|Chronologically listed items on this page for 2003-2005 in descending order - or return to INDIA page for current items in 2006:
Decision-making on GE crops in India is highly questionable - CICR knew about the ineffective expression of Bt toxin all along
GM Foods: Endangering India's Health
Draft Seed Bill runs into rough weather, process may be delayed
"GMO-free clothing" campaign
'Bollgard' Bt cotton disaster highlights need for Indian Biosafety to look to European Union example for strong legislation
PERFORMANCE OF BT COTTON IN ANDHRA PRADESH 2004-2005 - 17 March 2005
The story of Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: Erratic Processes and Results
15 November 2004 - Bayer pulls out of Genetic Engineering Research in India; Admits to Greenpeace the Future is in 'Conventional' Breeding
Indian President Supports Transgenic Technology, But Sounds A Note Of Caution
Exporters Cautious Over Worries On GM Food - Food Industry To Maintain Image Of Being Supplier Of Non-GM Foods
Future Of GM Crops Uncertain Despite Govt Project On Transgenic Foods
New Asian Experiences Of Food Security
Announcement of Release of GE Potato in India is Premature
Southern Cotton Becoming Bt Resistant
A new scientific study of GM (Bt) cotton production in Andhra Pradesh
The lobby interests of MNCs can rule the roost
A lesson from the field
AP Govt to fight Bt companies in court - http://www.newkerala.com/news.php?action=fullnews&id=75290
Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh Government today announced it would move MRPC over the issue of ''abnormally high trait value'' imposed by the multinational Monsanto and other companies selling genetically-modified Bacillus Thuringensis (BT) cotton seeds to farmers. Agriculture Minister N Raghuveera Reddy told a press conference here that a leading advocate had been engaged to file the petition before the Monopoly and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRPC) on January two against Mahyco, Monsanto, Proagro, Raasi, Nuzividu and Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech Ltd.
Upset with the Centre allowing field trials of Bt ladies finger without taking the State Government into confidence, it had taken up the matter with the Union Government, he said, adding, ''We need to be informed for monitoring whether the field trials are being carried out as per the conditions laid down by the Centre.'' Pointing out that though no patent rights were granted for multinational companies producing Bt cotton in India, they were charging 300 times of the bare seed cost, Mr Reddy said adding that the trait value charged was much lower in other countries.
''We will fight to the finish to protect the interest of farmers.'' Seed producing farmers were getting only Rs 200 to Rs 250 for a pack of 450 gm from MNCs and their subsidiaries, which provided source material, and charging over Rs 1250 as trait value was totally unjust, he said. Bt cotton seeds worth Rs 129.95 crore were sold in the state since 2001-02.
Replying to a question, he said Mahyco had been blacklisted for not paying compensation of Rs three crore fixed by the Government for farmers who lost their crops growing Bt cotton during 2003, following a study by an independent team of scientists. Making it clear that the State Government was not against technology per se, and was ready to take up genetically-modified crops in a big way, he said it would not allow companies to fleece the farmers.
NGOs unearth non-transpareny in GM Crops field trials - High incidence of pests in Bt Okra
ASHOK B SHARMA - Posted online: Wednesday, December 28, 2005 at 0054 hours IST
NEW DELHI, DEC 27: The Hyderabad-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) has found high incidence of several diseases and pest on Bt Okra under field trials in Narakoduru village in Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh. The CSA team led by Gangadhar Vagmare, Ram Prasad and Kavitha Kuruganti found incidence of bacterial leaf spot, cercospora leaf spot, yellow vein mosaic, spotted bollworm, powdery mildew, spodoptera, jassids, aphids and white fly on Bt Okra developed by Mahyco. The CSA team noted that so far there had been four sprays of pesticide as per the admissions made by the farmer and a employee of Mahyco.
Field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in India have always been shrouded in secrecy and mystery Such field trials are usually not publicly declared. This gives almost no opportunity to the general public about the on-thespot verification of the required biosafety norms to be followed and the accuracy of the data to be generated on basis of the trials.
Ms Kuruganti said that the CSA team visited the field of a farmer, Ardula Koteswara Rao in Narakoduru village in Guntur District in Andhra Pradesh. She said : “This is probably the first time since 2001-02 that a GM food crop is being tested in a farmer’s field rather than in greenhouses and campuses of companies and agri-research institutes.” The trial is being conducted on a 40-cent plot leased in from the farmer by Mahyco. The farmer has been paid Rs 7000 as lease rent, she said and added : “the local farmer’s body, Rythu Sangam has already begun protesting against the field trial which is violating all biosafety norms. The farmer was not informed that the company would conduct trials of a GM food crop.” The CSA team has reported that the concerned farmer and his family consumed the untested and not-yet-cleared-for-safety Bt Okra from the trial plots at least twice, without knowning the consequences. The CSA team reported a series of violation of biosafety norms The CSA team noted that the sowing began onAugust 7, 2005 as per Mr Brahma Raju, an employee of Mahyco. The seeds were first grown in nursery bags and later transplanted. The transplanting took place quite late in the season as compared to the usual sowing time, according to the farmer.
Report of a Fact Finding Visit to Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh
Objective: To look at the performance of Bt Cotton in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh
Details: The visit was made by Mr Ramprasad (Entomologist) and Ms Kavitha Kuruganti of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture on 22nd and 23rd November, 2005.
Villages visited include Pedapalakalur, Perecherla, Nidumukkala, Endrayi, Tallacheruvu and Achampeta. In addition to farmers in these villages, farmers spoken to include ones from Cherukupalem, Chamarthi, Kothapalli and Mittapalem of Achampeta block. The team also saw field trials of Bt Cotton in Jangamguntlapalem (Krishidhan Seeds) and Kantepudi (Pravardhan Seeds).
Fields of Bunny Bt Cotton, RCH2 Bt Cotton, J K Durga and Bhaskar [non-Bt Cotton], Super Bunny [non-Bt Cotton], illegal Bt Cotton like "Brahma Bt", "Rudra Bt", "Kurnool Bt" and field trials of Pravardhan Seeds and Krishidhan Seeds were visited during the visit.
Findings of the visit:
· Nearly all the farmers met during the visit felt that Bt Cotton fared worse than non-Bt Cotton this year, especially in terms of economics and yields.
· Farmers consistently reported that Bt Cotton is stress-intolerant and could not withstand heavy rains. While some farmers attributed the far-less-than-promised performance to rains, others had already made a comparison with non-Bt Cotton fields which were showing more tolerance to the excessive rains and had observed that Bt Cotton was decidedly worse.
· There were some fields where illegal Bt Cotton was better than approved Bt Cotton, as per the farmers.
· In a village like Nidumukkala, except for some demonstration plots by Bt Cotton companies, the rest of the village has gone in for unapproved Bt Cotton. It was not just monocropping of Bt Cotton, but monocropping of unapproved hybrids here. Farmers are not satisfied with what they are obtaining and many reported that they would go in for a mix of Bt and non-Bt Cotton next year.
· Data from the department indicates that Rasi Seeds had sold around 35000 packets, while Nuziveedu Seeds had sold around 2000 packets of approved Bt Cotton. Most sales were in Piduguralla, Narasaraopeta and Macherla areas. The total cotton area reported by the agriculture department is around 97 thousand hectares in Guntur district this year. While the department has sales figures only for approved Bt Cotton, our own visits to villages indicate that at least 60-80% cotton land in many villages is under Bt Cotton, including unapproved Bt Cotton hybrids. There were some germination failure cases of Bunny Bt Cotton at the beginning of the season and the company had compensated some farmers through seed replacement.
· While the cost per acre for Bt Cotton as well as non-Bt Cotton hovered around Rs. 10,000/acre, the average yields being reported by farmers with Bt Cotton were around 4-7 quintals, while non-Bt Cotton yields are around 7-10 quintals/acre.
· Farmers had sprayed upto 12-13 times on Bt Cotton. For instance, B Prasad Babu of Pedapalakalur had sprayed 13 times and had also applied fertilizers four times. Farmers have also said that fertilizer application for Bt Cotton was higher.
· We came across the case of a farmer whose advertisement appeared in the papers that day, claiming 15 quintals of produce from his Bunny Bt Cotton farm, while the farmer had harvested only 2 quintals uptil then [Mr T Prasanna Kumar, Nidumukkala]. He expects another eight quintals or so only. His cost of cultivation per acre is around 18000/- rupees per acre and his ten quintals of produce might just about fetch a return of Rs. 18000/-. Incidentally, his first two quintals of produce were sold for only Rs. 1500/quintal. This might mean that the farmer the company is showcasing for other farmers in their publicity may not even break even! Only the yield of ten quintals is being talked about ? the farmer in this case had applied nearly three times the usual fertilizer application on cotton. There were also seven sprays of chemical pesticides on this plot by the time of our visit. Included in his cost of cultivation mentioned here are land lease costs of Rs. 6000/acre
· Other farmers like Manchineni Ram Mohan Rao who had gone in for "Kurnool Bt Cotton" [unapproved Bt Cotton] in the same village had spent upto Rs. 15000/acre, including on 15 sprays of pesticides. So far, he has obtained only 2 quintals per acre and expects only around 5 more. The market rate for cotton is ranging around Rs. 1200/quintal to Rs. 1700/-. In Achampeta, farmers like Ala Koteswara Rao had spent around Rs. 10,000/acre with yields hovering only around 1-2 quintals/acre
· A meeting with a large number of farmers in the outlet of Vinay Sai Traders in Achampeta town found that most farmers have had unsatisfactory experience with Bt Cotton ? both approved and unapproved. Expenditure per acre was around Rs. 10,000/- to 12,000/- for most farmers here. The number of pesticide sprays was around 7-8. The yields were however in the range of 2-4 quintals only. Non-Bt Cotton farmers with expenses in the same range reported higher yields of upto 6-7 quintals/acre.
· Bt Cotton farmers reported high incidence of sucking pests like aphids, jassids, whitefly and diseases like black arm and leaf spot. There is severe reddening of the crop witnessed in many locations
· Many farmers opined that Bt Cotton's stress intolerance has to be balanced with non-Bt Cotton and its ability to withstand stress. For next year, farmers interviewed are of the opinion that a shift to maize might be better. Many farmers also felt that a mix of Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton might ensure better results.
· Bt Cotton's stress intolerance was clear when fields of Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton right adjacent to each other were inspected in Achampeta. With the same growing conditions, Bt Cotton's vulnerability to higher incidence of sucking pests and diseases was obvious here.
· The economics of Bt Cotton was more adverse than on non-Bt Cotton. In this district, most farmers had spent more on Bt Cotton in terms of seed cost [for approved Bt Cotton] and on fertilizers. The difference in pesticide sprays between Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton was only in the range of 3-4 sprays, that too on inexpensive pesticides. Both Bt cotton growers and non-Bt Cotton growers had to go in for expensive pesticides.
· For thousands of illegal Bt Cotton growers, there are no accountability mechanisms that could hold the sellers liable for the losses incurred.
· Even for the ones who went in for approved Bt Cotton, unless the government makes a better analysis of the technology and its shortcomings, there may not be much reprieve.
In this context, the government has to pro-actively assess the performance of Bt Cotton in comparison to non-Bt Cotton, understand the technology and its full ramifications and support the farmers in making informed choices rather than allow unilateral aggressive propaganda in favour of Bt Cotton.
Bt Cotton in Khammam: A fact finding report
Objective: To investigate into the widespread disease and pest damage in Bt Cotton being reported by farmers in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh.
A team of agriculture scientists from Centre for Sustainable Agriculture [CSA] consisting of Dr. Raghunath (entomologist) and Mr.Zakir Hussain (pathologist) and Mr Ramesh, Field Coordinator of SECURE, a local NGO visited Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh to investigate the performance of Bt cotton this season. This team visited Palvancha (Pattinagar village), Burgumpahad (Lakshmipuram and Sanjeevreddypalem village) and Julurupad (Kommugudem and Karrivaripalem villages) mandals of Khammam district on 18th and 19th of November. The team had discussions with and visited fields of Bt cotton farmers, non-Bt cotton farmers, input-agents and farmers growing illegal Bt cotton.
· This season, there was high rainfall with floods in Khammam district and the incidence of Helicoverpa is less compared to last year.
· Sucking pest incidence was severe in all the cotton fields and secondary pest outbreak is more in these areas. There is outbreak of spodoptera (tobacco caterpillar) and Sylapta derogate (Cotton leaf roller) in Khammam district. These are normally minor pests in cotton but have become major pests this year. In fact the severity of these pests is more in Bt cotton fields compared to Non-Bt cotton fields.
· Coming to sucking pests, the incidence of Jassids is severe in Bt cotton compared to Non-Bt cotton. There is 50-60% damage in Bt cotton due to jassids. The leaves in Bt cotton have become red and plants are stunted in growth. There are only 15-20 bolls/plant in Bt cotton compared to 40-50 bolls in Non-Bt cotton. The Bt cotton fields are stunted in growth and appeared like red bushes with minimum Bolls.
· This year, according to official reports from Department of Agriculture, about 80% of the cotton area has been planted with illegal Bt Cotton and farmers popularly call it as "GUDDA Bt". There are around 20000 acres of area in Khammam district under legal Bt Cotton. The remaining area is under Non-Bt Cotton which includes other commercial Hybrids.
· In these various kinds of Bt and non-Bt Cotton, the worst hit cotton plots are Legal Bt cotton fields viz., RCH-2 Bt and Bunny?Bt with Jassids and secondary pests like Spodoptera and Sylapta. This clearly shows that minor pests that were not causing major damage have become major due to Bt-Cotton.
"Bt-Cotton is not suitable to our climatic situations and we became fools by growing Bt cotton this year", says Chilukuri Nageswara Rao a pesticide dealer and commission agent of Lakshmipuram village of Burgumpahad. "Non-Bt is giving more yields and crop is healthy compared to Bt Cotton which has become reddened", says Badeti Radhamma of Nakeerpet of Burgumpahad. Several farmers complained that they incurred severe losses by growing Bt Cotton this year.
"I am ready to commit suicide", an RCH-2 Bt farmer by name Bhukya Mangithya of Kommugudem cried out in frustration. "I have grown Mahyco Bt Cotton last year and I have not made any profit out of it. This year, with a lot of hope I opted for RCH-2 Bt Cotton as suggested by the local commission agents. The result is that I suffered a huge loss and till date, I got only 2 quintals and I may get another 1 quintal extra, per acre. When I took this cotton to the market, the buyers are saying that the cotton quality is poor and I got only Rs.700/quintal. How can I survive with Rs. 1400 this year?". He said that he spent nearly Rs.77000 on the 7 acres on which he has grown Bt Cotton and in return, got only Rs.19600. "I am panicking now, not knowing what to do. My family members have already become agriculture labourers. In this situation, there is no other way except committing suicide", he said.
"Our entire village has opted only for Bt-Cotton this year. Now, we are waiting for any Bt Cotton company representative to come back to us so that we can tie him up in our village" says Vadda Venkata Narayana of Karrivarigudem, a village adjacent to Kommugudem. "We opted for Bt Cotton as commission agents spread the message that Bt Cotton can control pink bollworm also and instead, our fields became red carpets" added Daravath Raamulu of the same village.
When the Fact Finding Team was discussing with a farmer of Bt cotton in Sanjeevreddy palem village of Burgumpahad mandal, a team of Field Assistants of a Bt Cotton company came to the field. Finally they said to the farmer, "Brother, you spray Tracer once and your crop will yield tremendously. In the next village, there is a Bunny Bt Cotton plot where each plant has 200 bolls. You should also go for Bunny Bt Cotton next year". This is the way by which the next year's ground is being laid for the next year to lure farmers towards Bunny Bt cotton.
The FFT also sought to understand why so many farmers have opted for Bt Cotton this year. Some of the points that emerged are:
· It is promoted as a variety instead of a GE crop
· Propaganda by industry that it solves major pest problems like Pink bollworm
· Some are spreading news that Non-Bt Cotton cannot survive between Bt Cotton fields all around. This forces everyone to shift to Bt Cotton
· False message about very high yields of Bt-Cotton in some plots in neighboring villages
· Credit support by commission agents and input agencies for the farmers growing Bt cotton.
Finally, instead of a proper analysis of the situation, the rumors being spread are that RCH-2 Bt Cotton has failed completely and that Bunny Bt Cotton performed better. Next year, many farmers are planning to go for Bunny-Bt Cotton in a big way and the Company has already started advertising about Bunny Bt Cotton in the villages.
It is evident from the fact finding visit that Bt Cotton has badly failed the farmers. Even their cost of cultivation has not been covered this year and many farmers are ready to commit suicides.
The incidence of sucking pests and secondary pests has been damagingly high on Bt Cotton. This is something that needs deep investigations from the government. Farmers have to be advised accordingly, based on these investigations so that they are not lured by aggressive marketing which does not mention all these shortcomings and hazards of Bt Cotton.
This struggle will be as long as the policy environment (of government extension agencies and universities) blindly supports Bt Cotton without making scientific assessments on the need and desirability of bringing in Bt Cotton and its impacts.
It is also clear that Bt Cotton companies have begun their aggressive marketing once again, targeted to maximize sales for next year.
Agriculture cannot be allowed to become a gamble that farmers take, full of unpredictability of success or failure. Bt Cotton certainly is a game of unpredictability, with its established extreme uneven performance across years and its extreme stress intolerance. Farmers have to be protected pro-actively from such technologies.
The government should also make immediate moves to get the companies to pay compensation to all loss-incurring farmers, for bringing in a defective technology and hyping it up as the magical solution for all the problems that farmers are facing.
A DISASTER CALLED BT COTTON - Suman Sahai - The Times of India, 1 December 2005
Two days ago the government admitted for the first time that Bt cotton had indeed failed in parts of India. The Agriculture Minister conceded in the Rajya Sabha that Bt cotton had failed in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. He asked state governments in all cotton growing regions to constitute an enquiry into the quality of seeds available to farmers and the spread of spurious seeds. At the same time, in Madhya Pradesh, the Governor has asked the state government to find out the causes of the failure of Bt cotton and called for compensation to farmers. The Mahyco-Monsanto and Rasi varieties of Bt cotton have reportedly failed in large parts of Madhya Pradesh causing serious losses to farmers. A report from Nimad district in Madhya Pradesh states that Bt cotton is causing allergic reactions in those coming into contact with it and cattle have perished near Bt cotton fields in another district.
Reports of the failure of Bt cotton have been coming in steadily after the harvest of the first crop of 2002-2003. Gene Campaign's study of the first Bt cotton harvest in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra had shown that 60% of the farmers who cultivated Bt cotton in these regions had suffered such losses that they could not even recover their investment. Several agencies including governmental and non-governmental organisations, independent media groups, academic institutions and state governments have been reporting that Bt cotton is failing in many parts of the country. Based on the Andhra Pradesh government's report of Bt cotton failure, the state has banned the sale of the Mahyco-Monsanto varieties of Bt cotton because it caused large scale losses to farmers. Recently a 20 member group of NGOs have conducted surveys in several cotton growing regions and found the seed had failed to germinate in many places like Tamil Nadu, so farmers had to buy expensive Bt cotton seed two, even three times to sow their crops. In addition, wilt which started in Bt cotton fields in Madhya Pradesh was now found to be spreading. The reasons for this are not yet known.
In addition to these reports came scientific data that showed why the Bt cotton crop was failing in India. The Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur, published a paper to show that India?s Bt cotton technology is faulty and inadequate to protect India?s cotton crops where the major pest is the bollworm. Bt cotton hybrids being produced in India were found to be unstable and unpredictable and not very effective against the bollworm because the Bt technology being used here was created for the US, to protect America's cotton crops against its major pest, the tobacco budworm, not the bollworm.
The CICR study says that poor Bt cotton performance in India is also likely to be due to the fact that in India, Bt cotton is produced as hybrids , not true varieties, like in China, Australia and South Africa. Indian regulators must also answer why hybrids are being promoted, when they will force the farmer to buy seeds for every new planting? Why did the GEAC not take the decision that only true breeding varieties of Bt cotton would be permitted in India, not only because they perform better but also because they would be a cheaper option for farmers who could save seeds for the next harvest?
Along with these developments is the continuing spread of illegal Bt cotton varieties which began with the appearance of Navbharat 151 in Gujarat some years ago but which has since proliferated into a number of variants being bred in several parts of the country. Now, Bt cotton varieties are being sold which do not even contain the Bt gene. Farmers are being fooled by unscrupulous seed providers and no action is taken against them by the principal regulating authority, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). The GEAC has failed to check the problem of illegal seeds, it refuses to answer queries from the public or share information with it. The GEAC has further refused to press for compensation for losses suffered by farmers; instead, it has continued to release a slew of new Bt cotton varieties even though it knows that the cultivation of Bt cotton is taking place without the implementation of the mandated insect refuge management strategy that the GEAC itself has prescribed.
Even as these issues remain unaddressed, comes the report that the GEAC has already approved the first stage of tests of the new Monsanto cotton, Bollgard II which contains not one Bt gene, as the older varieties but two. Monsanto has been given permission for the final field trials for Bollgard II, which it boasts is "ten times better" than the older Bt cotton. Monsanto, government scientists and members of the GEAC would be fully aware that scientific papers in prestigious journals have already pointed out that the one gene Bt cotton and the two gene Bt cotton cannot be cultivated in the same region, they cannot coexist. If they are made to do so, the development of resistance in the bollworm will be very rapid and the technology will fail even faster than predicted earlier.
Scientists recommend that if the two-gene Bt cotton is to be introduced, the one that Monsanto claims is "ten times better", the existing one gene Bt cotton must be withdrawn from cultivation. It does not need a genius to figure out that this is absolutely impossible in India. Where we have failed to check the spread of illegal variants, does some one seriously believe that all the existing legal and illegal one gene Bt cottons can be withdrawn from farmers fields? Will companies who have licensed the expensive one gene technology from Monsanto and are just bringing their varieties to the market, be prepared to abandon their investments so that Monsanto can be exclusively allowed to plant its two gene Bt cotton? Or does the GEAC simply not care what happens to the farmer, so far as Monsanto gets to release its varieties?
The Bt cotton saga has gone on long enough, so has the obduracy of government's regulatory agencies and their anti-farmer stance. Scientific evidence is disregarded; field reports of crop failures seem to make no dent. What will it take to get a policy on GM crops in this country that work for the farmers, not against them? If Bt cotton is a technology that could benefit our farmers, it should be developed for Indian conditions, farmers must be adequately trained in the use of this complex and alien technology and provisions for compensation in the event of crop failure must be rigorously enforced.
Debate rages over Bt cotton - Sanjay Tiwari - NDTV (India), Wednesday, November 30, 2005
In Vidharbha's cotton fields, a debate is raging over genetically modified cotton or Bt cotton, which claims to be pest resistant. Farmers like Marutrao Admane bought and planted Bt cotton after the cotton department aggressively promoted it, but pests infested their crop. When Admane called the seed company, they asked him to spray pesticides, but that didn't help either. "The bollworm still attacked the plants. The flowers fell twice, first during Pola festival and then after the unseasonal rains," he said. Spraying pesticides defeats the whole purpose of buying Bt cotton, as the seed is about four times more expensive than the normal cotton seed and is supposed to save money on pesticides.
Bt cotton seeds were made by American company Monsanto and after several rounds of testing, the seed was cleared for use in India. Indian seed companies then got licenses to make their own version of Bt cotton. In Maharashtra, for instance, farmers can choose from seven versions of Bt cotton seeds, among them Banni, Raasi and Mahabeej. However, BM Khadi, Director, Institute of Cotton Research, claims that illegal or spurious versions of Bt cotton have entered the market and that's why the crop is getting attacked by pests. "Those who have bought genuine seeds have faced no problems. Only those who have procured spurious seeds from unknown agencies are in trouble," said Khadi.
But farmers like Admane say they bought the official version and still got attacked by pests. And as farmers' suicides cross the 180 mark this year, the debate is getting more and more explosive. Desperate to reduce some of their debt burden, farmers opted for the Bt cotton variety this time. But they hardly hope to get even 1/4th of their crop. Adding to their woes, even the state government has refused to hike the cotton prices this year.
Greenpeace seeks total ban on field trials of GE food crops - New Delhi, November 29, 2005
Greenpeace has demanded a total ban on all field trials of genetic engineering food crops aimed at preventing it from entering the food chains in the country and also unveiled the 'biohazard hotspots map' of India revealing the shocking scale of field trials of Genetically Engineering (GE) of food crops.
After meeting the Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss today, Greenpeace GE Campaigner Divya Raghunandan told reporters here that ''Greenpeace activists have sought urgent intervention of the Minister to ban all field trials of GE Food crops in the country.'' The Greenpeace expressed concerns on various revelations occurred during trials in the foreign countries which were dangerous to health.
The map, a result of Greenpeace investigations revealed that 21 vegetables including brinjal, cabbage, tomato, cereals including kabuli channa and pigeon peas and fruits like banana, musk melon and water melon are being genetically engineered in at least 26 institutions in 16 cities, she added. ''The Australian research clearly demonstrates that GE is a dangerous technology. Unexpected and unpredicted effects can occur with far reaching implications to the environment, animal and human health. Our wheat, pigeon pea and chick pea is exposed to rsearch and similar genes and the Ministry of Health must prevail upon the Ministry of Science and Technology to abandon this and other such irresponsible experiments,'' said Ms Raghunandan.
The presumption of safety with foreign genes in our food is dangerous. Instead of taking a precautionary approach, the scale and scope of research on GMOs in the country suggests that the government would soon allow commercial cultivation of these dangerous foods, the Greenpeace Campaigner said and added, ''If urgent action is not taken, it is feared that within two years the government will allow atleast one of these crops to be sold in the markets.'' She also said ''lack of transparency is preventive effective public scrutiny. Public health is at risk and the government must make available all data from all institutions, including private ones on health and safety impacts of rsearch on GMOs for public scrutiny by independent scientists.''
The 2004 Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) clearly states that ''various uncertainties exist regarding the safety of these foods, because there is limited scientific evidence regarding their toxicity or health risks, the methodology used for assessing the risk is not robust enough or sensitive enough and the molecular and genetic effects of the technology are unpredictable in nature,'' Ms Raghunandan said. She urged the Ministries of Health and Science and Technology that the New Biotech Policy should be reoriented to focus on biosafety concerns and risks to health caused by GE foods.
Centre [ie central government] admits failure of Bt cotton in 2 States - Gargi Parsai - The Hindu, Nov 27 2005
State Governments to take action against producers, suppliers of spurious seeds *The GEAC has not renewed permission for cultivation of three Cotton Mahyco [Monsanto's partner in India] hybrids
*Tamil Nadu Government advised to constitute special flying squads to prevent sale of illegal seeds
*Andhra Pradesh seeks compensation amounting to Rs. 3.84 crores from Monsanto-Mahyco NEW DELHI:
The Government on Friday conceded the failure of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. Subsequently, permission for sale of the Monsanto-Mahyco varieties of MECH seeds had not been renewed for Andhra Pradesh this kharif. The Centre has asked the cotton-growing State Governments to take action against producers, suppliers and vendors of spurious Bt cotton seeds that have failed to germinate or are non-Bt cotton seeds being sold in the name of transgenic seeds at exorbitant prices. It has also asked States to monitor the performance of Bt cotton by constituting State level and district level coordination committees. Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told the Rajya Sabha that the Andhra Pradesh Government had reported large-scale complaints against Bt cotton seeds that had failed in Warangal district and other parts of the State during kharif 2004 causing losses to farmers. The State Government had sought compensation amounting to Rs. 3.84 crores from Monsanto-Mahyco. The company had appealed before the State-level Memorandum of Understanding Committee and the High Court.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has not renewed permission for cultivation of three Mahyco cotton hybrids, including Bt MECH-12, Bt MECH-162, Bt MECH-184 for Andhra Pradesh. The State Government has imposed a ban on sale of Bt cotton hybrids of the company during kharif 2005. In Rajasthan too some Bt cotton had performed poorly due to inadequate rain, a long dry spell and high temperature during the crop's growth period, the Minister said. The Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur has been notified as referral laboratory for detecting the presence or absence of Bt gene in the cotton seeds. The Department of Seed Certification in Tamil Nadu has also established a laboratory for similar purpose in Coimbatore. The State Governments have been advised to constitute special flying squads to prevent sale of illegal Bt.cotton seeds and undertake massive campaigns to educate farmers on the subject.
India : Failure of Bt cotton turns farmers' hopes down - Nov 25 2005 - http://www.fibre2fashion.com/news/textile-news/newsdetails.aspx?news_id=9001
Failure of Bt cotton in Madhya Pradesh has not only afflicted farmers but also put the highest office on its toe in the state. The governor, Balram Jakhar has asked the state government to find out the reasons of failure of Bt cotton. Farmers had purchased Bt cottonseeds at excessive prices with a hope that they would earn high profits with it. But their hopes turned down and now farmers are in losses and become debtors. He added that he has requested the state to look into the sale of seeds and catch the persons responsible for the situation. Sufficient compensation should be given to the farmers to make up their loss. Jakhar is the chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj, the largest farmers' association of country. There is occurrence of wilt on Bt cotton fields in Badwani-Thikri area in Madhya Pradesh in this season. This triggers heavy losses to farmers of Mech 162 Bt, Mech 184 Bt, Mech 6301 Bt and RCH 2 Bt. A network of 20 local NGOs has carried out a study and found out that wilt is now spreading to non-Bt cotton fields from Bt cotton fields. The network of NGOs dismissed that wilt is a result of any abiotic or a fault in farmers' techniques in Bt cotton farming.
Governor asks MP govt to probe failure of Bt cotton - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, November 24, 2005
NEW DELHI, NOV 23: Farmers' distress arising out of the failure of Bt cotton In Madhya Pradesh has drawn the attention of the highest office in the state. The governor, Balram Jakhar has asked the state government to find out the causes for failure of Bt cotton which has landed farmers into indebtedness and heavy losses. Speaking to FE, Mr Jakhar said, "I have asked the state government to find out the causes of failure of Bt cotton. Farmers had purchased Bt cotton seeds at exhorbitantly higher prices with a hope that it would give better yields. But matters have turned different and now farmers are in losses and pushed into indebtedness." He added, "I have asked the state government to investigate the sale of seeds and find out the persons responsible for the situation. The farmers need to be adequately compensated for the losses." Mr Jakhar is the ex-officio chairman of the country's largest farmers' body, Bharat Krishak Samaj.
According to reports, there is incidence of wilt on Bt cotton fields in Badwani-Thikri belt in Madhya Pradesh in the current season, causing heavy losses to growers of Mech 162 Bt, Mech 184 Bt, Mech 6301 Bt and RCH 2 Bt. A study done by a network of over 20 local NGOs found that wilt phenomenon is now spreading to non-Bt cotton fields from Bt cotton fields. The network of NGOs ruled out that wilt is a result of any abiotic or as a short-coming in farmers? practices with Bt cotton.
Bt cotton causing allergic reaction in MP; cattle dead - Bhopal, Nov 23 2005 - http://news.webindia123.com/news/showdetails.asp?id=170692&cat=Health
Genetically-modified Bt Cotton, used for farming in Madhya Pradesh's Nimad region, is causing allergic ailments among people even as cattle have reportedly perished after consuming its seeds. The disturbing fact surfaced recently at a public hearing organised by Dhar district's Krishi Upaj Mandi. As per a scientist's report, presented during the hearing, at least 14 milch animals perished and several cultivators fill ill. It was alleged that use of the seeds led to a rise in cases of skin diseases.
On the other hand, state Director (Agriculture) L P Patel expressed ignorance over the news but assured that the government would order an inquiry if ''such incidents actually occurred''. ''Those gathering, lifting and even touching the cotton were suffering from victims of allergy. Mr Amulya Nidhi, who is undertaking a study in Dhar and Badwani districts, mentioned complaints of allergy,'' said social activist Ashish Gupta who was present at the hearing. Farmers' skin turned red, swelling occurred, eyes reddened and breathlessness was experienced. Some victims suffered a burning sensation in the eyes, watering, itching, swelling of eyelashes, sneezing and running noses.
Presenting Mr Nidhi's report of four villages within Dhar and Badwani districts, Dr Gupta claimed that the former chanced upon 23 patients, including ten severe cases, who suffered symptoms within about five hours of touching the cotton. ''The study revealed that persons who covered their body parts remained unaffected. Bhura Bai of Dhar district's Khaparkheda village said that her entire family was severely hit, while handling the crop, and had to be hospitalised. A poisonous bacterial gene was introduced in the cotton and is killing caterpillars,'' he added.
Paying the price of Bt Cotton - C Rajasekhar - The Hindustan Times, November 21, 2005
(The author is Assistant Professor, National Law Institute University, Bhopal)
APPARENTLY, Bt cotton has come with a huge price tag attached - Bt cotton farmers in Nimar are supposed to have lost about Rs 400 crore, as nearly half of the crop grown on about 4 lakh acres has wilted. What is Bt cotton and what is the genesis of the present controversy? Bt cotton is a genetically engineered cotton seed that contains a gene akin to the common soil bacteria, bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which produces a toxin lethal to the cotton pest, bollworm. The controversy began in 1998 when the joint venture, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd (Mahyco) - Monsanto Biotech Limited (MMBL) - started its field trials of Bt cotton in nine states including MP without the written approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).
In March 2002, regulatory approval was given to Bt cotton for commercial cultivation on the grounds that the Bt cotton field trials gave greater yields, generated higher incomes for farmers and required lesser pesticide sprays than non-Bt cotton crop. Mysteriously, the detailed results of the field trials have still not been disclosed to the public.
A recent survey conducted by the Beej Swraj Abhiyan in association with two NGOs, Sampark and WASP in Jhabua and Dhar districts, belie the tall claims made by Bt cotton seed makers. While Bt cotton growers incurred an expenditure of Rs 2127.13 per acre on fertilisers, wages, pesticides and irrigation, non-Bt cotton farmers spent just Rs 1014.86 per acre. While a 450-gm packet of Bt cotton seed cost around Rs 1600-2000, a non-Bt cotton packet cost between Rs 400-500. Moreover, the difference in pesticide sprays for both Bt cotton sprays and non-Bt cotton sprays was not statistically significant. Finally, Bt cotton growers earned a net profit of Rs 1493.53 per acre, non Bt cotton farmers earned Rs 2663.12 per acre, that is, about 75 per cent more. Clearly, in economic terms, Bt cotton farmers have been left high and dry!
The episode also indicates a complete regulatory failure - though the National Biotechnology regulatory regime provides for State Biotechnology Coordination Committees and district-level committees on paper, in practice they have proved completely ineffective. However, the most disturbing feature is the transformation of the character of farming in the State ? instead of maximising food security and ecological security, farmers are being induced by private sector seed or agribusiness companies to grow profit maximising cash crops without a proper assessment of costs, benefits and risks.
