Since the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002, there has been a "near doubling" of cotton production in the country and the hybrids have also helped to minimise the damages caused by pests like bollworm, the government today said.
Union minister Mahesh Sharma's remarks in the Rajya Sabha came in the backdrop of country's Genetically Modified crop regulator Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) recommending the commercial use of GM mustard in a submission to the environment ministry.
The GEAC submission has been met with opposition from anti-GM activists. Following this, the government referred the issue back to the GEAC after receiving representations from various stakeholders.
In a written reply in the Upper House today, Minister of State for Environment Mahesh Sharma said, "Since the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002, there has been a near doubling of cotton production in the country from 158 lakh bales in 2001-02 to 351 lakh bales in 2016-17, and increase in productivity from 308 kg/ha in 2001-02 to 568 kg/ha in 2016 17."
He was asked if the government agencies have portrayed a rosy picture on Bt cotton and whether there was a need for a a scientific study about the impact of GM crops on health.
"Bt cotton hybrids have helped to minimise the damages caused by Bollworm, reduce pesticide use, increase production, yield and net income of the farmers," Sharma said.
Infestation by Bollworm, a major pest of cotton, he said, has had a devastating effect on cotton crop during the late 1990s, with most of the available pesticides becoming ineffective to control it.
Bt cotton, which is resistant to Bollworm infestation, was released during 2002-03.
He said that evaluation of each application for environmental release of GM crops is done on a case-to-case basis after a thorough examination of health, environment, food and feed safety assessment studies done in India, as per guidelines stipulated by various regulatory agencies.
"Studies and risk assessment documents prepared by international regulatory agencies and by other countries are also referred for ascertaining the safety of the evaluated product," the minister said.
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