Crop Biotech Update

Burkina Faso Farmers Call for Return of Bt Cotton

September 19, 2018

Cotton farming in Burkina Faso is in a fast slump two years after the suspension of Bt cotton. This was reported by Burkinabé farmers during the launch of the ISAAA report on the Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2017 in Ouagadougou on September 11, 2018. Cotton has been the most important cash crop for Burkinabé farmers, with the country having been Africa's number one cotton producer for 7 consecutive years between 2008 and 2015. It is hardly a coincidence that Bt cotton was commercially cultivated in Burkina Faso during the same period.

For Francois Traore, a Burkinabé cotton farmer of over three decades, Bt cotton came with significant reduction in cost of pesticides as spraying was reduced to 2 times per cropping time compared to 6-15 times he sprayed to his conventional cotton. "It was a bountiful couple of years with Bt cotton," he recounts. Cultivation of Bt cotton was suspended following concerns regarding short fiber length. According to the report, a 70 percent increase in chemical use has been reported as the African bollworm resurges, with many farmers withdrawing from growing the country's top foreign exchange earner. "It is unfortunate that we abandoned this technology, it reduced our labor, increased our profits and kept us from constant contact with chemicals," added Mr. Traore. Farmers attending the launch unanimously urged the Government to quickly resolve the issue in order to reinstate the biotech cotton program.

Presenting the report in the capital city Ouagadougou to OFAB stakeholders from 8 countries – Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, Dr. Margaret Karembu, ISAAA AfriCenter Director, emphasized the need to expedite delivery of appropriate technologies that enable farmers to maximize their returns in farm investments. The launch was hosted by the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) during its annual planning meeting. A total of 55 participants, including farmers, journalists, and scientists attended the meeting.

For more information on agricultural biotechnology in Africa, contact Dr. Margaret Karembu at mkarembu@isaaa.org.