While the NGOs have demanded that the State Government secures compensation from seed companies, it may be legally difficult to do so, as farmers have purchased these seeds from the companies in their personal capacity. Nevertheless, Agriculture Minister Gopal Bhargava must immediately appoint a committee comprising agriculture scientists, top-ranking agriculture officials, geneticists and representatives of NGOs and farmers to probe the issue thoroughly.
Amongst other things, the committee could seek the results of the field trials done by MMBL in the State; share information with Southern states like AP and Karnataka about their experiences with Bt cotton; collect data on area and output under commercial cultivation of Bt and non-Bt cotton crop in the State, the yields per acre, incomes of farmers and quality of Bt and non-Bt cotton crop and a full biodiversity assessment of Bt cotton crop including the frequency of pesticide sprays, its effect on soil microorganisms and birds, bees and butterflies who act as pollinators and the risks of transfer of genetically engineered traits to non-genetically engineered crops through pollination.
Besides this, the Agriculture Minister must also ensure that in future whenever seeds of a company are introduced into the local market, the Agriculture Department must test samples of these seeds and district- and block-level officials of the department must guide the farmers appropriately in this regard. Finally, all said and done, when even the West is adopting a cautious approach towards biotech farming, do we really need genetically engineered cotton and other crops in the State? Agriculture being a State subject and the ruling party being one that espouses indigenous solutions, Bhargava should tread with wisdom and caution - lest agriculture is transformed into a scary reality show in the State.
Report of a Fact Finding Team's Visit to Nanded district, Maharashtra
Purpose: To investigate into the performance of Bt Cotton in Dharmabad block of Nanded district in Maharashtra. This effort is part of the monitoring taken up by the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee [MEC] set up to monitor Bt Cotton across five states of India .
A Fact Finding Team [FFT] consisting of Mr Palash Ranjan Ghoshal, agriculture scientist from YUVA, Nagpur; Ms Kavitha Kuruganti of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Secunderabad; Mr Ravi Shetty, a farmer and social worker from Dharmabad and Mr Gopal Patil, General Secretary of Maharashtra Sarpanch Sanghatana in Nanded went into villages in Dharmabad block of Nanded district to look into reports of failure of Bt Cotton in the area. The visits to villages and farmers were made on November 12th and 13th, 2005 and the FFT was accompanied by a couple of media persons
Villages visited: Karkheli, Junni, Dharmabad, Balapur and Babulgaon
Hybrids inspected in the fields: Bunny Bt, RCH 2 Bt, RCH 144 Bt, MECH 184 Bt Cotton [all Bt Cotton hybrids] and Ankur 09, Chamatkar, Maruthi, Durga and Gowri [non-Bt Cotton]
Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton Farmers met/Fields visited: Tanwir Hussain Ahmed Hussain, Sarpanch, Karkheli village; Anwar Hussain, Sakharam Shetty, Dutta Shetty Desai, Krishna Laxman Hemke, Shaik Abdul Mastan, Peerabai [all from Karkheli village], Gore Miyan [Balapur], Suryakant Namdevrao Chidre [Rampur], Digambar Rao Patil, Pundlik Digambar Patil, Sainath Kishanrao Shurudwad, Utham Reddy [all from Junni], Laxman Gangadhar More and Kushal Rao [from Babulgaon]
Scientists met: Dr Bhosale [entomologist] and Dr S Bhattare [breeder] in Cotton Research Station, Nanded (met by a smaller group on 14th November 2005)
Dealer met: Chandrakant Patil of Patil Agro Services, Dharmabad who is also qualified in agriculture sciences
* Almost all Bt Cotton plots, in various degrees, had a particular condition being referred to as "Itkar Rog" by the farmers. The plants were red in color, mostly on the leaves and the stem. Whole fields appear red even from a distance. There is stunted growth and very few bolls - average number of bolls per plant seen and reported is only around 15-20 bolls/plant. There was no clear indication of particular hybrids being more adversely affected, as per the FFT, though some farmers felt that late duration varieties have survived the disease better in a comparative sense. Not all plots were uniformly affected.
* Farmers report that while the 'disease' symptoms [reddening of leaves] started to show sometime before the recent rains, full-blown outbreak spread rapidly within seven days of continuous rains around the middle of October
* Non-Bt Cotton plots were not affected to the same degree - the symptoms that were witnessed on non-Bt Cotton plots were to a much lower degree and they were affected almost two weeks after the symptoms first showed on Bt Cotton plots. The problem emerged on and is spreading from Bt Cotton, farmers informed everywhere
* In plots such as Tanwar Hussain/Anwar Hussain's, where both Bt Cotton [Bunny Bt and MECH 184 Bt] were sown right next to non-Bt Cotton [Ankur 09], the contrasting picture was striking, with the Bt Cotton part of the land affected and reddened by the disease while the non-Bt Cotton plot is still green and is blooming. There were no differences in the management practices adopted on both plots and the rainfall/soil conditions were the same. Bt Cotton's vulnerability to the damage seen, compared to non-Bt Cotton is apparent here. This was the case with Gore Miyan of Balapur too
* While farmers like Dutta Shettyba Desai have invested upto Rs. 10,440/- per acre, the yields obtained and expected are only around 2 quintals, which means a negative return of Rs. 7000/- per acre. There were other farmers too, whose costs of cultivation have not been covered by this year's produce and the market price it is fetching
* For many other Bt Cotton farmers, yields are much lower than what was promised by the company's propaganda. Net Incomes were as low as Rs. 500/- per acre for some farmers. While expected yields were around 10-12 quintals per acre, the actual yields are around 4 quintals on an average
* On non-Bt Cotton fields, yields - both obtained and expected ? are around the same, with the costs being much lower
* There is no bollworm attack reported either on Bt Cotton or on non-Bt Cotton plots
* Many Bt Cotton farmers have not only invested almost 400% more on seed cost alone, but had applied more fertilizers and other chemicals to save their crop. This meant more cost of cultivation per acre on Bt Cotton, decreasing the net returns further
* Number of sprays on Bt Cotton ranged from 1 to 5 sprays for sucking pests, with equal number of sprays on non-Bt Cotton too
* There is a lot of sucking pests infestation, of jassids specifically seen on Bt Cotton plots during the FFT's visit
* Bt Cotton companies like Rasi Seeds and Mahyco have begun investing in taking farmers to exposure visits to plots which are good and which have received intensive management inputs to start influencing farmers' seed purchase decisions for next year
* The team discovered that field trial plots of certain companies like J K Seeds are no better than the conditions found on commercially grown Bt cotton plots [stunted growth, reddening of plants, very low yields]
* Farmers have repeatedly observed that Bt Cotton is very stress-intolerant, unable to withstand conditions of lack of rains or excessive rains
* Farmers, who have visited Bollgard II plots of Mahyco, in an exposure trip organized by the company, have reported that they have been informed by the company that Bollgard II is effective against sucking pests also. This is reflective of the false propaganda taken up by the companies while selling Bollgard I
* It was found that in many Bunny Bt Cotton plots, germination rates were as low as 10-30%, reflective of the story of germination failure found in Andhra Pradesh. However, the company did not take responsibility for this failure of germination and there are very few farmers whose seed has been replaced by the company. For four bags of Bunny Bt Cotton bought, only one bag was replaced after germination failure was reported, even in those cases where replacement took place
* No refuge is being maintained around Bt Cotton plots
* Farmers are also reporting a similar problem of "Itkar Rog" from last year that had appeared in the month of October. In that year, the incidence was very low and was not economically damaging
* The team came across cases like that of Mohammed Zahid, who have been intimidated by the seed companies, when he lodged a complaint against defective seed a few years back - this kind of intimidation has made many other farmers think twice about the usefulness of lodging complaints in case of crop failure
* Farmers also reported a variety of marketing strategies used by the companies to attract more and more farmers towards Bt Cotton. One of the farmers made an observation saying that the difference between Bt Cotton marketing and that of other seeds seems to be the entry of "brands" into seed business - that of Monsanto's Bollgard, in this case
* No teams of agriculture scientists or of department officials have visited the farmers in these villages and their fields to investigate into the large scale failure of crop so far and to advise them on measures to be taken up
Another important finding of the visit was that many farmers were experiencing soil quality deterioration in the fields in which Bt Cotton has been grown. For instance, Krishna Laxman Hemke of Karkheli reports a decrease in yield of around 5 quintals of blackgram on the plot that he had used to grow Bt Cotton. Even farmers who have been growing Bt Cotton in successive years continuously are reporting dramatic decreases in yields. This requires further investigation and attention of the government.
The scientists met mentioned that the current situation of the crop was because of excessive infestation of sucking pests, especially jassids, of magnesium and nitrogen deficiency, due to a drop in temperature, due to water logging and poor drainage in some fields and due to grey mildew. However, they reported that the jassid attack and deficiency of magnesium/nitrogen were the main reasons. If that is the case, how come non-Bt Cotton was not affected to the same extent, the FFT members sought to know. The scientists explained that the tolerance of Bt Cotton to stress was low, that their resistance to sucking pests was very low [compared to non-Bt Cotton] and that since there is a large number of bolls per plant on Bt Cotton as compared to non-Bt Cotton, the requirement for nutrients like magnesium is higher for these plants.
CONCLUSIONS & OBSERVATIONS:
* Aggressive marketing was allowed by the companies despite adverse reports by Maharashtra Government?s own surveys of Bt Cotton. For instance, an official report of Maharashtra Government in 2002-03 reported that Bt Cotton performance was not satisfactory, compared to non-Bt Cotton which was giving higher yields. In 2004-05, one of the major observations of the government was that sucking pests were higher on Bt Cotton, compared to non-Bt Cotton. The official reports also point out that organic cotton farmers in different districts are successful in getting higher yields than Bt Cotton farmers. The report also indicates that there is a greater susceptibility of Bt Cotton to wilt under heavy rain conditions, compared to other popular hybrids. Despite such observations, the government did not regulate the extent of sales and cultivation of Bt Cotton in the state. This resulted in large extents of monocropping of Bt Cotton in several parts of the state.
* If Bt Cotton requires different management practices like application of some micro-nutrients like magnesium, this was not informed to the farmers beforehand, during the marketing of Bt Cotton. If this is a new discovery by the government, this is unacceptable since field trials, if they were scientific and long enough, would have shown the additional/new management requirements for Bt Cotton. Similarly, marketing propaganda of Bt Cotton did not focus on the higher vulnerability of Bt Cotton to sucking pests. In fact, there are misleading advertisements by companies like Ankur which show that a particular variety of Bt Cotton is also resistant to sucking pests.
* The monocropping of Bt Cotton [upto almost 95% in some villages like Karkheli] has resulted in a greater vulnerability of the crops to various pests and diseases, as can be expected. In this case, it was an excessive and damaging incidence of sucking pests like jassids.
* Given that sucking pests are higher on Bt Cotton its vulnerability to higher incidence of various diseases spread by these sucking pests is higher too. The government should have had the foresight to analyse and anticipate such an eventuality.
* Bt Cotton?s stress intolerance and heightened vulnerability is evident by the differential situation found on Bt and non-Bt Cotton plots and is an observation made by dealers, scientists and farmers met.
* Farmers have undertaken all the recommended practices and have even sown as per the soil and irrigation conditions recommended by the companies/dealers [we came across farmers who explained why they had sown RCH 2Bt in a particular plot and Bunny Bt in another by citing the information provided on seed leaflets]. However, the adverse results are to be found irrespective of such management practices being adopted.
* Concerned government departments have not taken any pro-active steps to either assess the situation or to advice the farmers about what is to be done to salvage their crops.
* There are other serious issues which require urgent attention of the government including observations related to soil quality deterioration. This was reported by many farmers met. Yields are shown to be continually decreasing even by farmers who had been growing Bt Cotton successively in the past few years.
* Losses in just the village of Karkheli, for instance, are to the tune of 4 crore rupees [the FFT was informed by the sarpanch that the village had grown Bt cotton on around 65% of its 4000-odd acres of land]. There are many families whose entire survival mechanism for the coming year has been snatched away from them. Their high-interest debts are going to mount, with the family having to look for alternative livelihood options. This is a serious matter and the government needs to intervene pro-actively on this issue.
Given the official admissions in the earlier years of Bt Cotton?s vulnerability to wilt and this year's picture of widespread losses, it is important that the government re-assess Bt Cotton and its suitability in the state. The government has to come up with a scientific and conclusive picture on the suitability of Bt Cotton including its vulnerabilities and unpredictabilities and disseminate the findings widely amongst farmers so that they can make informed choices and not be lured by aggressive marketing
DEMANDS & RECOMMENDATIONS
* The government has to initiate a scientific and comprehensive assessment of the extent of losses on Cotton in general, and on Bt Cotton in particular and assess the differences in performance of Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton in comparable situations.
* Through this and the government?s findings from previous years, it has to come up with conclusive recommendations on the suitability of Bt Cotton for the farmers of the state
* Simple and farmer-friendly mechanisms for fixing liability on the Bt Cotton companies for the losses being experienced at present and for compensating farmers to be put into place immediately (for technology deficiencies and for not informing farmers adequately about particular management practices to be adopted to overcome shortcomings of the technology)
Report of a Fact Finding Team's visit to Warangal district
Purpose: To look into the performance of Bt Cotton in Warangal district, as part of the Monitoring & Evaluation Committee [MEC]'s effort to monitor Bt Cotton across five states of India .
A Fact Finding Team [FFT] consisting of Shri S Malla Reddy, President, AP Rythu Sangam (a farmers' union consisting of more than 300,000 members); Shri Krishna Reddy, President of the Warangal District Unit of AP Rythu Sangam; Shri P Damoder of Sarvodaya Youth Organisation; Shri Rajashekar and Ms Kavitha Kuruganti of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and some media representatives visited villages and cotton fields in Warangal district and had detailed discussions with farmers on November 6th and 7th, 2005.
Context : When the first reports of an unusual disease on Bt Cotton came out, a Fact Finding Team visited villages and inspected fields in Warangal district on September 9th, 2005 on behalf of the Monitoring & Evaluation Committee [MEC] set up by civil society organizations. At that point of time, the unusual disease was reported from Warangal district on an estimated extent of 50,000 acres. The government soon after this confirmed the disease to be Tobacco Streak Virus [TSV] being spread by the high incidence of sucking pests like thrips, mostly on Bt Cotton and the incidence was confirmed on more than one lakh hectares of Bt Cotton from various districts like Adilabad, Khammam, Guntur and Warangal.
The full impact of the disease and high incidence of sucking pests is now being felt by farmers in districts like Adilabad and Warangal, towards the end of the season, at the time of harvest. The issue has come to the notice of local elected leaders and parliamentarians in Warangal district [especially from the Opposition] who wanted the government to come to the rescue of farmers (October 25th, local papers). Earlier, several senior political leaders and parliamentarians of the district visited villages/fields in Hasanparthi and Sangem blocks, along with officials like the Joint Director of Agriculture [JDA, the senior most agriculture department official in the district] and with media representatives. As per media reports, when the JDA argued that the crop loss was due to climatic conditions and due to excessive incidence of pests and diseases this season, indignant farmers showed the visiting teams crops in neighboring plots which were doing well - if the crop loss is due to environmental reasons, how are the adjacent plots performing so well, the farmers demanded to know. The visiting teams reportedly concluded that RCH2 Bt (of Rasi Seeds company, in its second year of commercial cultivation) seeds were defective/adulterated and the officials promised to get the seed samples tested. The political leaders, who estimated the losses to the farmers to be around 400 crores of rupees (US$ 8 millions), wanted the government to put into place adequate compensation mechanisms. The district administration promised to come up with proposals to support farmers in this context.
On 27th October, the administration did announce a series of proposed measures in a press conference. The District Collector, along with senior agriculture scientists and officials agreed that almost all the farmers who had grown RCH2Bt Cotton had incurred heavy losses. They argued that the only way forward was to try and salvage the crop as much as possible - RCH2 Bt hybrid is a 180-195 day duration crop and there are still 20-35 days - left, they said. Four recommendations were put forward for this purpose - (a) spray 2% DAP; (b) grow intercrops; (c) apply a booster dose of urea of upto ten kilos an acre and (d) spray adequate quantities of monocrotophos on the crop.
The government also announced that if needed, monocrotophos would be supplied on subsidy for all the 1.2 lakh acres of RCH2 Bt Cotton, with the estimates showing that the quantity needed would be 40 thousand litres and the cost to be incurred by the government being 1.2 crores of rupees. The District Collector informed that maize seed would be provided on subsidy to be grown as the next crop.
The JDA blamed climatic conditions [low rainfall initially and recent heavy downpours] for the losses being witnessed, and the agriculture scientists said that RCH2 is intolerant to such conditions.
It was in this context that the FFT, consisting of farmers' unions visited the district on November 6th and 7th, 2005.
Members of the Fact Finding Team [FFT] visited villages in Atmakur and Sangem blocks and later met with the Joint Director-Agriculture, Dr M Jayaraj, in his office. Media representatives also visited farmers and their fields along with the team.
Villages visited include Akkampeta, Sthambampalli, Oorugonda, Durgampeta, Oglapur and Damera. The team also visited the same fields that were visited during the FF visit in September (from Sthambampalli & Oorugonda villages).
Some of the farmers met include Ravi s/o Ramulu, Hamsala Reddy, Kumaraswamy s/o Lingareddy, Raju s/o Rajalingam (non-Bt), Ooradi Sammaiah, Erukula Ramana (non-Bt), Vemula Sadaiah, K Prathap Reddy s/o Mallareddy [all in Akkampeta village], B Babu Rao (Sarpanch of Sthambampalli village), K Shankar Rao s/o Manikayya, H Narsing Rao, Kole Sambaiah, K Chander Rao [from Sthambampalli village], Chelupuri Sambaiah, Chelpuri Mallaiah, Chennareddy, Tirupati Reddy [non-Bt], Venkatalaxmi w/o Bhikshapati [fields in Oorugonda/Durgampet villages], Akula Komaraiah (non-Bt), Ravipal Reddy [in Oglapur village], Arrepalli Easwaraiah, Damera Rajaiah (non-Bt), Kumalu, Ashoda Raju, Narayan Reddy, Ravinder Reddy [in Damera village].
* Despite many different interventions by farmers (to boost boron/magnesium supply, to take care of sucking pests with chemical sprays and application of more fertilizers), the crop condition is in a bad state. The crop looks very apparently reddened, with individual plants stunted, leaves reddened and shriveled, curled upwards or downwards with very few squares and bolls. These various interventions only meant that the cost of cultivation increased, with none of the farmers reporting that the situation had been brought under control by the use of various products as per recommendations.
* Farmers are reporting an average of one quintal of cotton harvested so far per acre, with another 2-3 quintals expected per acre. The average cost incurred per acre is around 8-9 thousand rupees, with just the chemicals applied costing around 4 to 5 thousand rupees.
* The price being obtained per quintal of cotton sold ranged from a ridiculously low amount of Rs. 700/quintal to Rs. 1400/-/quintal. This means that for a majority of Bt cotton farmers, even the cost of cultivation cannot be recovered from the yields and their market value.
* In the case of non-Bt Cotton farmers, the average (expected) yields are around 7-8 quintals per acre, with the cost of cultivation being about the same as Bt Cotton farms.
* Agricultural workers are reporting difficulty in picking Bt Cotton ? the number of bolls is very low and they are having to search the entire plant carefully, which is time consuming. The number of bolls per plant in various Bt Cotton fields (including MECH hybrids brought from Maharashtra, Bunny Bt, Mallika Bt and Pro-Agro marketed RCH 368 Bt hybrids) is around 15-40, with a majority of the fields showing only 15-20 bolls/plant.
* There is also high incidence of spodoptera on many of the fields and expensive pesticides had to be used for the control of the pest.
* All the Bt Cotton fields visited show a high and damaging incidence of sucking pests [thrips, jassids, aphids etc.] and diseases like TSV and angular leaf spot.
* In the case of some farmers like Vemula Sadaiah of Akkampeta village, the contrast between Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton is starkly visible. On the same land, with the same management practices, he had grown Bt Cotton on one side and the non-Bt Cotton seeds supplied for refuge rows on another side. The Bt Cotton side of the farm is visibly red and has stunted growth of plants with very low yields expectable.
* The damage is most apparent and of a very high, non-recoverable degree on RCH2 Bt Cotton plots, followed by MECH hybrids, Bunny Bt, RCH 368 Bt etc., in that order within the Bt Cotton plots.
* Farmers are beginning to realize that Bt Cotton hybrids are presenting peculiar problems in terms of diseases and sucking pests year after year and many are beginning to question the way the government permitted the commercial release of the technology.
Discussions with the JDA also revealed that the department of agriculture, unlike in other states, is not monitoring Bt Cotton on the ground and it has been probably left to agriculture scientists to do so. Out of a total cotton area of 146,756 hectares in the district, 91,150 hectares are under different kinds of Bt Cotton, as per the data provided by the JDA. This constitutes 62% of the cotton land.
* A monoculture of Bt Cotton, that too of Bollgard brand, has been allowed on a large extent of area ? this shows a complete lack of foresight and understanding in regulation and crop planning. The vulnerability of such a monoculture to large scale failure in case of pest and disease outbreak is obvious. Even in terms of resistance management, this presents a very poor model as even scientific studies/models of CICR would show. In countries like Australia, when Bt Cotton was introduced, it was done so with a ceiling of only 30% of total cotton land permitted under Bt Cotton. Such a widespread monoculture was also the result of aggressive marketing adopted by the Bt Cotton companies. However, there was no regulation evident of such marketing. The government is clearly accountable for lack of regulation in this case.
* The vulnerability of Bt Cotton crop to greater incidence of sucking pests is well recognized. This also implies a greater susceptibility of Bt Cotton to a variety of diseases ? in this case, it is being reported by scientists that thrips are the vectors for the spread of tobacco streak virus that is causing the stunted growth and reddening of Bt Cotton plants. All of this should have been anticipated by the scientists/companies promoting the crop and the regulators too.
* As one perceptive farmer, Ravinder Reddy of Damera village, pointed out, farmers have some hope left of salvaging their crop even after an attack of bollworm ? with proper control measures, the crop can be salvaged for at least the second and subsequent flushes. However, high incidence of sucking pests and diseases means very little chances of recovery for the plant. Bt Cotton, with its non-holistic approach to pest management, means that farmers are faced with a variety of new problems even if the bollworm is indeed controlled. In years like this year, where there has been a very low incidence of bollworm in any case in all crops, Bt Cotton seeds clearly show what they lack and what they can cause - is this how seeds for a predominantly small and marginal farmers' community should be, a reductionist pest-by-pest approach?
* There is also much confusion being transmitted to the farmers, adding to their costs. While the department of agriculture analyses the current problem as that resulting from micro-nutrient deficiencies (the soils of Warangal lack certain micro-nutrients like boron and magnesium, we were informed by the JDA; "such nutrients are required more in the case of Bt Cotton"), the agriculture scientists say that the current problem is because of TSV and the vulnerability of particular Bt Cotton hybrids to adverse weather conditions. Farmers who have tried to adopt recommended practices for both situations have come up with unimpressive results. Citing environmental reasons is ridiculous given that non-Bt Cotton plots are faring well, right next to Bt Cotton plots. Similarly, if Bt Cotton needed other management practices than what the farmers are used to (application of micro-nutrients), why were they not educated beforehand? What kind of proof does the government and do the companies have, to show that they have introduced the Bt Cotton seeds, only after analyzing such differential management requirements and have also educated farmers about it? Have they talked about this in their pre-sales propaganda? Who is to be made accountable now?
* Why is the administration, which also is supposed to have a District Level Committee [DLC] headed by the District Collector under the EPA rules, coming up with recommendations to be adopted by the farmers only in the last 20-30 days of the crop season? What was done since August, when the first reports of the disease and other problems began pouring in?
* Monocrotophos, which is now being recommended in the final days of the crop season, is scheduled to be banned from India. Spending 1.2 crores of rupees on this chemical, a Class I product, at this juncture of Monocrotophos?s life and the crop season, is suspect. Incidentally, there are very effective and inexpensive methods to control sucking pests (and transmitted diseases) through NPM approaches, which do not require the use of any synthetic pesticides. In any case, the huge subsidy that the government would provide would go to the chemical corporations and not the farmers. What kind of yield increases is the government promising with the measures that it is recommending? Where is the liability on the Bt Cotton companies in all this, given that public funds would be spent to save farmers whereas the companies are going scot-free?
* There have been views expressed in various quarters that the extent of loss is such that the companies cannot ever hope to compensate the farmers for their losses, leave alone cover for the expected and promised yields. Because of this, the pressure not to give in and pay compensation to even a few farmers is very high on the companies [lest thousands of other farmers line up with claims]. The companies would do their best to deny that their technology or seed has got anything to do with the current situation. Should companies be allowed to sell more than what they can be made accountable for? Did the companies not think about such a situation before they went in for a technology, given that the current situation was a distinct possibility? Did they inform farmers about the serious shortcomings of particular hybrids and the Bt technology? This is also a valuable lesson for all those Indian companies lining up at the doors of Monsanto to get the Bollgard gene sub-licensed to them at huge costs. On the one hand is the huge amount of royalty that the American multinational is bound to collect from these small Indian companies (who have enjoyed some amount of credibility with cotton farmers so far, in different pockets of the country) and on the other hand is the distinct possibility of the crop failing for a variety of reasons, and therefore, compensation to be paid to farmers. How are these companies going to survive in such a situation?
DEMANDS & RECOMMENDATIONS:
* Admit that the current situation is a problem resulting from the Bt technology - this is a case of monoculture crops that are vulnerable to sucking pests and therefore, higher incidence of disease, as well as unpredictable and unusual incidence of pests/diseases. Acknowledge the differences clearly being seen between Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton fields on the ground
* Make a comprehensive assessment of the extent of losses and all the reasons for the same
* Stop providing recommendations which would imply more costs to farmers unless such recommendations are accompanied by guarantees of better results; advocate non-pesticidal, inexpensive and effective ways of controlling sucking pests
* Resolve the differences between the agriculture department and research scientists in their analysis and recommendations
* Make such government (agriculture research) officials who have recommended particular brands of Bt Cotton with farmers liable for the losses seen now
* Put into place immediately liability mechanisms where the responsible companies and those providing the technology pay adequate compensation to farmers.
* Stop Bt Cotton approvals in the state of Andhra Pradesh and support non-chemical, non-GE alternatives which are fetching very good results for farmers who are practicing such alternatives.
Farmers hail PVP & FR Act notification - ASHOK B SHARMA, Financial Express, Bombay, India - Posted online: Monday, November 14, 2005 at 0000 hours IST
New Delhi, Nov 13 Farmers have hailed the government’s decision to notify the Plant Varieties Protection and Farmers’ Rights (PVP&FR) Act, 2001. They said that though the decision is belated, it would solve the farmers’ problems to a great extent. The legislation was passed by Parliament way back in 2001 and received Presidential assent in the same year, but was withheld from notification, which prevented its implementation over the past few years. The Act, apart from protecting farm bio-diversity, allows farmers to save and exchange seeds in unbranded form for use in the next crop season. The Act has also banned registration of seeds containing terminator technology vide section 18 (1) (C). The government has recently constituted Plant Varieties Protection and Farmers’ Rights Board under the chairmanship of Dr S Nagarajan for implementation of the Act.
Speaking to FE, executive chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS) Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary said: “The PVP&FR Act was long withheld from its implementation due to pressure from the interested lobby of seed companies. This law gives some leverage to farmers in matters of use of seeds, though not complete freedom. There had been recent attempts to nullify this meagre freedom given to farmers under this Act by the introduction of amendments to the Seeds Act in the Parliament. The farmers will not tolerate any such move and demand immediate withdrawal of the proposed amendments to the Seeds Act. Rather PVP&FR Act should be further amended to give more freedom to farmers.”
Dr Chaudhary had earlier expressed concern over Delta & Pine Land announcing its new plans to foray into the seed sector, after it got patent rights for its terminator technology in patent offices abroad. He now said that with the notification of PVP&FR Act, the country is better poised to deal with this situation. Dr Chaudhary was the sole farmers’ representative to the recently held global conference on biotechnology hosted by Asia-Pacific Association of Agriculture Research Institutions (APAARI) and FAO in Bangkok where he demanded that the seed multinationals compensate farmers for failure of Bt cotton.
Below is the press release from the Government of India:
PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
CENTRE ISSUES NOTIFICATION ON PROTECTION OF PLANT VARIETY & FARMERS RIGHTS AUTHORITY
New Delhi, Kartika 20, 1927 - November 11, 2005
The Protection of Plant Variety & Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Authority has come into being with the enforcement of the Act, 2001, and the Rules framed thereunder. A notification to this effect was issued today by the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation. The Authority would now regulate all matters pertaining to plants and seeds varieties of the country and would act as the national registry for documentation, indexing and cataloguing of all flora of the country, including extant varieties, farmers’ varieties and land races. The Authority will also be registering new varieties thereby protecting the breeders’ rights, inclusive of both farmers and the industry.
The Authority represents the interests of a wide spectrum of stakeholders, which include the scientific community, farmers’ organizations, women, tribal entities and State and Central Government as also the State Agricultural Universities.
The PPV&FR Authority is a major step forward in stimulating investment in the agricultural seed and plant sector and would greatly encourage development of new plant varieties. It will protect the interests and rights of farmers and the farming community and recognize their contribution to the selection and preservation of traditional varieties. The Authority also has the mandate to administer the National Gene Fund which ill help conserve and protect our plant genetic resources/biodiversity.
The PPV&FR Authority is presently functioning out of the premises of National Agricultural Science Centre at Pusa, New Delhi, and is headed by Dr. S Nagarajan, recently appointed as its chairman.
Wilting of Bt cotton in Madhya Pradesh - farmers demand ban on companies - Kerala, 14 Nov 2005 http://www.newkerala.com/news.php?action=fullnews&id=52326
Bhopal: The genetically modified Bt cotton crops in over two lakh acre area in Nirmar region in western Madhya Pradesh suffered partial or complete wilting causing a loss of more than Rs 400 crores, the affected farmers said today. The farmers, who held a public hearing last month at Kukshi in Dhar district, urged the state government to ban multi-national Monsanto and other companies which sold Bt cotton seeds in the state and sought compensation. Several varieties, which had been banned in Andhra Pradesh for similar reasons, had been allowed to be marketed in Madhya Pradesh. ''Instead of banning these varieties, the state government gave extension to these companies for another three years'', Mr Mohanlal Patidar, President of Kukshi Mandi Samiti, told reporters today. ''The 'banned' varieties were causing huge losses to the farmers in MP, the state government should have been vigilant and banned it'', said Agriculture scientist Dr Debashish Banerji, who was among the panelists at the public hearing attended by about 500 farmers....The experience of the farmers of Nimar has shown that there is an urgent need to review the genetically modified technology as the effects of this technology on agriculture, farmers, environment and human health has not been properly evaluated'', Dr Banerji said. During the public hearing, a health report presented by Mr Amulya Nidhi showed that Bt cotton was causing severe to moderate allergy to people coming in contact with it.
GENE CAMPAIGN DEMANDS LEGAL ACTION AGAINST GEAC - Press Release, 14 November 2005 - http://www.genecampaign.org
Gene Campaign today called for legal action under the Environment Protection Act, against the members of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) for criminal negligence and willful suppression of facts in the Bt cotton case, leading to grave economic losses to the farming community, resulting in several instances of farmer suicides. A number of studies conducted by a variety of agencies, including government departments have reported over the last three to four years that Bt cotton is failing in many regions and farmers are suffering huge losses. The GEAC has so far taken no action in this regard.
Gene Campaign's studies starting with the first harvest of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra in 2002-03, showed that the crop had performed so poorly that 60 % of the farmers could not even recover their investment. Recent data from a monitoring team set up by twenty grassroots level organizations working on agriculture, have documented the widespread failure of Bt cotton crops in Madhya Pradesh and Andhra.
*Many varieties of Bt cotton have failed to germinate so the farmer has had to buy the seed two to three times.
*The mandatory insect management strategy of planting non-Bt refuges is not being followed by the majority of farmers, thus ensuring that this technology can not work in the field for long but the GEAC has not acted against this violation.
*Earlier reports that the quality of the Bt cotton is inferior to non-Bt cotton is being substantiated year after year for a range of Bt cotton varieties.
*The rampant spread of illegal cotton varieties, many of them spurious and not even containing the Bt gene, have flooded the market in all cotton belts and the farmers are being fooled by unscrupulous elements.
*The Bt technology has proved to be largely ineffective against the bollworm so the pesticide use has not shown any significant reduction and coupled with the expensive seeds, the economics of Bt cotton are adverse for the farmers.
*The clear beneficiaries are the seed companies who have GEAC?s permission to sell their seeds despite recorded failures.
As all this unfolds across the cotton growing regions, a study conducted at the Nagpur based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), provides the scientific basis for the failure of the Bt technology in India and shows why this technology developed for the US, cannot be transplanted here. The US cotton is protected by Bt technology (in which the toxin expression is high in leaves), because its main pest, the tobacco budworm, is a leaf feeder and therefore susceptible to the Bt approach. In India the main cotton pest is the bollworm, which feeds on the cotton bolls, rather than the leaves . The CICR study clearly shows that with the Bt technology in India, the toxin is practically non-existent in the bolls which are the principal target of the bollworm, hence the technology will not work to protect Indian cotton.
In the face of all this chaos, farmer losses and widespread crop failure, the GEAC has not taken any action.
- There has been no action taken against suppliers of Bt seeds,
- no instructions for compensation to farmers,
- no action to stop violations and control spurious seeds,
- no information on whether the GEAC has conducted a fact finding study, nor any indication of the findings, if such a study was conducted.
- But the GEAC continues to release a series of Bt cotton varieties year after year.
Dr Suman Sahai, Director of Gene Campaign said this state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue, the GEAC must be held accountable for its deeds of omission and commission and be made to explain its actions. Gene Campaign had issued notice to the GEAC under section 19(b) of the Environment Protection Act (1986) on August 3 2005, for commission of offence under the Act, by continuing the approval to Bt cotton varieties despite evidence of its widespread failure. The GEAC had 60 days to respond to the notice which fell on 2 October, 2005. Gene Campaign said they waited for an additional 30 days to give the GEAC ample time to respond but they have not done so.
The failure of the GEAC to respond to the notice amounts to admission of the charges leveled against it and hence legal action should be initiated for violation of the provisions of the Environment Protection Act (1986) leading to grave economic losses to the farming community, resulting in several instances of suicides.
