In 2002, genetically modified cotton seed came onto the Indian market for the first time. It promises protection against the dreaded cotton bollworm. At first everything looks like a success story: less pesticide use and higher yields at the same time. After only a few years, negative side effects appear. Organic farming would be an alternative. But there are hardly any GMO-free varieties. Traditional breeding has been neglected and must first be rebuilt. FiBL employee Monika Messmer has been in charge of breeding projects in India since 2011. In the video she describes the eventful history of organic cotton cultivation in India.
In 2002, Monsanto's genetically modified cotton Saargut was introduced in India. By 2013, 95% of the cotton seeds in India had already been genetically modified. This was a problem for organic cotton producers as they were not allowed to use genetically modified seeds. Remei AG, a pioneer in organic cotton and supplier of Coop Naturaline and Mammut, plans to establish a seed bank with new, high-quality seeds over the next five years with the help of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Frick and the University of Dharwad in India.
Hans Peter Jost has published three parts of his video documentation about the topic organic cotton in India (in german).
At Textile Exchange’s 2013 annual conference in Istanbul, we interviewed 5 people working on various seed projects around the world, all with the overarching aim of improving farmers’ access to organic and non-GMO cottonseed. Monika Messmer (FiBL) speaks about her activities within the “Green Cotton Project”. The videos were financed by Inditex and produced by Oğuzhan Başoğlu, Zafer Akınç, Hamdi Karakaya and Yunus Emre Boylu.
Over 70 experts and project partners took part in the symposium "Participatory Research to foster Innovation in Agriculture" at ETH Zürich on the 28th August, 2014. The event was organized by FiBL and hosted at ETH by the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center. The main conclusions from the discussion were, that participatory research not only has to focus on the farmers and researchers, but at the same time on all other stakeholders of the value chain, including marketing and consumers.
For more information about the symposium, click here or view the video below.