes like production of pharmaceutical agents, biofuels etc.

What is the issue?

  • India’s cotton growers are keen to buy illegal herbicide-tolerant Bt (HTBT) cottonseed varieties at black market rates.
  • The organised seed industry and the anti-GM groups are dismayed by it.

About HT Bt Cotton

  • The third generation, i.e., herbicide tolerant Bt (HtBt) cotton variety saw the addition of ‘Cp4-Epsps’ gene from another soil bacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which produces a modified protein that allows the plant to withstand herbicide glyphosate.
  • Farmers are not able to spray glyphosate on normal cotton because the chemical does not distinguish between the crop and weed, but the herbicide tolerant Bt (HtBt) cotton remains unaffected by glyphosate.
  • Like the first two hybrids, Ht Bt has also been developed by the US giant Bayer Monsanto. The company had submitted a proposal to GEAC for approval in 2013. However, the proposal was later withdrawn by the company because of various regulatory issues with the government.

The important advantages of Bt Cotton are briefly:

  • Increases yield of cotton due to effective control of three types of bollworms, viz. American, Spotted and Pink bollworms.
  • Insects belonged to Lepidoptera (Bollworms) are sensitive to crystalline endotoxic protein produced by Bt gene which in turn protects cotton from bollworms.
  • Reduction in insecticide use in the cultivation of Bt cotton in which bollworms are major pests.
  • Potential reduction in the cost of cultivation (depending on seed cost versus insecticide costs).
  • Reduction in predators which help in controlling the bollworms by feeding on larvae and eggs of bollworm.
  • No health hazards due to rare use of insecticides (particularly who is engaged in spraying of insecticides).

Arguments against Bt Cotton

  • In India, Bt cotton has been enveloped in controversies due to its supposed failure to reduce the need for pesticides and increase yield.
  • The link between the introduction of Bt cotton to India and a surge in farmer suicides has been refuted by other studies, with decreased farmer suicides since Bt cotton was introduced.

Argument for Indigenous variety

  • The cost of ignoring indigenous varieties for decades has been high for India.
  • These varieties resist many pests and don’t present the problems faced with hybrids.
  • Research suggests that with pure-line cotton varieties, high density planting, and short season plants, cotton yields in India can be good and stand a better chance at withstanding the vagaries of climate change.
  • But government backing for resources, infrastructure and seeds is essential to scale up indigenous varieties.

What is there a demand for HTBT seeds?

  • The demand for the unapproved HTBT cottonseeds has arisen.
  • This rise is because India’s dominant BT strain (BG-II) is falling prey to pink bollworm pest attacks in recent years.
  • [BG-II – Accounts for most of India’s cotton acreage.]
  • Cotton farmers have been faced with falling yields, while dealing with constant or rising costs.
  • The HTBT cotton plant is resistant to the usage of glyphosate-based weedicides, a popular labour-saving product.
  • This weedicide has been allowed for use in very restricted conditions in India for its alleged carcinogenic effects.

What is allowed?

  • Bt cotton remains the only GM crop allowed to be cultivated in the country.
  • It was developed by US giant Bayer-Monsanto.
  • It involves insertion of two genes viz ‘Cry1Ab’ and ‘Cry2Bc’ from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into cotton seeds.
  • This modification codes the plant to produce protein toxic to Heliothis bollworm (pink bollworm) thus making it resistant to their attack.
  • The commercial release of this hybrid was sanctioned by the government in 2002.

What is the variety now sown?

  • The farmers planted an herbicide-tolerant variety of Bt cotton.
  • This variety (HtBt) involves the addition of another gene, ‘Cp4-Epsps’ from another soil bacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens.
  • It is not cleared by GEAC.
  • The farmers claim that the HtBt variety can withstand the spray of glyphosate, an herbicide that is used to remove weeds, and thus it substantially saves them de-weeding costs.

What is the procedure involved?

