Insect resistant (Bt) white maize and minimum tillage are being adopted by smallholders in Hlabisa, KwaZulu-Natal. Bt cotton contains the genes controlling the production of a natural insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which acts specifically on Lepidoptera, including bollworm in cotton and stem borers in maize, and is harmless to all other insects. A survey of 135 farms in 2003/4 is used in a stochastic frontier model to show that Bt seed did not increase yields per kg of seed and, because of its cost, made farmers 12 percent less efficient. This is due to unusually dry conditions, in which the stalk borer is not prevalent. Minimum tillage is being introduced to reduce erosion, but has more of an effect on production than Bt, increasing yields by 12 percent and efficiency by 11 percent. However, it displaces labour, which may have adverse effects on poverty.
Journal of Development Perspectives (2006) 2 (2) 192-207