Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New technologies coming too fast for Indian farmers in key cotton-growing area

Farmers relying on word of mouth to choose cottonseed in place of experimental testing

The arrival of genetically modified crops has added another level of complexity to farming in the developing world, says a sociocultural anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis.

Glenn D. Stone, Ph.D., professor of anthropology and of environmental studies, both in Arts & Sciences, at Washington University in St. Louis, has completed the first detailed anthropological fieldwork on these crops and the way they impact — and are impacted by — local culture.

The study, published in the February 2007 issue of Current Anthropology, focuses on cotton production in the Warangal District of Andhra Pradesh, India, one of the nation's key cotton-growing areas. There, Stone found several factors affecting farmers' ability to adjust to new developments by practical methods. Among them are the speed of change, the overwhelming number of choices in the seed market and the desire for novelty — all of which lead to lack of proper seed testing by farmers.

"There is a rapidity of change that the farmers just can't keep up with," Stone says. "They aren't able to digest new technologies as they come along. In Warangal, the pattern of change is dizzying. From 2003 to 2005, more than 125 different brands of cottonseed had been sold. But the seeds come and go. In 2005, there were 78 kinds being sold, but only 24 of those were around in 2003."

Bt cottonseed, genetically modified to produce its own insecticide, was introduced in India in 2002. Between 2003 and 2005, the market share of Bt seed — created through collaboration between Monsanto Co. and several Indian companies — rose to 62 percent from 12 percent.

Stone's research reveals that the increase resulted not from traditional farming methods of testing seed for efficacy, but from a pattern of "social learning" — farmers relying on word of mouth to choose seeds.

"Very few farmers were doing experimental testing, they were just using it because their neighbors were," Stone says. "There has been a breakdown in the process of farmers evaluating new seed technologies."


While Bt seed exacerbates the problem by creating yet another option, the farming troubles predate its introduction. In the late 1990s, there was an epidemic of farmer suicide in the Warangal District. Many farmers are deeply in debt and have been for generations.

Stone's study shows that the farmers' inability to recognize the varying seeds being sold at market contributes to those woes. The farmers' desire for novelty leads to rapid turnover in the seed market. Seed firms frequently take seeds that have become less popular, rename them and sell them with new marketing campaigns, Stone says.

"Many different brands are actually the same seed," he says. "Farmers can't recognize what they are getting. As a result, the farmers can't properly evaluate seeds. Instead, they ask their neighbors. Copying your neighbor isn't necessarily a bad thing; but in this case, everyone is copying everyone else, which results in fads, not testing."

Stone argues that the previously undocumented pattern of fads, in which each village moves from seed to seed, reflects a breakdown in "environmental learning," leaving farmers to rely on "social learning." Stone refers to this situation as "de-skilling."

"The bottom line is that the spread of Bt cotton doesn't so much reflect that it works for the farmers or that the farmers have tested it and found it to be a good technology," Stone says. "The spread more reflects the complete breakdown in the cotton cultivation system."

Editor's note: Glenn Stone is available for interviews. Television and radio reporters can conduct live or taped interviews via Washington University's broadcast studio, which is equipped with VYVX and ISDN lines.

Glenn D. Stone | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Forest Management Yields Higher Productivity through Biodiversity
14.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Farming with forests
23.09.2016 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>