About Bt cotton

About Bt cotton:

  • Bt cotton is a genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically modified pest resistant plant cotton variety, which produces an insecticide to bollworm.


What is Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis)?

  • Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a bacterium that occurs naturally in the soil and produces proteins that kill certain insects.
  • Through biotechnology, scientists can use these naturally occurring Bt proteins to develop insect-protected crops that protect against insect damage and destruction.
  • When targeted insects eat the plant containing the protein, they ultimately die; but impact of Bt on humans and other animals is still being questioned.


About Monsanto:

  • Monsanto is a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is the largest producer of genetically engineered (GE) seeds (Eg: Bt Cotton).
  • Monsanto sells GM cotton seeds in India through its joint venture with Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co — Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Ltd (MMBL).
  • In 2002, a joint venture between Monsanto and Mahyco introduced Bt cotton to India.
  • India has become the largest producer of cotton partly due to Bt cotton, which accounts for over 90% of the total cotton acreage in the country.


Background of the dispute:

  • The matter relates to a dispute between Monsanto Technology LLC and Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd. Nuziveedu Seeds under a 2004 sub­licence agreement with Monsanto.
  • Under the sub-licence agreement, which the former could develop “Genetically Modified Hybrid Cotton Planting Seeds” with help of the technology provided by Monsanto and to commercially exploit the same subject to the limitations prescribed in the agreement.
  • It also provided for payment of licence fee by Nuziveedu for use of the plaintiffs’ patented technology.
  • MBBL terminated its sub-license with Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd (NSL) in 2015 after a royalty payment dispute.
  • The case reached court when NSL continued to sell genetically modified seeds even after its contract was terminated, with the latter seeking an ad-interim injunction.
  • In November 2016, a single judge bench of the High Court restrained NSL from selling BT cotton seeds using the trademark of Monsanto or MMBL. However, a division bench of the Delhi High Court (DHC) had overturned this.
  • The division bench DHC had earlier ruled that Monsanto could not claim patents of GM (genetically modified) cotton seeds since items like seeds, plants and animals can’t be patented under Indian laws
  • But recently, the SC ruled that the division bench should have limited itself to examining the validity of the injunction. The order of the single judge dated March 28, 2017, is restored and the suit is remanded to the single judge for disposal in accordance with law.
  • Thus, the apex court restored the order of the single judge bench of the high court which was not seized of the issue of patent but had dealt with the issue of trademark infringement claimed by Monsanto over the BT cotton seeds by Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd.


Advantages of Bt cotton over non-Bt cotton:

  • Increases yield of cotton due to effective control of three types of bollworms, viz. American, Spotted and Pink bollworms.
  • Insects belonged to Lepidoptera (Bollworms) are sensitive to crystalline endotoxic protein produced by Bt gene which in turn protects cotton from bollworms.
  • Reduction in insecticide use in the cultivation of Bt cotton in which bollworms are major pests.
  • Potential reduction in the cost of cultivation (depending on seed cost versus insecticide costs).
  • Reduction in predators which help in controlling the bollworms by feeding on larvae and eggs of bollworm.
  • No health hazards due to rare use of insecticides (particularly who is engaged in spraying of insecticides).


Limitations of Bt cotton:

  • High cost of Bt cotton seeds as compared to non Bt cotton seeds.
  • Effectiveness up to 120 days, after that the toxin producing efficiency of the Bt gene drastically reduces.
  • Ineffective against sucking pests like jassids, aphids, whitefly etc.
Section : Environment & Ecology