Dr Suman Sahai said that GEAC's silence and refusal to take action in the Bt cotton case where fresh evidence of failures is coming in everyday, indicates that influences are at work which favor the continued sale of Bt cotton seed even if it means devastating losses to farmers. She said that after the clear evidence provided by the senior scientists at the Nagpur based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), that the Bt technology in India is destined to fail because it simply does not address the cotton growing conditions in India, GEAC has still not come out with a position on the CICR study. GEAC has held two meetings on the CICR findings on 10 August and 16 September, 2005 but has made no comments. This raises further suspicion about the motivations and conduct of the GEAC.
Dr. Suman Sahai
Contact: DR. SUMAN SAHAI. Phone: - +91 11 29556248; 98-110-41332 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gene contamination may affect organic exports - By B S Satish Kumar - Deccan Herald News Service
An internationally renowned scientist has cautioned that the country's organic exports might be rejected due to gene contamination, if India permits commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) food crops. Hungary-based toxicologist and nutrition expert Arpad Pusztai, who was in Bangalore recently, told this reporter that there was every possibility of organic crops getting polluted due to crossing-over of genes from the GM food crops, if the government gives permission for commercial cultivation of GM food crops. The caution by the scientist -- who conducted a pioneering study on the impact of GM potatoes on rats and concluded that these varieties affected their growth as well as their health -- comes at a time when NGOs and green activists are suspecting that the government is setting the stage for allowing commercial cultivation of certain GM food crops in the near future. As the average land-holding size of farmers in India is just around 1.50 hectares, it is simply impossible to prevent crossing-over of genes and genetic pollution due to GM crops, the scientist argues. "Organic agriculture and BT cannot co-exist, especially in India due to small land-holdings," he remarked, while taking a different view from that of the Indian policy makers, who are for such a co-existence. At present India has allowed commercial cultivation of only cotton crop. This has not polluted organic food crops, as normally the genetic pollution occurs within similar species, the scientist explained.
Pointing out that any organic produce has to be certified by an authorised agency to show that it is grown organically, he said the Indian organic produce can never pass certification tests if GM food crops are allowed to be cultivated. Most of the Western countries, especially the European ones, which can provide a huge market for Indian organic produce, are very particular about non-GM crops and have stringent certification, he pointed out. "The problem with GM crops is that they are unpredictable. With whatever research has been done so far, it is not possible to ascertain the impact of GM crops on human health. We are yet to achieve precision regarding research in this field.....Hence, we should exercise caution and conduct more research before jumping into commercial cultivation of GM food crops," he cautions. "In the absence of safety studies, lack of evidence cannot be interpreted as proof of safety." He denied the argument that BT is a must to take care of India's increasing food requirements. Even organic farming can take care of food requirements provided you pump the same amount of money into research that is being invested on BT research.
Citing a FAO study, he says the world has 125 per cent more food than the requirement of the global population. But it has not been able to reach all due to distribution problem and not due to production shortage. Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner Thangamma Monnappa too observed that empirical evidence from all over the world shows that contamination does occur wherever GM crops have been introduced alongside conventional or organic crops.
Are GM foods safe enough? - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, November 07 2005 - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=107906
World over there is an ongoing debate about acceptance or rejection of foods having traces of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which is otherwise called GM foods. The advocates of transgenic technology say that there is no credible evidence either to substantiate that GM crops damage the environment or GM food can harm human and animal health. Some even say that as GM crops and foods are safe as their "substantially equivalent conventional counterparts", they need no testing. They go to the extent of decrying the critics, who have logical and scientific arguments, as "obstructionists." Dr Arpad Pusztai, an eminent nutrition expert and toxicologist of international repute, is one who dismisses such arguments of the blind supporters of transgenic technology by saying that in the absence of safety studies, lack of evidence cannot be interpreted as proof that it is safe. He further says, "Rather few well-designed studies published to date show potentially worrisome biological effects of GM food, which the regulators have largely ignored." Incidentally Dr Pusztai was in Delhi to address a group of scientists on Saturday. In his presentation he disclosed that a recent review done by Wolfanberger and Phifer published in Science in 2000 concluded that most pertinent questions on environmental safety of GM crops have not yet been asked for, let alone studied. On the health safety aspect, he said that so far only 19 peer-reviewed papers have been published. Only one human clinical trial was conducted and only a few animal studies done so far. Dr Pusztai alleged that the industry's and regulator's preferred "safety assessments" are based on the poorly defined and not legally binding concept of "substantial equivalence." "In such a situation it is difficult to conclude that GM foods are safe," he told the spell-bound audience. Referring to the growing concerns about food safety, Dr Pusztai said that the report of the Royal Society of Canada said that "substantial equivalence" is fatally flawed and regulations based on it expose Canadians to potential health risks. The British Medical Association has also said there is "insufficient evidence" to take a decision on health safety. Pointing to the gaps in risk assessments, he suggested that more tests should be carried out on animals and humans, particularly in the alimentary tract. The trials of the first GM crop, Flavr-Savr tomato have shown 7 out of 40 rats died within two weeks due to necrosis. In humans, glandular stomach lesions can lead to life-threatening haemorrhage, particularly in the aged people and patients on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, he said. Dr Pusztai referred to the findings of Fares and El-Sayed about Bt potatoes disruption, multinucleation, swelling and increased degradation of ileal surface cells in rats. In a study done by Dr Pusztai himself alongwith Dr Ewen showed that when rats were fed with GM potatoes it induced proliferative growth in the stomach and the intestines and also caused lymphocyte infiltration. Dr Pusztai finally asserted that more researches should be done to pin-point effects of GM foods before any approval is done. Hope the world would be wise to follow his advice.
Farmers concerned over D&PL’s terminator patent - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=107018
ASHOK B SHARMA - Posted online: Friday, October 28, 2005 at 0054 hours IST
NEW DELHI, OCT 27: Indian farmers have expressed grave concern over the patent rights accorded to Delta & Pine Land in Europe and US over its controversial terminator technology. They have expressed fears that the company which has recently declared that it would foray into the country’s farm sector in big way, may bring in the terminator technology. This terminator technology is detrimental to the interests of farmers, they said.
Speaking to FE, the executive chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj, Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary said: “The government should take immediate steps to ban terminator technology in the country. It should immediately review the activities and intentions of Delta & Pine Land. The company should not be allowed any field trials of terminator seeds. The pollen flow from plants with terminator technology to other crops will have dangerous consequences. It would make the pollen-affected crops sterile.” Mr Chaudhary said that it the hidden agenda of the corporate houses is to monopolise the seed sector. It is for this reason the seed companies are producing hybrid seeds which the farmers cannot save for the next season. They usually do not produce conventional varietal seeds which the farmers can save for the next season. Now with the terminator technology, the seed companies intends to complete their agenda of monopolising the entire seed sector as the plants of terminator technology will produce only sterile seeds, he said.
Greenpeace has recently exposed the details of the patent for the controversial “terminator technology” granted in Europe on 5 October 2005. The terminator patent has been approved for all plants that are genetically engineered so that their seeds will not germinate. Further research by the "Ban Terminator Campaign", a network of farmers' unions and environmental organisations revealed that a patent was also granted in Canada on 11 October 2005. "Farmers should be aware that corporations all over the world are ready to take control of their seeds with genetic engineering (GE). These corporations will control the entire food chain with the help of monopoly patents and terminator technology. We need a global ban on this technology and on any patents on seeds. These corporate instruments will disrupt the backbone of global food supply, making it impossible for the farmers to reuse their own harvest for planting," said Christoph Then of Greenpeace International.
So far, the market introduction of the Terminator technology - which was already developed about ten years ago - was successfully prevented through worldwide protest of several groups and stakeholders. But many observers believe that the GE industry will drive towards the legalisation of this technology at the meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in March next year. The grant of the patent could push even harder for market introduction, said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the new global Ban Terminator Campaign, which involves farmers unions, environmental and Indigenous peoples organisations.
Mr Harry Collins of D&PL in the Agra/Industrial Biotechnology Legal Letter has said : "We've continued right on with work on the Technology Protection System [Terminator]. We never really slowed down. We’re on target, moving ahead to commercialize it. We never really backed off." The company states that it may be "several years" before their technology is commercially available but also says that "Once developed, we intend licensing of this technology to be widely available to other seed companies"
Report of a Fact Finding Team's visit to Badwani district, Madhya Pradesh
Purpose: To investigate into the large scale phenomenon of wilt being reported by (Bt) cotton farmers in villages of Badwani district
An 11-member Fact Finding Team [FFT] of the MEC [Monitoring & Evaluation Committee]1 and the Beej Swaraj Abhiyan of Madhya Pradesh, consisting of farmers, social activists and agriculture scientists visited villages and met farmers in three villages of Badwani district [and block] on 24th and 25th of October 2005, to look into the wide-spread reporting of wilt in Bt Cotton fields and the subsequent losses incurred by farmers here. Earlier in the day on 24th October, a smaller team also met senior officials in the agriculture department in the DDA's office and had an initial round of discussions on the government's assessment of the situation. The government officials met had mainly given the following reasons for the phenomenon of wilt being witnessed [mainly in the Badwani-Thikri belt, as per the officials]. The following is the official version, as explained to the smaller delegation.
* that while the shedding of squares, flowers and bolls is much higher in non-Bt Cotton, in the case of Bt Cotton, only 3% shedding happens; this implies that the nutrient requirement of the plant during the reproductive stage is very high and farmers often do not apply fertilizers, including compost with adequate humus, at required and frequent intervals.
* that Bt Cotton is also being grown in non-heavy soils where the content of humus is very low and this could result in wilting of the plant
* there was a long gap in rainfall in the month of August, where it did not rain for more than 20 days
* that farmers who had sown during the summer are the worst affected with this phenomenon of wilt - however, they had harvested a good crop for themselves of upto 10 quintals per acre. While this may not be as much as the farmers expected or the company propaganda implied, the farmers did not incur losses, as per the officials.
The team also found that even though official surveys are on, many villages/farmers who had complained a few weeks back have still not been visited by the official survey teams. It was also reported that teams from Mahyco and from the Zonal Agricultural Research Station in Khargone have also visited farmers and inquired into the phenomenon of wilt but their findings and conclusions were not available to the FFT.
On 24th evening, villages of Borlayi and Sajwani were visited by the FFT and on the 25th, Amli village was visited. In Borlayi, a few Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton fields were visited by the team [Shankar Balaji Yadav (non-Bt and unapproved Bt Cotton), Rameshar Dhurji Patidar (non-Bt, sown early), Mohan Patel (two Bt Cotton plots, RCH2 Bt and MECH 6301 Bt, both sown in the monsoon], and farmers met [Gopal Bhikaji Patidar (RCH2 Bt Cotton sown early in summer), Gangaram Motiji Barpha (RCH2 Bt, sown in summer), Jagadish Maru (MECH 184 Bt, late sowing and RCH2 Bt, summer sowing]. In Sajwani, farmers like Laxman Lunaji Choyal, Mohan Tejaji, Badri Kanaji, Bhagwan Dudaji, Puraji Manaji shared their experience with the FFT. In Amli, fields of Omkarlal Rukduji Parmar and Bharat Singh Darbar were visited by the team.
* from the discussions with farmers, it was found that the wilt attack happened around the same time in all the farmers' fields, irrespective of the sowing date. This was about a month back, soon after the last round of rains. Late sowing or early sowing did not seem to matter, from our visit and discussions.
* The fields were not uniformly affected. Some fields had all the plants drying up, while fields of some RCH2 Bt Cotton crop which were mostly sown early were affected somewhat less
* For those who had done summer sowing, the crop yielded an average of 9.5 quintals. However, for those who had gone in for late sowing, the average yields ranged only around 2.5 quintals. In Sajwani, the averages ranged around 3-5 quintals only.
* The wilt appears to be spreading and affecting neighboring fields even now, including non-Bt cotton
* As per a detailed analysis done of the economics of MECH 184 Bt of Shri Jagadish Maru and RCH2 Bt of Shri Gopal Patidar, the cost of cultivation ranged between 6350/- rupees to 7000/- rupees per acre [all costs including family labour, transportation costs to the market, FYM etc., were included in these calculations]. The gross returns in the case of Shri Jagadish Maru were only Rs. 5200/- while those of Shri Gopal Patidar were Rs. 11,900/- per acre. This certainly meant great losses for the farmers, both in terms of expected returns not being obtained and the cost of cultivation being more than the returns.
* An analysis of the fertilizer application of these farmers shows that on an average, at least 4 cartloads to 12 cartloads of farm yard manure was applied per acre in all cases. Chemical fertilizers were applied as per recommended dosage. Irrigation was provided as and when required. In fact, we did not find a major difference in this management between all the farmers met, including the non-Bt farmers and Bt farmers and those with large scale wilt and low wilt. This factor cannot therefore be used to explain the current wilt phenomenon. Further, we did meet farmers like Ramlal Parmar who had applied fertilizers during the reproductive stage of the crop including flower and boll formation. However, his crop experienced wilt too.
Additionally, farmers discussed the fact that wheat crop grown after harvesting Bt Cotton is yielding lower produce, possibly due to the deterioration of soil conditions, despite all other practices being kept the same. The difference in yield in those plots which did not have Bt Cotton grown on them and those wheat fields which have had Bt Cotton grown in the earlier season, ranged from 5 to 6 quintals. This issue was revealed to the FFT in both Borlayi and Sajwani villages.
The FFT concludes that farmers who have experienced the wilt problem have certainly not obtained the performance promised by the Bt Cotton companies in their propaganda [farmers were expecting at least 20 quintals per acre with different Bt Cotton hybrids, as per the posters and other propaganda used by the companies] and for some of the farmers met, the cost of cultivation has been more than the returns from the crop.
The wilt was observed mostly on Bt Cotton fields of various hybrids [MECH 162 Bt, MECH 184 Bt, MECH 6301 Bt, RCH2 Bt] and is not limited to any particular hybrid. Therefore, this cannot be attributed as a hybrid characteristic.
The wilt was not witnessed to such an extent on non-Bt Cotton, especially varieties like Shankar 8 and hybrids like JKH 1 and Bunny. Therefore, the wilt phenomenon cannot be attributed to weather conditions and abiotic stress like lack of rainfall and moisture. Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton fields which are adjacent to each other with similar soil conditions and management practices adopted, presented a striking picture of contrast to the visiting FFT.
Practices like sowing time or fertilizer application did not seem to impact the occurrence of wilt, since discussions revealed that the crop of different farmers who had engaged in both summer sowing and late sowing was affected.
Similarly, fertilizer application seems to follow a uniform pattern with most farmers met, who use a mix of traditional compost and chemical fertilizers in almost all cases.
Having concluded that wilt is a phenomenon affecting Bt Cotton [and now spreading to adjacent non-Bt cotton plots], the FFT also rules out the wilt as a result of an abiotic stress or as a shortcoming in the farmers' practices with Bt Cotton. This seems to be a reflection of the unpredictable results expectable from the transgenic technology used in Bt Cotton and the increased vulnerability of transgenic plants to new diseases [as witnessed in the case of Andhra Pradesh where more than one lakh acres of Bt Cotton have been affected by an unusual disease caused by Tobacco Streak Virus which normally affects sunflower and groundnut crops and is unknown to attack cotton crop] and pests.
The FFT also strongly objects to the fact that farmers are unfairly being held responsible for the wilt being witnessed in their fields ["they should apply more fertilizers", better management practices should be adopted etc.] - farmers were not warned beforehand of the requirements of Bt Cotton, its peculiar 'requirements' and unpredictability. Therefore, the government should pro-actively warn the farmers about such potential problems with Bt Cotton and recognize that if there is a change in management practices needed with Bt Cotton, farmers were not warned about it.
DEMANDS OF THE FFT2:
- There should be deeper investigations into the phenomenon of wilt in Bt Cotton. In the earlier years, this was attributed to particular hybrids as a characteristic of the hybrid. The current occurrence shows that different Bt Cotton hybrids have been affected.
- The government should also pro-actively assess the extent of the phenomenon, the reasons and the extent of losses and not wait for farmers to complain first.
- The government should immediately put into place compensation mechanisms for farmers affected.
1 The Monitoring and Evaluation Committee [MEC] to monitor Bt Cotton across the country was set up by Adivasi Ekta Sangathan, AKRSP, CEAD, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Grameen Vikas Trust, Greenpeace India, Jan Saahas, Kheti Virasat Mission, Krishnadevaraya Rythu Sankshema Sangam, Krushi, MARI, Navajyothi, Pasumai Tayagam, Prasun, Rashtriya Satyagrah Dal, Sampark, Sarvodaya Youth Organisation, SECURE, VASPS and YUVA.
2 FFT members include: Avdhesh Sharma, Bhuru Singh, Ganesh Kanade, Hukum Singh Bhati, Kalu Singh, Kavitha Kuruganti, Madhav Avasia, Nilesh Desai, Nilesh Yadav, Radheshyam Parmar and Shailendra Tomar
Transgenics and Indian Agriculture: Where are the benefits?
- A paper presented in a meeting of National Commission on Farmers on 22nd Sept.2005 by Dr.Krishan Bir Chaudhary, Executive Chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj (India's premier farmers' organisation) and patron of Indian Society for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development -
In India, transgenic crops are being experimented with and even released, without a coherent approach to the whole matter. It is not clear why transgenic agriculture is considered “frontier” or indispensable by numerous agricultural research bodies both in the public sector and private sector. Given below are our strong objections to transgenic crops in Indian agriculture and the reasons for the same.
Firstly, when it comes to transgenic agriculture, it is not clear how research and commercial release priorities are being set in this country. It seems that agencies are free to choose what suits and benefits them most, rather than what farmers need. No consultation with farmers and their organizations on whether they want GE as a technology in Indian agriculture at all is visible. There is no assessment witnessed of various options including safer, more inexpensive and politically right decisions that would uphold farmers’ interests before zeroing in on transgenic technology as the option for a given crop or problem. Herbicide resistance is a trait that is being worked on by many agencies, including public sector bodies! What implications would this have for the poor agricultural workers of this country, not to mention the environmental implications with increased herbicide use? Similarly, major food crops are being worked on without any thought to environmental and health repercussions! This includes our staple food, Rice. Public monies are being spent on expensive research on crops like tobacco! How are these research priorities being set? What are the accountability systems here, given that public sector research is much more than private sector when it comes to transgenic crop experimentation in India? Also, how have agencies, especially in the public sector, zeroed in on research on transgenics, rather than research on safer, ecological alternatives? These public sector bodies shy away from even validating such ecological practices that are being adopted by farmers on the ground. They would rather spend expensive resources sitting in their laboratories and campuses developing an imprecise technology.
On top of this are complications related to IPRs which have not been worked out at all. The UAS, Dharwad has a case to illustrate where they had developed a Bt Cotton variety with a gene donated by Ford Foundation only to discover later that that gene is a proprietary technology owned by Monsanto!
Civil society verification and research shows several bio-safety violations in all such experiments the products from field trials are allowed to enter the food chain routinely before all bio-safety tests are completed. Seeds from such field trials are routinely allowed to contaminate the other seed stock either physically or biologically, much before such crops are allowed for commercial cultivation. The Navbharat Bt cotton fiasco would have happened in such a manner too though no detailed investigations were undertaken on the matter. Similarly, field trial permissions and seed production permissions are given and no monitoring takes place to check what happens to the seed stocks if commercial approval is not granted in the next season. There have also been instances in the past where attempts have been made for clandestine imports of GE foods into the country or when they have actually been imported. The Soya imports into this country from countries like the US must surely be GM-contaminated however, no permission for such imports are being sought from the GEAC nor is GEAC pro-actively stopping such imports. All of these are clear indications of the complete failure of bio-safety regulations or risk assessment procedures in the country.
Coming to the experience of Bt Cotton in India, the first transgenic crop to be commercially cultivated, there are many lessons to be learnt including the fact that the technology is very imprecise and imperfect. Government’s own studies have shown that Bt Cotton, a technology imported from the US, was fit for the American conditions and their major pests rather than ours. There has been an extremely uneven performance, predictably, of the technology on the ground the primary claims have been belied with regard to pesticide use coming down along with bollworm incidence coming down. There are several other problems reported by farmers which need deeper investigations this is however not being done despite repeated requests. The country has not stopped to pause to take stock of the situation so far, before more varieties are released all the time. Worse, biosafety assessments are being done away with, with the argument that the “event” has already been approved for its bio-safety. This is a highly questionable claim. Bt Cotton cultivation in this country has also shown all the shortcomings and lacunae in our regulatory functioning. The post-approval surveillance is extremely unscientific and erratic. The cases of falsification of actual experience on the ground point to corrupt elements entering the picture. Monsanto’s bribing of several Indonesian officials for obtaining a clearance for a GE crop is well-known and is a good reminder to us about the extent the industry would go to push its markets.
The most important shortcoming in the story of Bt Cotton in India has been the lack of accountability mechanisms. Farmers who have incurred losses due to the cultivation of Bt Cotton have been left to fend for themselves while the companies involved in the commercialization are laughing all the way to the banks. Farmers’ interests have definitely been shown to be the last priority in this fiasco.
Resistance management plans are non-existent and faulty where they exist. Even in a country like Australia, there is a 30% limit to Bt Cotton cultivation. Why do Indian scientists only talk about experiences from elsewhere and adverse results from their own studies, instead of doing something to influence the decisions? Is scientific research by specialist bodies like CICR meant only for academic interest?
India should also take cue from the developments across the world. Worldwide, starting from 2003, GM crops research is drying up, even in countries like the US. Companies like Bayer Crop Science have announced that they are going back to conventional breeding. Companies are also voluntarily withdrawing products that have been in the pipeline like GM Wheat due to enormous consumer and farmer pressure against these crops. India should consider why it wants to tread a path that could be inimical to the interests of its farmers and definitely prove hazardous to its environment.
Let us look at the situation worldwide In 2004, the biotech industry and their allies celebrated the ninth consecutive year of expansion of genetically modified (GM) crops. The estimated global area of approved GM crops was 81 million hectares in 22 countries. Corn and soya, the two most widely grown GE crops are grown mostly for animal feed or enter the human food chain mostly as minor ingredients or derivatives. The GM industry would like to tell us that it has delivered benefits to consumers and society at large through more affordable food, feed and fiber with less pesticide usage. It is difficult to imagine how such benefits have been achieved given that more than 70% of the global area under GM crops is devoted to Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide-tolerant crops. Even yield increase claims are questionable since studies from the US show that yields were suppressed with crops like RR Soybean cultivars. Other studies from North America on Roundup Ready Soy and Bt Maize found that the returns from these crops essentially equaled those of non-GE varieties.
The social costs of displacement of small farmers and agricultural workers from their farming are well documented and enormous. In Argentina, the situation is quite dramatic as 60000 farms went out of business while the area of Roundup Ready Soybean almost tripled. In countries like Brazil, GM soybean-led deforestation of the Amazon forests is also well-documented. These developments only point out towards the very hollow impact assessment studies and risk assessment studies that are taken up before the introduction of the technology. Often, such studies are not taken up at all and India cannot be allowed to go the same way. Please note that there are strong reasons as to why only 22 countries in the world have so far approved GM crop cultivation.
The environmental costs of the transgenic technology in agriculture are irreversible and unaffordable. Degradation of soils, loss of sustainable farming practices, loss of biodiversity, huge monocultures to the detriment of the sustainability of resources, impact on other living organisms, increase in secondary pests’ damage to the crops etc. have all been well-documented. Equally well-documented are the positive impacts of many sustainable agriculture practices which are non-pesticidal and non-GE.
The use of chemicals has only increased after the introduction of GE-led agriculture in countries like the US. In 2004, farmers sprayed an average 4.7% more pesticides on GE crops than on identifical conventional crops. In the case of herbicide resistant crops, the usage of herbicide goes up and in the case of insect-resistance crops, insects are known to adapt themselves given the enormous selection pressure on them which once again translates itself into higher chemical use for their control. The increase in chemical usage not only has environmental implications in terms of groundwater contamination, super-weeds etc., but also raises important questions on food safety.
Coming to the much-forwarded principle of co-existence of GM and conventional crops, regulators and scientists should understand that co-existence is an impossibility in India. Experiences from world over including the Mexican maize contamination case are an illustration. “Adventitious presence” or contamination of conventional seed with biotechnology traits is a known phenomenon which has adverse environmental and economic implications. In a country where there are millions of small holdings right next to each other and where traditional seed exchange systems are vibrant to this day, both genetic and physical contamination of seed stocks is inevitable. Failure of regulation is more than well-established in the case of a non-food crop like Cotton. The disaster waiting to happen if GM technology is introduced in food crops cannot be overstated.
GM foods are known to cause a variety of human health problems. There are numerous studies on GM tomato, GM potato, GM corn, GM soy and other crops which show that these foods constitute a definite hazard to health. Monsanto’s secret GM Maize study findings also point to the same facts. There is also the issue of antibiotic resistance building up through GM crops. There can be no easy management solutions to these issues. In developed countries too, segregation was known to have failed as the Starlink corn contamination case reveals. Many long term human health impacts might not even start showing in the health assessment studies being taken up right now. How can India afford to tread this path, when it has agreed to enshrine the Precautionary Principle when it signed up to the Cartagena Protocol? How can the precautionary principle guide us for international trade decisions but not when it comes to domestic production and trade decisions?
1Has India begun assessing the possibilities of market rejection for its agricultural products if it opts for GE any further? Many large companies in the mainstream food industry already have a non-GE policy in response to consumer demand in many countries in the West. What will be the economic implications for Indian farmers of such market rejection? What kind of an analysis is available for the farmers so that they can make an informed choice on the matter?
The organic food industry, which has a great potential for growth will definitely be closed to us by our pro-GE decisions and this will once again mean a great economic loss to Indian farmers. Organic farmers have their own rights which need to be protected too. In Canada, a class action suit is under way demanding lost organic canola profits due to contamination. Similarly, Germany has a law that makes farmers who plant GE crops liable for contamination of other crops. Many other countries in Asia are treading cautiously and have moratoriums, or bans, or pro-active organic farming policies in addition to strict labeling regimes for regulation of their agriculture and food industry. India however seems to be moving in a very ad-hoc and anti-farmer manner in this regard.
India often talks about emulating the USA without considering that the social and agro-ecological conditions are vastly different between the countries, not to mention the regulatory mechanisms. India has to evolve solutions for its agriculture indigenously and an enormous number of successful alternatives to various situations exist with the farmers themselves in various pockets of the country. It is time that the agricultural research establishment, the agricultural education establishment as well the agricultural policy-makers first look at these options before chasing technologies that are unsustainable and anti-farmer.
THE BITTER HARVEST - Kasturi Das - The Telegraph (Calcutta), 29 September 2005 - http://www.telegraphindia.com/1050929/asp/opinion/story_5295240.asp
Ever since its introduction in March 2002, Bt cotton, the sole transgenic crop commercially grown in India, has been at the centre of controversy. The latest one has been triggered off by a research by Keshav R. Kranthi and his colleagues at the Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur. It is based on the findings of a series of field experiments on eight Bt-cotton Bollgard hybrids commercially grown in India. The results revealed that the Bt cotton 'hybrids' being grown here are inadequate for effectively controlling the cotton pest, bollworm. The study has indicated that one of the reasons behind poor performance of Bt cotton in India is that here it is grown as 'hybrid', unlike in the US, China and Australia. The findings are disquieting given that the principal reason behind the introduction of Bt cotton in India was its purported ability to make the cotton plant resistant to bollworms. It is appalling that even with such clear scientific evidence, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the country's apex body for approving genetically modified products, has not taken any initiative to stall its commercial cultivation. Instead, fresh approvals have been granted, and old approvals renewed.
On the other hand, efforts are on at the highest level to put in place a full-fledged policy framework to provide a big push for the proliferation of transgenic crops in the country. This, despite the fact that the ecological and health-safety implications of GM crops are yet to be proved conclusively anywhere in the world. More alarming is the blatant attempt of our policy-makers to push through transgenic agro-technology on the pretext of achieving noble objectives, such as, increase in agricultural yield, economic wellbeing of farm families, food security of the nation, security of national and international trade in farm commodities, and so on. As far as yield is concerned, studies in India and abroad have revealed poorer performance of GM crops compared to their non-GM counterparts. Lack of satisfactory yield, along with the high costs of GM seeds and cultivation, makes GM crops spell doom for small and marginal farmers. In Andhra Pradesh in particular, cultivation of Bt cotton has forced hundreds of farmers to commit suicides.
Even if it is assumed that GM crops will help to boost yields, it can never guarantee two square meals for the entire population of the country, since the biggest impediment to achieving food security in India is economic accessibility, and not physical availability. Moreover, the monoculture-based GM technology, by endangering the biodiversity of India, may well end up threatening the livelihood of our agrarian community. There still remains the threat of contamination of non-GM crops by their GM counterparts. Indian agricultural exports may also become a vulnerable and risky venture in a situation of coexistence of GM and non-GM crops. If India stops further promotion of transgenic crops, it may be in an advantageous position in the external trade front. With public opinion against GM crops gaining increasing momentum around the world, the global market prospect is likely to get increasingly better for any non-GM agricultural product. Thus, there is not enough economic justification for promoting the cultivation of GM crops in India. Hence, instead of glorifying transgenic crops, a prudent approach would be to put a moratorium on further commercial cultivation of GM crops in India. It is not genetic engineering but more sustainable alternatives like organic or ecological farming that can pull Indian agriculture out of hard times.
Expert demands inquiry into Bt cotton cultivation - By Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi - REDIFF.COM, September 29, 2005
The story of Bt cotton cultivation in India is getting murkier by the day and it deserves a full fledged inquiry on all aspects, said Dr Suman Sahai of 'Gene Campaign'. In a press conference in New Delhi, Sahai told media that multinational corporations are having vested interests in the cultivation of Bt cotton and it's high time the Indian government stood up for the farmers and consumers of India. The letters 'Bt' stand for Bacillus thuringiensis, a toxin-producing bacterium found naturally in soils. Scientists have, with the help of genetic engineering, separated toxin producing genes to produce certain seeds. Pests die when they eat Bt cotton plants.
The United States company Monsanto is enjoying monopoly over the most used variety of cotton seed Bollgard. After a large number of suicides of debt-ridden farmers due to use of fake varieties of seed, and campaigning by non-government organisations, Andhra Pradesh has banned Monsanto Bt cotton which is distributed with help of Mahyco.
Dr Sahai said that, it is criminal on the part of the government and on the part of the regulatory authority to pretend that all is well with Bt cotton when there is so much evidence that it is not. In the biotech industry, Bt cotton is a critical technology for the success of the marketing of genetically modified agriculture all over the world. For India, the issue raised by Dr Sahai deserves attention because the government's monitoring is not only weak, but absolutely inadequate and inefficient, believe the experts.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee haven't been able to respond satifactorily to most arguments against the failure of Bt cotton varieties. Dr Sahai alleged that "despite corroborated reports of failure, Monsanto has refused to pay any compensation to Indian farmers who have suffered losses and GEAC has not taken any action in this regard". The issue deserves attention also because Dr Mangala Rai, director general of Indian Council of Agricultural Research is currently engaged in deliberations with a powerful team within the government over how to bring about a second green revolution in India with the help of US technology. "Indo-US nuclear deal's quid pro quo is the agriculture deal signed with the US," Dr Sahai said. Commenting on the huge economic interest and aggressive marketing of multinationals, she added, "It's obvious that America allowed us the access to nuclear technology and in return asked India to allow an access to the Indian agriculture market for American biotech companies."
Dr Sahai, in support of her argument to demand a through inquiry against Bt cotton cultivation, quoted a startling example of well-known scientist Dr Kranthi belonging to the Cotton Research Institute of Nagpur. Dr Sahai alleges that Dr Kranthi published a paper in the scientific journal Current Science providing scientific data on how Bt cotton is not very effective in India. Dr Sahai picked up from there and quoted him in The Hindu to prove that Bt cotton technology is faulty and doesn't protect farmers against the boll-worm. But Dr Kranthi retaliated soon. He wrote a column in The Hindu absolving himself and his boss Dr Mangala Rai. About his evidence in the scientific journal, Dr Kranthi says that Bt cotton "has a few inherent adequacies. That does not take away the merit of the technology". Dr Kranthi has described Bt cotton as a brilliant technology.
The tussle between the two scientists has raised a cloud over Monsanto's future plans in India. Dr Sahai says that farmers need to answer why Bt cotton hybrids in India were unstable and unpredictable. She says that everything should be on hold till the inquiry is made. She said one of the causes of farmers' suicides in India was a failure of Bt cotton cultivation and cultivation of fake and illegal variety of Bt cotton. Dubious seeds are a major threat to Indian farmers.
ICMR calls for mandatory labelling of GM foods - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, September 27, 2005
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has called for mandatory labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods. It said that imported foods containing traces of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) should be tested for their safety in the labs in the country. The report prepared under the leadership of ICMR director-general NK Ganguly has been submitted to the government. The recommendations of the report are being reviewed by the Central Committee on Food Safety (CCFS) for incorporation under the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act and Rules. The ICMR report focuses on issues of labelling, nutrition value, food safety and ethical values.
At present PFA Act and Rules does not have any provisions to deal with GM foods. The new Food Safety and Standards Bill, 2005 tabled in Parliament has mentioned the need for regulating GM foods. The existing regulatory authority for transgenic products, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has the power to regulate only transgenic crops and animals and recombinant pharma products and not GM foods. The Ganguly panel, therefore, suggested that GM foods will be regulated by GEAC.
The permissible limit of the presence of traces of GMOs in food as proposed by ICMR is higher than that proposed by the European Union. EU has fixed the permissible limit at 0.9% while ICMR has fixed it at 1%. ICMR has said that labelling of GM foods should disclose the necessary information relating to the orgin of the transgene and the processes
invloved. The norms for labelling will be revised in accordance with more advanced techniques of detection becoming available.
According to ICMR, the producers and importers should submit detailed supporting documents. Only accredited labs should conduct tests to determine GMO traces in foods. Since currently, there are few labs in the country like the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, the Central Food Technology Research Institute, Mysore, and Lucknow's Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, capable of conducting tests on GMOs, the Ganguly panel called for upgradation of other labs.
Farm bodies seek ban on Bt cotton cultivation - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=103555
ASHOK B SHARMA - Posted online: Saturday, September 24, 2005 at 0044 hours IST
NEW DELHI, SEPT 23: Leading farmers’ organisations have demanded a ban on Bt cotton and a moratorium on any further approval of genetically modified (GM) crops for commercial cultivation. They cautioned the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) not to do anything that would put the livelihood of millions of farmers in jeopardy. The NCF, headed by Dr MS Swaminathan, had convened a meeting of farmers’ organisations and some individual farmers from across the country on Thursday to discuss formulation of a separate National Biotechnology Policy.
