Stalking the Wild Tomato: The Economic Botany of Genetically Modified Cotton Farms in Telangana, India.

Date and Time: 
Tuesday, 13 May, 2014 - 19:50 to 20:10
FLACHS, Andrew - Washington Unviersity in St. Louis

Genetically modified (GM) crops may threaten biodiversity, both because their genetic material could escape into and subsequently alter non-GM species, and because GM crops encourage farmers along the path of input-intensive monocultures.  But because of the need for home vegetables and medicines, small farms in the Warangal district of Telangana, India also contain over 100 semi-managed vegetables, trees, and wild plants belonging to 40 families.  While farmers continue to plant poorly understood, deceptively labelled Bt cotton seeds, they also maintain an average of seventeen other plants on their farms for regular economic use.  This paper draws on surveys, field interviews, and ethnography conducted among randomly sampled Bt cotton farmers to show the full range of economic plants normally used on Indian GM farms.  In doing so, it argues that some farmers have been able to preserve a measure of agrobiodiversity despite the pressures of GM cash cropping, and highlights the destructive potential of agricultural technology designed for 'cotton' fields on non-target useful plants.