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Isolating the ‘farmer’ effect as a component of the advantage of growing genetically modified varieties in developing countries: a Bt cotton case study from Jalgaon, India

  • S. MORSE (a1), R. BENNETT (a2) and Y. ISMAEL (a1)

The present paper explores the ‘farmer’ effect in economic advantages often claimed for Bt cotton varieties (those with the endotoxin gene from Bacillus thuringiensis conferring resistance to some insect pests) compared to non-Bt varieties. Critics claim that much of the yield advantage of Bt cotton could be due to the fact that farmers adopting the technology are in a better position to provide inputs and management and so much of any claimed Bt advantage is an artefact rather than reflecting a real advantage of the variety per se. The present paper provides an in-depth analysis of 63 non-adopting and 94 adopting households of Bt cotton in Jalgaon, Maharashtra State, India, spanning the seasons 2002 and 2003. Results suggest that Bt adopters are indeed different from non-adopters in a number of ways. Adopters appear to specialize more on cotton (at least in terms of the land area they devote to the crop), spend more money on irrigation and grow well-performing non-Bt varieties of cotton (Bunny). Taking gross margin as the basis for comparison, Bt plots had 2·5 times the gross margin of non-Bt plots in both seasons. If only adopters are considered then the gross margin advantage of Bt plots reduces to 1·6 times that of non-Bt plots. This is still a significant advantage and could well explain the popularity of Bt in Maharashtra. However, it is clear that great care needs to be taken with such comparative studies.

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The Journal of Agricultural Science
  • ISSN: 0021-8596
  • EISSN: 1469-5146
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