Renewable Farming

UK’s Soil Association documents the rise and fall of GMO cotton in India

Just released: The most comprehensive report we’ve seen on the promises and pitfalls of GMO cotton. Britain’s highly respected farmer organization, the Soil Association founded in 1946, published “Failed Promises — the rise and fall of GM cotton in India.”

Oct. 11, 2017 — The 13-page report (download at this link) authored by Sarah Compson was instantly picked up by healthy-farming websites worldwide. 

The site Sustainable Pulse posted a summary of the report if you want a quick read. As we study the history of GMO cotton in India, it looks like a fast-moving preview of the possible future for GMO corn and soybeans across the globe. Twenty years from now, farmers may look back on the GMO/glyphosate/Bt era and see it as a bundle of unexpected and unwanted consequences. 

Authors and sustainable ag leaders like Vandana Shiva have warned of these consequences for years.

Here are some of the bullet points from the Soil Association report, which was presented at the Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference in Washington, DC:

  • Soon after GMO cotton was introduced to India in 2002 with immense promotion, the country’s cotton production rose. In a few years, severe pest infestations such as pink bollworm and whitefly led to soaring production costs.
  • Smaller cotton growers encountered devastating debts to suppliers. Many lost their farms to larger growers, consolidating the cotton-growing industry. Scattered reports of suicide among desperate growers multiplied. Although strongly denied by GMO advocates, there’s evidence of almost 8,000 cotton grower suicides during 2006-2011.
  • The government of India — at first promoting GMO cotton — has provided government-supported chemical-free zones for organic cotton growers. India now commands almost three-fourths of the global market for organic cotton. The global demand for organic cotton is at $15.7 billion per year and growing fast. 
  • Organic cotton fits India’s long history of diverse, smaller-scale farming where growers raise much of their own food along a wide array of market crops. Village life remains intact; families stay together.