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February 23, 2012

by Sanjeeb Mukherjee

Bt cotton has doubled the seed industry and boosted the fortunes of Indian seed firms. For the boom to continue, yields need to improve and regulation mechanisms strengthened.

In the last 10 years, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton and its impact on farmers has perhaps been the most talked about topic in Indian agriculture since the ‘Green Revolution’ of the 1960s and 1970s. Not only has farmers’ income from growing Bt cotton risen by almost 67 per cent in the last one decade- the crop was first introduced in 2002-but Bt has made India a front-ranking, cotton-growing country of the world.

Almost 95 per cent of India’s total cotton production of over 32 million bales today comes from Bt cotton (1 bale=170 kilograms). From being a lowly fifth-largest cotton producer largely known for its low-quality fiber, India is now the world’s second-largest grower of cotton, only behind China, clocking an average annual output of around 30 million bales.

The surge in Bt Cotton has ushered another equally important development - the coming of age of Indian seed companies whose fortunes have flourished alongside the boom in Bt Cotton. Be it Ankur Seeds of Nagpur, Ajeet Seeds of Aurangabad, Rasi Seeds in Tamil Nadu or Kaveri Seeds of Hyderabad; all of these companies have grown their businesses manifold ever since Bt technology was introduced in India. Some others like Advanta Seeds of Hyderabad and Delhi-based Kohinoor Seeds Field India have even expanded their operations into Europe, Africa and Asia.

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