Long-term impacts of Bt cotton in India


Most scholarship on the closely-watched case of genetically modified Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton in India has focused on short-term impacts and has also ignored other major changes in India’s cotton agriculture. This Perspective combines several data sources over a 20-year span to provide long-term comparisons of Bt adoption with yields and other inputs at both countrywide and state-specific scales. Bt cotton adoption is shown to be a poor indicator of yield trends but a strong indicator of initial reductions in pesticide use. Yield increases correspond to changes in fertilizer and other inputs. Bt cotton has continued to control one major cotton pest, but with Bt resistance in another pest and surging populations of non-target pests, farmers now spend more on pesticides today than before the introduction of Bt. Indications are that the situation will continue to deteriorate.

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Fig. 1: Depiction of the ‘technological triumph’ of Bt cotton in India.
Fig. 2: Countrywide cotton yield and Bt adoption.
Fig. 3: Gujarat cotton yields and Bt adoption.
Fig. 4: State-specific cotton yields and Bt adoption.
Fig. 5: Countrywide cotton yields and fertilizer use.
Fig. 6: State-specific cotton yields and fertilizer use.
Fig. 7: New technologies that affected cotton pest management in 2003.
Fig. 8: Countrywide expenditures on insecticides for cotton production.


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G.D.S.’s research in India has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation.

Author information

K.R.K. and G.D.S. contributed to the data analysis and writing of this Perspective.

Correspondence to Glenn Davis Stone.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Countrywide cotton yield and Bt adoption.

This depicts the same data as in Fig. 2 but with Ministry of Textiles yield estimates indicated by the double line.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Gujarat cotton yields and Bt adoption.

This depicts the same data as in Fig. 3 but with Ministry of Textiles yield estimates indicated by the double line.

Extended Data Fig. 3 State-specific cotton yields and Bt adoption.

This depicts the same data as in Fig. 4 but with Ministry of Textiles yield estimates indicated by the double line. Note that the vertical scale for Tamil Nadu has changed slightly to accommodate the MT estimates.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Countrywide cotton yields and fertilizer use.

This depicts the same data as in Fig. 5 but with Ministry of Textiles yield estimates indicated by the double line.

Extended Data Fig. 5

This depicts the same data as in Fig. 6 but with Ministry of Textiles yield estimates indicated by the double line. Note that the vertical scale for Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka has changed slightly to accommodate the MT estimates.

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Kranthi, K.R., Stone, G.D. Long-term impacts of Bt cotton in India. Nat. Plants 6, 188–196 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-020-0615-5

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