Among the leading farmers’ organisation to call for a ban on Bt cotton was the ruling Congress Party’s outfit, Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS). Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary, executive chairman, BKS, said: “Bt cotton cultivation has placed farmers into heavy losses in the past three years. Three varieties of Monsanto’s Bt cotton failed miserably in Andhra Pradesh. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) had to ban its cultivation in Andhra Pradesh on receiving adverse reports from the state government and farmers. The GEAC also banned the cultivation of Monsanto’s Mech-12 Bt in entire South India.” He said that based on the experiences of Bt cotton cultivation in the past three years, the GEAC should not have approved any new transgenic varieties as demanded by the farmers. But unfortunately, bowing to the pressures from the industry, GEAC approved 13 new Bt cotton varieties for the current season, he said and added that these new varieties are also not performing well.
P Chengal Reddy of Industry-Farmers Alliance, however, said that GM crops hold out better prospects for farmers. He called for setting up of an autonomous regulator for GM crops, greater allocation for research on GM crops in public sector and public-private partnership.
Vijay Javandhia of Shetkari Sangathan said that the government should encourage development and improvement of tradtional varieties of crops instead of introducing GM crops. Mahender Singh Tikait, president of Bharatiya Kisan Union, said that the farmers are not in a position to buy hybrid seeds each year at high price and the seed companies should not be allowed to produce hybrid seeds.
The BKS leader, Dr Chaudhary called for immediate compensation to Bt cotton growers. He alleged that Monsanto is reluctant to pay the minimum level of compensation determined by the Andhra Pradesh government. He said in future the the extent of losses should be determined jointly by the farmers and panchayat leaders at the farm level and the compensation so determined should be paid at the farm level. He alleged there are reports that GM crops have caused pollen flow to other crops in different countries. It has also created health and environmental hazards.
PRESS RELEASE - Bollgard Bt Cotton sold on Lies and Lures: Greenpeace & CSA
Hyderabad, September 19th, 2005: The Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) on Bt Cotton[i], coordinated by Greenpeace India and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) today condemned Monsanto and other Bt Cotton companies for using false and misleading claims as well as unethical practices to sell their Bt Cotton seed. The organizations put forward evidence to support their claims against such marketing which included compilation of numerous practices that the companies adopt to sell its product and then to claim it as “the willingness of Indian farmers”. The MEC has called for accountability mechanisms to be put in place, to ensure that aggressive and unethical practices used by the Bt Cotton seed corporations to gain market share are put under check.
“The Bt Cotton seed companies are going berserk with their deceitful ways claiming high yields and great benefits on Bt Cotton. Never before have seed companies used so many tools and methods to ensure sales for their product. The aggressive and misleading selling techniques adopted by the Bt Cotton companies show utter disregard for the farmers’ choice to buy seed. This also severely limits the options available for promoting safer alternatives like organic farming,” said Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at a press conference in Hyderabad. “The assertion by Monsanto that the increase in acreage of Bt Cotton is an indication of the success of Bt Cotton is as questionable as their false advertising”, he added.
“Agriculture is a state subject and most states have failed utterly to evaluate the frightening scale of this Bt Cotton disaster. The agricultural department needs to take a firm stand to ensure that the regulatory regime is strengthened for the protection of the farmer,” said Thangamma Monnappa, GE-Free India campaigner, Greenpeace India.
Ms Kavitha Kuruganti, Researcher, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture said, “The Bt Cotton industry would like us to believe that their sales are an indication of farmers’ acceptance of the technology and that it is a science-based industry. We have a different story to tell. This compilation of various marketing practices, including stories of outright lies on the Bollgard posters, misleading advertisements of farmers with exaggerated claims to lure other farmers, of using a variety of incentives and even questionable means to attract and entrap farmers makes us question the claims of the company. Such aggressive marketing in a situation where the technology itself is imprecise and where accountability mechanisms are non-existent is bound to spell doom for many farmers”.
The MEC organizations, based on their documentation of Bt Cotton marketing practices from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, would write to the State Directors of Agriculture for immediate action in the matter. They would also approach the Advertisements Standards Council of India for its intervention in this regard.
The Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) demands:
- that the aggressive and even false marketing of Bt Cotton be stopped immediately
- that the Bt Cotton companies reveal the total amount spent on marketing the seed so far
- that liability be fixed on the companies in all those cases where they are found to have resorted to unscrupulous, misleading, aggressive and false marketing
- that the governments pro-actively put out information to farmers about how to protect
themselves from such companies and also put into place simple mechanisms for loss-incurring farmers to claim compensation and remediation
For further information, contact:
Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Tel: +91-9393001550, E-mail: email@example.com
Thangamma Monnappa, Genetic Engineering Campaigner, Greenpeace India - Tel: +91-98454 37337, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
[i] The Monitoring and Evaluation Committee [MEC] to monitor Bt Cotton across the country was set up by Adivasi Ekta Sangathan, AKRSP, CEAD, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Grameen Vikas Trust, Greenpeace India, Jan Saahas, Kheti Virasat Mission, Krishnadevaraya Rythu Sankshema Sangam, Krushi, MARI, Navajyothi, Pasumai Tayagam, Prasun, Rashtriya Satyagrah Dal, Sampark, Sarvodaya Youth Organisation, SECURE, VASPS and YUVA.
CM urged to rethink on GM crops - The Statesman (Bengal, India), 11 September 2005
BHUBANESWAR, Sept. 11. The "Team for Human Resources Education and Action for Development" (THREAD), a chain of Human Resources Development and Healing Institutes in India, has urged the state government to initiate a comprehensive debate and evolve a well thought-out policy before introducing genetically engineered or modified seeds in the state. In a letter to the chief minister, Mr Naveen Patnaik, THREAD representative, Mr G John said that Orissa is proud of having more than 700 native varieties of rice and the state has exhibited more than 500 indigenous varieties recently which had captured global attention. The state has secured the second position in the world for having such a wide varieties of indigenous seeds. Among the two sources of indigenous seeds in the world, Koraput occupies the second position after Myanmar. But with the introduction of genetically modified (GM) seeds, the cropping pattern will undergo serious changes and it will adversely affect the farmers. That will lead us to be dependent on multi national companies which will exploit the farmers and resources of the state, he apprehended.
Mr John expressed serious objection on behalf of organic farmers and organisations in Orissa to the policy formulation process which had not "consulted the public at large and farmers in particular." He claimed that over 2 lakh tribal farmers living in more than 3,000 villages across the state were pained to hear about the controversial GM seeds policy. The NGO activist recalled that a delegation of farmers had met the chief minister in March, 2005 and he had promised to conduct a serious study on the matter of declaring Orissa as an "organic agriculture state" which will ban GM seeds and food. "Let's not end up introducing unsustainable and hazardous technologies and fall in the hands of exploiters who will only ruin the farmers of the state," he urged. Quoting a study on Bt cotton, the first commercially available genetically modified crop in India, Mr John said this crop had ruined thousands of farmers in the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. He urged the chief minister to save the state from falling into the "transgenics trap" which will ruin our indigenous seeds and the livelihood of farmers.
Report of a Fact Finding Team's Visit to Warangal District to investigate an unusual disease on Bt Cotton on September 9, 2005
Kavitha Kuruganti - Centre for Sustainable Agriculture - 09393001550
A newspaper report appeared recently in the Warangal edition of Eenaadu (a telugu daily) titled Pathiki Anthu Chikkani Tegulu ("An unknown disease on cotton - Losses in 50,000 acre of Warangal district") which mentioned that more than 50,000 acres of cotton crop in Warangal district has been affected by an unknown disease. The media report also mentions that this problem appears to be higher in Bt Cotton than on cotton other than Bt Cotton [non-Bt Cotton]. This was confirmed by government agriculture scientists who visited several villages of the district to investigate into farmers' complaints. Farmers, who have had a good season so far, are panicking at this adverse development at the flowering and fruiting stage on the crop. These reports came from Hasanparthi, Hanmakonda, Atmakur, Dharmasagar and Geesukonda blocks.
A fact finding team consisting of Mr Ramprasad, Agriculture Scientist, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), Ms Kavitha Kuruganti, Researcher, CSA and Mr Damoder of Sarvodaya Youth Organisation visited the fields in a few villages in Atmakur and Geesukonda blocks of Warangal district on September 9, 2005 along with farmers from the villages. The villages visited include Sthambhampalli in Geesukonda mandal, Durgampeta and Gudeppad in Atmakur mandal.
In Sthambampalli village, we visited the field of Mr Shankar Rao, who had sown RCH2Bt on one acre. He had so far sprayed Confidor for sucking pests and Boron and Magnesium Sulphate for the peculiar problem that had appeared on the crop. Here, while about 10% of the plants were completely stunted and seemed to be fully affected, another 20% of plants were affected in the upper canopy almost completely. The top leaves of the plant are wrinkled with non-uniform expanded and unexpanded areas. These leaves have inter-veinal red tinge. These plants also seem as if they will not recover. The squares are drying up and falling down. The leaves have a reddish color all over and are curling downwards. The plant however not dried out, no browning found in the dissected stem and wilt has been ruled out. There is high attack of Spodoptera also on this plot with leaves and shoots having been eaten. He also says that he was told that Bt Cotton would be effective against all pests while he is discovering now that this is not the truth. The incidence of sucking pests is quite low - we found however low incidence of mites, thrips and jassids on some leaves. White flies are absent. This could also be because he had taken action to control the initial incidence of sucking pests.
We also looked at the cotton plants with this problem in Mr Doosayya Veeraswamy?s land which was also sown with RCH2 Bt. The problem was similar spodoptera was present in this field too. We also visited Mr Sambayya?s land planted with Bunny Bt ? here it was much lesser but still present. Mr Gundekari Ramesh, who had sown 3 acres of his land with RCH2 Bt showed us his Bt Cotton plants which were similar. They were stunted and more than 35% of his field was affected by this disease like phenomenon. While we were walking through the fields, other farmers including women started complaining about the same problem and started asking for a remedy. Some of them were farmers who had sown illegal Bt Cotton.
We went to at least two plots that we were told were Bt Cotton plots - however, we discovered that there is no non-Bt Cotton sown in this village this year. It was all either approved or unapproved Bt Cotton. One of the explanations provided for the spread of Bt Cotton was that farmers who wanted to opt for non-Bt Cotton feared that they will lose out if there is only Bt Cotton all around them and therefore opted for Bt Cotton too. While some of the farmers had sown Bt Cotton last year also, others are growing it for the first time this year. Refuge system is not being followed on the ground.
The villagers here reported that after feeding on Bt Cotton, several goats got killed last year. Asked why they have opted for Bt Cotton despite the problems that they are reporting (they mentioned that the Mahyco varieties of Bt Cotton failed badly last year with very low yields and that goats got killed), they said that they hope that pesticide usage would come down with Bt Cotton now that they are trying other Bt Cotton varieties and that farmers who form a majority of the village cannot afford to think about the negative repercussions on some shepherds who rear animals like sheep and goats. However, several of the farmers met also mentioned that they have to re-think their decision about Bt Cotton now that they are witnessing the new disease on the crop.
We then visited the field of Mr Chelpuri Chandraiah of Durgampet village. He had sown one acre of RCH2 Bt, one acre of Bunny Bt and one acre of Mallika Bt Cotton. His field, several kilometers away from Sthambampalli village, had the same problem. Many plants with stunted growth with leaves reddish in color and curled downwards were present. The problem was more prevalent on this land. The IIIT people, who are running an information extension service in this village, had suggested that he apply boron for treating the problem. Chandraiah had done so 20 days ago, with no improvement in the situation. He had sprayed Contaf and Confidor so far. At the time that we visited him, he was spraying curacron with a power sprayer for the spodoptera attack. He chose to opt for Bt Cotton this year since he got about 10 quintals with RCH2 Bt last year with around Rs. 3000/- spent on pesticides. However, a non-Bt variety that he had sown last year called Pratham had given him 12 quintals with Rs. 5000/- or so spent on pesticides. He said that he had not been able to compare his crop with non-Bt fields since there aren't any such fields around his plot. He thinks that the problem could be because of spurious seed supplied to him by the company coupled with the current weather conditions.
We visited the fields of Mr Chelpuri Narsayya who had sown RCH2 Bt Cotton on 2 acres of his land, with one row of non-Bt refuge all around. In this field, we found high attack of spodoptera as well as Helicoverpa in addition to the unknown disease and leaf curling due to a high incidence of sucking pests. Narsayya had sprayed Confidor and Actara so far in addition to Boron to take care of the new disease. Bollworm damage to squares and buds was quite high in this field.
We also met Mr Chelpuri Laxmaiah here, who had sown RCH 20 Bt in six acres. He has faced the new disease as well as high incidence of sucking pests, Spodoptera and Helicoverpa. He has so far sprayed Confidor, Monocrotophos, Pride, Actara and Avaunt now to control Helicoverpa. When he consulted the Rasi company representatives about the various problems in his field, he was told that it was because he lacked irrigation!
We then visited the field of Mr Lakkidi Channa Reddy who had sown MECH 12 Bt this season. Helicoverpa incidence as well as spodoptera incidence was high here even as the peculiar disease was present at equal levels here. Even though there were not many stunted plants here, the upper canopy of almost a third of his plot was affected with the disease. This farmer also reported higher incidence of skin allergies in all Bt Cotton fields this year. All the other farmers concurred with this observation and experience of this farmer.
We finally visited a non-Bt plot of Mr Chelpuri Mogili, who had sown a non-Bt Cotton hybrid called Sudarshan. In this plot, Helicoverpa damage was at par with the Bt cotton plots we had seen so far, but the disease was definitely much lower. The farmers accompanying us (around 6-7 of them) found the difference marked too. So far, he had sprayed Actara and Cypermethrin for the control of Helicoverpa. His seed cost per packet was Rs. 430/- as opposed to around Rs. 1700/- on an average paid by the others.
We found that in village Gudeppad, where we met with Mr Bommineni Rajireddy, a well-known progressive farmer, who has given his land for some Rasi field trials on Bollgard this season too, that the problem was present on these trial plots too. The Rasi company personnel, including their entomologist Mr Venkat from Salem, could not diagnose the problem - they felt that it was a viral disease that was probably being spread by thrips. We found that the incidence of thrips was quite low in all the fields that we visited - however, both mites and thrips were present at a low level in almost all the fields visited while the presence of jassids and white fly was low this year.
The fact finding team, from its field visits and consultations with other experts (plant pathologists and entomologists), concludes that this might be a new disease unusual for the cotton crop in this state, being spread mostly by the higher incidence of sucking pests on Bt Cotton, that too of thrips.
The main points that emerge from this fact-finding trip are:
1.The government allowed the spread of Bt Cotton, especially of unapproved varieties too to such an extent that it has become very difficult to find control plots to check the actual situation of whether this viral attack was common to all cotton plots or was prevalent more on Bt Cotton (as a result of some unpredictable result of the genetic technology employed here).
2.Beyond academic reasons, such a monoculture of Bt Cotton also means a great deal of damage if this disease is indeed peculiar to Bt Cotton hybrids, which seemed to be the case from our own verification of Bt and non-Bt plots. The government scientists have a similar observation to make, as per media reports. The dire future of cotton farmers in a monoculture situation with such susceptibilities of Bt Cotton cannot be overstated.
3.It is known that Bt Cotton has higher incidence of sucking pests and for the first time, the possibility of viral diseases spreading through these sucking pests mostly on Bt Cotton because of its higher vulnerability is becoming clear. Therefore, it is not only a vulnerability to higher incidence of sucking pests but a vulnerability to greater spread of diseases through these sucking pests.
4.Bt Cotton plots, especially of RCH2 Bt variety, have higher prevalence of this disease. This disease has mixed symptoms of boron deficiency as well as mite attack and the visiting government officials are recommending treatment for both these causes. However, this has not improved the situation, though the spread of the disease has been controlled in the first two plots visited.
5.The damage is upto 30% of the Bt Cotton plots visited. While some plants have become stunted with no growth at all, in other plants which are affected, the upper canopy is displaying the symptoms of leaf reddening and curling downwards with a dried rim even as the squares are drying up and falling down.
6.There is high incidence of Spodoptera on all the plots visited including the non-Bt cotton field. The spodoptera larvae were found to be feeding on leaves as well as buds and flowers. This brings into question the claims of the Bt Cotton companies that damage to flowering and fruiting parts is protected well through this technology. Bt Cotton is clearly not effective against Spodoptera and this is the major pest damaging buds and flowers right now!
7.There is equal incidence of Helicoverpa damage on Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton plots. This brings into question the efficacy of the very technology with which Bt Cotton was introduced. Samples of such larvae were collected by the team. The incidence was more than 1 larva per plant. In the case of one farmer's case, the average reported was 2-3 helicoverpa larvae per plant. The square damage that was witnessed by the team was more than 3-4 squares per plant that were bored into by the larvae.
8.There are experiences of skin allergies from working in the Bt Cotton fields and of livestock deaths after feeding on left over Bt Cotton vegetation in the fields from these villages. However, no investigation was done by the government on these issues.
* We demand that immediate assessment be taken up of the extent of damage with this phenomenon and the reasons for the same. Cotton fields of neighboring districts like Nalgonda, Karimnagar and Khammam have to be monitored too for the purpose.
* Scientific comparison of the field level situation between Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton plots be taken up to understand the full dimensions of the problem.
* Clear recommendations for control of the problem be disseminated to all farmers before any further loss takes place.
* Compensation mechanisms should be put into place for all those farmers whose fields have been badly affected by this phenomenon and the government should ensure that such compensation is paid properly.
This Fact Finding Report is part of the Bt Cotton monitoring across India of the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee [MEC] set up by Adivasi Ekta Sangathan, AKRSP, CEAD, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Grameen Vikas Trust, Greenpeace India, Jan Saahas, Kheti Virasat Mission, Krishnadevaraya Rythu Sankshema Sangam, Krushi, MARI, Navajyothi, Pasumai Tayagam, Prasun, Rashtriya Satyagrah Dal, Sampark, Sarvodaya Youth Organisation, SECURE, VASPS and YUVA.
Indian GM cotton is 'inadequate'; enquiry demanded - Red bollworm on cotton - T. V. Padma - Source: SciDev.Net, 5 August 2005
[NEW DELHI] A study has found that Indian varieties of cotton that have been genetically modified to resist an important insect pest are "inadequate". The findings back farmers' claims that the pest, known as the bollworm, is able to survive on Bt cotton varieties, modified to resist it. Prompted by the study, the president of an agricultural lobby group in India is demanding an enquiry into whether the government continued to release the "inadequate" varieties, despite knowing their shortcomings. The researchers, who published their findings in the Indian journal Current Science last week (25 July), say farmers may have to be prepared to use additional insecticide in the later stages of growing the crop.
Bt cotton is genetically modified to produce a toxin lethal to bollworms, which cause an estimated US$1 billion worth of damage in India each year. It is patented and sold by the US firm Monsanto. In Australia, China, Indonesia, and South Africa farmers grow Monsanto's Bt cotton as it is sold by the company. In India however, under a license from Monsanto, the Bt cotton is repeatedly crossed with Indian varieties to adapt it to the country's wide range of growing conditions. The Indian government cleared the first three hybrid cotton varieties for commercial cultivation in 2002. More were cleared for planting in subsequent years.
In 2003, scientists from the Indian Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) tested eight commercially grown hybrids. They found that some hybrids produced up to seven times as much toxin as others. In addition, differing amounts of toxin were found in different parts of individual plants. Generally, the ovaries of the flowers and the rinds of the cotton bolls, which are favoured by the bollworm, contained the least amount of toxin, while leaves contained the highest levels. The amount of toxin declined progressively as the plants grew, and dropped below effective levels 100 days after the seeds were sown. The toxin levels in the boll rind and flowers are "clearly inadequate" to fully protect the fruiting parts of the plant against the bollworm, the scientists report. They say the findings help to explain complaints from Indian farmers that bollworms can survive on Bt cotton plants.
Several non-government organisations, including Greenpeace, the Dehli-based Gene Campaign and the Rural Foundation for Science, Technology and Environment, have reported instances of farmers complaining of Bt crop failure, but these were dismissed by the government and scientists as unsubstantiated. On Wednesday (3 August) Suman Sahai, the president of Gene Campaign, wrote to the secretary of India's Ministry of Environment and Forests demanding an enquiry into whether the government released more Bt cotton hybrids for commercial cultivation despite knowing the early trends of CICR findings. Already in 2003, the CICR filed a report to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, a body of the environment ministry, indicating that the levels of toxin in Indian Bt cotton might be insufficient to control the pest. In her letter to the ministry, Sahai says the approval committee violated India's 1986 Environment Protection Act by not making CICR's early findings public. The committee's website provides access to the 2002-2003 and 2004-2005 CICR reports, but not to the 2003-2004 report which, according to Sahai, would have contained its preliminary results on Indian Bt cotton.
Sahai has sent copies of her letter to the Indian prime minister and the minister for the environment. Neither has yet responded. The secretary of the environment ministry told SciDev.Net the ministry has not yet received Sahai's letter.
Reference: Current Science 89, 291 (2005) - http://www.scidev.net/www.ias.ac.in/currsci/jul252005/291.pdf
CICR knew about the ineffective expression of Bt toxin all along - Shows again that decision-making on GE crops in this country is highly questionable
PRESS RELEASE: Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Hyderabad, July 28, 2005: Reacting to the latest report of the Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur on the toxin expression of Bt Cotton being ineffective against bollworm in the most vulnerable parts of the Bt Cotton plant, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture calls for an immediate revoking of all the approved Bt Cotton varieties from the market immediately.
Questioning the fact that CICR chooses to put out these shocking findings which emerged in 2003 only now, Dr Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, CSA said "CICR should be made accountable for not informing the decision-making processes within GEAC in time and for not stopping fresh releases of Bt Cotton in India, even after finding that inter-hybrid variability of toxin expression is 2 to 7 fold, that Bt Cotton becomes ineffective after 110 days after sowing and that within the plant, the toxin expressions were the lowest in the ovary of flowers and boll rind of green bolls which constitute the most favored sites of bollworm attack."
The findings vindicate the stand that groups like CSA have been taking about the extremely uneven performance of Bt Cotton on the ground - across varieties, across seasons and across locations. Coupled with an earlier study of Dharwad Agricultural University which shows that existing resistance to Bt toxin is high in many bollworm populations across the country, the entire Bt Cotton technology becomes highly questionable - on the one hand is inadequate expression of the Bt toxin in different varieties, at different stages of the crop and in different parts of the crop and on the other hand is existing resistance to such Bt toxin. The whole episode shows once again that scientists have no control over the toxin expression and that the technology of genetic modification is imprecise and unpredictable.
"Many such reports and studies are available with various agricultural universities across the country which have not been made public so far. It is imperative that these be shared with the public at large and the decision-making processes related to GE crops in the country opened up to public scrutiny", said Dr Ramanjaneyulu. "This has many implications for resistance building up faster in bollworm populations, given that resistance management practices laid down are ineffective and are completely non-existent on the ground. One wonders if this is the ground-laying for introduction of Bollgard II, which is in a seed production stage this year, on the grounds that Bollgard I is ineffective. Based on these findings, CICR and the entire ICAR set up is to be made accountable for allowing the commercial release of an imperfect technology at the expense of hapless farmers and their environment and to the benefit of corporations", added Ms Kavitha Kuruganti of CSA.
The CICR paper also mentions that Bt Cotton is known to be more effective in varieties than in hybrids [though in India, it has been approved for hybrids only], that "the Indian farmer would have to be mentally prepared for the possibility of extra supplemental insecticide applications for bollworm control on Bt Cotton hybrids", that the original US Bt Cotton varieties are designed to protect the crop from tobacco budworm more than Helicoverpa armigera which is a major pest in India and which is at least ten fold more tolerant to the Cry 1 Ac protein.
It is worth noting that the CICR found Bt toxin ineffective in varieties like RCH2 Bt even though the variety was commercialized around the same time that GEAC approved the Bt Cotton hybrid of Rasi Seeds in 2004.
For more information, contact:
1.Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu at email@example.com or +91-93-913-59702
2.Ms Kavitha Kuruganti at firstname.lastname@example.org or +91-93-930-01550
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 12-13-445, Street # 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad 17
Phone: +91-40-27017735; Email: email@example.com
The above mentioned scientific papers are available on line at the following links:
 "Temporal and Intra-plant variability of Cry1Ac expression in Bt Cotton and its influence on the survival of the Cotton Bollworm", Kranthi K R et al (of Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur), Current Science, Vol 89, No 2, 25th July 2005
 "Baseline Resistance to Cry1Ac toxin in cotton bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera in south Indian Cotton Ecosystem", Fakrudin B et al, (of Department of Biotechnology, University of Agriculture Sciences, Dharwad), Current Science, Vol 84, No 10, 25th May 2003
Govt study spies genetic cotton faults - G.S. MUDUR - The Telegraph (Calcutta, India) - http://www.telegraphindia.com/1050727/asp/nation/story_5039613.asp
New Delhi, July 26: Government scientists have acknowledged flaws in the genetically modified Bt cotton plants under commercial cultivation, virtually endorsing what non-government organisations have been claiming for long. However, biotechnology company Monsanto, which provided the technology to create the plants, said Bt cotton had gained acceptability among farmers and done well in the past three years. The Bt cotton varieties are designed to make a protein, cry1Ac, that kills bollworms when they gorge on the plants. But scientists at the Central Institute of Cotton Research have reported that the amount of protein is not always enough to kill the insects. In a study released yesterday, the Nagpur-based scientists said the amount of protein varies across different varieties and, in some plants, decreases to levels that are inadequate to protect the plants 110 days after sowing. Their experiments also revealed that production of the protein is lowest in the bollworms' most favoured sites of attack - the plants' ovaries found in the flowers and the thick green peel of the cotton boll from which cotton blooms. "The most vulnerable parts of the plants thus do not have adequate cry1Ac to kill the pest," said Keshav Kranthi, a senior scientist at the institute of cotton research and lead investigator of the study published in the journal Current Science.
These findings, the researchers said, explain farmers' complaints that bollworms survive on Bt cotton plants. Farmers would have to be "mentally prepared for the possibility of extra applications of insecticides to control bollworms," a scientist said. The pest-killing ability of the Bt cotton varieties stay intact for about 110 days, the study showed. But cry1Ac levels decline steadily as the plants grow and drop to below the critical "lethal level" of 1.9 micrograms by 110 days. "This study validates our findings and proves that Bt cotton in India was approved without adequate field testing," said Suman Sahai, director of Gene Campaign, a New Delhi-based NGO that has been demanding greater transparency in genetic engineering issues. Sahai said India's regulatory agencies should have ascertained whether the plants produce the protein in the right amounts and on the right sites in the plant before approving it for commercial cultivation. "Why weren't rigorous studies such as this one conducted earlier?" she asked. "We're now asking ourselves the same question," a government entomologist said.
The Bt cotton plants carry a gene from a bacteria called Bacillus thurigiensis (Bt) that allows the plants to produce the cryAc1 protein which is toxic to bollworms. A spokesperson for Monsanto said Indian farmland under Bt cotton has grown from 72,000 hectares in 2002 to over 1.2 million hectares in 2004. Last year, over 350,000 farmers had planted Bt cotton. "A majority of farmers in India have managed crops with minimal insecticide sprays for control of bollworms," the spokesperson said. But the research institute data shows that Bt cotton in India may require more supplemental insecticide sprays than Bt cotton elsewhere in the world.
Ensuring food safety in the GM age - Gargi Parsai - The Hindu, Jul 08, 2005 - http://www.hindu.com/2005/07/08/stories/2005070804321100.htm
The proposed Food Safety Bill must ensure labelling and traceability of genetically modified foods.
THE WORLD over there is a growing demand for governments to make stringent laws for safety assessments of genetically modified (GM) food products before approval is given for marketing them in a country. In India the laws on this crucial aspect of food safety are fuzzy. India depends on voluntary declaration/labelling but has no visible guidelines or code of practice or even accessible equipment for testing.
A new draft Food Safety and Standards Bill, 2005, coming up for approval before the Union Cabinet, is also largely silent on the issue but for an intent to deal with it. The Bill, meant for integrating various food laws and regulations, proposes setting up a Food Safety and Standards Authority along with a Scientific Committee and Panels. All prevalent food laws are proposed to be subsumed/repealed in the new law. Its framers insist that the laws on GM foods - including the significant aspect of traceability and labelling of such foods - would be taken care of once the Bill is adopted by Parliament.
The recent instance of rats fed on GM maize having developed organ abnormalities and changes in the blood profile should alert the authorities on safety and health aspect of such foods, not to speak of the World Health Organisation advisory on the subject. So far the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee is the only agency authorised to deal with GM foods/micro organisms/crops. This high-profile but rather non-transparent body has approved commercial cultivation of Bt cotton in parts of the country.
As for the entry of GM foods into the country - particularly from the United States and Canada where labelling of GM foods or traceability is not mandatory - it has been left to the authorities at the ports of entry to identify and test them. Lack of information, knowledge, and testing laboratories allows such foods to come in unnoticed. Unless such products are declared as such by the exporters, there is no way of knowing that sweet corn, corn blends, soy nuggets, soy granules, tofu, soy drinks, and soy sauce entering Indian markets are non-GM. Recently, some non-governmental organisations also questioned the regulatory systems for such and other products and sought a ban on GM foods.
In fact, there are differences among nations on GM foods. The European Union and Japan have in place labelling and traceability requirements for GM food products, while the U.S. and Canada have no such standards and believe the technology is safe ostensibly based on trade interests. The U.S., Canada, and Argentina are disputing the EU norm in the World Trade Organisation. Most of the commercial focus is on a limited number of traits, mainly herbicide tolerance and pest resistance, and on crops such as cotton, soybean and maize.
Recently, the WHO called upon Governments to "pause for thought" before approving wider use of GM foods technology. It advised them to undertake a case-by-case risk assessment of each new GM food. While GM foods could increase crop yield, food quality, and the diversity of foods, they could also introduce new types of genes into the food chain, the WHO warned. Although the consumption of GM foods is not known to have caused, so far, any negative health effects, some of the genes introduced in the food chain may cause changes in the genetic make-up of crops. Therefore the potential human health effects should always be assessed before they are cultivated and marketed, with long-term monitoring.
In India, most food safety laws are governed by the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA). However, since the exercise of bringing all food laws under the Food Safety Bill began, any "enabling provisions" for amendments to the PFA Act have been put on hold. The Ministry, however, recently notified for harmonisation of bakery products, confectioneries, milk and milk products with Codex Alimentarius standards. The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1961-62 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the WHO to develop food standards, guidelines, and related texts such as codes of practice under their joint Food Standards Programme. Its main purpose is to protect the health of consumers, ensure fair practices in the food trade, and promote coordination of all food standards.
The proposed Food Bill has triggered a tussle between the Ministry of Food Processing and the Health Ministry, which has a plethora of rules, regulations, not to talk of the massive manpower under the PFA Act. However, speaking to The Hindu, the chair of the Group of Ministers and Minister for Food and Agriculture Sharad Pawar said the GoM had not made any recommendation on this issue. It had been left to the Union Cabinet to take a decision. He said the Integrated Food Bill was meant to "give a boost to agro-processing and agriculture." One of the major criticisms of the proposed Bill is that it is industry-driven and the Food Authority is heavily "bureaucratic."
Bejon Misra, the CEO of Consumer Voice, questioned how a Ministry (of Food Processing) entrusted with promoting the interests of industry could be assigned the task of piloting a Bill concerning the health and safety of consumers. His concern was that the proposed Bill did not address key issues of traceability, was silent on what was in store for of small players/vendors, and did not dwell on adulteration. Provisions on imported foods and labelling were weak, and the penalties diluted. The draft Bill in the present form emphasises on food trade over public health.
However, A.N.P. Sinha, the food processing joint-secretary concerned who drafted the Bill, said it was mandatory for all foods including GM foods to conform to the Food and Customs Laws. He, however, conceded that there were not enough testing laboratories, equipment and protocol for testing GM foods. But major concerns had been accommodated in the final draft sent to the Cabinet, he said. In other words, unless the importer declares, as of now, there is no way to know if the foods entering the country are GM or not. The proposed Food Safety and Standards Bill must change it all for the safety of all.
Farmers thrash seed company officials - Newindpress, India, 4 Jul 2005
The honeymoon with the Bt cotton seems to be over in the district. Repeated failure of the Bt cotton to yield the desired results have driven the farmers to the edge and have placed the officials of the agriculture department in a quandary. Enraged farmers in the district, furious with the BT cottonseeds failing to germinate vented their ire against the representatives of the seed company on Saturday. They stormed the agriculture department office and thrashed the representatives of the seed company. They alleged that more than 50 percent of the 14,000 BT cotton packets distributed in the district failed to germinate. They were also peeved that company ditched them in spite of being recognised by the government.
Trouble began when hundreds of farmers from neighbouring villages gathered at the office of the joint director of agriculture in anticipation of the compensation package. The seed company officials declared that compensation would be paid even if 25 percent of the seeds fail to germinate. The farmers entered into heated arguments with the company officials and even as the local representatives were explaining the situation to the company higher ups, the farmers began to manhandle them. The police arrived and quelled the agitation.
MLA T Veerabhadram and other leaders were holding discussions with the officials of the agriculture department.
Spurious Bt cotton seeds flood markets - Monsanto's business hurt; experts fear cotton production may be affected too
Sanjeev Unhale / Aurangabad - Business Standard, July 02, 2005
The US lifesciences giant Monsanto's monopoly over genetically modified Bt cotton seeds in India is facing a different kind of threat this time. Already reeling under political oppositions and cheap alternatives from local companies, Monsanto is now being plagued by unabated sale of unlicensed and spurious Bt cotton seeds in the country. Spurious seeds have flooded the markets of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and other cotton growing areas of the country. So far, the police have seized cotton seeds worth Rs 1.67 crore from Maharashtra alone from various areas in Buldana, Aurangabad, Jalna and Nanded districts. Last week, the Buldana police confiscated spurious Bt cotton seeds worth Rs 70 lakh and arrested 22 persons including some from Gujarat. The gang had smuggled Bt cottonseeds from Gujarat and was selling them at outlets in Akola, Jalna and Nanded. However, it is the farmers who have been hurt the most in the entire episode. Already paying through their noses for Monsanto's expensive seeds, now they are threatened by a poor cotton production resulting from these spurious seeds. Despite being expensive, the demand for Bt cotton seeds has increased this year. Monsanto sells Bt cotton seeds through its sub-licensees in the country.
Monsanto spokesperson Ranjana Smetacek said the licence to produce and sell Bt cotton was given only to Mahyco, Rashi, Nuzibitu, Ankur, Mahabeej and Pro-Agro. The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and genetic approval committee permit no other company to sell Bt cotton other than these agencies. Therefore, there is a constant shortage of Bt cotton seeds as Monsanto concessionaires could meet only 60 per cent of the demand for three million packets. The rest of the demand was being met by spurious seed suppliers.
