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India’s transgenic cotton tragedy

Hopes of a genetically modified crop bonanza in India are fading fast. Maharastra state has banned the use of a particular type of transgenic cotton made by industrial giant Monsanto, saying it’s a threat to people’s lives and to other crops.

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Ever since Monsanto introduced genetically modified (GM) cotton in India in 2002, the company has been hounded by a string of controversies. Over a decade later, there is still no consensus in the country on BT cotton, and more broadly on GM crops as a whole. Cotton is still the only GM crop in the country, and it’s so pervasive that nearly 90% of all cotton produced in India is genetically modified.

For Monsanto though, the troubles are far from over. The company’s seeds have been banned in one Indian state, with anti-GM activists demanding a larger ban. Reports have linked BT cotton to the suicide of over 10,000 farmers in India’s cotton belt.

But many states are demanding that the Indian government allow them to conduct field trials for not just BT cotton but other GM crops. In this report, we meet with various stakeholders on this issue to understand why BT cotton is such a divisive subject in India, and what role Monsanto plays in the matter.
 

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