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Indian local varieties trump Bt seeds

There has been a major dip in the demand for genetically modified Bt cotton seeds in India this kharif season. The seeds that were introduced by the US multinational Monsanto in 2002 were the mainstay of cotton farming since then.

This year there has been a sharp increase in the use of local varieties of cotton seeds instead of Bt in the northern states.

Bt cotton has resistance against bollworm pest, considered a major risk. But last year pink bollworm infestation was reported in Bt seeds too. This reduced the farmers' confidence.

Till two years ago Maharashtra had a market share of 1.60 crore bags of cotton seeds, of which 96 per cent was Bt. This shrunk to 1.40 crore bags last year. This kharif season it is expected to come down to 1.24 crore bags, almost all of it Bt seeds.

Poor yields and rates to cotton have made farmers turn to other crops like pulses, maize and soyabean.

At one time Bt seeds were available at a premium in the grey market. Now traders are offering them at a discount. As against the official rate of Rs 800 a bag traders, after deducting their margins, are selling it for Rs 750 to Rs 730.