ICAR blames BT cotton for farmers' misery

India's BT cotton dream is turning into a nightmare. For the first time, farmer suicides, with those in 2011-12, have been linked to the declining performance of the much hyped genetically modified (GM) variety to which 90 per cent of the country's cotton-growers switched a decade back.

Policymakers had hailed BT cotton as a success story, but according to a 9 January internal advisory, a copy of which the Hindustan Times newspaper said was in its possession, sent out to cotton-growing states by the agriculture ministry painted a grim scenario.

''Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers,'' says the report.

The success of the variety of cotton, probably lasted around five years and yields, since then, have been dropping sharply, while instances of pest attacks were increasing.

The only GM crop that India had was genetically altered to destroy cotton-eating pests.

For farmers, increasing costs by way of pesticides had failed to match returns, pushing many to the brink, financially and otherwise. In other words, BT cotton was no more as profitable as it used to be.