India is still behind Pakistan in per acre yield, which shows that Pakistan's local cotton seed varieties are superior.EXTRACT: Experts claim that an interesting factor is that despite having the latest [GM] Bollgard-2 Bt cotton technology,
Will genetically modified 'Bt Cotton' increase yields in Pakistan?
Business Recorder, December 4 2011
How to increase the yield of cotton to meet the growing domestic demand of a growing population and export-oriented textile sector has remained a dilemma for Pakistani cotton since 1990s.
Local perceptions and myth are that Bt cotton increases yields, but the available data tells a different story.
According to the data published by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agriculture cotton data about Pakistan and Australia clearly shows that average yields have remained the same between 1990 and 2010, although Bt technology is being experimented in Australia since 1996 and in Pakistan informally since 2005.
In Australia, yield per acre in 1991 (before Bt cotton) was 1,588 lbs and in 2010 (with BG-II & RRF) was 1,457 lbs.
Similarly, in Pakistan, the yield was 685 pounds per acre in 1990-91 but it went down to 622 pounds per acre in 2009.
So, "where is the average yield increase we all talk about ?" is the all-important question being asked by experts in agriculture in the country.
In Australia, the benefits have mainly been environmental as lesser pesticide sprays have resulted in these benefits but in Pakistan, unless white fly, mealy bugs and cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV) are controlled even the pesticide savings will not result.
The reason is simple that Bt cotton technology doesn't control CLCV, etc.
Reliable sources privy to the progress made in biotechnology and especially in Bt cotton in Pakistan show that in India, Bt cotton has been a success to some extent because boll worms occurrence is high.
But since that's not the case in Pakistan, quoting Indian Bt cotton example would be wrong.
Experts in agriculture say that Bollgard-1 technology is effective against pink, spotted and American boll worms.
It contains a gene in addition to its natural composition called Cry-1-AC.
This is effective against the aforementioned pests.
Bollgard-2 contains an additional trait called Cry-2-AB which is effective toxin against Army boll worms.
So, when combined, these two genes are effective against the 4 types of boll worms.
India has high instance of these cotton crop pests, so when the GM or Bt cotton was introduced, it was effective against these pests and yield increase was witnessed during the last decade.
However, in Pakistan, boll worms are far less in number and, except for Army worms, the others are a rarity.
Thus, when Bt cotton was introduced via smuggled seeds in Pakistan during 2002-03, it did not prove very effective as here the mealy bugs and Cotton Leaf Curl Virus are the main crop pests and Bt cotton is not effective against either.
Thus, despite all the claims, Pakistan's overall cotton production has remained the same since 1990.
Experts claim that an interesting factor is that despite having the latest Bollgard-2 Bt cotton technology, India is still behind Pakistan in per acre yield, which shows that Pakistan's local cotton seed varieties are superior.