Bt Cotton Can Fight Poverty in PakistanThe Islamic Republic of Pakistan was founded in 1947 following the partition of the British India Empire. It borders India to the East, Afghanistan and Iran to the West, China to the North, and the Arabian Sea to the South. Pakistan is the fifth largest country in the world in terms of population. Poverty in Pakistan has long been an issue, but significant progress has been made in the 21st century. Between 2001 and 2015, the poverty rate fell from 64.3 to 24.3%.

Agriculture’s Success

Agriculture is one of the largest sectors of the Pakistani economy and accounted for 26% of GDP in 2015. Pakistan has historically made use of GMOs in order to successfully boost agricultural production. During the 1960s, the Green Revolution in Pakistan saw increased public funding agricultural development transform wheat production. In recent years, the emergence and widespread use of Bt cotton has demonstrated a clear ability to impact the effort to reduce poverty in Pakistan

Bt cotton and Poverty

Cotton is currently one of the major crops being grown in Pakistan. The largest threat to its cultivation is its susceptibility to pests. Pesticides have been traditionally relied upon to combat pests and protect yields. However, the emergence of GMOs in recent years presents another potential tool. Bt cotton is a genetically modified strain of cotton which has seen very widespread use in Pakistan. In 2008, before the requisite cotton technology was even commercially available in the country, an estimated 60% of cotton farmers were planting the strain. Seeds were available mainly as smuggled goods from India. Results produced by this early use were generally positive and indicated the potential that Bt cotton had as a tool to be used to reduce poverty in Pakistan. In 2008, estimates indicated that cotton yields were higher by 50 kilograms per acre for farmers who adopted Bt cotton. The modified strain was also shown to significantly increase household income among adopters.

Positive Effects of Bt cotton

The use of Bt cotton has continued and increased in the years since this early adoption. As more and more farmers have adopted this cotton as an alternative to continental cotton strains, the positive effects have remained consistent. Between 2015 and 2017, household income and profit were both shown to be higher among adopters of Bt cotton, and it still increases from year to yearThe positive effects of the cotton have demonstrated the potential for the reduction of poverty in Pakistan. Currently, small farmers benefit the most from the adoption of Bt cotton, relative to medium and large ones.

Still, small farmers face the largest barriers to adoption. They often lack the capital needed to adopt and implement new farming techniques and technologies. Increasing the availability of Bt cotton to those farmers who would most benefit from its adoption could prove a significant step in the bid to reduce poverty in Pakistan.

Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Flickr