“I took a Gamble” – Indian Cotton Farmer
Interview with Balwinder Singh Kang, Indian Farmer
Tell us a bit about yourself and your farm
I am a cotton farmer, primarily. I do grow vegetables, as well, but because cotton is the only biotech crop allowed in India, it is my most profitable. I was lucky to be part of the trial when insect-resistant Bt cotton came to India, and when I saw the benefits of this technology; I was the first person to say, “this is what is going to save us.” I took a gamble, and took an additional 50 hectares of land on lease to sow Bt cotton. It has paid off and my family is enjoying a decent living.
What has changed for you since Bt cotton came to India?
My standard of living has changed completely. I was able to send my kids to good colleges. I’ve married off my daughter and my son has become a lawyer. I look at my neighbor, who is also a farmer. He did not take on Bt cotton at first, and even though we farm the same land, there is a huge difference in his living standards and mine. I finally convinced him to take on Bt cotton, but he lost five or six years of opportunity, so there is still a huge difference.
What would you say to regulators in India about biotech crops?
Almost 65 percent of our population is dependent on agriculture for a living. Shouldn’t we be using all the technology available to improve our standards of living? If we can make a better living, why shouldn’t we do it? We adopted mobile phones, cars, and other technologies from other countries. Why can’t we adopt agricultural technologies as well? It’s a global village and we need to have the same technologies to compete.
Look at Bt brinjal. Scientists say it is safe. We farmers want it. But NGOs and the government say we can’t have it. So now, we are importing all that brinjal from Bangladesh and consuming it here in India. This is taking opportunity away from Indian farmers. It is inexcusable.
What do you hope will happen next?
With so many new technologies, Bt brinjal, corn, chickpeas and others, and drought resistance technologies, I hope we Indian farmers will get a real chance to compete and make a better living. We need the technology to keep food affordable and improve our ability to make a living. We are not just farmers; we are consumers too, so we understand we can’t increase the prices of food. We will increase income by increasing production and reducing costs. We must continue to adopt new agricultural technologies. This is the only way to improve the lives of those in India who depend on farming for their living, while also keeping food affordable and plentiful.
Are you optimistic about the future of farming in India?
If we farmers can have more of a voice, and decide for ourselves, rather than living with the decisions of the NGOs, what types of technologies we can use, then I am very optimistic. I’m a great example of how agricultural technologies can change lives. If scientists say these advancements are safe, then why can’t we have them? If we can improve production and reduce costs, everyone wins. If we enter the technology age, the future of farming in India is very bright.