Genetically Modified (GM) crops – cotton, mustards, etc.

BT Cotton adoption in Punjab has resulted in net economic, environmental benefits


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GMO, BT

Mains level : Hazards of using GMO crops

Amid the perpetual debate surrounding BT cotton’s positive and negative impacts, a recent study has said its adoption in Punjab in the past over a decade has resulted in net economic and environmental benefits.


  • BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton has been commercially grown in India for the past 19 years.
  • The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) approved the release of BT cotton for commercial cultivation in 2002 in western and southern parts of the country.
  • In Punjab, BT cotton was released for cultivation in 2005.
  • Before the release, it was adopted by 72% farmers on 22% of the cotton area. However, a lot of questions have been raised recently on its impact.

BT cotton in India

  • BT cotton is a genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically modified pest resistant plant cotton variety, which produces an insecticide to combat bollworm.
  • Strains of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis produce over 200 different BT toxins, each harmful to different insects.
  • Most notably, BT toxins are insecticidal to the larvae of moths and butterflies, beetles, cotton bollworms and flies but are harmless to other forms of life.
  • In 2002, a joint venture between Monsanto and Mahyco introduced BT cotton to India.
  • In 2011, India grew the largest GM cotton crop at 10.6 million hectares.

Issues with 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.
  • BT cotton accounts for 93% of cotton grown in India.
  • Maharashtra banned the sale and distribution of BT cotton in 2012, to promote local Indian seeds, which demand less water, fertilizers and pesticide input.

What is the new study about?

Success of BT in Punjab

  • The research was funded by the Agricultural Extension Division of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research under extramural project “Impact evaluation of integrated pest management technologies”.
  • It found that since the commercialization of BT cotton:
  1. there has been reduction in insecticide use by volume and applications,
  2. decline in environmental and human health impact associated with insecticide use,
  3. more reduction in the use of highly hazardous and riskiest insecticides, and
  4. reduction in the expenses associated with insecticide use.
  5. Cotton yields in the past 13 years have been stable, the only exception being 2015

Now its’ time to answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.In India, the use of carbofuran, methyl parathion, phorate and triazophos is viewed with apprehension. These chemicals are used as: (CSP 2017)

(a) Pesticides in agriculture

(b) Preservatives in processed foods

(c) Fruit-ripening agents

(d) Moisturizing agents in cosmetics

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1 year ago