Additional director agriculture, Aurangabad district, Pralhad Pokale said although one per cent sowing could be completed in Marathwada due to delayed monsoons, more than 75 per cent farmers had bought Bt seeds. Both Vidarbha and Marathwada are major cotton growing areas of Maharashtra with Buldana, Vashim, Vardha, Amravati, Akola and Yavatmal achieving bumper production last year. Police officials said seed manufacturers in Gujarat have openly admitted to supplying spurious Bt cottonseeds to Maharashtra and other states. Another Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, based company has also been supplying fake Bt seeds under the brand name of Tulsi.
Preetiranjan Rath, Monsanto business manager for Maharashtra, said many farmers purchased cotton seeds from the ginning mills at lower prices and sold them to the farmers at higher prices. Dr S B Varade, soil scientist and former director of Water and Land Management Institute, Aurangabad, said the original Bt cotton seeds produce 10 to 12 quintals of cotton per acre while the spurious or the second-generation (F2) seed provides only 4 to 5 quintals of cotton.
As you sow, so shall you weep - India Together, 30 June 2005 - http://www.indiatogether.org/2005/jun/psa-sowweep.htm
With the rains finally here, spurious seeds and other fake inputs introduce a deadly new element in the survival struggle of the Vidharbha farmer. Fake seeds from Andhra Pradesh have come in on a large scale. P Sainath continues his series on Vidharbha's crisis.
30 June 2005 - There were 14 shops selling seed and other inputs in Mahagaon panchayat samiti of Yavatmal district in Maharashtra just five years ago. "Today," says Sanjay Bhagat, "there are over 50. And that's to cater to just 7,000 people." Bhagat is a Director of the local Agriculture Produce Market Committee. He is also a long-time journalist of the region. "Right now, the pressure on people to buy is awful. You can sell them anything."
The coming of the rains set off a desperate scramble for inputs over the weekend. "In Yavatmal district as a whole," says B.M. Orke, "there are about 1,200 krishi kendras. You might say the total has doubled over a ten-year period." Orke is the district superintending agricultural officer.
To monitor this vast, chaotic network of shops, there is just one full-time quality control inspector. "You can sell seed anywhere," says K.R. Zanzad. "Seed has no boundaries." Quite true. Many brands have sprouted legs and raced across the Andhra Pradesh border. After a crackdown on them in that State, shady sellers have shifted large stocks of fake inputs into Vidharbha.
Uncertain future: Lakhs of farmers face losses even before the season gets under way. The family of Laxman Wankhede who committed suicide in Ijani village of Yavatmal last October. [Picture by P Sainath]
Some of the very brands reported by this newspaper as ripping people off in Andhra Pradesh have found their way here. Our reports (The seeds of suicide: July 20 and 21, 2004) showed packets of seed with the words "Germination Rate - 65 per cent" printed on them. The same packets can be found here with a change. The words 65 per cent have been blacked out. Beside them is a new figure - 75 per cent. The contents may not have changed, but the numbers on the packet have. Some packets give no rate at all. "We have noticed that," says Zanzad. "We have demanded lab reports and statements to see how this was done. If we find something wrong, we will file cases against them." However, by the time that happens, the purchase of inputs would long be over.
Problem of fake seed
Farmers face problems with both real and fake seed dealers. The bogus ones flood the market. The others charge absurd rates. Some BT varieties come with a 70 per cent royalty tagged on to them. And all prices have shot up in the past decade. Sometimes, the high price of seed pushes farmers towards less costly brands which might be fakes. "The headache with spurious seed is that you figure it out only a month or two after sowing," says Sanjay Bhagat. The racket has reached worrying proportions. "We have lodged FIRs in some cases," says District Collector Harshdeep Kamble. "We find now that they are not stocking these in the shops." Bhagat confirms that in Mahagaon. "The action is now away from the shop." Though that's where the dealers trawl for clients. Large sellers feed the smaller shops. "The sub-dealers have no idea where the big ones get their stocks from," says Bhagat. The number of brands, names and claims is bewildering. Since both real and fake stuff are on offer, chaos rules. For those deep in debt and wrecked by crop loss, fake inputs are a nightmare. "Nothing is regulated anymore There is no control in the seed market," farmers in Waifad, Wardha told us at a meeting. In an era when input prices have soared, fake items introduce a risk that can be fatal.
Namdeo Patil Bonde in Yavatmal suffered three crop failures before he took his own life last November. "The input costs crushed him," says his brother Pandurang. And don't go by the bills. "As prices go up, the bills go out. The bill for the BT seeds says Rs. 1,800. What he paid was Rs. 2,200." He scoffs at all germination rate claims. "In my experience, most do not exceed 50-60 per cent."
The profusion of shops does not make inputs cheaper. "The government pays less for cotton," says Manoj Chandurvarkar in Waifad. "But, seed prices keep going up. As do those of all other items." In 1991, he points out, "seed for an acre cost me Rs. 70-75. Now it costs Rs. 1,000. If we use BT seeds, that cost is Rs. 3,200 or more." Farmers also scoff at the government raids. "They're doing that more for Monsanto than for us. Where are the raids on the non-BT fakes?" The four raids in Yavatmal have all been on dealers in illegal BT cotton.
Meanwhile, sellers have made a killing. It makes sense to open an inputs store here. The rule now is that a person with a diploma in agriculture can open one. "Earlier, anybody could," says B.M. Orke. "A law was brought in to ensure only graduates in that field could. But that has been challenged in court." "Earlier," he says, "90 per cent of the farmers used domestic seeds. That had no cost at all. Now the demand for commercial seed has shot up." Yet, it isn't just seed costs that are up. "Pesticides have seen the largest hikes," say the farmers in Waifad. "We once spent as little as Rs.90 an acre. Now it ranges from Rs. 1,000 to Rs.3,000." Fertilizer prices have risen three-fold in the past 10 years. The few who have pumpsets paid a lot more for power. From Rs. 900 a year for a 3-HP set, that rose to Rs. 4,500. Transport and labour costs are up. Loans carry much higher interest rates.
Lakhs of farmers face heavy losses. For those shifting from food to cash crops over the past decade, the new costs are crippling. For Shankar Wankhede it all proved too much last week. He took his own life in Mahagaon tehsil on June 20. Fake seeds today add a deadly new element to the process. In Vidharbha, the old Biblical saying stands re-written. Now, for farmers here, it is: as you sow, so shall you weep. ¨?
P Sainath - 30 Jun 2005 - (Courtesy: The Hindu)
P Sainath is one of the two recipients of the A.H. Boerma Award, 2001, granted for his contributions in changing the nature of the development debate on food, hunger and rural development in the Indian media.
Need to assess impact of GM food on case-by-case basis - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=94915
ASHOK B SHARMA - Posted online: Monday, June 27, 2005
The happenings in Europe in the past few days over the issue of a genetically modified corn proving hazardous to rats and the subsequent order of a German court has brought to the fore the need for transparency in the approval process of GM crops. India, which is at the threshold of introducing transgenic technology in agriculture, needs to strengthen its regulatory process with adequate built-in transparency.
The GM corn which became the subject of controversy was MON 863, developed by seed multinational Monsanto. This corn variety was awaiting approval for human consumption. An in-house study conducted by Monsanto, which leaked out to the press, showed that rats fed with this GM corn had smaller kidneys and higher levels of white blood cells and lymphocytes compared to those fed with non-GM corn. This raised concerns about human health. The issue was taken up by Greenpeace, which could successfully get orders from the German court for disclosure of the 1,139-page in-house study conducted by Monsanto.
The sequence of events shows that even in Europe, which claims to be strict in assessing adverse effects of GM crops and food, the process of approval is not transparent. A civil society organisation had to move the court to make the study public. The comments of noted scientists like Dr Arpad Pusztai and professor Gilles-Eric Seralini on Monsanto’s in-house study, supposed to be the basis for approval, are really startling and shocking.
Perhaps these developments prompted environment ministers across Europe on June 24 to reject, by a qualified majority, all the proposals of the European Commission (EC) to lift the ban on GM crops and food in Austria, Luxembourg, France, Greece and Germany. The EC’s move was in response to the US bid at the WTO asking for the lifting of the existing ban. However, the European ministers failed to reach a qualified majority required to prevent approval of the controversial GM corn (MON-863) in question.
In a related development, the World Health Organisation (WHO) on June 24 released a study calling for further assessment of GM food, though it said GM crops can increase yields, food quality and diversity of food.
The writing on the wall is clear. There is a need for scrunity of tests on GM food and crops and the studies need to be made public before the approval. Unfortunately, in India the studies relating to the impact of GM food on human and animals are not made public. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) conducted an independent in-house study a year ago. This study was shelved and kept away from public knowledge on strong opposition from the interest lobby. India has so far approved only Bt cotton. Cotton seeds are used as poultry and cattle feed. There is no mechanism in operation to segregrate Bt and non-Bt cotton seeds. This situation may pose a problem to the health of cattle and poultry. The regulatory authority, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), has the power to approve of transgenic crops but not of GM food. But there is no authority in place to regulate and test traces of GMOs in food. Food items are being imported into the country and there are no mechanisms at the points of entry to test them for traces of GMOs. There are reported instances of GM foods which are not yet approved in India entering through imports.
In absence of stringent sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures in the country, India is gradually becoming a dumping ground for sub-standard food. Comparatively, the US and the EU and other developed countries have put in place stringent SPS norms to protect their citizens. The US, which claims that the EU’s ban on GM food is a protectionist measure, has put in place the Bioterrorism Act to check the entry of hazardous food. It is time to think of putting in place stringent SPS norms in the country which could be applied equally to domestic and imported food in the interest of citizens’ health. The effects of GM foods on human and animal health needs careful study on a case-by-case basis. Evaluation of such studies should be done by an independant panel of scientists and the results should be made public before approval.
There is also no liability regime in place in the country for redressal of the likely damages to be caused on account of release of GM crops in the environment or on account of consumption of GM food. India, like other developing countries, is waiting for formulation of a global regime on liability. There is need to formulate a liability regime at the national level before much damage is caused.
Bt cotton 'fails' in official debut - Fazilka-Abohar farmers go back to 'desi' varieties - By Ravinder Banwait, - Hindustan Times, June 12, 2005, Chandigarh (Punjab), page 1
Touted as the answer to the American Bollworm menace and making a much-hyped official debut in Punjab this season. Bt cotton seems to have fallen to the very disease it has been designed to resist in Fazilka and Abohar. Cotton growers spoken to in the two districts said many of their plants had been fully or partly eaten up by worms. Some had grown fungus and others didn't germinate at all. Those who tried the seeds illegally last season (these were approved only recently) have gone back to the traditional "desi" (local) varieties after the not-so-happy experience with designer seeds.
The farmers alleged that the government did not bother to assess the ground situation, as the "low price-high yield" seeds were not suitable for sandy soil. The weather, too, was not considered before hard-selling the Bt cotton, they said. The problem seems to be acute in Fazilka as most of the farmers have sown approved seeds this time. The Punjab government had approved six varieties of Bt cotton - RCH-134, RCH-137, Ankur-2534, Ankur-651, MRC-6304 and MRC-6301.
Mohan Lal from Kheo Wali Dhab village in Fazilka, who used RCH-134 in 30 acres, said, "I completed the sowing in the first week of May and within a few days, many of the plants were eaten up by worms. Who will pay for the expensive seeds? A packet of 450 gms cost Rs 17.25. The government should compensate me as 20 per cent of my crop has already been eaten up by worms." Bhagirath, another farmer from the same village, faced a similar problem. He, in fact, is even using pesticides.
Chuni Lal of Khuhi Kehra village said last year he had illegally used Ankur-651 variety and that, too, was attacked by worms. "This year I opted for 'desi' (local) seeds. The sandy soil here needs local varieties." Like him.Amirr Chand also planted local seeds. He had spoken to some farmers before deciding on it. He found that the Bt cotton seeds were expensive and returns didn't match up Nirmal a farmer in Nihal Khera in Fazilka, said he had sown RCH-134 in 13 acres and the crop faced problem in germination. "Many plants have not grown or are dying after coming up. I am now again sowing the seeds and one can understand how much a fanner has to spend for this as initially I had taken seeds for nearly Rs 17 per packet," he said. Some big farmers had even opted for still-unapproved Bt cotton varieties.
Narender and his cousins, who have grown cotton in 100 acres in Bodiwala village, chose "Badal" variety for 10 acres and "desi" in 70 acres. "I don't know on what basis the new Bt seeds have been approved. There is some problem with the seed as cotton balls are covered by the leaf, which is big and doesn't allow enough sunlight to reach, making it vulnerable to fungus," he said.
From The Fields
* Mainly RCH 134 used; plants eaten up by worms
* Farmers feel seed don't suit soil and climate
* Opt for unapproved varieties rather than those approved by the government
Source: Radar, Business Critical Information
Bt cotton woolly experience - Hindustan Times, June 12, 2005, Chandigarh, page 1
Even as Punjab has approved six Bt cotton varieties for sowing this year, states like Andhra Pradesh have banned these seeds. In was only lust month that Andhra Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy announced that Mahyco-Monsanto was being blacklisted in the state unit their Bt cotton varieties, approved by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), too, would not be allowed in "We will not allow firms like Mahyco to sell their Bt cotton seeds in any part of the state," the Chief Minister had said.
The comprehensive failure of Monsanto's Bt cotton in Andhra was so well documented that eventually even the GEAC decided not to renew the license for three varieties in the state. Media reports coming in from other parts of the country and world, too, have been unfavorable. Despite the state government's massive publicity campaign, farmers in Madhya Pradesh have been protesting the move allowing multinational corporations to push Bt cottonseeds. The farmers alleged that the designer seeds in Nimar region > of
the state had ruined thousands of farmers.
Even overseas genetically-modified (GM) crops have come in for severe criticism and Monsanto, which is one of the leading produces of GM seeds, has taken a beating Despite claims that Bt cotton will catapult African farmers out of poverty, recent reports revealed that the majority of Bt small-scale cotton farmers on the Makhathini Flats in South Africa have stopped planting the designer seeds as they can't repay their debts.
Firm on Monsanto
Markfed was selling only Monsanto seeds and in case of a problem, farmers could take up the matter with the department, Managing Director S.S. Channy said. "We also ensure to procure the crop on behalf of NAFED and Cotton Corporation of India or CCI", he said. On why a government agency was selling seeds of a company blacklisted in Andhra Pradesh. Channy claimed he was not aware of such a ban. The agriculture department could further examine the seeds and see if they suited the soil or not, he said.
Monsanto's cotton has deficiencies: study - ABHAY VAIDYA - TIMES OF INDIA, JUNE 04, 2005 - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1132562.cms
PUNE: Biotech major Mahyco-Monsanto's Mech-162 Bt cotton variety that has been banned from cultivation in Andhra Pradesh has been found to suffer from certain deficiencies and contradictions in Maharashtra's Yavatmal and Buldhana districts. Following a close scrutiny of Bt cotton cultivation in Maharashtra, the Pune-based Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics (GIPE) has reported numerous complaints of bollworm and other pest/disease attacks in Monsanto's Mech-162 Bt cotton variety in the two districts. The institute's recently-concluded study "Economics of Bt Cotton Cultivation in Maharashtra" has recommended that the government undertake investigations to ascertain "whether or not Bt cotton varieties are free from bollworm attack." If the crops are found to be damaged due to bollworm attack, the government should help the affected farmers to get enough compensation from the seed companies, the study by GIPE scholars A Narayanamoorthy and S S Kalamkar has said. It has gone a step further and recommended that "if required, the government should also penalise the companies for making false propaganda about their seed varieties, as has been followed in developed countries." These observations are significant in the context of the ban clamped by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) last month on the commercial cultivation of Mahyco-Monsanto's Mech-12, Mech-162 and Mech-184 Bt cotton varieties in Andhra Pradesh. This ban follows reports of seed failure that have been backed by the Andhra Pradesh government.
The GIPE study based on field survey of 100 Bt cotton farmers in Maharashtra has pointed out that contrary to claims that Bt cotton can reduce the bollworm attack significantly along with substantial drop in pesticide expenses, "the results of our study do not completely support this." They pointed out that "farmers have reported that Mech-162 variety is more susceptible to pests and diseases as compared to Mech-184 and therefore, the use of pesticides is higher in Mech-162." According to Monsanto, the genetically-modified Bt cotton, which carries the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) gene, offers long-term protection against cotton's worst enemy, the bollworm insect. It not only gives higher yields than conventional varieties but leads to cost reduction due to the minimal use of pesticides. The GIPE study states that although these attacks did not lead to severe crop loss due to bollworm, they did increase cost of cultivation due to higher use of pesticides. This, it has pointed out contradicts one of the guarantees given by the seed company on low production cost. The analytical report on the impact of Bt cotton cultivation on productivity and other economic parameters was based on a comparison of 100 Bt cotton farmers and 50 non-Bt cotton farmers in the prominent cotton growing districts of Yavatmal and Buldhana. The comparison was drawn for the kharif 2003 sowings between Bt cotton varieties Mech-162 and Mech-184, and the popular hybrid varieties, Bunny-145 and Anukur-651. While Mech-162 and 184 accounted for about 47 per cent of the total cotton area of the Bt cotton growers in the two districts, Bunny 145 and Ankur 651 accounted for 44 per cent of the total cotton area in the two districts. The average quantity of pesticides used by Bt cotton farmers was found to be relatively lower (3.68 litres/ha) as compared to the non-Bt cotton farmers (3.89 litres/ha) while the cost of Bt cotton cultivation was substantially higher (Rs 26,000/ha) than non-Bt cotton cultivation (Rs 19,300/ha).
More on Monsanto ban in Andhra Pradesh from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister has announced that Mahyco is being blacklisted in AP and that their new Bt Cotton varieties approved by GEAC would not be allowed in the state either. The stated reasons for the decision include that the company has supplied low quality seeds and has refused to pay compensation ordered to the tune of Rs. 4.5 crores to Bt Cotton farmers who have incurred losses despite an earlier MoU with the government saying that it would. "We will not allow firms like Mahyco to sell their Bt Cotton seed in any part of the state", the Chief Minister announced. [The Hindu, June 4th 2005, Regional Page]
As per a news report in Eenaadu (a leading vernacular daily in AP) on June 4th, 2005, the state government has decided not to allow even field trials in the state by the company. The government has also expressed its deep opposition to the GEAC for approving new varities without consulting the state government and without taking into account past performance. The Minister for Agriculture and the Commissioner-Agriculture have confirmed the reports of the company being blacklisted in the state, as per this report.
In this context, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture congratulates the AP government for its bold decision. However, the government should also be pro-active and consistent on the matter of Bt Cotton in this state. Without working out any (new) accountability mechanism, what does the government propose to do when Bt Cotton fails again this season? What are the steps now to compensate farmers who have incurred losses earlier? What new monitoring mechanisms has the government put in place to monitor Bt cotton in a comprehensive manner? what mechanisms to prevent falsification of data, to the benefit of the company, as it had happened in the past? Unless these issues are resolved, there is only experimentation happening at the expense of hapless farmers of the state and we demand that the government put an immediate stop to this.
Kavitha Kuruganti - Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Imported soy and corn products may be harmful - Gargi Parsai - Secret research carried out by Monsanto points to serious health hazards
The Hindu (front page), 4 June 2005
NGOs demand publication of all food and feed safety data on genetically modified crops being researched in India
NEW DELHI: There is a chance that imported products like sweet corn, corn blends, soy nuggets, soy granules, tofu, soy drinks, soymilk and others that have flooded the market could have been made from genetically modified (GM) maize/corn and soya. There is no way to know this as India does not insist on labelling for GM foods, nor has it a proper regulatory system in place for screening such imported products. There have been widespread concern following recent reports that rats fed on a diet rich in genetically modified maize developed organ abnormalities and changes in their blood profile.
Data on the collapse of the immune system and organ abnormalities in rats fed with GM maize (MON 863) have been leaked from secret research carried out by the American multinational food giant, Monsanto. The study is reported to have shown that rats fed on normal maize were healthy. Despite requests from several official quarters, the multinational company is said to have declined to make its 1139-page report public, stating that it "contains confidential business information which could be of commercial use to our companies." The MON 863 variety was meant for release in Europe.
Efforts to talk to the Monsanto representative in New Delhi proved futile.
Quoting the reports, civil society groups like the Gene Campaign and the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security on Friday sought an immediate and complete ban on the release of GM foods. "The Monsanto study should be reason enough for a serious overhaul of the draft Biotechnology Policy, introducing elements of precaution, safety and public participation," said Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign. Devinder Sharma of the Forum said India was being used as a "dustbin" for GM foods. "Let there be transparency on the data about such products and let people decide. Why should GM research and results be shrouded in mystery if everything is fine with them?" Both the scientist-NGOs have demanded immediate publication of all food and feed safety data on the GM crops being researched in India including cabbage, cauliflower, brinjal, potato, tomato and even rice. They have strong objection to the government's accepting food and feed data on GM crops generated by the companies themselves.
Official sources said so far no GM food has been approved in India except Bt cotton, but GM products may be unknowingly imported for lack of proper regulation, monitoring and testing facilities. "Unless the importer declares GM foods to be as such, it would not be known that they have been imported. Countries like the United States do not have a policy of labelling GM crops," said the sources. With the advent of GM food technology, the Health Ministry had proposed amendments to the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act for references for GM foods in the interest of food safety. However, the proposal was not accepted and it was decided to move a reference under the proposed Integrated Food Law for regulation, labelling, testing and monitoring of GM foods. From all accounts, India's safety laws on GM foods are hazy and there is no visible system in place for its implementation.
Angry Andhra uproots Monsanto - Financial Express, Saturday, June 04, 2005 - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=92868
HYDERABAD, JUNE 3: The Andhra Pradesh government has barred seed major Monsanto from marketing and selling its Bt cotton varieties in the state. Reason: failure of the company's seeds in previous crops and its refusal to pay compensation to farmers as decided by the agricultural commissioner of the state. This is perhaps the first time that a state government has blacklisted a corporate entity from marketing its products. According to agricultural commissioner Poonam Malakondiah, the company has been barred from even undertaking trials. This, when it has already applied for approval to carry out trial cropping of two more varieties of Bt cotton. "We will not allow them," Ms Malkondiah said.
Differences cropped up between Monsanto and the government when the latter sought a compensation package of about Rs 4.5 crore to be paid by the company to farmers in Warangal, Khammam, Guntur and Karimnagar districts. Supporting the commissioner?s decision, state agriculture minister said the government will not allow the company to sell cotton seeds in the state. "The company has to respect the government's order and it has never behaved as a good corporate citizen with us," he said.
Andhra Pradesh, which is considered to be the seed capital of India, could potentially harm the business prospects of the company, industry observers said.
PRESS RELEASE - New Delhi, June 3: GM Foods: Endangering India's Health
Recent reports that rats fed on a diet rich in genetically modified maize developed organ abnormalities and changes in the blood profile, have raised fears about human health risks from eating genetically modified foods. Data on the collapse of the immune system and organ abnormalities in rats fed with GM maize (MON 863) have been leaked from secret research carried out by the multinational food giant Monsanto. The Monsanto study clearly showed that rats fed on normal maize were healthy. Monsanto has refused to make its 1139 page report public despite requests from several official quarters, including the European Food Safety Authority, stating that the report "contains confidential business information which could be of commercial use to our competitors".
Dr Arpad Puzstai, formerly of the Rowett Institute in Scotland and pioneer of the rat feeding studies with GM foods, has said that the differences between GM maize and non-GM maize fed rats in the Monsanto study were so distinct that it was a clear indication that changes in the nutritional value and the biological/immunological properties of GM maize had take place. He said that "It is almost impossible to imagine that major lesions in important organs (kidneys, liver, etc) or changes in blood parameters (lymphocytes, granulocytes, glucose, etc) that occurred in GM maize-fed rats, is incidental". It may be recalled that Dr Pusztai had demonstrated some years ago that rats fed with GM potatoes show organ malformations and altered immune response.
In the USA, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) has alerted both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Monsanto about the failure of the company to comply with the adverse reporting requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). According to CFS, the MON863 rat feeding study showed "unreasonable adverse effects" which should have been drawn to the attention of the regulators. Failure to do this is potentially a criminal offence.
Professor Bela Darvas of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences complained that they had asked Monsanto several times to provide MON 863 material necessary to conduct further research on behalf of the Hungarian government, but the company said that it did not wish to provide more modified seeds for research purposes. "This is absolutely unacceptable from a scientific standpoint. We cannot suspend studies into the safety of GM crops just because the findings upset the biotech industry. If this is a reflection of how little they care about the impact of their products on the environment, we have cause to be very concerned."
Earlier studies on rats have also shown that the rodents don't take particularly to GM foods and have routinely rejected genetically modified foods in the laboratories. When the first genetically altered tomato "Flavr Savr" was fed to rodents in the labs in 1994, they refused to eat the GM tomatoes containing a foreign gene to make it ripen more slowly. Data revealed that many of the rats that ate the GM tomato developed lesions in their stomachs. For unknown reasons, researchers did not examine tissues elsewhere in the digestive tract. They also did not provide an explanation as to why seven of the forty rats that were fed with GM tomatoes died unexpectedly within two weeks. There have been numerous reports of stomach lesions in rats, false pregnancies in cows, excessive cell growth and damage to animal immune systems.
In another experiment, researchers at the University of Cornell in America observed that the caterpillars of monarch butterfly when fed with genetically modified corn suffered varying degrees of ailments, and were crawling more slowly than usual. Scientists concluded that 44 per cent of the caterpillars died after being fed continuously with the GM corn pollens. None of those exposed to non-GM corn suffered. Those fed on normal corn pollen turned into butterflies. This raises the obvious question. Why are the companies trying to force genetically altered foods to an unsuspecting population? Why are they shying away from making public the results of the research trials? Why are our politicians so keen to take the unproven technology? Why are our scientists blindly pushing a risky technology, which like chemical pesticides, can take a heavy human toll, pollute the environment and destroy the ecology?
In light of the damming evidence that is gathering about the health risks of GM foods, Gene Campaign, Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security, New Delhi, and other civil society groups demand an immediate ban on GM foods before these are seriously reviewed in India. The provisions of the draft Indian policy are so reckless that they do not require safety testing for most GM foods. Health effects of the kind reported in the leaked Monsanto study would not even be detected in India since the new policy would not require their testing; the population would be exposed to such untested foods and it would be too late to do anything when the health impacts were detected. There is widespread criticism of the draft biotechnology policy for its jettisoning the precautionary principle and putting in place provisions that will seriously jeopardize the safety of the environment and of human and animal health. The Monsanto study should be reason enough for a serious overhaul of the draft Biotechnology Policy, introducing elements of precaution, safety and public participation.
Mr Devinder Sharma and Dr. Suman Sahai raised a number of demands on behalf of civil society groups:
* We would like immediate publication of all the food and feed safety data that has been generated on the GM crops that are being researched in India. There are many of these, like cabbage, cauliflower, brinjal, potato, tomato and even rice.
* The methodology used for the food and feed safety tests must be made known to the public, as also the laboratories where such safety tests were conducted. All decisions on GM crops and foods must be taken in accordance with the provisions of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which requires public participation.
* Food and Feed safety data must NOT be accepted from companies but must be generated in government laboratories, in a transparent manner, open to public scrutiny.
* A competent, transparent and independent regulatory process with more participation from the public/civil society to oversee all aspects of GM crops and foods must be put in place immediately, to replace the technically inadequate, and industry-friendly compromised regulatory structures that exist today.
* The import of GM foods into India must be stopped immediately; all foods that have been imported must be tested for the presence of GM foods and food safety tests should be conducted on these before their import can be allowed. We believe that much of the imported maize is genetically engineered, and so are numerous food products that adorn the super malls.
* A ban on the release of GM foods must be put in place immediately. There are several GM food crops in the pipeline; these must be held in abeyance until clear safety data, generated independently, have been subjected to a public risk-benefit analysis.
* Given the feeble health status and vulnerability of the Indian poor, the complete lack of information on safety testing procedures and the weak and inefficient regulatory system, it would be advisable for India to keep away GM foods.
* India is a storehouse of food and agricultural diversity and has many options to offer for food and nutritional security. There appears to be little reason why it should opt for potentially dangerous GM foods, especially when the systems in place for regulation are so demonstrably weak.
SEEDS BILL: THE GOVERNMENT'S ANTI-FARMER LAWS - Suman Sahai
Look at the recent legislation the government is pushing through and you will see its anti-farmer stand. There is the Patent Act which was brought in as an Ordinance since opposition to it was broad based enough for the government to fear it would not get passed and there is the draft Seed Bill listed for action in Parliament. Had it not been for the shenanigans in Parliament, the Seed Bill may have already become law. The provisions of the Seed Bill appear to be clearly favoring the seed industry at the cost of farmers. It would not be incorrect to say this was in fact an anti ?farmer Bill. The Patent Ordinance goes streets ahead of what the WTO process requires it to do. And as the government rushes ahead on both these legislation, the only pro- farmer legislation that we have, the Plant Variety Protection and Farmers Rights Act, has not been brought into force.
The government says it passed the Patent Ordinance because it was anxious to comply with the international obligations that had been made in the WTO. Unmindful of the fact that swathes of WTO agreements have not been complied with by many other countries and that developed countries are not willing to move an inch on the Doha Round, the only outcome so far from the WTO that has made some commitment to addressing developing country concerns, the Indian government's haste is remarkable. This is specially so since there are no technical compulsions to rush with implementation. The TRIPS is under mandated review and until this process is completed, there is no legal requirement to comply with its provisions which will have to be seen as interim till the contours are finalized after the review.
The question that needs to be asked is, why is the government not rushing to be equally WTO compliant on the other TRIPS derived legislation, the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Act (PPVFR) of 2001? This is India's sui generis law, drafted to fulfill the TRIPS obligation under Article 27.3 (b). Why is the government not worried about international condemnation for non-compliance in this case? The answer is that the Indian legislation called the PPVFR law is unique in the world as the only legislation that grants an explicit Farmers Right. It is a law that does justice to the farming and tribal community by acknowledging its manifold contributions to biodiversity conservation, agriculture and food security. This law has been widely admired by developing countries for balancing the rights of plant breeders and farmers. The government?s anti-farmer attitude is to be seen in the fact that the PPVFR which was enacted four years ago in 2001, and for which the Rules were framed two years ago, lies gathering dust while pro-industry legislation like the Patent Act and the Seed Bill are being pushed through.
The Seed Bill attempts to supercede the PPVFR. It deviates from the PPVFR on key issues like the parentage of the variety, conditions for multi location testing and the agencies that will conduct these tests, public access to information on grant of registration, price control and the treatment of farmer varieties. For example, the PPVFR requires the declaration of the origin of the variety to be registered, with pedigree details but the Seed Bill does not. With respect to testing new varieties, the PPVFR lays down that the national authority will conduct the tests for distinctiveness, novelty and utility of the variety. The seed bill does not specify who will conduct the tests for establishing the usefulness of the new variety. This lacuna can be misused unless it is clarified. The PPVFR allows legitimate opposition to the grant of a registration for a new variety before registration is granted. People have an opportunity to raise objections if they have reason to think that the variety is not what is claimed. In the case of the seed bill, the registered varieties will be made known only through periodic publications. The public has no opportunity to object to a new variety for any reason. This lack of transparency could mean that varieties of dubious performance could get registered without giving people a chance to oppose such grants. The PPVFR accords recognition to the contributions of the farming community in many ways which is not the case in the seed bill. The PPVFR recognizes the farmer as conserver, cultivator and breeder of new varieties. The law therefore protects the farmer in all these roles. The farmer varieties are hence eligible for protection under the Act and such varieties can be registered without paying a fee. According to the seed bill, although farmer varieties are eligible for registration, this can only be done after the payment of the necessary fees. This will place a financial burden on small farmers who have good material to register but may not be able to afford the cost of registering their varieties.
Further cause for alarm are the provisions of the Seed Bill that deal with price control. In the PPVFR, regulation of seed supply and seed price is to be managed through a process of compulsory licensing. This safeguards the interests of the farming community since it places the responsibility of ensuring an adequate seed supply at reasonable price, on the government. The Seed Bill fails to provide any such protection to the farmer. There is no mechanism to regulate seed supply or seed price. This could result in a high cost of seeds fixed arbitrarily by the seed companies, leaving the government with no means to control the price. It could also mean that seed providers are under no obligation to ensure a reasonable seed supply to farmers. This will defeat the very rationale that had kept seed production in the public sector so far.
There are other issues of concern. The Seed Bill is silent on the origin and ownership aspect of a registered variety for trade. This will facilitate unrestricted commercialization of varieties in the public domain, including farmer varieties, by private parties. On top of this, there are no opportunities for benefit sharing post commercialization, as is the case in the PPVFR. The Seed Bill attempts to bypass the PPVFR in other ways. It seeks to nullify the need for seeking a Plant Breeders Right (PBR) in order to obtain rights to market the new variety. This allows evasion of the public interest liabilities that are linked to the PBR. The ambiguity of the Bill on multi location evaluation of varieties which is a standard practice followed by ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research), can open the door to exaggerated performance claims which because they will not deliver, will hurt the farmers. Further, the grant of registration to a seed variety without concurrent registration for PBR , allows the seed owner to evade the onus of compulsory license provisions which protect the cultivators from high seed price and inadequate seed supply. Because the Seed Bill does not require the parentage of a variety to be declared, it allows misappropriation of materials belonging to others. These could be farmers or public sector institutions. The seed owners could in principle have free access to all available agrobiodiversity, without having to go through prior informed consent or engaging in benefit sharing. All this amounts to legalizing the piracy of valuable genetic materials like elite breeding lines.
The Liability and Compensation provisions of the PPVFR that allowed farmers to be compensated for spurious or poor quality seeds, has been dispensed with in the Seed Bill. Instead the farmer must try as best as he can, to claim compensation through District Consumer Courts. This will be a daunting if not an impossible task for small farmers. Apart from that, the district Forum or the State Council under the Consumer Protection Act has no expert knowledge in agriculture, to be able to award a fair decision. A straightforward insurance package linked to the seed would be a system that would work far better for farmers. If the seeds did not perform, the insurance claim would become automatic. The stringent punishment and large penalties for violating the law that was put in as a deterrent against bad seeds in the PPVFR, has been reduced to a token which no one needs to be afraid of. The loophole that has been created to allow provisional registration of transgenic varieties is preposterous. It not only violates biosafety norms, but also clearly provides a particularly favored condition for the multi national companies who are the greatest producers of transgenic seeds.
