web site hit counter

Will genetically modified ‘Bt Cotton’ increase yields in Pakistan?

Bt cotton Pakistan

HOW TO  increase the yield of cotton to meet the growing domestic demand of a growing population and export-oriented textile sector has remained a dilemma for Pakistani cotton since 1990s.

Local perceptions and myth are that Bt cotton increases yields, but the available data tells a different story.

According to the data published by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agriculture cotton data about Pakistan and Australia clearly shows that average yields have remained the same between 1990 and 2010, although Bt technology is being experimented in Australia since 1996 and in Pakistan informally since 2005.

In Australia, yield per acre in 1991 (before Bt cotton) was 1,588 lbs and in 2010 (with BG-II & RRF) was 1,457 lbs.

Similarly, in Pakistan, the yield was 685 pounds per acre in 1990-91 but it went down to 622 pounds per acre in 2009.

So, “where is the average yield increase we all talk about ?” is the all-important question being asked by experts in agriculture in the country.

In Australia, the benefits have mainly been environmental as lesser pesticide sprays have resulted in these benefits but in Pakistan, unless white fly, mealy bugs and cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV) are controlled even the pesticide savings will not result.

The reason is simple that Bt cotton technology doesn’t control CLCV, etc.

Reliable sources privy to the progress made in biotechnology and especially in Bt cotton in Pakistan show that in India, Bt cotton has been a success to some extent because boll worms occurrence is high.

But since that’s not the case in Pakistan, quoting Indian Bt cotton example would be wrong.

Experts in agriculture say that Bollgard-1 technology is effective against pink, spotted and American boll worms.

It contains a gene in addition to its natural composition called Cry-1-AC. This is effective against the fore mentioned pests. Bollgard-2 contains an additional trait called Cry-2-AB which is effective toxin against Army boll worms. So, when combined, these two genes are effective against the 4 types of boll worms.

India has high instance of these cotton crop pests, so when the GM or Bt cotton was introduced, it was effective against these pests and yield increase was witnessed during the last decade.

However, in Pakistan, boll worms are far less in number and, except for Army worms, the others are a rarity.

Thus, when Bt cotton was introduced via smuggled seeds in Pakistan during 2002-03, it did not prove very effective as here the mealy bugs and Cotton Leaf Curl Virus are the main crop pests and Bt cotton is not effective against either.

Thus, despite all the claims, Pakistan’s overall cotton production has remained the same since 1990.

Experts claim that an interesting factor is that despite having the latest Bollgard-2 Bt cotton technology, India is still behind Pakistan in per acre yield, which shows that Pakistan’s local cotton seed varieties are superior.

The USDA-compiled table about Pakistan cotton yield and production shows the details as under:

PAKISTAN

==================================================

Year (August 1  Harvested      Yield    Production

- July 31)     Area (000)     Pounds    (000) 480-

Acres      /Acre   pound bales

==================================================

2010                7,166        589         8,800

2009                7,413        622         9,600

2008                7,166        583         8,700

2007                7,413        557         8,600

2006                8,031        574         9,600

2005                7,663        617         9,850

2004                7,888        678        11,138

2003                7,386        510         7,845

2002                6,904        554         7,972

2001                7,700        517         8,286

2000                7,235        556         8,379

1999                7,371        571         8,776

1998                7,223        456         6,863

1997                7,314        471         7,175

1996                7,781        451         7,319

1995                7,408        536         8,272

1994                6,548        458         6,250

1993                6,931        435         6,282

1992                7,008        484         7,073

1991                7,008        685        10,000

1990                6,578        549         7,522

==================================================

AUSTRALIA

==================================================

Year (August 1  Harvested      Yield    Production

- July 31)     Area (000)     Pounds    (000) 480-

Acres      /Acre   pound bales

==================================================

2010                1,483      1,457         4,500

2009                  494      1,725         1,775

2008                  405      1,778         1,500

2007                  161      1,908           640

2006                  356      1,820         1,350

2005                  830      1,619         2,800

2004                  776      1,856         3,000

2003                  484      1,686         1,700

2002                  544      1,482         1,680

2001                  998      1,606         3,340

2000                1,248      1,423         3,700

1999                1,147      1,447         3,458

1998                1,320      1,210         3,327

1997                1,107      1,373         3,166

1996                  979      1,369         2,792

1995                  744      1,271         1,970

1994                  549      1,346         1,539

1993                  652      1,112         1,511

1992                  647      1,271         1,713

1991                  697      1,588         2,306

1990                  689      1,386         1,989

==================================================

INDIA

==================================================

Year (August 1  Harvested      Yield    Production

- July 31)     Area (000)     Pounds    (000) 480-

Acres      /Acre   pound bales

==================================================

2011               29,652        437        27,000

2010               27,577        418        24,000

2009               25,476        433        23,000

2008               23,243        467        22,600

2007               23,324        494        24,000

2006               22,649 462 21,800 ==================================================

 

Via: Business Recorder