Based on observations from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Central Cotton Research Institute, Policymakers sent out an internal advisory on January 9, 2012, to cotton-growing states, a copy of which is with HT, follow:
Cotton farmers are in deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton producers with rising costs of seed, pesticides, fertilisers and water and reducing Bt cotton production in the last five years, says the advisory. Simply put, Bt cotton is no more profitable in the long term.
Of the nine cotton-growing states, Maharashtra has seen the largest number of farmer suicides. In the state’s Vidarbha region, a cotton-growing belt comprising of six districts and where one of IFAD’s largest loan project, CAIM, is being implemented since 2010, 209 farmers committed suicides in 2011 due to agrarian crisis.
In February 2010, the environment ministry put an indefinite moratorium on Bt brinjal, India’s first GM food crop, days after the country’s biotech regulator cleared it for cultivation. Among many reasons, the ministry gave, it was necessary to first review the long term performance of Bt cotton.
In these circumstances, the Ministry of Agriculture, NARES, donors/ public funding orgs and the CGIAR, GFAR and Regional Forums need to focus on meeting the smallholder producer needs of AR4D and as required in the different agro climatic areas, not GM/ Bt, as has and continues to be their thrust.
Creation of local capacity in the unemployed educated rural youth, by training them for diploma as general practitioners in agriculture (GPAs), to staff the producer orgs and meet the management, extension, finance, marketing and logistic needs of producers and rural communities.
Identify successful producers, following the local integrated agriculture system and in each area, for wide replication of their model. This would ensure producers meeting their own nutritious food and cash needs, thus increasing their purchasing power and net income, mitigation of hunger, Mal nutrition, poverty and climate change, all this resulting in livelihood improvement and long term sustainability.