Finally, the bill is so highly bureaucratic as to almost make it impossible to consider this a balanced document where multistakeholder participation is possible. The system of seed inspectors and central and state seed testing institutions with unbridled ( often misused) powers, that have proved to be thoroughly incompetent in enabling an effective seed trade , have been retained in the Seed Bill when there was an opportunity to come up with a better alternative. Everywhere in the Bill there are opportunities for bureaucratic interventions which provide an opportunity to maneuver and manipulate many critical aspects of the Bill. Not only does this indicate a complete lack of transparency in the implementation of the provisions, it allows opportunities for backdoor actions. The high level of bureaucratic intervention is likely to lead to biased actions and genuine wrong or misinformed decisions.
The draft Seed Bill must be discussed by a variety of stakeholders for a critical and careful reexamination of its provisions so that the farmer's interests are not jeopardized as they are in the current draft. To this end, Gene Campaign is organizing the first stakeholder discussion together with the National Commission on Farmers. Our purpose is to provide concrete recommendations to the government for overhauling and revising the provisions of the Seed Bill so that they are made protective of farmers as well as supportive of community and national food security.
Dr Suman Sahai is convener of the Gene Campaign, a leading research and advocacy group working on issues of bioresources, food and livelihood security, farmer?s rights, indigenous knowledge and GM technology.
Dr. Sahai can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Farmers against sale of GM Bt cotton seeds - HT, Bhopal, 26/05/05
Despite big publicity of their seeds among farmers of Madhya Pradesh by Multi National Corporations to grow Bt cotton, farmers today registered a strong protest. At a press conference here today, farmers from Malwa & Nimar areas of Madhya Pradesh strongly protested against the State Government's stand of allowing Multi National Corporations to push the seeds of Bt cotton. The farmers said using genetically engineered Bt cotton seeds in Nimar region, left thousands of farmers in most pathetic condition. Under the banner of Beej Swaraj Abhiyaan, the farmers alleged that multinational corporations like Monsanto etc lured the farmers to use Bt Cotton seeds, describing it as pest-resistant, highly productive and much better than the local ones. "But factually, the result was just the opposite," they said. The representatives argued that once it had failed miserably in Andhra Pradesh, resulting in death of several farmers, why were the companies permitted to sell it in Madhya Pradesh.
In spite of adverse results in Dhar, Jhabua and Badwani, the Madhya Pradesh Government has permitted four Companies to sell seeds in the State on May 16, complained Nilesh Desai of Beej Swaraj Abhiyan. Who would compensate the loss of farmers suffered after using Bt Cotton seeds? He questioned. Citing his experience another farmer Mangilal Patidar alleged that the Salesmen of Monsanto did door to door campaigning to push the seeds, but later it turned out to be a disaster for farmers. The price of Bt Cotton seed is several times higher than desi variety, "We had to use pesticide five times more than the normal and after fruition there is hardly any fibre in it", he complained. Patidar said that due to the poor quality of it, the Bt Cotton fetched a much lower price than the desi variety.
The farmers have written to Chief Minister Shri Babulal Gaur demanding the cancellation of license of the Companies selling Bt Cotton Seeds. They said comparative studies have proved the false claims made by the seed producing companies. "It even proved to be a failure abroad, and here we've been asked to use the same", the farmers complained.
Posted by: Suresh Motwani - ISAP-Bhopal
India to press for liability regime at Cartagena Protocol - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=91954
ASHOK B SHARMA - Posted online: Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 0000 hours IST
NEW DELHI, MAY 25: India has called for a defined international liability regime to redress the damages resulting from transboundary movements of living modified organisms (LMOs). This liability regime should be incorporated under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which came into effect from September 11 2003. It has also called for setting up of a global fund on mandatory basis for redressing the damages. India has already submitted its views, in writing, on the proposed global liability regime to the technical group of experts. Indian team led by Desh Deepak Verma, a senior official in the environment ministry, is expected to press upon the need for a liability regime at the second Meeting of Parties (MOP-2) to the Cartagena Protocol scheduled in Montreal from May 30.
Back home, the Union commerce ministry has set up a panel headed by the additional secretary, GK Pillai to assess the impact of Cartagena Protocol on trade. The panel is scheduled to meet on May 30 and will assess global scenario of acceptance or rejection of genetically modified (GM) crops and food and how to deal with a situation of clandestine imports of GM foods which are not yet approved in the country.
The Article 27 of the Cartagena Protocol calls for setting up of a global liability and redressal mechanism for damages caused on account of transboundary movement of GMOs otherwise called LMOs. This mechanism is scheduled to be put in place by the end of 2007. India's contention is that Article 27 includes damages not only to environment, but also to health, property, income, person and biodiversity. The Starlink Corn episode lends support to include all such kinds of damages under the liability regime in the biosafety protocol," the Indian submission said. India is against limiting the liability for damages caused. It said: "It is not prudent to limit the liability by a specific amount both because of their inherently hazardous character as well as difficulty of assessment." It also said that arbritration for resolution of disputes arising out of the claims of damages is not a dependable mode of resolution because "it is non-permanent as well as parties have the freedom to choose their own judges." According to India, the proposed liability regime should be considered strict and absolute as there may be cases of `irreversible losses'. In cases of damages done on account of transboundary movements of LMOs, the State is primarily liable as it willingly permits the LMOs to be used in the country. The operator is also liable for production, handling and export of LMOs. As the issue is of transboundary nature, there is a need for a global liability regime to address the problems.
Centre's no to Bt cotton in AP - http://www.indiatogether.org/2005/may/agr-apcotton.htm
On 3 May, the Ministry of Environment and Forests cancelled its earlier approval for commercial cultivation of three varieties of transgenic Bt cotton seeds in Andhra Pradesh. How must one read the decision of the GEAC? Kanchi Kohli says the developments may only be a breather.
May 2005 - Mekaleswari, a farmer in Komala village, Ranganathpally Mandal, Andhra Pradesh, had planted Bollgaurd (Monsanto's brand of Bt cotton) in two acres. "We planted the way they told us to. What do I know? They said pests won't come. Didn't happen like that. Crop is full of pests. Ate into the leaves. Holes all over," she says. She points out that seed dealers then gave her pesticide and asked farmers to spray once. Despite that, pests overwhelmed their crops. "Again I bought mandu (pesticide) and sprayed. Thrice. Pests still continued to eat away", she says. Here and there, a plant grew one or two or three or five bolls. Some plants have none whatsoever, adds Mekaleswari.
Saimallu from Mogilicherla village in Warangal District traveled in the rain to collect his four packets of Bt cotton seeds. There was hope then of getting out of the rut of pesticide driven cultivation; an expectation introduced by the decision of the government in allowing Bt cotton into Warangal. It was meant to be a crop that promised relief from pests. But to his sheer surprise, within thirty days of him planting the seeds pests had begun attacking his crop. He was not alone in this, many other farmers using Bt cotton faced this and more. Today Saimallu says, "After all this what should we do? Drink pesticide?"
Bt cotton is a transgenic variety of cotton genetically modified to contain a gene of bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) foreign to its genome. Bt itself is a naturally occurring bacteria in soil which otherwise is not normally found in cotton. The US registered multinational corporation, Monsanto, first developed Bt cotton. The company claims that the seeds have the strength to fight bollworms within the plant, reduce insecticide use, give higher yield and so on. In India, Bt cotton seeds are marketed by Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Ltd. The central government had permitted three Bt cotton varieties MECH 162, MECH 12 & MECH 184 for commercial cultivation in India in March 2002. Bt cotton is the only government approved GE crop in India, with clearances only for specific varieties.
On 3 May 2005, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) at the Ministry of Environment and Forests cancelled its earlier approval for Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Ltd, for the commercial cultivation of three varieties of transgenic Bt cotton seeds in Andhra Pradesh. How must one read the decision of the GEAC? A short-lived breather for civil society organizations who will otherwise continue their lobbying efforts? A delay tactic with a final decision to be in favour of the seed's promoters?
Trends on decision making in this matter in the last five years or so do not offer much hope. Even before Bt cotton was approved for commercial release, the government was in more ways that one warned of disastrous consequences of this transgenic (genetically engineered) product worldwide. In one such media outreach attempt in November 2001, Kalpavriksh, Deccan Development Society (Andhra Pradesh) and Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies (West Bengal) stated that "It is a simple fact that GE crops have not yet been shown to stand up to the above tests, and that worldwide, there is increasing evidence that in fact they may be causing long-term damage." The civil society organizations said that government decisions on technologies and products were being made without knowing how to deal with consequences and that this was "playing with fire." But the government was not to pay heed to this, though one wishes it had. The result, farmers in AP were stunned with what was happening on their fields. Protests have been ongoing. At a press conference organised by the Deccan Development Society this April, farmers aired their grievances. Local news channels have also been broadcasting coverage of farmer resentment.
A recent long-term study has thrown up startling facts that uncover the false claims surrounding Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh. The realities within which AP cotton farmers are surviving is now more evident. The study titled Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh: A three year assessment was undertaken during August 2002 - March 2004. Two scientists, Abdul Qayum and Kiran Sakkhari led the effort in Warangal, Nalgonda, Adilabad and Kurnool districts of Andhra Pradesh. Dr.Qayum is a former Joint Director of Agriculture, Commissionerate of Agriculture, Government of Andhra Pradesh (now retired) and Dr.Sakkhari works with the Permaculture Association of India. The research was carried out with the support of Deccan Development Society, Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity and Permaculture Association of India. DDS is a member of the AP coalition and is also the secretariat. DDS is a known proponent of non-GM agriculture. The Qayum and Sakkhari study looked at several questions. Did Bt cotton deliver high yields as promised and did the use of pesticides reduce? Or did it generate losses and contaminate fields? It found that the Mahyco-Monsanto seeds failed the farming community on all counts. At the release of their report in Hyderabad on 14th April 2005, the two scientists highlighted some clear facts:
Monsanto's Bt cotton seed was three times costlier
Farmers spent 75% more on irrigation
There were 8% more spent on fertilisers for growing Bt cotton
The pesticide consumption was just 8% less for Bt than what the farmer?s were using for the hybrid seeds.
Yield benefit was just 5% more for the Bt seeds
Bt seeds required 15% more overall investments for their cultivation
Monsanto's seeds resulted in a net loss of Rs 252/- per acre while non-Bt hybrids helped farmers with a net benefit of Rs.597/- per acre.
The findings were quite a contrast to the industry's claim that "Bollworm resistant Bt varieties could increase the yields by 30 to 40 per cent and require 70 per cent less pesticide" (as pronounced by Raju Barwale, Managing Director of Mahyco seed company in June 2002). Readers may wonder why farmers buy suspect Bt seeds when non-Bt options are also being commercially marketed to them. Cotton farming in the districts of AP had over the last few decades come to rely heavily on external inputs, including hybrid seeds and pesticides. But the crops were not yielding farmers the desired benefits. The huge propaganda with Bt cotton seeds projected as being solutions to pesticide driven cotton farming (since the claim is that they obviate the need for pesticides) came across to the farmers as 'welcome' change.
Civil society organisations that were warning farmers with their outreach had not been able to match the advertisements in the local news channels by the promoting firms, promising prosperity. The funding and scale of the advertisements has been massive and then again, Bt cotton seeds were also supported by a willing government. But in itself, this saga is not unique to India. Farmers in Indonesia used Bt cotton and gave it up; those in Mali are dead against their entry; in Thailand civil society groups have unearthed political conspiracies around it and disallowed its entry. Still, in India, decision makers seem pro-Bt, with the GEAC having recently approved six new Bt cotton varieties for North India in early April 2005. The issue is about the technology itself, but in giving approvals for North India, the GEAC appears to be turning the matter into one of seed varieties.
Stiil, it is a small victory for the farmers that the GEAC is able to see the reality for Andhra Pradesh. After three years of disasters in South India, NGOs have produced data to counter that of Monsanto's. If that push had not come in, it is likely that the GEAC would have extended approval in AP as well. This is why the current decision is a breather and that too because of extensive lobbying. In the meantime the reality is that farmers' lives have been played around with in the name of an experimental technology, and the central government allowed this to happen. It is also a reminder that those who make policies must be consistent in their thinking about socio-economic development and not just be swayed by motives of seed companies.
Deccan Development Society's website and publications are at: www.ddsindia.com
The 3-year AP study
Civil Society groups demand the immediate withdrawal of National Biotechnology Development Strategy Paper
Hyderabad - May 14, 2005: On the eve of the deadline fixed by the Department of Biotechnology for receiving feedback from the public on the National Biotechnology Development Strategy paper (Put up on http://www.dbtindia.nic.in/biotechstrategy.htm), scores of farmer and agricultural worker organisations, leading environmental and sustainable agriculture activists and eminent citizens of the country today demanded that the draft policy be withdrawn immediately and extensive consultations put into place before coming up with a policy. They contend that the policy has been drafted without any participatory processes on an important issue like Biotechnology in Agriculture even as they object to the policy proposals for fast-track approvals for genetically engineered crops in the country, in violation of all known/expected accountability mechanisms and bio-safety concerns.
"It seems that the Ministry of Science & Technology and the Department of Biotechnology have not taken any lessons from experiences and regulatory mechanisms in other countries or even the Bt Cotton fiasco within India. There is only talk about creating awareness about benefits of biotechnology. There is no acknowledgement that the debate on benefits and risks has not even begun in India. Until that is resolved with all stakeholders including primary stakeholders like farmers and consumers, how can a policy presume that biotechnology in agriculture is inevitable?", questioned Dr Devinder Sharma, noted agriculture policy analyst and Trustee, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA).
The DBT has evolved this policy draft based on the recommendations provided by the M S Swaminathan Task Force on Agricultural Biotechnology and the Mashelkar Committee on biotechnology in the pharmaceutical sector. It is well known that these committees themselves have run very non-inclusive and questionable processes in coming up with their recommendations. The formulation of this policy is also illegitimate because there are existing legislations that govern biotechnology in agriculture with specified regulatory mechanisms and at least three Supreme Court cases examining issues of regulation and biosafety. The policy has serious implications for organic farmers of this country as well as trade prospects for all farmers of the country given the fact that genetic contamination is a distinct possibility in a country like India and given that co-existence of GE and non-GE crops is not possible.
Commenting on the content of the policy paper, Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, CSA, added, "The whole policy is geared towards promoting more corporate control over Indian agriculture with Intellectual Property Rights and Biotechnology going hand in hand everywhere. It also has unscientific and dangerous propositions with regard to biosafety tests, in addition to proposals to further weaken regulation in this country by proposing single window clearances. In this country, accountability for failures in Bt Cotton has not yet been fixed even as thousands of farmers have suffered huge losses. Though failure has been largely reported from Andhra Pradesh, it is not as though problems are not present in other states too, as our fact finding missions have shown. It only shows that there is no monitoring in the other states. In such a situation, how can the DBT propose more unaccountable systems?". Commenting on the many incentives and promotional steps proposed in support of the biotechnology industry, he wondered whether the starting point of this policy was the industry, or the farmers and consumers of this country who would purportedly benefit from biotechnology.
Demanding that the Government of India withdraw the policy draft immediately and that the Department of Biotechnology initiate large scale, honest, genuinely participatory processes of consultation with primary stakeholders in the country (farmers and consumers) on whether Genetic Engineering is really needed in Indian agriculture before coming up with a policy that takes it as an inevitable and beneficial technology, more than hundred leading organisations and agencies of the country including farmers' organisations have given their response on the biotechnology policy draft to the Minister for Science and Technology, Mr Kapil Sibal and Secretary, DBT, Mr S K Bhan. The signatories include biotechnologists and agricultural scientists, in addition to organic farmers and sustainable agriculture groups and environmental activists. Many large farmers' organisations, including the Congress Party-affiliated Bharat Krishak Samaj has opposed the policy draft. The groups have warned that they will intensify their agitation through out the country, against the dangerous policy if it is not withdrawn immediately, to be replaced by widespread and honest consultations.
For more information, contact:
Kavitha Kuruganti at +91-9393001550 or email@example.com
G V Ramanjaneyulu at +91-9391359702 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Full Response to the National Biotechnology Development Strategy paper and full list of signatories to this response
PUBLIC INTEREST PETITION FOR A MORATORIUM ON THE RELEASE OF GMOs INTO THE INDIAN ENVIRONMENT AND THE NEED FOR BIOSAFETY TESTING
New Delhi, May 12:
If ever there was a subject that was more critical to life and living, it is the genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There is a significant degree of opaqueness about what these are and their implications for us, in terms of the food we eat, our health choices, farmers? rights, and our environment. Instead of protecting the national interests, the regulatory authorities comprising the Department of Biotechnology and the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the government are brazenly subverting the democratic process and are determined to promote GE technology and the commercial interest of the biotech industry. Exposing the unaware population to serious risks that cannot be undone, the government therefore stands accused of unconscionable offences against the Indian people.
The joint petition before the Supreme Court indicts the Government of India for the declared intentions of the proposed policy which: "Mortgages the public interest, public safety and the environment, to the commercial interests of Biotech Corporations ".
The draft National Biotechnology Development Strategy of the Department of Biotechnology recently made public underscores and confirms this conclusion.
1. Genetic Engineering or Recombinant DNA technology presents unique risks to human health, animal health and to the environment and these risks are inherent in the technology. The technology involves recombining DNA that is often from different organisms, e.g. plant to animal, animal to plant and inserting them into the genomes of target organisms to make GMOs. Genetically modified organisms are unnatural, not just because they have been produced in the laboratory, but because they can only be made in the laboratory, creating organisms and in ways that have never existed in the course of 3.8 billion years of evolution. These mainly untested and potentially hazardous GM crops are now spreading all over the world, creating irreversible risks for the environment. Scientists concede that with GE we are moving from science to applied technology and the science of GE has not kept pace with the technology. This technology is so powerful, crude but powerful, but the scientific ignorance of it is huge. Scientists do not understand the mechanisms of GE-induced changes in gene expression in sufficient detail. They do not know what to look for and these things are termed 'unintended effects'. Unintended effects are common in all cases where GE techniques are used. So on a whole range of issues, a great deal of research is required before they can predict an outcome. Yet, it is being used to irrevocably change the fundamental molecular structure of the world's food supply and impact the biodiversity through un-recallable, self-replicating organisms. Independent scientists from all over the world have gone on record to say that GE crops and foods raise outstanding safety concerns and there should be a global moratorium on the release of these GMOs into the environment. In our petition, world-renowned scientists have provided evidence of the kind of potential hazards GE presents.
2. India doesn't have to reinvent the wheel. Sense and commonsense should help us to avoid this route because it is too dangerous to go down that road. There have been 10 years of commercialisation of this technology in the US and Canada and more recently in Argentina. There is plenty of evidence that has emerged from these countries of the serious hazards associated with this technology despite the significant hindrances to the emergence of these facts: independent scientists have been threatened, gagged or fired; regulatory authorities round the world have been compromised. In India, as the media knows, Monsanto has doctored reports on Bt cotton. It is a story of skulduggery, dodgy science and shaky ethics. It is all there in the evidence before the Supreme Court.
3. It is a proven fact, no longer under dispute that 'transgenic' contamination, which is the contamination, which is the contamination of the environment by transgenic DNA, is a certainty. It is bound to occur once these GMOs are let out, like the proverbial genie in the bottle. This particular genie however is not about to spread light and goodness all round; quite the reverse. Thus India must get it right the first time, because genetic manipulations are essentially irreversible. Doesn't this call for the most extreme caution from our government? Doesn't it need utmost care and precaution on the health front and therefore the sound application of the precautionary principle? Instead we find an unholy rush by the government to open every door to welcome the risky technology. Why? Let us look at some more facts.
4. The reason why transgenic contamination is such a huge issue is precisely because the potential hazards associated with this technology are so serious. Dr. Arpad Pusztai is a leading nutrition scientist and toxicologist, who is even requested by the biotech companies to assess their 'creations', of course after having to sign an agreement of confidentiality. He has also given evidence for us and in a prepared statement to the Supreme Court says:
"No comprehensive health and environmental risk assessment has been carried out with Bt cotton and even less published in peer-reviewed science journals. With a potentially toxic crop whose anti-nutrients, (toxins such as gossypol, cyclopropenoid fatty acids or the potent carcinogenic aflatoxins, are well-known to accumulate in the subcutaneous fatty tissues of consumers---. In the absence of conclusive evidence for the lack of toxicity, responsible GM regulatory authorities must prevent the cultivation, commercialisation and food use of GM cotton and its products".
Yet, look at the unsavoury manner of the approvals of GM cotton (Bt) in India and the large efforts of the GEAC on behalf of the biotech industry to further the prospects of Bt cotton. Let's first of all, look at the States in which approvals were granted. They are the milk-producing heartlands of India. -- Two quick questions. What happens to the seed stock of cottonseed, because of the mixing that has occurred, since there was absolutely no attempt made to have a mechanism in place to segregate GM from non-GM cottonseed? And secondly, do we not know that cottonseed is not just a very important source of animal feed, it is expressly given to milch cattle by our dairy farmers to increase the fat content of milk? So the sloppy, couldn't-care-less regulatory departments of the Government are risking the contamination of our milk supply in these States, mainly Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab. The implications for the young, the old, especially infants is especially grave, also, that of animal health. Let's just stop and think about it. This is what the UK Ministries of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF), has to say on the subject of GM contamination of animal feed.
"In view of the potential health impacts due to the secondary horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA on livestock and human beings, all current animal feed should be withdrawn immediately. Steps should be taken to ensure that no GM material is fed to animals directly or incorporated into commercial animal feed".
5. One of the most insidious 'unintended' effects of GE is Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT). The above comments with regard to the potential GM contamination of animal feed and how it can have an impact on milk, and products made from milk, is an apt and good example of HGT. It happens when genetic material moves between organism, which is asynchronous with the process of reproduction of the organisms; so genes can also be transferred between distant species that would never interbreed in nature. For example, human genes are transferred into rice and those from pig, sheep, fish and bacteria are transferred into plants. Thereafter, unintended HGT can take place from GE crops released into the environment. The Petition deals with serious examples of this secondary HGT as it is sometimes called. The grave implications and risks of HGT, for the whole stream of life, don't require a Ph.D in science to be understood. They include: new strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria, new viruses and bacteria arising from those introduced into the transgenic plants, random secondary insertion into other unrelated organisms, causing harmful effects including cancer, reactivation of dormant viruses etc. For these reasons, concerns with HGT make the technology of GE highly unpredictable and also extremely dangerous and puts in doubt the safety of the GE process itself.
6. The Food and Drug Administration of the United States (FDA) was under a Whitehouse directive to" foster" the commercialisation of the Biotech industry, 'spinning' it into a multibillion $ patent-based industry for the US. It should be a matter of great concern to us in India, that contrary to what is generally believed, the FDA ?s review process means that it has not approved a single GM food as safe for human consumption. An impression has been fostered in the minds of people that GM crops are safe and in fact offer a technological solution to food shortages. This impression has been created because of the extensive use of GM foods in the US; that these foods are safe and must have passed the normally stringent approval processes of the US regulatory authorities that govern the release of food additives, drugs and pharmaceuticals. Nothing could be further from the truth. Its clearance of GE foods was manoeuvred under GRAS status (Generally Recognised As Safe), and therefore, no testing is required. This amounts to a scientific sleight of hand clearance for GE foods,. If the FDA had not "approved" GE foods and crops then no other country would have, including India.
7. By now the evidence is in, without any ambiguity, of super pests and super weeds because of resistance, are a direct result of GE technology. And, it is growing. Scientists always knew that resistance would happen. It isn't as though this phenomenon is new to us. The US is set to take the number 1 spot for herbicide resistant GM crops and India, has been warned that pest resistance is already evident in those States that are growing Bt cotton. So this particular myth and spin as well, of the biotech corporations, has been demolished, that GM crops would offer farmers a significant advantage in managing weeds and pests. On the contrary, GE by definition impedes the transition to integrated pest management; It is a noxious technology on the farm, that hurts farmers financially, especially Indian farming. It traps farmers on to a treadmill of increasing herbicide and pesticide use. These herbicides are known metabolic poisons, harmful for human and animal health and the environment.
8. In the US and Canada, after 10 years of commercialisation the whole commodity system is contaminated. It is important to understand the implications of this for US trade and India's opportunity to respond to a market that hungers for Non-GM food and also, feed for animals. The US has consistently blocked laws for labelling, both within the US and in other countries. World wide, including in the US, people do not want to eat GM food and labelling would give them the choice to reject such foods. What would this do to US exports? Let?s be very clear about this: it is not in the USA?s trading interest to encourage labelling of GM foods. It is seeking to force an acceptance of GM foods on world markets by entirely removing consumer choice, through a fait accompli situation in which other countries and now especially India, may find that their farms and products are equally contaminated by GM content. It must be noted that for the US, 're-tooling' its commodity grain and oil-seed infrastructure to enable segregation of uncontaminated GM products would be at the very least prohibitively expensive, if not impossible. For India, the GM fiasco is providing an unmatched opportunity to respond to a spiralling demand for organic produce and and non-GM conventional farm products. We are indeed puzzled. Whose interests is the Government upholding and supporting?
9. India's policy on GE is deeply flawed both in logic and in science. Furthermore, the Government is under an obligation to look at issues that extend far beyond science and technology. Science should not control us: It should be at our service "on tap, not on top". These issues include vitally, India's agriculture, which will be unravelled by GE, affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of farmers, the food security of our country and our biodiversity. In India, we have some of the few surviving ecological hotspots that exist in the world. The American farming experience now, and more poignantly, Argentina clearly demonstrates the unleashing power of the multi-national biotech industry and the stranglehold it is exercising on agriculture. Anyone who believes, that the biotech industry exists for the public good, is living on another planet. This is sheer nonsense. It would seem that many of our Ministers and government servants have taken up residence on some other planet.
On behalf of the co-petitioners,
Aruna Rodrigues Devinder Sharma
PV Satheesh Rajeev Baruah
(Deccan Development Society, Hyderabad) (Maikal bioRe, Mhow)
INDIA'S NATIONAL BIOTECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY : Need for Radical Overhaul - Suman Sahai - http://www.genecampaign.org/6may.html
EXCERPT: The draft report makes an assertion that the existing regulatory system is sound and adequate. It also states that "there is consensus" that existing legislation is efficient, when nothing could be further from the truth. There is certainly no consensus on the efficiency of the legislation nor the guidelines derived from it. None of the suggestions made in other places, including the Swaminathan Committee Task Force Report, for overhauling the regulatory system to make it more technically competent, transparent and accountable have been taken on board. India's regulatory system for biotechnology has been criticized by a large number of stakeholders as being ad hoc, lacking in the technical skills required and without adequate provisions to deal with violations and unexpected situations. At a national stakeholder consultation organized by Gene Campaign in 2003, there was an almost unanimous view that the regulatory system was technically incompetent and nontransparent. The consensus was that it needed a radical overhaul to change its overbearing bureaucratic composition and the largely ex officio nature of the membership. The view on the incompetence and inadequacy of the regulatory system was shared equally by those opposed to Agbiotech as those strongly in favor of it.
In its recommendations, the biotech strategy report follows a standard western view on risk assessment, making liberal use of the ?science-based? approach promoted by the GM lobby and by the US. Despite their being mentioned in the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Biosafety Protocol, nowhere does the draft biotechnology strategy report acknowledge the special developing country concerns like the Precautionary Principle, especially relating to the centers of origin for crop plants, socio-economic concerns relating to small farmers and consumers and the right of the public to participate in decision making.
India is a biodiversity rich region from where major crop plants like rice have originated. It is therefore an important center of origin, where unique genetic wealth and diversity is found. There is global concern on GM crops being grown in their centers of origin and diversity because of the threat to this unique gene pool from contamination by foreign genes. Such contamination has already been found in Mexico?s corn and the authorities there are scrambling to find a way to contain the problem. The draft biotech report is silent on this crucial issue of particular relevance to India and ultimately to the world, since rice is the staple food of almost half of mankind. Similarly, there is no acknowledgement of other concerns being discussed on international platforms, for instance socio-economic impact of GM crops. It is recognized that there can be social and economic impacts on farmers, especially small farmers resulting from the application of GM technology in agriculture.
The section on Agbiotech policy is one that raises the most concerns. The draft makes recommendations that are irresponsible and potentially dangerous to the environment and human health. Far from adopting a precautionary approach, as advocated even by international treaties like the Biosafety Protocol, the report makes a departure from the established principles of biosafety and risk assessment that are practiced in other countries. A truly alarming recommendation is to do with the introduction of foreign genes into different kinds of crop plants. The draft strategy document recommends that "an event that has already undergone extensive biosafety tests should not be treated as a new event even if it is in a changed background
." This essentially means that once a gene like the Bt gene is tested for biosafety in cotton, it need not be tested when it is put into another crop like tomato or rice or cauliflower. According to this recommendation, Bt rice or Bt cauliflower (both in the pipeline in India) would not have to undergo any biosafety tests before being released to farmers for cultivation.
This kind of carte blanche to the producers of GM products, putting at risk not just farmers' livelihoods but also the environment and the health of consumers, is unprecedented. It defies all understanding of how biological systems and genetic engineering work. Genetic transformation is a rather imprecise technology because there is no control over where the foreign gene is inserted in the host plant nor how many copies of the gene have been able to integrate into the host genome. The genetic background of the host plant plays a crucial role in both the process of genetic engineering and the actual expression of the foreign gene in the new host.
There are complex interactions between the foreign gene and the genetic background of the host plant it enters; these interactions will be different in the case of different plants and there is no way of predicting the interactions or their outcome. That is why biosafety tests must be conducted every time a new plant is genetically engineered. That is also the reason why the regulatory systems in all responsible countries require biosafety assessments to be done every time a gene is put into a new plant. This clause dispensing with safety testing reduces the biosafety process to a complete farce.
More reckless recommendations follow with respect to biosafety. The biotech policy document states that even if the foreign gene has been changed and modified and then inserted into a new host plant, there is no requirement to conduct tests for allergenicity and toxicity if there is ?no significant modifications in protein conformation?. This would mean for instance that if the existing Bt gene were changed to make it a different gene and the new gene was put into say, tomato, there would be no need to conduct allergenicity and toxicity tests for the genetically engineered tomato, if the protein produced by the new gene was not "significantly" different. It could be different but not significantly so and what will be considered "significant" is anybody's guess.
This second carte blanche to the producers of GM products has the potential to seriously jeopardize human health because it does not require testing for new allergens and toxins that could be produced when a plant is engineered with the new genes. Such an approach flies in the face of known genetic principles that have shown that genes will behave in different ways and produce different proteins in different backgrounds. If even small changes are made to genes, the products (proteins) they produce can change substantially.
If the human genome project has taught us one thing, it is that the complexity and sophistication of biological reactions rests not on a large number of genes,( humans are estimated to have just 30,000 genes) but on the subtly different ways in which genes interact with one another in changing situations to produce new proteins. Nothing in such a context can be considered ?insignificant? because a change that is not radical can have radical outcomes. Specially with respect to allergens and toxins in crop plants, it is well understood that the creation of new allergens and toxins is a complex affair influenced by a number of micro factors. Acknowledging this , the WHO and FAO are compiling an atlas of the known allergens in food plants so that these can be monitored when genetically modified plants are created and used as food.
In the case of the allergy inducing GM Starlink corn, for instance, it was found that the allergic action was seen when the gene was tested in a particular background but not in another background. Food safety, allergenicity and toxicity in connection with alien genes in GM crops and foods is only now being investigated and understood. In this uncertain backdrop, it is insupportable that the national strategy report makes the astonishing recommendation of dispensing with testing for the presence of allergens and toxins.
The biotech policy that is being proposed by the report will be more lax and negligent than almost any other in the world. This is even more frightening when one thinks that this is being proposed in a country where agriculture and food are sensitive issues, where small farmers are vulnerable and where the agricultural research system and the regulatory systems have large question marks hanging over their performance. A premier agricultural research institute in Delhi was hauled up not long ago for large scale biosafety violations with a GM crop and its test plants had to be destroyed. The regulatory system has failed to check the spread of illegal varieties of Bt cotton for the last five to six years.
FULL TEXT: http://www.genecampaign.org/6may.html
HARVEST OF DISCONTENT - Murder of the Magic Seeds
The proposed Seeds Bill will destroy the Indian farmers' right to livelihood and the fruits of the earth. Why does nobody appear bothered? - By Deeptiman Tiwary - New Delhi - http://www.tehelka.com/story_main12.asp?filename=Cr050705Murder_of_the.asp
In a country where 70 percent people depend upon agriculture for survival while 75 percent of the seeds used in farming are produced by farmers, the government is pushing through a Bill that has the potential not only to make its farmers uncompetitive in the seed market but even deprive them of their traditional right to save, sell and share seeds. The contentious Bill in question is the Seeds Bill 2004. The proposal, meant to regulate the seed trade and provide impetus to seed export, is already mired in deep controversy. There are voices being raised all over the rural hinterland and among activists that it is basically anti-farmer and hits him where it hurts the most.
There are various provisions in the Bill that have raised doubts about the government's intentions and irked farmers' rights activists who are fiercely protesting against it. The bone of contention is the registration of all varieties of seeds without which no one shall be allowed to sell, save or share seeds. This is being seen as a major infringement of farmers' rights. This means that farmers involved in the traditional practice of seed sale and barter across their farm fence can be charged under the new Bill. Under this situation, the farmers may attract penal action (which could go up to a fine of Rs 25,000) including the liability to be searched by the Seed Inspector who has been given powers to break open anyone's door, enter his house and search if he feels the seed act is being violated.
"It is a Bill drafted under pressure from seed manufacturing mncs like Monsanto. It has the potential to spell doom for Indian agriculture. Most of the seed varieties used in Indian agriculture today are farmer-produced. If farmers are not allowed to save and sell their own seeds, there can?t be any agriculture here. The only aim of this Bill is to force the farmer to buy seeds from the market," says Vandana Shiva of Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (rfste).
Although the proposal gives exemption to farmers to save, sell or share their seeds without registration, there is also a clause that the farmer will not sell such seed that does not conform to the minimum limit of germination, and physical and genetic purity prescribed under the Bill once it has been enacted. The question as to who will ascertain these qualities when a farmer goes to sell his seeds has been left unanswered. Indeed, if he has to go to an institution or a committee, then it is as good as registering the seed variety.
"The idea is to make the whole process so bureaucratic that the farmer is rendered uncompetitive in the market. Which farmer will have the energy, time and money to go to a committee or an institution to ascertain the quality of his seed, get a certificate of approval and then sell, save or share it. This will only lead to widespread corruption and farmers will have to bear the brunt," says Shiva. Former Assistant Director General (ipr) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (icar), S. Bala Ravi, adds, "The so-called exemption given to farmers in the Bill merely allows saving and sowing in his own farm. This Bill takes away the other seeds rights of farmers, such as sharing, exchanging and selling the farm saved seed. The result of this provision is that the entire seed demand in the country is exclusively reserved to the seed industry."