  • In India, it is the responsibility of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Environment Ministry to assess the safety of a genetically modified plant, and decide whether it is fit for cultivation.
  • The GEAC comprises experts and government representatives, and a decision it takes has to be approved by the Environment Minister before any crop is allowed for cultivation.
  • Besides Bt cotton, the GEAC has cleared two other genetically modified crops,brinjal and mustard.
  • But these have not received the consent of the Environment Minister.
  • Legally, sale, storage, transportation and usage of unapproved GM seeds is a punishable offence under the Rules of Environmental Protection Act 1986.
  • Also, sale of unapproved seeds can attract action under the Seed Act of 1966 and the Cotton Act of 1957.
  •  The Environmental Protection Act provides for a jail term of five years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for violation of its provisions, and cases can be filed under the other two Acts.
  • The culprit can also be charged under various sections of the Essential Commodities Act and the Indian Penal Code.

What is the fear?

  • According to the organised seed industry, illegal trade in HTBT seeds is of ₹300 crore, with 50 lakh packets of 450g each in circulation.
  • They fear it has been used over 15-20% of cotton area.
  • This is a straightforward case of market forces rising to meet a genuine demand.

What are the implications?

  • The implications of unregulated seed trade are indeed serious.
  • This is because the farmers in search of high yields may suffer a dead loss if the expensive seeds (selling at over the maximum rates fixed by the Centre) are spurious.
  • Bonafide seed distributors and producers suffer as well.
  • The farmers’ groups have stepped up protests seeking HTBT approval, allowing for reduced costs and quality control.

What are the actions of the Centre?

  • The Centre has said that glyphosate-based weedicides must be applied in the presence of a pest control operator.
  • This is an effort taken to curb the use of HTBT seeds.
  • However, the sowing season is close to completion.
  • Meanwhile, the use of glyphosate in India has increased since 2016-17.
  • The Centre must take a clear position on the HTBT issue (GM-based seed technology).

What could be done?

  • India should have a credible regulator to assess these issues on a case-by-case basis, involving all stakeholders.
  • India’s initiatives on this count should be driven by public-funded research.
  • The development of indigenous varieties and strains must be given more emphasis, given our gene pool in seeds.
  • A pragmatic response to GM is long overdue, with a distinction being made between food and non-food crops.

cotton crops in India:

  • Cotton is a crucial fibre crop of India. it’s one among the foremost important industrial crops in India.
  • The highest concentration of the crop is within the areas with precipitation between 50 to 80 cm and a temperature between 20 to 35°C.
  • Cotton are often grown in drier areas, too, with the assistance of irrigation.
  • The deep and medium black soils of the Deccan and Malwa Plateau are considered ideal though they will be grown on alluvial and red soils also .
  • The clear sky during the picking season is suitable for cotton crops.
  • The largest producers of Cotton are Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh , MP, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, TN and Karnataka.
  • India has the excellence of developing the primary high breed of cotton in the world.
  • Presently, India is also one among the leading producers of Bt cotton in the world.
  • India should have a credible regulator to assess these issues on a case-by-case basis, involving all stakeholders.
  • India’s initiatives on this count should be driven by public-funded research.
  • The development of indigenous varieties and strains must be given more emphasis, given our gene pool in seeds.
  • A pragmatic response to GM is long overdue, with a distinction being made between food and non-food crops.

Why HTBt is being opted ?

  • There is a shortage of the labour needed to do at least two rounds of weeding for Bt cotton. With HTBt, we can simply do one round of glyphosate spraying with no need for weeding. It saves ₹7,000 to ₹8,000 per acre for farmers.
  • Scientists are also in favour of this crop, and even WHO has said it does not cause cancer.

Measure taken

  • Center has sent advisories to all cotton growing States, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Telangana have seized HTBt stock and taken punitive action against the culprits.
  • States have also been asked to regulate the sale of glyphosate.
  • Few farmers have been arrested and charged under legal provisions attracting a five-year jail term and a penalty of ₹1 lakh.
  • India should have a credible regulator to assess these issues on a case-by-case basis, involving all stakeholders.
  • India’s initiatives on this count should be driven by public-funded research.
  • The development of indigenous varieties and strains must be given more emphasis, given our gene pool in seeds.
  • A pragmatic response to GM is long overdue, with a distinction being made between food and non-food crops.

For latest Articles [Paper wise GS 1-4] and Solved papers[2010-2020] join us @ https://t.me/UPSCexamNotes1

For solved

UPSC ESSAYS click here

GS Paper 1 click here


Gs Paper 2 click here

Gs paper 3 click here

GS paper 4 click here

Sociology click here

Entertainment click here

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: