Farmers tend to prefer growing genetically modified crops as they give a higher yield, are more disease resistant and provide more profits, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said today.
"We are for organic farming - there are no two ways about it. But in Bt cotton production, 86 lakh bales were produced in 2002-03 when 0.38 per cent of the total area was growing the crop and it grew to 352 lakh bales in 2011-12 when 91.47 per cent of the area produced it. The jump shows how production has grown," he said in Lok Sabha.
"The farmer is wiser than me...It is not proper to say that Bt cotton is not useful," he said during Question Hour.
Pawar pointed out that pesticide use has fallen from 46 per cent to 21 per cent since Bt cotton production has increased and this shows the benefit.
He said countries like the US engage in propaganda against genetically modified crops "but they themselves are growing such crops and even exporting them to us."
"Time has come to solve the food security problem of this country," Pawar said.
He maintained that growing Bt cotton is "a very sensible decision" and the income of farmers has increased substantially. "Income per hectare has increased from Rs 7,000 to Rs 16,000 since cultivation of Bt cotton," he said.
Pawar, however, rued that few states, including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka, have agreed to allow scientific tests of GM crops. Other than Bt cotton, GM varieties of brinjal, soyabean, corn, tomatoes and other crops are being developed.
He said government does not wish to restrict export of Bt cotton but has to protect domestic industries like the handloom sector. "We want India to be a reliable exporter. As of now there is no restriction on Bt cotton export," he said.