Suman Sahay of Gene Campaign says, "Compulsory registration of all seed varieties is not entirely bad. It will only protect the farmer from spurious seeds. But the way it is proposed to be done in the Seeds Bill, is shocking. Why is the government pushing through the Seeds Bill while the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers' Rights (ppvfr) Act is awaiting implementation for four years since its enactment. The industry has been angry with the Farmers? Rights Act which recognises the farmers' rights not just as a cultivator but also as conserver and breeder of various successful seed varieties. The new proposal covers that ground. It negates the Farmers' Rights Act. The industry provides only 20-25 percent of seeds used in Indian agriculture. Rest of it is farmer-produced. It is this chunk of the market that the industry is eyeing. And the government is helping it at the cost of its own people."
The other controversial issue is seed certification. This is mandatory in the new Bill. Under the existing Act (Seed Act, 1968) only central or state seed laboratories can provide seed certificates. But under the new Bill, accredited individuals or institutions will also be able to provide such certificates. "This will allow self-certification. Any seed company may establish an institution tomorrow and start certifying its own seeds. But who will monitor them is the big question," says Shiva. Another concern is compensation to farmers when the agronomic performance claimed by the seed provider on a variety is not realised under cultivation. The proposal asks the farmer to claim it through consumer courts. Sahay says, "Knowing the tedious processes of consumer courts and the very inaccessibility of them to the rural masses, one reaches the conclusion that it is a provision that will deter the farmer from claiming the compensation."
A discerning look at the Indian seed industry and the direction in which the Seeds Bill will push it gives a fair idea of the major players of tomorrow. Today, there are over 400 odd seed trading companies in India. Majority of them do not have their own R&D capability. Few of those who have it do not have the technical and financial strength to survive competition. Nearly a dozen seed companies can be called majors in their scale of operation today. They may immediately survive, but not all of them can do so in the long run. Mergers have already started (Monsanto India holds 26 percent stake in Mahyco, India?s biggest seed company). It will only be hastened in the coming days.
Surely, this could become yet another Coca-Cola story. Remember the story of erstwhile Thumps Up, Gold Spot, Limca, Sprint, etc., and all those independent beverage manufactures when Coke and Pepsi entered the country market? And the mergers of all these small softdrink manufacturers into the two mega players in a very brief time? This could be the story yet again rewritten of the Indian seed industry.
India bans Monsanto GM cotton seeds - Tuesday 03 May 2005 - http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/4DE63A66-0461-48F4-A7E0-B6C2213BF0F3.htm
India has barred Monsanto Company and its Indian partners from selling three varieties of genetically modified cotton in a southern Indian state.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, a federal regulator, refused to renew licences for the sale of three Monsanto BT cotton varieties in Andhra Pradesh state, because these had been found ineffective in controlling pests there, said Suresh Chandra, the committee chairman. However, the seeds can be sold in other Indian states, Chandra said.
Years of discussion
"It took us six-and-a-half hours of discussion, but at the end, we decided not to renew those licenses for Andhra Pradesh," he said. The Andhra Pradesh state government also asked Monsanto to compensate farmers who it said lost money by sowing its transgenic cotton. Monsanto disputed the claim. Monsanto's spokeswoman in India, Ranjana Smetacek, said the company had yet to receive the federal regulator's order and would not comment. The licences granted in March 2002 expired last month, and Monsanto applied for their renewal in six southern and central Indian states, including Andhra Pradesh.
Verdict on cotton
In April, the federal regulator asked various state governments to give their comments on the performance of BT cotton over the past three years. The report (from Andhra Pradesh state) was not satisfactory, and hence we had to disallow the licences," Chandra said.
India has also been hesitant to use GM technology in foods
St Louis-based Monsanto's BT cotton is the only genetically modified crop allowed in India. BT stands for bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium whose gene is injected into cotton seeds to give them resistance against boll worms, which are common in India. Monsanto sold 1.3 million packets of BT cotton in 2004, but critics say the seeds are environmentally hazardous and could contaminate the genes of native varieties through cross pollination. However, advocates of genetic modification say it helps fight plant diseases, increases yields, and makes food crops more nutritive.
Comments from PV Satheesh
This morning when I woke up, I was greeted by the following news: All the THREE varieties - Mech-12 Bt, Mech-162 Bt &Mech-184 Bt have been disallowed for commercial cultivation in Andhra Pradesh. Nothing could have made my day better. The news was about the decision taken by the GEAC, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Government of India, the apex regulatory body of the Indian Government. Incidentally all the three varieties are products of Monsanto. The news is specially significant for us because the Deccan Development Society and the Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity have fought a relentless and focused battle against these Bt hybrids for the last three years. In fact on our latest demands the prominent one read as below:
WE STRONGLY DEMAND FROM THE GENETIC ENGINEERING APPROVAL COMMITTEE OF THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA THAT THEY WITHHOLD THE LICENSE FOR NEXT THREE YEARS TO THE BOLLGARD BT HYBRIDS OF MAHYCO MONSANTO.
The battle included campaign in hundreds of villages involving posters, film shows, discussions with farmers and a path breaking independent scientific study that tracked farmers experience with the Bt cotton from the day they planted the cotton till the day they harvested.
The study produced regular annual reports in
2003 : Did Bt Cotton Save Farmers in Warangal?
2004: Bt Cotton Disillusions AP Again
2005: Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: A three year assessment
Another powerful tool used in the struggle were two films made by a group of women farmer-filmmakers from the DDS Community Media Trust. They used their cameras and microphones as instruments of farmer to farmer research by extensively filming in Warangal District touring over 30 villlages every year and recording the impression of hundreds of farmers. They relentlessly returned Warangal month after month in cold winter and searing summer, sought out their focus farmers, patiently spoke to them to get their information and opinion and came up with two stunning films: Why are Warangal Farmers Angry with Bt Cotton? and Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: A Three Year Fraud. The films in Telugu have not only been seen by several thousand farmers in over 200 villages in Warangal, Adilabad and Nalgonda districts but also have been translated into French, Spanish, Thai and English and used in as varied parts of the world such as the Francophone West Africa, Meso America, South East Asia and many parts of Europe.
I must make a very special mention of the Warangal Against Genetic Engineering, WAGE, a district coalition of about ten NGOs in Warangal who led the campaign and research from 2002 to 2005. Their spiritied campaign and lead taken by them in the research was the backbone of the entire three year struggle. They have demonstrated that a determined fight from a small band of committed groups can take on the Goliaths of the Life[destroying] Industry and defeat them even if it is in a battle if not a war.
This small victory has buoyed the spirits of the civil society groups particularly in Andhra Pradesh and given them the confidence that by pursuing their larger goal with renewed determination, sharper focus and collective effort, they can attempt to win the war. There was a tremendous solidarity in this fight from civil society groups, environmenatal action groups and funding partners. We gratefully acknowledge all this support and urge their continued collaboration in the future struggle to see that some parts of AP can be GM-free zones.
with warm regards
AP cotton growers compensation claim for crop loss justified' - Bt cotton prone to diseases: study = ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, May 1 2005
NEW DELHI, MAY 1: A study conducted by a team of cotton experts from the government has noted that Bt cotton hybrids are susceptible to diseases like bacterial blight, alternaria leaf spot and grey mildew. Bacterial blight, alternaria leaf spot and grey mildew were the major diseases on cotton identified in central and southern parts of the country in 2004 season. This report of the government body confirms the claims by different studies conducted by civil society organisations and independent scientific bodies pointing to the failure of Bt cotton in 2004 season. It also justifies the claims of Andhra Pradesh Bt cotton growers for compensation for crop loss.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has withheld its decision to extend the approval period for three varieties of Mahyco-Monsanto' Bt cotton, on getting adverse reports about its performance. Farmers leader Mallareddy of AP Rythu Sangam has written to GEAC not to approve extension period for "three failed Bt cotton hybrids," while S Jaipal Reddy of the Federation of Farmers Association (FFA) has demanded immediate extension of the approval period. FFA and its leaders have entered into close partnership with the apex industry body, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and have floated Farmers-Industry Alliance.
All India Coordinated Cotton Improvement Project (AICCIP) in its annual report for the year 2004-05 said: "The Bt cotton hybrid trials laid out in the central and south zone centres were assessed for the occurrences of Alternaria leaf spot, grey mildew and bacterial blight. A comparative study on the incidence of diseases on Bt and non-Bt cotton was carried out. The results revealed that both Bt and non-Bt cotton hybrids are equally susceptible to bacterial blight, alternaria leaf spot and grey mildew. The results indicate that the presence of Bt gene does not have any impact on the nost susceptibility and disease development in the Bt cotton hybrids tested so far."
The AICCIP report added: "he outbreak of alternaria leaf blight and grey mildew disease in central and south zones was significant, especially in hybrids such as Bunny and certain Bt hybrids. The critical damage of these diseases at peak boll formation stage was quite threatening, while adequate pre-emptive control measures were taken by AICCIP by alerting the local state agricultural departments." Three separate teams for evaluation of Bt cotton for north, central and south zones were constituted by AICCIP. The teams studied breeding, entomology and pahology. Regarding the south zone, the AICCIP report said: "All the hybrids tried at Lam, Siruguppa and Coimbatore were statistically on par, whereas in Nandyal, Mech 12 Bt and Mech 162 Bt gave significantly higher seed cotton yield over NHH-44. In Dharwad, Mech 184 Bt and RCH 2 Bt seems to be superior over Mech 162 Bt."
This means all cotton hybrids - whether Bt or non-Bt - had same yields as per the evaluations made in Lam, Siruguppa and Coimbatore. Only the evaluation done in Nandyal showed Bt hybrids having more yields than non-Bt varieties. The AICCIP study said the farmers practicing integrated pest management (IPM) benefited in net income and the number of pesticide sprays were reduced by nearly 50%.
Federation of Farmers Association (India) - http://www.spinwatch.org/modules.php?name=Encyclopedia&op=content&tid=94
Together with Kisan Coordination Committee, the Federation of Farmers' Associations (FFA), based in the city of Hyderabad in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh, has been at the forefront of support for GM crops in India. The FFA was inaugurated in December 1998 by Sharad Joshi, founder of Shetkari Sanghatana and the Kisan Coordination Committee. The FFA is said to be an 'independent organisation representing some two million members from 500 farmers organisations in Andhra Pradesh'. However, the term 'federation' is employed loosely in India and, as with the Kisan Coordination Committee, the FFA's real constituency appears to be quite small and significantly different from that which it claims. The FFA's President, P Chengal Reddy , has been described as speaking 'on behalf of small-holder farmers' but the FFA is a lobby for Andhra Pradesh's big commercial farmers.Chengal Reddy's family have long been a rightwing political force in Andhra Pradesh. Chengal Reddy has had a close association with Monsanto. He is also known to have proposed that the FFA become the operational arm in Andhra Pradesh of The Indian Crop Protection Association (ICPA). The ICPA represents India's leading agrochemical companies.
The links page on the FFA's website is revealing. There are links to Monsanto and a number of other biotech corporations, to the far right International Policy Network and, perhaps most revealing, to Monsanto's Internet PR firm Bivings, under its previous name of Bivings Woodell Inc. The page also has a link to 'Tuskege University' (sic), which links to CS Prakash's agbioworld website. In order to promote GM crops to farmers, legislators and others, in 1999 the FFA organised a workshop with the Administrative Staff College of India, at Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. Among the contributors was C S Prakash. In April 2000 Chengal Reddy shared a platform with Prakash at a pro-GM event organised by the Liberty Institute .
In 2003 S Jayapal Reddy, a member of the Executive Committee of the Federation of Farmers Associations, travelled to Europe as part of a 'Third World' GM lobby group, hosted by EuropaBio, which included Dr Luke Mumba from Zambia, TJ Buthelezi from South Africa and representatives of ISAAA and AfricaBio . Chengal Reddy has also represented 'Third World farmers' on a number of occasions, including at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 where he was the guest of ISAAA and AfricaBio . Kisan Coordination Committee was also present and together with Reddy and TJ Buthelezi they participated in a carefully choreographed pro-GM demonstration. Together with Kisan Coordination Committee and the Liberty Institute, the FFA was one of the chief lobbyists for the approval of GM crops in India.
THE BT COTTON STORY: THE ETHICS OF SCIENCE AND ITS REPORTAGE
Comments on the paper 'Yield effects of Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries? By Matin Qaim & David Zilberman [Science 299, 900- 902 (2003)]
Suman Sahai, Gene Campaign, New Delhi, India , email@example.com
The paper published recently in Science by Qaim & Zilberman, purporting to show a dramatic increase in the performance of Bt cotton in India has attracted a lot of attention. At the same time, the paper raises serious questions about ethics in the application of science and the societal context of such applications and reportage. Qaim & Zilberman draw rather sweeping conclusions about the "Yield Effects of Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries" based on meager and selective data from one single genetically modified crop, cotton, derived from just one country, India. The title is misleading, claiming far more than the scope of the study permits. On the basis of a single set of trial data of Bt cotton from one season in India, the authors project high yields for all GM crops in all developing countries. They base this rather unorthodox prediction, not on any peer-reviewed evidence but on "crop protection theory". This amounts to speculative and poor science. Crop yields are known to be multifactorial and have differing dynamics in different countries, based on a number of local factors, which have to be studied for a correct estimation. The paper of Qaim & Zilberman reports unprecedented yield increase, (upto 87%) which strains credibility. Such spectacular performance has not been reported from anywhere else in the world where Bt cotton is cultivated. Bt cotton does show an advantage in the US and China, but these are in the range of 10 to 15 percent increase in yields reportedly because of better protection against cotton pests found in the region.
Bt cotton, the first GM crop to be grown in India was given approval for commercial cultivation in March 2002, so this is the first GM crop harvested in the country. The sensational data presented in this paper are however not based on this harvest, as would be the case in a proper scientific investigation. The data in this paper are derived only from selected field trials plots of Mahyco-Monsanto. No data from farmers' fields or from the All India Coordinated Varietal trials conducted by ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) have been included in the study. What is really disturbing is that this paper extolling the outstanding performance of Bt cotton is based exclusively on data supplied by the company that owns the Bt cotton variety in question; Monsanto. Qaim & Zilberman attribute the 87 % yield increase they report as being "entirely" due to crop losses avoided by the presence of a single copy of the Bt gene. Yield in plants is known to be polygenic and there is no known evidence for a single gene being largely responsible for yield. Attributing such large effects on yield to just one copy of the Bt gene, is untenable and unscientific.
Actually, to get any real idea about the success or failure of Bt cotton in the field, one will need to wait and see the results of at least another two harvests. The authors of this sloppy paper have done a great disservice to science by jumping the gun in this fashion and so have the editors of the journal Science, by letting this paper through. These sensational data have led to a spate of media reports about the 'superlative' performance of Bt cotton. Such misleading reports can end up influencing policy makers in a direction that could be ultimately detrimental to farmers. Publishing a paper only using the data provided by the industry whose product is being studied, is clearly unethical. In fact the vested interest getting its own experimental data reported in this way, is reminiscent of the old days of the tobacco industry when a spate of 'scientific publications' published in prestigious medical journals reiterated over and over again that nicotine was not harmful, that it was not addictive, that it was not connected to cancer, that there was no correlation to cardio-vascular disease. After a point, leading medical journals took a decision to stop corporate interests from promoting their wares through 'scientific papers' in their journals.
Science journals publishing in the field of food and agriculture would do well to follow this example and place strictures on corporates using a peer reviewed forum for promoting GM crops. Given the aggressive marketing of GM products by the industry, this would be a timely precaution. GM crops are high profit items and their control is in the hands of big business. These are crops facing great opposition in Europe and now increasingly in the US. The moratorium on cultivating GM crops in Europe continues despite the threat of retaliatory action from the US. Add to this scenario the potentially large markets that an agricultural country like India offers. If India accepts and promotes GM technology, other countries in Asia are likely to accept it too. If GM technology could be accepted and implemented in the vast agricultural markets of Asia, it would neutralize quite a large part of the difficulties the GM industry faces in other parts of the world and turn in a handsome profit. Science must not fall victim to these plans and machinations.
Interestingly, even as the scientific community is debating this controversial paper, results of the first commercial crop of Bt cotton have come in. The indifferent performance has been reported at length in the media. The Bt crop in Maharshtra and Andhra Pradesh appears to have failed. The state government in Andhra has admitted, "Farmers have not experienced very positive and encouraging results". Farmers, even the keen supporters of GM technology have recorded their dissatisfaction with Bt cotton. Given the contradiction between the exuberant projections of two foreign scientists publishing from an American university and the ground reality of a failed cotton crop in India, one must question the motivation of scientists writing up such an unsubstantiated report and a reputed science journal publishing it. One of course could be genuinely bad science on the part of the scientists and shoddy editorial work on the part of the editorial team of 'Science'. There are however lingering suspicions of other motivations, something along the pattern of what happened with the tobacco industry and medical journals. There is an overall concern about science and scientific research losing its innocence. Now the talk is about patents, market shares, corporate dominance and keeping the competition out. It is less about putting out the best varieties and about growing food to feed the hungry, rather more about producing high tech commodities for the market and about maximizing profit. Scientists and the public need to be alert to these new developments in what can be properly called the political economy of food and agriculture and the scientific research associated with it. Science journals have been misused before by vested interests to promote their products in the garb of scientific evidence. The vigilance of the scientific community is needed to make sure that this does not happen in the crucial sector of food and agriculture.
THE STUDY AND THE FILM
Three years ago, almost to the day, when the Deccan Development Society[DDS] and the AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity[APCDD] began their research on Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh with a particular focus on the cotton district of Warangal, we had no idea what we were walking into. There was a bulldozing hype surrounding Bt Cotton that had bedazzled the politicians and policy makers. A huge scientific lobby was painting Bt cotton as a panacea for farmers and the environment. Corporate money and muscle wielded a power of such magnitude that even the media had been muzzled to a considerable extent. Huge money had poured into creating a dazzling aura around Bt cotton through a blitz of advertisements. It was an unspoken axiom that there was no science other than biotechnology and anything that challenged it was anti-science. The civil society in Andhra Pradesh, by and large, had very little clue about what genetic engineering was all about.
In this atmosphere, anyone who tried to find out the honest truth was labeled as a backward person and an avoidable hurdle in the path of modernity. The APCDD and the DDS braved this hostile environment and embarked on a quest for truth. Two courageous scientists Dr Abdul Qayum, and Mr Kiran Sakkhari, took up cudgels on our behalf, and went about the job of unravelling the agro-socio-economic mystery of Bt cotton.
They selected a transparent and open methodology, stayed close to the farmers, and gathered information from them on a fortnightly basis. Their data collectors were village based grassroots researchers with a deep understanding of agriculture. No other research group on Bt cotton in this country had done season-long studies, and a job as thorough as this. Most groups came once a while after hearing of the cotton disaster, collected data at that point of time and went back. No one stayed continuously with farmers and farming communities to record their changing perceptions about Bt cotton. This makes the present study a unique one.
At the end of the first season, when we reported to the world the total disaster of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh, one of the most famous apologists for Genetic Engineering, Dr Kameswara Rao, went philosophical in his article One Swallow Does Not Make A Summer. The learned doctor pontificated to the lesser mortals: It is only fair to wait till the end of the three-year period to declare Bt cotton as a success or failure. In the meanwhile, it is certainly reasonable to assess the prospects, in a non-judgmental way, using the commercial results and certainly not field trial data, which have served their purpose in gaining the approval of the GEAC. If we wait till the end of the three-year period, the farmers themselves will come out with their assessment of the benefits of Bt cotton. If the farmer is not convinced, no amount of effort through articles in Science and Nature or the whole world body of crop biotechnologists and governments can make the farmer adopt this technology.
We have waited till the end of the three years. Now the truth is out. And with it the jury too. The jury is not composed of outsiders, but the farmers themselves as the venerable Doctor had prescribed. And what is the story that the farmers in AP are telling us with regard to Mahyco-Monsanto Bt hybrids? It is a story of terrible loss, deep pain, and cold anger, leading to explosive violence and even death.
The study Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: a three year assessment is a dispassionate report that captures farmers? engagement with Bt cotton, their resultant economics and the ultimate desperation. On the other hand, an associated film Bt Cotton in AP; a three year fraud, brilliantly captures the mood and feelings of the farmers as they are led up the garden path by the false promises of a ruthless industry. Both these are historic documents in analysing the impact of Bt cotton in India.
The Monsanto Corporation makes a claim that Bt Cotton returns socio economic benefits to smallholder farmers globally. [See Monsanto Website] ,To evaluate this claim,, the study justifiably wanted to see how small farmers, especially under the rainfed conditions benefited from this scientific miracle. It therefore kept its focus on this section of farmers.
And now, what does the study reveal?
* Mahyco-Monsanto Bt cotton, Bollgard, has failed miserably for small farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India, in terms of yields.
While the three year average yield from Bollgard cotton for small farmers, has remained at around 650 kgs per acre, the yield for small farmers under rainfed conditions in 2005 from Bt is just about 535 kgs. The same farmers got 150 kgs more yield from growing non Bt hybrids under the same conditions as Bt. Therefore non-Bt has surpassed Bt in terms of yield by nearly 30% with 10% less expense. Therefore Bt has failed the farmers twice over in terms of yield.
* Bollgard Cotton did not reduce pesticide use.
Actually the volume of pesticide use by Bt farmers and Non Bt farmers was so thin that it was untraceable. Bt farmers on an average bought and used Rs. 2571 worth of pesticide while the non Bt farmers bought and used Rs.2766 worth of pesticides over three years. The difference is barely around 7% of the pest management costs and an invisible 2% of their total cultivation costs.
* Bollgard did not bring profit to farmers
The three year average tells us that the non-Bt farmers earned 60% more than Bt farmers. In actual fact, in place of profit, Bt cotton, especially the Mahyco Monsanto varieties, brought untold miseries to farmers culminating in violent street protests and the burning of seed outlets in the city of Warangal. Farmers tied up Mahyco Monsanto representatives in their villages and the police had to go and rescue the hapless salesmen.
* Bollgard did not reduce the cost of cultivation
Looking back, it is evident that farmers had to spend not only 3-4 times more for the Mahyco-Monsanto?s proprietary Bollgard seeds but had to take extra care to manure, irrigate and look after their precious Bt crop. Many farmers, especially in the rainfed areas, spent at least a couple of thousand rupees more per acre in comparison to their non Bt hybrids. On an average, the Bt farmers had incurred 12% more costs in cultivating their Bt crops in comparison with their non Bt fraternity.
* Bollgard did not generate healthier environment.
Our researchers felt that a special kind of root rot was being spread by Bollgard cotton. Farmers came out with complaints that they were not able to grow other crops after Bt because it had infected their soil very badly. As against this,the soil in which the farmers grew non-Bt hybrids was extremely friendly to other crops. This is an early warning and needs active research by soil scientists immediately.
On all counts, the Mahyco-Monsanto Bt hybrids had failed the farming community in Andhra Pradesh.
But with an unimaginable audacity, the industry commissioned a study to a market research agency [recall that in 2004 also the company had commissioned the study to another market research agency and not to scientists or development economists] and with its now well known data manipulation tactics, claimed that the AP farmers had gained five fold from Bollgard, compared to their non Bt hybrids. Hundreds of farmers, who have testified in the study as well as in the film, have repeatedly told us how the Bollgard cultivation had ruined them totally. In the face of this reality, the claim by Mahyco Monsanto is an example of dark humour and can easily earn them the Lie of the Century award.
Farmers in Warangal were so vexed with this corporate distortion of their misery that they held hostage the Mahyco Monsanto representative in their village, took to the streets in a violent protest in the city of Warangal, and burnt and destroyed seed stores that stocked Bollgard. Newspapers in the district continuously reported the total ruin of tens of thousands of acres that had planted Bollgard cotton.
But the company-sponsored reports did not reflect any of this reality. They continued to play the company tunes and blow up their miniscule, manipulated successes. Bureaucrats were bought over, official enquiries were distorted, false data was fed to media and an unreal world under the corporate command was created.
It is this atmosphere of total surrender to the industry that makes attempts like the current study very important. They not only uphold the dignity of independent scientific enquiry but also herald the liberation of the scientific community from the chains of corporate sponsored tainted- research. They also reflect the true reality of the concerns of the farming communities and prevent these concerns from being bulldozed by the corporate power, which in league with arrogant pseudo science, populate the lobbies of corrupt political power.
I once again thank the two courageous researchers Dr Abdul Qayum and Mr Kiran Sakkhari, who put their hearts and souls in finding out the truth about Bt cotton from the fields and farms of small and hapless farmers in various parts of Andhra Pradesh.
By now they have made their mark worldwide as exceptional researchers who have the mettle in their soul to swim against fashionable currents. My deepest gratitude goes to them. Ms Venkata Lakshmi of the Permaculture Association of India, who co-researched the study grew in stature as a researcher over the last two years. Her patient interaction with farmers unearthed priceless perceptions. I thank her and wish her a great future in this line of research.
The civil society groups in these three districts especially, CROPS, JAGRUTI, MARI, PEACE, PRAGATI, PRATIBHA, SARVODAYA, SEED, SEVA, SPACE, SSS, SUN(P) and CSTD have been the backbone of the study. I express my earnest appreciation for their collaboration in the study. My very special thanks are due to Mr Murali of MARI, Warangal and Mr Damodar, the Warangal District Convenor of APCDD, who offered unstinted support and guidance to the study at every stage. The team of data writers [mentioned at the end of this study] from all the collaborating NGOs, who stayed in their villages meeting farmers at regular intervals to collect and collate their data, deserve a huge, huge thanks.
My colleague Giridhar, Joint Director, DDS patiently provided the logistic support all through the years and made the study possible.
The women filmmakers of DDS Community Media Trust have once again made an extraordinary film called Bt Cotton in Warangal: A three year fraud. Their previous film Why are Warangal Farmers Angry with Bt Cotton made in 2003has now been translated into French, Spanish, Thai and German besides English and is making waves around the world. It has also been shown in film festivals, national and internationl. They have continued their strides to bring out a new perspective on Bt cotton this year. To make this film, they have travelled to Warangal month after month, braving the scorching sun, carrying their equipment, walking miles into farmers? fields, talking to farmers, especially women, creating a camaraderie and generating brilliant interviews. They have filmed the death of Bt cotton at every stage and analysed the reasons with farmers. The last year of their filming was led by Eedulapally Manjula and was supported by Matoor Shakuntala, Nagwar Kavita, Ippapalle Mollamma, Humnapur Laxmamma, Borancha Sangamma and Pastapur Chinna Narsamma. Being small and marginal farmers themselves, the media women of CMT have sensitively captured the images and voices of the Bt farmers in crisis. The brilliance and invaluableness of their effort cannot be adequately described. I reserve my deepest appreciation for them.
And finally my heart and gratitude go out to those hundreds of farmers who spent their precious time with us in offering us information and their perceptions on the performance of Bt cotton on their fields. Most of them were small farmers who had seen Bt cotton as the light at the end of the tunnel of darkness they had traversed in pesticide dominated cotton cultivation. But it was not to be. The light that shone was an artificial glow produced by the industry?s hype. When they came out of the tunnel and saw denser darkness surrounding them, they lost all hope in life. It is this sense of total loss that they have shared with us. We hope somewhere this report will have some impact in doing justice for these farmers and liberate them from the clutches of the predatory industrial agriculture.
P V Satheesh - Convenor, AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity - Director, Deccan Development Society - April 12, 2005
GEAC approval for only one Bt cotton variety - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, Thursday, April 14
NEW DELHI, APRIL 13: - The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has approved only one variety of Bt cotton hybrid out of the 13 listed for commercial cultivation in 2005 season in central India. It has also okayed large-scale field trials for three transgenic cotton varieties in north India.
The decision on extension of the period of approval for three Bt cotton hybrids of Mahyco was deferred on account of adverse reports from Andhra Pradesh government. These Mahyco varieties, namely Mech-12 Bt, Mech-162 Bt and Mech-184 Bt, were approved for sowing in central and southern parts of the country. The approval period ends in 2004 season. GEAC has asked reports from other state governments about the performance of these three varieties. The next meeting of GEAC is scheduled on May 11.
RCH-138 variety of Bt cotton hybrid developed by Rasi Seed Ltd was approved for commercial cultivation in central India. Other three varieties of Rasi Seed, which were listed in the agenda, were not approved in absence of adequate reports from the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM), and Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC). Similar is the case with the four Bt cotton hybrids of Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd, three of Mahyco and two of Ankur Seeds.
The three transgenic cotton seeds approved for largescale field trials in north India are JKCH-1947 of JK Agri, NEC-ER Bt of Nath Seeds and 02-50 VIP of Syngenta Seeds India. The cotton seed developed by Syngenta does not contain Bt technology, but a transgenic technology of a different kind called VIP technology.
Dr Suman Sahai of the Gene Campaign, who made her presentations before the GEAC about the failure of Bt cotton, alleged that only five minutes were allowed to her. She accused GEAC chairman Suresh Chandra of saying that the government is not answerable to the NGOs. Dr Sahai demanded that GEAC, before taking final decision, should consult the NGOs and not just take inputs from the NGOs.
Bt cotton ruined Andhra Pradesh farmers: NGOs - Business India, April 12, 2005
Hyderabad, April 12 : A group of NGOs Tuesday asked the central government not to extend the licence of Mahyco Monsanto, alleging genetically modified cotton seeds introduced by the company had produced poor crops in Andhra Pradesh. A report based on the group's three-year study claimed Bt cottonseeds had harmed farmers, and Mahyco Monsanto failed to keep promises made while bringing the seeds into India. The group also demanded compensation for the farmers.
The central government's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) is meeting in New Delhi Wednesday to consider extending Mahyco Monsanto's licence for three years.
The report, "Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh - a three-year assessment", was prepared by Hyderabad-based Deccan Development Society (DDS) after meetings with farmers using Bt cotton seeds. Andhra Pradesh is one of the states where Mahyco Monsanto supplies Bt cottonseeds. Last year, these seeds were sown over 100,000 acres. The report demanded a moratorium on genetically engineered crops in India for five years till a public debate settled the issue.
DDS director P.V. Sateesh said the study compared the results of Bt cottonseeds with conventional seeds. While Bt seeds gave a yield of 535 kg an acre, conventional seeds produced around 650 kg. Sateesh said the reduction in use of pesticides, one of the advantages claimed in Bt seeds, was just seven percent. The 225 farmers surveyed were found to have earned 60 percent less than those using conventional seeds. "It (Mahyco Monsanto) failed in its promise of bringing socio-economic benefits to smaller farmers and protecting the environment by reducing the use of pesticides," he said.
Draft Seed Bill runs into rough weather, process may be delayed - ASHOK B SHARMA - Monday, April 11, 2005
NEW DELHI, APRIL 10: The Union agriculture ministry's attempt to rush the draft National Seed Bill may be delayed. Acting on a representation made by an apex farmers' organisation, the chairperson of the National Advisory Council, Sonia Gandhi, directed the ministry to reconsider certain clauses in the proposed draft that are likely to hamper the interests of farmers.
Incidentally, such an opposition comes from the farmers' outfit of the ruling Congress party, Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS). Though the BKS executive chairman, Dr Krishna Bir Chaudhary had addressed the representation to Ms Gandhi as chairperson of the UPA coalition and president of the Congress party, she chose to act on this issue as the chairperson of the National Advisory Council to the government.
The BKS leader, in his letter to Ms Gandhi, had said: "The bill is a clear trap to curb the traditional and indigenous rights of our peasantry to grow, breed, multiply, preserve and exchange seeds. The seed bill is wholly incongruous. Sinister as it is, it will demolish the time tested agrarian culture and the socio-economic fabric of the rural India that has for centuries worked faultlessly and sustained our small and marginal farmers, having even less than two acres of land. 83% farmers use their own farm-saved seeds. In one stroke, the National Seed Bill on enactment will reduce 36 crore farming families into pathetic non-entity and make them captive at the mercy of seed multinationals, aided and abetted by the unabashed and insensitive state machinery."
The draft bill makes registration of seeds mandatory and in this context, Dr Chaudhary in his letter said: "The National Seed Bill treats farmers as traders. They will be hounded to run about for registration if they grow and exchange seeds."
The previous week's the 53rd All India Farmers' Council Meeting of BKS held in Hubli in Karnataka had authorised Dr Chaudhary to take up the issue with the Centre. The Hubli meeting, not only opposed the draft bill but also the introduction of transgenic seeds.
The resolution said : "Seed is the most vital factor in enhancing agricultural production. The National Seed Bill should not put any infringement on the indigenous and traditional rights of the farmers to grow, breed, multiply, exchange and store seeds and be prevented to carry on the age old and time-tested barter system for mutual benefits of the fellow farmers. Farmers should not be treated as traders in the proposed bill. The Centre should bar the access of transgenic seeds and terminator technology in our agro-system for all times to come."
The resolution also called for remunerative minimum support prices for crops and cautioned the Centre not to dismantle the state-sponsored procurement of grains, encouragement of organic farming and post-harvest management.
TIMES OF INDIA, 11 April 2005 - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1074011.cms
NEW DELHI: If green activists are to be believed, the next few months could see the start of a "GMO-free clothing" campaign, roping in not just Indian designers but also international names such as Nike and Esprit.
GMO stands for genetically-modified organism. The aim is to hit supporters of transgenic cotton, more usually termed Bt cotton, where it hurts most - their pockets. The only genetically-modified (GM) crop which can legally be grown in India is Bt cotton, infused with a bacterial gene which is supposed to make it resistant to the dreaded pest bollworm. Activists opposed to it saying they want to "build a big Bt cotton boycott campaign which includes designers".
Vandana Shiva of the NGO Navdanya, backed by environment organisations Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, says she has sent "feelers" to some big firms, including fashion houses in England and those working on khadi in India, to see if they might be willing to reject transgenic cotton.
Many seem "ready to go on board" and the campaign, she hopes, would be ready for take-off on August 9, the day they first launched a campaign asking Monsanto to quit India.
Monsanto's Bt technology is now being used in India. Activists like Shiva say it has proved disastrous for the farmer, halving his yield while doubling or trebling his costs. Monsanto says this is bunkum, the yields are good and farmers have made profits. Shiva and civil society groups from the EU met recently and agreed on the need to exchange experiences and work on improving India's biosafety laws to protect farmers, consumers and the environment.
PRESS RELEASE - 'Bollgard' Bt cotton disaster highlights need for Indian Biosafety to look to European Union example for strong legislation
Navdanya Trust, Saturday 2nd April 2005
Indian and European Biosafety experts agree that urgent action is needed to improve India's Biosafety laws in order to protect farmers, consumers and the environment from the risks of GMOs. Following a two-day Dialogue hosted by Navdanya Trust and funded by the EU-India Small Projects Facility, Biosafety experts identified several areas where Indian legislation was clearly failing farmers, and could be improved by looking at laws established in Europe.
