What is BCI’s view of Genetically Modified (GM) Cotton?
Global biotech cotton area increased from 700,000 hectares in 1996/97 to 23.8 million hectares in 2011/12 and its share of world cultivated cotton area grew steadily over this period, from 2% to 66% (source ICAC). Other sources claim that in 2012 biotech cotton production may have been as much as 81% of the global cotton area.
BCI has openly (and acknowledging that there are different viewpoints) adopted a position of being ‘technology neutral’ with respect to GM cotton. This means that BCI will neither encourage farmers to grow it, nor seek to restrict their access to it. The overriding considerations that BCI believes are important with respect to the use of technology are that:
- It is legally available in the country of use (and not imported or purchased via black market channels); and
- It is provided to Better Cotton farmers as part of an overall support package (e.g., training, advice, a choice among a range of other options, integrated with a resistance management program, etc.) that allows for the technology to be both freely chosen (not imposed) by the local farmers and used appropriately.
BCI seeks to be a mainstream initiative and targets improvements across a range of important issues associated with cotton farming on a large scale, such as improved water management, soil conservation and decent work conditions for farmers and workers. It would be difficult to achieve these objectives if more than two thirds of the world’s cotton — which could very well benefit from improvements in those areas — were automatically excluded from being eligible for the Better Cotton program.