News Excerpt
The country’s recent hybrid seed model for cotton is criticized that it favours seed companies over farmers.

•    Cotton is one of the most important cash crops and accounts for around 25% of the total global fibre production.
•    Cotton is also one of the most important commercial crops cultivated in India. In the raw material consumption basket of the Indian textile industry, the proportion of cotton is around 59%.
•    It plays a major role in sustaining the livelihood of an estimated 5.8 million cotton farmers and 40- 50 million people engaged in related activities such as cotton processing and trade.
•    India also has the distinction of having the largest area under cotton cultivation in the world i.e. about 11 million hectares.

Production and Consumption of Cotton
    India is the country to grow all four species of cultivated cotton Gossypiumarboreumand herbaceum(Asian cotton), G.barbadense(Egyptian cotton) and G. hirsutum(American Upland cotton). Gossypiumhirsutumrepresents 88% of the hybrid cotton production in India and all the current Bt cotton hybrids are G.hirsutuim.
    In India, majority of the cotton production comes from nine major cotton-growing states, which are grouped into three diverse agro-ecological zones,
o    Northern zone: Comprising States of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan,
o    Central zone: Comprising the States of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and
o    Southern zone: Comprising the States of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
o    Besides this, cotton is also grown in the States of Tamil Nadu and Orissa.
o    Cotton cultivation has also gained momentum in small areas of non-traditional States such as Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Tripura, etc.
    India is the largest producer of cotton in the World. India is also a leading consumer of cotton.
    Presently, Cotton is a freely exportable commodity from India. India exports Cotton mainly to Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand etc.
    Although India is a major producer and exporter of cotton fibre, a small quantity of long fibrevariety of cotton which is not available in the country is imported.

Problems Faced by the Indian Cotton Sector
Though India is one of thelargest producers of cotton in the world still there are significant challenges faced by cotton sector in India such as:
    Stagnation in the productivity vis-à-vis global production. Thereby carrying high opportunity cost as the land under cotton cultivation can be used elsewhere.
    High input cost as India is the only country that grows cotton as hybrids and the first to develop hybrid cotton back in 1970.
    The use of insecticide expanded due to use of Hybrid cotton has caused further outbreaks of secondary pests such as American bollworm or Pink bollworm.
    Agricultural distress is extremely high among cotton farmers and the combination of high input and high risk has likely been a contributing factor.

A Policy for Hybrid Cotton
    Before GM cotton, India persisted with hybrids from 1980-2002, while other countries shifted to HDP.  
    A second phase where the question of hybrids versus compact varieties could have been considered, was at the stage of GM regulation when Bt-cotton was being evaluated for introduction into India.
    There was a need for comprehensive agricultural research and agro-economic conditions for its applicability to Indian Geography.
Its impact: The scope of evaluation by the GM regulatory process in India was narrow, and did not take this into account.  Consequently, commercial BT-hybrids have completely taken over the market, accompanied by the withdrawal of public sector cottonseed production.  The Indian cotton farmer today is left with little choice but to use BT-hybrid seed produced by private seed companies.

Way Forward
    It is important to recognise that adoption of any new technology such as Bt is a choice and not an imperative.  For example, some of the major cotton-producing countries such as Brazil (until 2012) and Turkey (up to the present) have achieved high productivity without the use of GM cotton by using alternative pest-management approaches.
    The risk assessment in GMO regulation has to be strengthened to enable exercising of this choice by careful and comprehensive evaluation of costs and benefits.
    The solution to the dystopic Indian cotton system lies in developing an ecological understanding using the SS-HD cotton as a basis.
    Small and subsistence farmers of India have paid a huge price on the gallows of current hybrid Bt cotton, and they deserve honest on the ground solutions.

The Cotton Textiles Export Promotion Council  (TEXPROCIL)
    Established in 1954.
    An autonomous, non-profit body.
    It has been the international face of cotton textiles from India facilitating exports worldwide.
    The Council enables better understanding of Indian and International trade policies, emerging trade issues, social and environmental compliances, quality management and sustainable business practices.

Bt Cotton, Bale, Lint, GEAC