New Delhi: Cultivation of genetically modified (GM) variety Bt cotton has helped in reducing use of insecticides from 46 percent in 2001 to 21 percent in 2009 and 2010, a study has said.

Minister of State for Agriculture Harish Rawat, last week, noted from the lab study that introduction of Bt cotton has also helped in increasing cotton yields from 309 kg per hectare in 2001 to 495 kg per hectare in 2010.

"The biggest gain from the technology was in the form of reduced insecticide usage from 46 percent in 2001 to less than 26 percent after 2006 and 21 percent during the last two years 2009 and 2010," Rawat informed in the Lok Sabha.

The productivity was 309 kg per hectare in 2001 before the introduction of Bt cotton, which increased to 495 kg per hectare in 2010, he added.

A total of 250 farms from each of the cotton growing states were sampled to assess the yield and reduction of pesticides, the minister said adding that maximum gains in
yields were obtained in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab and Tamil Nadu.

"On an average the net profits due to the cultivation of Bt cotton ranged from Rs 6,000-10,000 per hectare in Maharashtra and Rs 12,000-14,000 per hectare in Punjab,
Gujarat and Haryana due to enhanced yield and reduction in pesticide usage," he noted.
Rawat also told the house that Bt cotton also prevents pest attacks and is not harmful to birds and animals.

"The findings of laboratory and field studies conducted and also commissioned by Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur showed that Bt cotton was toxic to bollworms but did not have any direct effect on any of the non-garget beneficial insects and was also non-toxic to birds, fish, cow, goat and soil micro-organisms," Rawat noted.

Informing the house that an increasing number of farmers are using Bt cotton, the minister noted that area under the crop has increased from 0.29 lakh hectares in 2002 to 95.04 lakh hectares in kharif 2011.

"Studies conducted by CICR showed that there was enormous farmer support for Bt cotton as is evident from the fact that more than 90 percent of the area in all the cotton growing states in India in now under Bt cotton," he added.

However, Rawat pointed out that there have been reports of opposition to the technology.

"There have been few stray reports of opposition to the technology from NGO groups, but these have had miniscule impact on the spread of Bt cotton in India," he added.

Whether any data is generated on socio-economic impact of production of GM crops, Rawat said: "As the focus of Rules 1989 is to assess safety of the GM crop, there are no steps taken to generate socio-economic impact on large scale production of GM crops, foods and vegetables."

However, the data generated on agronomic performance during field trials provides information on the likely economic benefits to farmers, he added.

The minister replied in negative on whether the farmers are being discouraged to use local seeds of cotton.

"Varieties of local seeds of cotton are still being cultivated by farmers in about 10 lakh hectare in India for their specific adaptability to adverse conditions and high
level of resistance to several insect pests and diseases," Rawat said.

CICR is also preserving, conserving, developing and promoting the cultivation of all the local varieties in regions for which they are best suited, he added.