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GM cotton seeds a threat to Indian farmers

Group photo

Members of the workshop „Disappearing non-GM cotton“ at the University of Agricultural Sciences Dharwad. Picture: FiBL

Extensive use of genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds is destroying agricultural bio-diversity and jeopardising the livelihood of over four million cotton growers in India. In a common declaration, concerned stakeholders committed themselves to join forces to promote non-GM and organic cotton.

(Frick, July 6, 2011) India has become the largest organic cotton producer worldwide with the number of organic cotton projects increasing throughout the country. Conversely, in 2010 more than 80 percent of India’s cotton area used genetically modified Bt-cotton seeds. On account of this, the seed supply chain of non-GM cotton genotypes has become delinked. Since the private and also many public sectors have largely stopped producing non-GM cotton seed, the supply of non-GM seed to the remaining 20 percent of farmers, including organic cotton projects, has become of critical concern. If no measures are taken to halt this process, the number of years for non-GM cotton seed production is numbered. The absolute dominance of GM-cotton production will not only threaten India’s organic cotton sector, but will also reduce genetic diversity, which in the long run will affect the agroecosystem equilibrium.

Intensive research needed

Initiated by the University of Agricultural Sciences Dharwad (UAS Dharwad), bioRe India (Ltd) and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL Switzerland), a national workshop was held in Dharwad (India) at the end of June bringing together over fifty participants from leading research institutes and organizations, including UAS Dharwad, Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur, various Indian organic cotton groups and representatives from the textile and the seed industry. In a common declaration signed by concerned stakeholders, ways to overcome the present crisis in seed supply is presented. Furthermore, a decision was made to form a national organizational body for organic cotton focusing on the immediate actions necessary to overcome the cotton seed crisis. “We need intensive research on developing varieties for organic and low-input conditions and combined efforts to re-establish the seed value chain for non-GM cotton”, underlines FiBL scientist Dionys Forster.

Further information


  • Dionys Forster, International Division, Project leader agricultural systems comparison India, Tel. +41 (0)62 865-0452
  • Monika Messmer, Project leader breeding for organic an low-input farming,
    Tel. +41 (0)62 865-0443
  • Jacqueline Forster-Zigerli, Media Relations, Tel. +41 (0)62 865-7271,


Press Release to the National Workshop on 'Disappearing non-GM cotton - ways forward to maintain diversity, increase availability and ensure quality of non-GM cotton seed' (118.5 KB)

Dharwad Declaration 21th June 2011 (130.6 KB)

Proceedings (4.2 MB)

Download FiBL-Media Release (69.9 KB)
Download FiBL-Media Release