Bhubaneswar: The cultivation of genetically modified (GM) cotton or BT cotton is rampant in the state despite imposition of restrictions by the government.
Sources said, BT cotton is being cultivated on 1.3 lakh hectares out of the total of 1.44 lakh hectares allocated to cotton farming in the state. Thus, farmers are growing BT cotton on 95 per cent of land devoted to cotton farming.
Farmers of districts like Kalahandi, Rayagada, Bolangir, Nuapada, Bargarh and Kandhamal have been cultivating BT cotton for the last couple of years. It is learnt that genetically modified cotton is being grown on 43,000 hectares in Kalahandi, 35,000 hectares in Rayagada and 30,000 hectares in Bolangir.
Some agricultural scientists claim that states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab and Gujarat have started imposing restrictions on BT cotton farming after analysing its adverse impact on the environment. Incidentally, farmers of these states were the first to cultivate genetically engineered cotton in India.
“It was argued that pests like spotted bollworm, pink bollworm and American bollworm cannot do any harm to BT cotton. But, a recent study has found that American bollworm has developed resistance to a toxin produced in genetically modified cotton plants,” said an agricultural scientist.
Moreover, some researchers are of the view that GM cotton is affecting the environment negatively. They claim that cultivation of the genetically modified cotton may lead to depletion in the groundwater level.
Recently, an agricultural scientist in California has claimed that farmers cultivating BT cotton are more prone to depression and suicide syndromes, sources said.
It is learnt that shortage of good quality cotton seeds in the market has forced many farmers of the state to opt for BT cotton. Besides, some private firms are persuading farmers to go for the genetically modified cotton.
“The state government has failed to provide good quality cotton seeds to farmers. So, people are increasingly depending on BT cotton seeds which are marketed by some private companies,” said a source.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak, junior scientist (agronomy) with All India Coordination Research Project on Cotton, said that researchers at Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) have developed two advanced varieties of cotton seeds—BS 30 and BS 279. “Soon, these two seeds will be made available to farmers in the market,” Nayak added.