There is a global shortage of non-GM (genetically modified) cotton seed, which must be used to grow organic, Fairtrade and Cotton Made in Africa cotton. Nearly two thirds of all cotton grown worldwide is now GM.

This has totally changed the seed industry with large companies no longer offering non-GM varieties. Even where they are available, they are bred for high-input agriculture which means farmers using synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and irrigation.

In India alone, the company Monsanto has a 95% monopoly of the seed market. This makes it almost impossible for small-scale farmers who want to cultivate organic or Fairtrade cotton to source non-GM seeds. The Fairtrade Foundation’s project with Pratibha Syntex aims to address this by supporting cotton farmers at the Vasudha co-operative in Madhyapradesh, India to breed their own non-GM seeds so they can have more choice over how they farm.

By the end of this three year project, at least 1500 small-scale farmers will have access to organic seed produced by their own cooperative. Having access to non-GM seeds will bring all the environmental and health benefits of growing organic plus a higher price for their cotton! The project will also help cotton farmers in the co-operative to benefit from improved access to high-value UK Fairtrade markets.