|Bt Insect Resistant Cotton|
Managing insect pests in cotton is one of the largest uses of pesticides globally. It is particularly difficult for small farmers to use these pesticides safely. Biotechnology has provided a safe and lasting method of pest control that has disproportionately benefited small cotton farmers in India, China, and South Africa.
One of the most widely successful biotech improved crops to date has been insect resistant cotton. It has been a huge success story in South Africa, China, India, as well as the United States and other countries.
Released to South African farmers in 1999, it was rapidly taken up by smallholders who were happy to pay premium prices for the seed in view of the superior yields, quality, and excellent pest control it delivered while cutting pesticide costs dramatically (Can GM-Technologies Help the Poor? The Impact of Bt Cotton in Makhathini Flats, KwaZulu-Natal; BT Cotton in South Africa: Adoption and the impact on farm incomes amongst small-scale and large scale farmers; Benefits from Bt Cotton Use by Smallholder Farmers in South Africa ). Despite fervent opposition from a handful of NGOs, Kenyan authorities have concluded the benefits are great and the downsides so absent that they have recently moved to introduce biotech improved varieties in their own country (Kenya launches task force to facilitate commercialization of GM cotton).
Researchers found similar benefits for small holders growing cotton in China, but also documented that overall pesticide use was cut by more than half, and the incidence of accidental pesticide poisoning of farmers dropped by a factor of three (GM cotton & farmers health in China).
Indian smallholders saw similar economic and health benefits from adopting biotech improved varieties of insect resistant cotton (Biotech Cotton in India, 2002 to 2014; Adoption, Impact, Progress & Future; Rent Creation and Distribution from the First Three Years of Planting Bt Cotton).
Opponents of agricultural biotechnology have repeatedly claimed, however, that the introduction of Bt cotton has led to a surge in suicides by farmers even though the claim has been thoroughly examined and shown to be false (The GMO-Suicide Myth; Bt Cotton and farmer suicides in India). Bt cotton has been so succcesful that farmers are demanding to be allowed to grow it in countries where this has not been permitted to date (Ethiopia's move towards Bt cotton Commercialization).
Proponents of improved cotton sustainability have lauded organic production for its positive environmental attributes. But experience shows that biotech insect protected cotton takes the benefits of organic production and brings them within reach of most cotton farmers around the world, not just in the limited conditions and few locations where organic cotton is feasible (Farmer's view: Celebrities embrace organic cotton over GMOs, but is it more sustainable?).