Keywords: Bt-cotton, sustainability, South Africa, agricultural biotechnology, developing countries, genetic modification, pest resistance, small-scale farming, GM cotton, pesticide reduction
Bt-cotton boosts the gross margin of small-scale cotton producers in South Africa
This paper explores some of the issues involved in the Genetic Modification (GM) debate by focusing on one crop that has been modified for pest resistance, cotton (Gossypium hirsutum), and commercially released to small-scale farmers in the Makhathini Flats, KwaZulu Natal, the Republic of South Africa. This was the first commercial release of a GM variety (Bt-cotton) in Sub-Saharan Africa, and thus provides valuable and timely insights into some of the potential advantages and disadvantages of the technology for small-scale farmers in Africa. Even though there are wider concerns regarding the vulnerability of small-scale farmers in the area, the survey results suggest that Bt-cotton generated higher yields and gross margins than non-Bt-cotton. In addition, Bt-cotton significantly reduced the use of pesticide with consequent potential benefits to human health and the environment.