A document prepared by the Union ministry of environment and forests in collaboration with Biotech Consortium India Ltd, recording the sales of Bt cotton seeds over the past three years, said : Approximately 72,000 packets of seeds, (for covering one acre each) containing Bt cotton hybrids and its non-Bt cotton hybrids counterparts was sold by Mahyco in the kharif (summer) season 2002-03. In the second year of the launch, the acreage under Bt cotton increased to three-fold of the last year and approximately 2,30,000 packets of seeds were sold. In 2004, one more company, Rasi Seeds, got approval for its hybrids. The total sales of Bt cotton in 2004 were to the tune of 13.10 lakh (1.31 million) packets, an increase of six times over the previous year.
Biotech Consortium India Ltd is a public sector company floated by the promoter agency, department of biotechnology for promoting transgenic technology in the country.
The document said that in 2004, 6,18,000 farmers purchased Bt cotton seeds as compared to 1,25,000 farmers in 2003 and 41,326 farmers in 2002. On an average, 2.2 packets were purchased by the farmer in 2004 as compared to 1.84 packets in 2003 and 1.76 packets, in 2002. The statewise break-up of Bt cotton seed packet sold in 2004 are - Andhra Pradesh (1,80,000 packets), Madhya Pradesh (2,20,000 packets), Gujarat (3,30,000 packets), Maharashtra (5,10,000 packets), Karnataka (45,000 packets) and Tamil Nadu (25,000 packets).
Recalling the process of first approval of three Bt cotton varieties, namely Mech-12, Mech-162 and Mech-184, the document said ; Mahyco first imported the parental cotton cultivar Coker 312 from Monsanto and then carried out a contained breeding programme to incorporate the Bt gene into their elite cotton inbred lines. The Bt trait was successfully transferred into more than 60 cotton lines by the traditional backcrossing method. The biosafety of the Cry1Ac gene in these hybrids was assessed and then field testing was permitted by the department of biotechnology. The document further said Bt transgene in the converted Indian inbred lines behaves as a single dominant Mandelian factor and is stably integrated in the plant genome. The advantage of Bt cotton includes improved pest management, reduction in insecticide use and therefore greater net return to the farmers. Healthy growth of plants yields a better boll size and quality as well as reduction in picking costs.