Impact of Bt Cotton, the Potential Future Benefits from Biotechnology in China and India
Early studies of Bt cotton’s impacts in China and India found increases in yield per hectare, especially in India, and major reductions in pesticide use, especially in China which led to positive health impacts. In recent years, little has been published on impacts of GM crops, leading to the question: have Chinese and Indian farmers continued to benefit? This paper assesses findings of recent publications on this topic and presents new, unpublished data to answer this question and to examine potential benefit from several new GM crops. The promise of major benefits of Bt cotton identified in early studies has proven true. Bt cotton has spread to all areas of China and India where bollworm is a problem. Bt cotton continues to control bollworm in both countries, and farmers continue as major beneficiaries rather than biotech or seed companies. In China, evidence also suggests that Bt cotton has suppressed the bollworm population so that growers and producers of other crops also susceptible to bollworm are benefitting. This paper also finds that Bt rice and Bt eggplant could have major positive impacts― increasing farmers’ profits by reducing pesticide use and reducing farmers’ exposure to chemical pesticides. Both crops were approved for commercial production by government biosafety regulators, but adoption of GM eggplant has been held up by the Indian Minister of the Environment while specific Bt rice hybrids are still being evaluated by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.