"The regulatory system failed to protect farmers from the widespread disaster of Monsanto?s Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh," says Dr G.V. Ramanjanevulu of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh. "The systems are not transparent and data is not shared with the public. Reports from independent surveys show failure and that the government accepted this in two of the three years. Cases of tampering of data have also been observed. There is no accountability on the company for the failure. During approval the GEAC is not giving an ear to farmer and public concerns."
Two Bt cotton farmers from AP and MP told of the extent of the Bt cotton disaster, where seeds sold as "Mahyco Bollgard", cost twice as much as conventional seeds, produced half the yields and required more pesticides and irrigation. This in spite of being grown on the best land and without intercropped plants.
Dr Vandana Shiva of the Navdanya Trust says "Instead of fleshing out the rules on Biosafety, what is being done by the government and Monsanto is the undermining of the regulations. We urgently need to look at ways to improve our regulatory system, and we have much to learn from the EU example."
Geert Ritsema of Friends of the Earth Europe, says "Under European law GM foods, GM animal feed and GM seeds have to be labelled as "genetically modified" whenever they are commercialised. In India, a good Biosafety regime could include similar labelling provisions so that consumers and farmers can avoid GM products. On top of that, a liability regime is urgently needed, in order to ensure that the biotech companies pay compensation to farmers who have suffered financial losses as a result of the cultivation of genetically modified crops. Such liability regime could also apply whenever there is damage to the environment as a result of the release of GM crops."
Eric Gall of Greenpeace European Unit says "Indian farmers should also be aware that there is widespread rejection of GM foods amongst consumers and food companies in Europe, and that because foods must be labelled as GM, they will find no market in Europe. Our new Greenpeace report "No market for GM labelled food in Europe" shows clearly that growing GM foods is a very risky strategy for Indian farmers."
Contacts: Navdanya Trust (011-2656-2489); Greenpeace India (098-454-37-337), Friends of the Earth: (+31-6-290 05 908), Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (040-2701-4302)
Greens seek 'GMO-free' clothing
INDIA'S BIOTECHNOLOGY POLICY
Indian Government has circulated the draft National Biotechnology Strategy for public comments by May 16, 2005. Thereafter this draft will be finalised for implementation.
This draft can be viewed at http://dbtindia.nic.in/biotechstrategy/Biotech%20strategy.doc
Suggestions and comments can be sent to the panel chairman and secretary, department of biotechnology, Dr MK Bhan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr MK Bhan (Office) 24362950 / 24362881 Dr MK Bhan (Residence) 26964173 These Tele Nos pertains to Delhi, India. Please apply city code/ country code
Indian Society for Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Development
Bt cotton losses in South - Financial Express, 4th April 2005 - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=86987
NEW DELHI, APRIL 3: Apart from civil society organisations in the country, the performance of Bt cotton in 2004 has come under severe criticisms from some scientists. Founder-director of the Hyderabad-based, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Dr Pushpa M Bhargava, alleged that farmers in south India [the only area for which Bt cotton was approved] have suffered heavy losses on account of cultivation of Bt cotton. Speaking to FE, Dr Bhargava, who is a Padma Bhushan awardee and also the chairman of Avon Organics, alleged that there are reports that apart from approved varieties of Bt cotton, unapproved varieties of several genetically modified crops (GM) are being sold to farmers. There are reports of terminator seeds being sold to farmers, he said, adding: "One farmer came to me with some samples of sterile seeds and wanted me to test whether these are terminator seeds." Dr Bhargava urged the Centre to wake up to these happenings and take urgent steps to set up seed testing laboratories for testing unapproved GM seeds. He said that such tests should also be carried out to check the plorification of spurious seeds. He alleged that the recent amendments to the Seeds Act is designed to strengthen the monopoly of multinational seed companies in the seed sector. He urged the Centre not to allow any multinational company in the seed sector. If the multinationals are allowed to enter the country's seed sector it would spell disaster as they would be controlling country's agriculture, he observed. Dr Bhargava also alleged that attempts are being made to develop more hybrid seeds, so that farmers cannot save seeds for reuse in the next season. "Why can't scientists develop high yielding varieties of conventional seeds, by using the resources stored in gene banks?" he quipped. "There is a lack of transparency in the approval process of Bt cotton. Revelant data are not yet placed in public domain. No tests have been conducted to verify the consumption effects of Bt plants on cattle. Bt toxin may have some undesired effects on bacteria present in rumen in cattle," he stated.
A field study conducted by Afsar H Jafri on behalf of Navdanya and the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology has revealed poor performance of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The Secunderabad-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture under the leadership of Dr GV Ramajanevulu has revealed poor performance of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh. Studies conducted by Greenpeace India and Gene Campaign reveal similar results.
MNCs, designers join lobbies against GM crops - http://www.deepikaglobal.com/ENG3_sub.asp?newscode=98419&catcode=ENG3&subcatcode=
New Delhi, Apr 3 (UNI) Western Multi-National Companies and Indian Fashion designers are to join hands with environmental activists to make the country a 'Genetically Modified Organism -- Free Zone'. The campaign for making India a GMO-free zone will begin in two months, according to Indian environmentalists. Indian activists have already asked American Sports goods giant Nike, international lifestyle brand Espirit and several domestic fashion designers the big question--If we launch a campaign, will you refuse to procure GM products for manufacturing your products? ''The answer was Yes. They will come on board when we start our campaign,'' says Vandana Shiva of Delhi-based environmental group Navdanya. The Indian lobbies, who have raised fears of health hazard from GMO, will be supported in their action by European anti-GMO groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace Europe. The campaign will also be targeting the Monsanto-owned GM crop BT cotton, presently being cultivated in six Indian states.
According to Dr Shiva, the campaign will be in three phases. In the first phase, a ''People's Commission'' will be set up to spread awareness about the health and environmental hazards from GMO. The year-long phase also plans to bring back attention on farmers' suicides in Karnataka and Kerala last year. The second phase will be, in fact, an extension of the global movement for a GMO-free zone. ''Presently, about 30,000 zones in Europe have been categorised as GMO-free zones,'' says Dr Shiva. ''In India, thousands of villages have already taken pledge not to plant GM seeds.'' The first genetically modified crop to be introduced in India three years ago, BT Cotton is cultivated in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. A month ago, six new varieties of transgenic cotton developed by domestic seed companies were allowed for cultivation in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. The case for further extension of the GM crop in these six states will come up before the Genetical Engineering Approval Committee of the Ministry of Environment on April 13. The campaign will focus in its last phase on making the GMO industry shift its base through intensifying protests. The case against Mahyco, the Indian subsidiary of multinational GM seeds company Monsanto Mahyco, in the Supreme Court will also receive the attention in this phase, according to Dr Shiva.
The lobbies also want to direct their campaign at the government to force it enact laws to label anything that is genetically engineered. "The labelling will help consumers identify whether the food they are buying is GM food or not,'' says Geert Ritsema of Friends of Earth Europe, which led a successful campaign to introduce a labelling law in Europe last year. Besides legislations, the environmental groups also want facilities for conducting tests on GM foods to find out the risks.
Draft biotech policy draws criticism from NGOs - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, Monday, April 04, 2005
NEW DELHI, APRIL 3: The Centre's draft National Biotechnology Development Strategy has begun attracting criticisms from several civil society organisations for identifying development of 18 genetically modified (GM) crops and for not emphasising on adequate risk evaluation. Incidentally, such criticisms have come from the member of the drafting committee Dr Suman Sahai, who is the sole representative in the panel from the NGO sector. The Centre has invited suggestions from the public on the draft by May 16. After reviewing these suggestions, the draft is slated to be finalised for implementation. The draft document has called for development of transgenics in rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, pigeonpea, chickpea, moong bean (green gram), groundnut, mustard, soybean, cotton, sugarcane, potato, tomato, cole crops, banana, papaya and citrus. It said that priority target traits in crop plants would be yield increase, pest and disease resistance, abiotic stress tolerance, enhanced quality and shelf life, engineering male sterility and development of apomixis. In case of hybrids, research on the introduction of genetic factors for apomixis would be supported so that resource-poor farmers can derive benefits from hybrid vigour without having to buy expensive seeds, every cropping season. The draft document has also proposed development of transgenic animals, aquaculture and genetically modified foods.
In this context, Dr Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign speaking from Paris said: "This policy has included practically all the suggestions of the industry and has ignored many areas of public concern. I had suggested that there should be crop specific strategies for developing transgenics, taking into account the export factor, environmental and health aspects. The need for keeping out biodiversity rich regions from the influence of transgenics should be emphasised." She alleged that in the last February meeting it was decided that the minutes of the meeting would be discussed again before the release. "This did not happen," she alleged. She said that she had suggested to co-op other representatives from the civil society in the panel. But instead of doing so the panel preferred to hold a consultation with some NGOs through one its sub-committee.
However, the draft has suggested active involvement of civic society in decision-making process relating to transgenic crops. It said: "In general biopharmaceutical products seem to be better accepted than transgenic crops...hence there is a need to work actively and transparently to inform and engage the civic society in decision-making and to maintain a relationship of trust and confidence. The Centre and the industry must actively promote access to information on the benefits and risks in a balanced manner." Realising that development of transgenics in agriculture is a contentious issue, the draft admitted "insufficient dialogue between scientists, industry, policymakers, regulators, consumers, civil society organisations and the mass media and lack of sufficiently proactive administrative machinery." As a matter of new strategey, the draft suggested involvement of local village bodies in the process of analysis and understanding the risks and benefits associated with GMOs. The draft called for setting up of a training school for the judiciary with the help of the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad and imparting training through the National Law Schools and other similar institutes. The draft contains several other contentious issues which has invited the ire of the civil society, particularly those provision relating to regulations. It said: An event (construct) that has already undergone extensive biosafety tests should not be treated as a new event if it is in a changed background....Where adequate evidence is available that the recurrent parent genetic background of a notified/registered genotype is nearly restored (through field data/molecular data), only the agronomic performance and the level and stability of the transgene expression may be analysed by two-year trial data by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). " Even in case of a structurally altered transgene with no significant modifications in protien conformation, the toxicity and allergenicity tests need not be carried out provided the predicted antigenic epitope remains the same and the level of expression of the transgene is within the defined limits, it added.
The draft proposed implementations of the recommendations of the MS Swaminathan panel on agri-biotech and RA Mashelkar panel on recombinant pharma. Accordingly it has proposed setting of "a competent single National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority with separate divisions for transgenic crops, recombinant drugs and industrial products, transgenic food and feed, transgenic animals and aquaculture." Pending setting up of the new regulatory authority, the draft document suggested setting up of an inter-ministerial group in 2005 chaired by a reputed scientist to address anomalies and issues that arise in regulation from time to time. The promoter agency, department of biotechnology, will provide administrative support to this inter-ministerial body. The draft document noted: "Majority of the genes under use - about 40% - are currently held by multinational companies and have been received under material transfer agreements for R&D purpose without clarity on the potential for commercialisation." It proposed that at least 30% of the government funded programmes must invite a private sector to commercialise its R&D efforts.
Greens ask India to keep out genetics from Europe export - ASHOK B SHARMA - Monday, April 04, 2005
NEW DELHI, APRIL 3:- "If you want to keep your exports to Europe up, keep out genetically modified organisms." This was the message conveyed at the conclusion of the two-day India-Europe Dialogue on GMOs and Biosafety in Delhi on Saturday. This dialogue was organised jointly by EU-India Small Projects Facility, the UK-based Gaia Foundation, Greenpeace International, Friends of the Earth International and the Delhi-based Navdanya Trust. Interestingly, officials like Dan Leskien of the German Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture were present in the discussions.
The Greenpeace International released a book entitled EU Markets: No Market for GM Labelled Food in Europe. Dr Steve Emmott said: "Among EU members, Spain is the only country which grows GM crops i.e. two varieties of GM corn. Recently, Poland and Hungary have banned entry of GM crops and food."
Greet Ritsema of the Friends of the Earth, Europe said: "Under the European law GM foods, GM animal feed and GM seeds have to be labelled. European consumers are very sensitive to the adverse effects of GM food and feed. Even if they are labelled, the consumers do not accept it. If India decides to grow GM crops and if it intends to export to Europe, it has to label its products and ungergo traceability." He urged that India should introduce labelling and traceability norms, if it intends to continue its exports to Europe. He also suggested introduction of a liability regime in India whereby the seed companies will be liable to compensate farmers for losses on account of GM crop cultivation. He said that this is necessary as India is fast adopting GM technology.
Eric Gall of Greenpeace Europe said: "Indian farmers should also be aware that there is widespread rejection of GM foods amongst consumers and food companies in Europe." "We will soon start generating awareness among farmers. A team of Andhra Pradesh farmers will shortly visit Punjab to convince them about the failure of Bt cotton," Dr Vandana Shiva of Navdanya Foundation stated.
Press Release - Contact: DR. SUMAN SAHAI - Phone: - +91 11 26517248; 98-110-41332 - Email: email@example.com - 17 March 2005
PERFORMANCE OF BT COTTON IN ANDHRA PRADESH 2004-2005
Field Data reported by GENE CAMPAIGN
The situation with Bt cotton is getting worse every year. Illegal varieties have spread at a fast rate and there is no response from the regulatory agencies to control the situation or penalise the offenders.
Farmers have suffered heavy losses with Mahyco-Monsanto's MECH-12 and MECH-184 varieties. These were found to be largely ineffective against the bollworm. The maximum yield of these two varieties was 4qt/acre. Average losses amount to over Rs 4000 per acre. The reasons for this are low yield, premature falling of the cotton bolls and wilt leading to drying up of the roots. The cotton fibre is of poor quality and fetches a lower price in the market which is almost half the price paid for cotton from the other Bt cotton varieties.
Net Income from Bt cotton (Rupees/Acre)
Varieties Yield Price Output/Acre Input Cost Net Profit
Qnt./Acre Rs./Qnt. (in Rs)
Non-Bt Cotton 9 1700.00 15300.00 6700 +8,600
RCH-2 Bt 11 1700.00 18700.00 6850 +11,850
MECH-12, 184 Bt 3 800.00 2400.00 6800 - 4200
Most farmers complained that spurious seeds were mixed with MECH-12 and 184.It is speculated that the spurious seeds are the old MECH-162 seeds which had performed particularly badly and was rejected by farmers. Local agricultural scientists confirm that Mahyco-Monsanto is mixing their old seeds with new lots. Because of their very poor performance, these varieties are not in demand resulting in large amounts of left over seeds. These apparently are being mixed with other varieties and sold to the farmers of the region. Farmers observed that the roots of MECH-12, 184 began to dry after 75 days and the plants died even before one proper picking could be taken. The illegal Bt varieties in Andhra, namely Bunny Bt, Super Bunny, H-8 and Om- 3 show good performance with average yields of 9 quintal/acre which is a little lower than RCH-2?s 11 quintal /acre but far superior to the Monsanto cotton. RCH-2 is a Bt cotton variety belonging to the Rasi Seed Company. It shows the best performance of the Bt. cotton varieties this year. Rasi RCH-2 yields are about four times higher than the Monsanto cottons Mech -12 and Mech 184. The disadvantage is that the entire yield is available only in two pickings and the variety is particularly vulnerable to sucking pests. During a bad sucking pest attack, which is quite a usual feature, the entire crop could be lost. RCH-2 is not a vigorous plant and its branches are weak and break easily. This will create additional problems. Cotton traders observe that all Bt varieties have poorer quality fiber compared to non-Bt varieties. Apparently, introducing the Bt gene exercises a negative effect on fiber quality. The study shows that pesticide use in non- Bt varieties is higher not because of greater vulnerability to bollworm but because the cotton has to be harvested over a larger number (5-6) of pickings so pesticide has to be sprayed till all the cotton is harvested, increasing the cost. The pesticide saving in RCH- 2 is because all the cotton is collected in 2 pickings , thus reducing pesticide cost. Most farmers have grown illegal varieties of Bt. cotton, the most popular being Bunny-Bt., Supper Bunny, Om-3 and H-8 which are all procured from Karnool (Karnataka). Karnool seems to have emerged as a prominent center for the supply of illegal Bt. cotton varieties and appears to have overtaken the centers in Gujrat. As in the past two years , almost no farmers have maintained the 20% refuge of non-Bt cotton. Even now, no farmer education is taking place on the correct use of Bt technology. Most farmers are not aware about the rationale and necessity of maintaining a refuge nor do they have a clear idea of how this is ti be implemented. Despite widespread reports and the admission of cotton traders, no action has been taken to monitor the mixing of Bt with non-Bt. cotton.
The Gene Campaign research team observed that there are agents operating in villages, who encourage farmers to cultivate Bt. cotton. These agents are local people who are offered cash incentives by seed agents to promote the Monsanto cotton but usually do not grow it themselves. For instance, Mr. Hanuman Reddy in Gundrapally village of Nekkonda block, Warangal, motivated the farmers of his village to grow MECH-12 though he himself refrained from doping so. These agents spread rumors that the Monsanto seeds are in great demand and will not be available unless they are booked ahead for the next year. The local scientists say this is to boost the flagging sales of the Monsanto varieties. Cotton breeders of the region complain that their conventional varieties are not being promoted despite being economical and good performers; they complain that the State Agricultural Department machinery is pushing Bt cotton. Local scientists and farmers confirm the observation that the State Agriculture department scientists who are collecting data on Bt cotton performance, are fudging data to show better performance. For example, 4 is made into 14 quintals yield and figures are similarly concocted to show reduced pesticide use.
Dr. Suman Sahai said that it is completely irresponsible that given the consistent failure of the Mahyco-Monsanto varieties, the GEAC is willing to consider their application for renewal of permission for another three years. The performance of all Bt cotton varieties must be reviewed to determine their suitability to Indian conditions. The observation that the Bt toxin protects against bollworm only up to 90 days and that sucking pests can wipe out the entire crop, must be investigated before any further release of Bt varieties. It is absurd that before there is any review of the reported bad performance of the Monsanto cotton and large scale defiance of the refuge management requirements, the GEAC has gone and approved new varieties for Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. There seems to be neither will nor capability in the GEAC to control the serious problem of illegal Bt varieties; their only interest seems to be in releasing new GM crops. One must seriously question why.
Gene Campaign, which has conducted studies on the field performance of Bt. cotton for the last two years, has now compiled data on the third year harvest of 2004- 2005. The survey was conducted in the three districts of Andhra Pradesh ,Warangal, Guntur, and Prakasam. The survey included a total of 209 farm families selected by random sampling. Of the 209 farming families 134 had cultivated only Bt. Cotton, 73 had cultivated both Bt. and Non Bt. Cotton and 2 had cultivated only Non Bt. Cotton. Bt. Cotton varieties sown in this area were MECH-12, MECH-184, RCH-2, OM-3, H-8, Bunny and Supper Bunny. MECH-124 and MECH-12 have crop duration of 120 to 130 days and RCH-2, OM-3, H-8, Bunny and Supper Bunny have a crop duration of 155 to 160 days. OM-3, H-8, Bunny and Supper Bunny are illegal varieties of Bt cotton that are supplied from Karnool in Karnataka. Non Bt. Varieties were Brahma, Bunny, Sudarshan, Satya, Tulsi, Durga and Sigma. Bunny, Tulsi, Duraga, Brahma have a crop duration of 200 to 210 days and Sudarshan, Satya, and Sigma with a crop duration of about 180 days.
Dr. Suman Sahai - President - Regd. Office - New Delhi - Gene Campaign, J-235/A, Lane W-15C, Sainik Farms, Khanpur, New Delhi - 110 062 (INDIA)
Ph: +91 11 26517248: Fx: +91 11 26965961: Em: firstname.lastname@example.org : Web. http://www.genecampaign.org
Regional Office- Jharkhand - Gene Campaign; Millat Colony, Bariatu Basti, Ranchi - 834009, Jharkhand - Ph: +91 651 2545016; Em: email@example.com
Regional Office: -Uttaranchal - Gene Campaign, Ramgarh, Dist. Nainital, Uttaranchal - Em: firstname.lastname@example.org
The story of Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: Erratic Processes and Results - published by the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Secunderabad
-The Story of Bt Cotton in India and in Andhra Pradesh
-The Pre-Commercial Release Story
-The First Year of Approved Commercial Cultivation: 2002-03
[the rest of the report to follow in part 2]
The Story of Bt Cotton in India and in Andhra Pradesh [PART 1]
The hype and propaganda put out by the companies about the unquestionable superior performance of Bollgard Bt Cotton has been proven false yet again. For a second year in three years, in 2004-05 also the government of Andhra Pradesh decided that farmers who have incurred losses by growing Bollgard Bt Cotton need to be compensated by the company. In the year 2002-03, the first year of its commercial cultivation, the then Minister for Agriculture had to announce that Bollgard performance was less than satisfactory and that farmers would be compensated.
In the year 2004-05, hundreds of farmers across different districts went on an agitation in Andhra Pradesh demanding compensation of at least twenty thousand rupees an acre for incurring losses with Bollgard Bt Cotton cultivation. Under the "MoU system" (Memorandum of Understanding between the government of Andhra Pradesh and certain seed companies for self certification), compensation has been awarded by district level committees headed by the Joint Directors of Agriculture (called the "JDA Committees") where the companies involved (Monsanto-Mahyco or Raasi) were asked to pay compensation to aggrieved farmers. The companies decided to contest the awards, predictably. However, the awarding of compensation by the JDA Committees is a statement in itself about the performance of Bt Cotton.
District, variety and area of loss for which complaint was lodged
JDA Committee's decision
Krishna - MECH 12 - 90.33 hectares. District Level MoU Committee passed an award of Rs. 244,400/-. The Company appealed to the State Level Monitoring Committee (which reportedly upheld the award, as per reliable sources in the department of agriculture)
Krishna - MECH 12 - 4.82 hectares. District level MoU Committee passed an award of Rs 3750/-. The Company appealed to the State Level Monitoring Committee (which reportedly upheld the award, as per reliable sources in the department of agriculture)
Mahabubnagar - MECH 12 - 80 hectares. The fields were inspected by a team of crop scientists and department officials and found that germinated was affected due to moisture stress and not due to defect in seed
Khammam - MECH 12 - 80 hectares. After negotiations with the company, the company reportedly agreed to pay the seed cost of Rs 1600/- and cultivation charges of Rs. 350/- per acre to the farmers
Complaints were received from other districts like Karimnagar, Kurnool, Guntur etc., though the decisions of the JDA Committees are not known. Discussions with reliable sources in the Commissionerate of Agriculture revealed that the Appellate Committee also upheld the awards passed by the JDA Committees in the districts. The companies, aggrieved by the decisions, are supposed to have taken the AP government to Court where the government is trying hard to make the companies accountable for the losses incurred by the farmers. This, in spite of an assurance by a Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech official (Mr Shabbir, who is the Territory Manager) in Warangal on October 16th, that the company would abide by the decision taken by the government in this case.
To understand the true picture of Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh and in India, it is important to know the whole story, right from the beginning of field trials. There are a variety of versions emerging about the "success" or "failure" of Bt Cotton in India making the picture unclear. However, the complete failure of regulatory framework right from the beginning, as well as the lack of protection for farmers is apparent in the story. The strategies used by the industry and the pro-GE lobby for promoting Bt cotton become clear too from this story. What is also clear from the many versions of the story is the extremely uneven performance of this "frontier technology".
THE PRE-COMMERCIAL RELEASE STORY
Field Trials - unscientific and illegal:
During the Bt Cotton field trials itself, the future of GE crops in India was set in legal violations and unscientific studies shrouded in secrecy became the norm since then.
In March 1995, Monsanto's Indian partner imported 100 grams of Bt Cotton seed after obtaining permission from the Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) under the Department of Biotechnology under the Ministry of Science and Technology. Organisations like RFSTE objected to this as a legal violation since the Environment Protection Act 1986 which governs GMO-related issues in India requires that GEAC (Genetic Engineering Approval Committee) of Ministry of Environment and Forests grant permission for importing genetically engineered substances (the seeds in this case).
In 1998, Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech received approval from the RCGM of the Department of Biotechnology to conduct countrywide field trials in 85 hectares. There was also approval provided to produce seed from 150 hectares. In 1999, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) field a case in the Supreme Court challenging the legality of the approval given by the RCGM since such an approval falls under the purview of the GEAC. They also challenged the lack of biosafety procedures during the trials. Even as the case continued to be heard in the Court, in 2000, Monsanto-Mahyco was allowed by the DBT large scale, multi-centric open field trials including seed production in various states of the country. These trials were done in 40 sites in 6 states. Once again, there was a legal violation in this since large scale field trials have to be permitted by GEAC and not the DBT. Further, the trials were undertaken in great secrecy. In some cases, even the farmers on whose
fields the trials were undertaken did not know that they were growing a genetically engineered crop. During the trials, the isolation distances maintained were insufficient. The state governments were also not aware of the trials going on and in 1999 Andhra Pradesh government prohibited the field trials from taking place in the state. There were also serious objections raised by activists about the fact that post harvest management and safety issues were completely ignored during the field trials.
The number of years of field trials upon which to base the approval for commercial cultivation was lesser than scientifically accepted. While six years of trials are needed in other countries, in India, Bt Cotton was tested as trials for only four years.
Further, the trials were not open for independent scrutiny. Trials done on very small plots of land were sought to be extrapolated into the farmers? situation and growing conditions. This was simply unacceptable and based on a variety of objections, the GEAC also ordered one more year of trials in 2001. MMB then began trials in seven states on 100 hectares. ICAR also conducted trials in 11 locations.
Among the major lacunae pointed out in the MMB field trials were the risk of genetic pollution and contamination through cross-pollination and hybridisation (in the study of the distance Bt pollen could fly, data showed a large variation between two and 15 metres, a 7,500 per cent margin of variation), the impact of Bt toxin on non-target beneficial species (while it was pointed out that the study showed zero impact of Bt toxin on populations of beneficial species, no beneficial species seem to have been involved in the study), and emergence of resistance in the target bollworm species (no study seems to have been done on insect resistance to Bt). In socio-economic terms, Bt cotton did not compare well with other alternatives particularly in the control of such pests as the bollworm (the data submitted did not tally with the claim of increased yields and cost reductions).
Strategy of "Contamination First, Approval Next"
In a manner that is almost pre-meditated, the GE industry's advance in many parts of the world has been similar - contaminate first and then press for approval.
In late 2001, news erupted that in Gujarat, large tracts of cotton land have been planted by Bt Cotton varieties that had not received any approval for commercial cultivation. A Bt Cotton variety called "Navbharat 151" of Navbharat Seeds Private Limited was grown on nearly 10000 hectares, reports revealed. It was also revealed that this variety was in use from 2-3 years prior to that. In 2001, farmers were seen to be growing open pollinated seed collected from the variety grown in the previous season. Several seed companies of Gujarat appealed to the DBT to take immediate action against the spread of Navbharat 151 because "the spread of unauthenticated and illegal seeds carried serious risks and would have grave consequences for Indian farmers and Indian agriculture". The Ministry of Environment and Forests through GEAC got a sample of the Navbharat seeds tested for the Cry 1ac gene and the results were positive, confirming that the seeds were genetically engineered. Navbharat Seeds
had not sought or got any approval for producing and selling GE seeds. It was also reported that Navbharat Seeds was also producing Navbharat 151 under the name of Jay, Vijay and Digvijay in Andhra Pradesh.
GEAC, after its team came back from its inspection of Navbharat seeds, ordered the uprooting and burning of Bt cotton crop to destroy it. Seed production plots and harvested seeds were also ordered to be destroyed. In its orders asking for destruction of material related to Navbharat 151 Bt Cotton, the GEAC admitted to several potential risks and said that the destruction is to ensure safety to environment and human health and to obviate any possibility of cross pollination. It also pointed out that the effect of the genetically modified cotton like allergenicity and other factors on mammals is not tested. This Order of the GEAC dated 18th October 2001 also invoked the precautionary principle and also brought up the issue of compensation payable to farmers who have unwittingly used this product.
On 31st October 2001, it was decided to procure the cotton which had already reached the market, destroy the seeds, storage the lint, procure cotton from the standing crop also, to be ginned and the seeds to be destroyed. Complete destruction of the crop residue by uprooting, burning and sanitation of the fields was also ordered.
Navbharat Seeds Pvt Ltd challenged the GEAC Order in the Delhi High Court saying that their Navbharat 151 cotton variety was developed by using conventional plant breeding method. The source of Bt in the Navbharat variety has not been resolved to this day. It has to be mentioned here that Dr D B Desai of Navbharat Company is a former employee of Mahyco. Soon afterwards, in March 2002, Bollgard Bt Cotton was given permission for commercial cultivation in six states of India. One of the arguments heard at that time was ? when there is so much illegal Bt Cotton growing in several states of the country, is there any point in holding back approval for the Monsanto-Mahyco varieties?
It has to be pointed out that this phenomenon of contamination and growing of GE varieties illegally without approval even while some varieties are in the pipeline for approval has not been uncommon in recent times. Even in other countries like Brazil and Thailand, such an approach was attempted. The companies involved including the company which imported the original seeds and the government bodies regulating the import and trials have a lot to answer for about how this whole growth in illegal Bt Cotton began and spread.
Bt Cotton Approved for Conditional Commercial Cultivation in 6 States:
In March 2002, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the MoEF approved the commercial cultivation of three Mahyco hybrids transformed with the Bollgard Bt gene from Monsanto. The approval is questionable since there were legal cases going on against the approval of field trials themselves. GEAC also showed a turn-around from its views expressed soon after the Navbharat illegal Bt cotton case erupted. It was also pointed out that in the meeting where the approval was granted, two important representatives ? from the Health Ministry and from the Agriculture Ministry ? in the GEAC were not present.
There were numerous conditions imposed for this approval uptil March 2005 (provided in this report as Annexure 1) but surprisingly, Monsanto-Mahyco was entrusted certain responsibilities related to monitoring and regulatory related aspects ? there is a clear conflict of interest in these roles and it is inexplicable how GEAC could not anticipate such a conflict of interest. For instance, Mahyco will monitor the susceptibility of the Bollworm to Bt and submit data on resistance development, if any, to GEAC.
The first year: 2002-03
Bt Cotton in its Bollgard brand name was sold at Rs. 1600/- per combo pack, which consists of 450 grams of Bt and 120 grams of non-Bt seed of the same variety. The other popular non-Bt hybrids cost around Rs. 400/- to 450/-. The state-wise distribution of the cultivation of Bt Cotton in its first year of commercial cultivation is given below.
Commercial cultivation of Bt cotton hybrids in India, 2002 (hectares):
State MECH-12 MECH-162 MECH-184 Total
Maharashtra - 112 9,300 5,334 14,746
Madhya Pradesh - 60 404 1,756 2,220
Karnataka - 3,828 80 3,908
Andhra Pradesh - 44 5,564 ? 5,608
Gujarat - 76 4,136 4,642 8,854
Tamil Nadu - 2,042 660 2,702
Total 292 25,274 12,472 38,038
As can be seen, MECH 162 was grown in the largest extent in this year, and almost all of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka went in for this hybrid amongst the three approved varieties. The largest extent of approved Bt Cotton grown in its first year of commercialization was in Maharashtra, followed by Gujarat.
Right from the first year, the companies promoting Bt Cotton had to go on the defensive about their product. As early as June 2002, soon after sowing, there were reports about farmers not meeting refuge criteria in many places.
Almost at the very beginning of the season, the first complaints came from Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. While the AP reports were about the vulnerability of the Bt varieties to leaf curl virus and jassids, the MP report was about failure of Bt Cotton crop in Khargone district including the costs of Bt Cotton being exorbitantly high.
That was only the beginning. Through out the season, there were reports from all the states, including from Maharashtra. In September and again in November, RFSTE (Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology) brought out findings from its survey in the three states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. These reports said that not only did Bt Cotton mean the emergence of new pests and diseases but that it failed to control the bollworm too for which it has been designed. The following are the findings from RFSTE's study:
* False claims of pest resistance: cases of substantial attack of bollworm in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra were found. There was also a 250-300% increase in non-target pests like jassids, aphids and thrips. Bt cotton has been attacked by wilt and root rot in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka as per the study
* False claims of higher yields: Bt Cotton was sold with many promises made by the company in its propaganda with farmers. Higher yields of upto 15 quintals per acre were promised, whereas the average yields of Bt Cotton as per this study were 1.2 quintals per acre in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The study found that nowhere did Bt Cotton yields cross more than 4 quintals per acre at the end of the harvest. The average yield in Madhya Pradesh worked out to be 4.01 quintals per acre while in Karnataka it was 3.82 quintals per hectare. During the field visit time for the study, the Bt Cotton plants had leaves that turned red before dropping off
* False claims of higher income: Incomes of Bt Cotton farmers were affected not only by lower yields but because of the prices fetched by the bt cotton in the market ? the staple length was lower than promised (only about 15-20 mm)
Many other studies emerged from different parts of the Bt Cotton growing states reinforcing the picture. This was the case with Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh as well as Andhra Pradesh.
In Andhra Pradesh:
The following is the picture of Bt Cotton sales within the state of Andhra Pradesh in the first year where MECH 162 Bt was planned to be marketed almost exclusively with some negligible quantities of MECH 12 Bt.
Sl No Name of the District Number of Packets Sold Number of Farmers Number of Villages Apprx Area covered (acres)
1 Adilabad - 1442 866 235 1237
2 RR District/Medak - 501 268 43 506
3 Vizianagaram - 183 142 25 162
4 Mahbubnagar - 548 196 50 427
5 Prakasam - 148 124 18 96
6 Nalgonda - 708 413 87 505
7 Khammam - 1472 591 204 710
8 East Godavari - 98 83 32 31
9 Karimnagar - 1136 1286 279 1539
10 Guntur - 1281 1373 208 1412
11 Warangal - 1576 1284 272 1397
12 Krishna - 100 184 36 139
13 Kurnool - 148 119 31 126
9341 6929 1520 8287
Source: Dept of Agriculture, GoAP
In AP, Mahbubnagar saw some farmers go in for large extents of Bt Cotton cultivation and some of the most devastating stories emerged from there by the end of the season. One of the first cases of suicide by a Bt Cotton farmer also emerged from there.
The RFSTE study worked out the economics of growing Bt Cotton in one acre, in terms of input costs, yields and output value and found that Bt Cotton farmers were incurring losses of upto Rs. 6400/acre on an average.
Cost-Benefit Analysis of Bt Cotton Vs Other Cotton in one acre in Maharashtra & Andhra Pradesh:
Bt Cotton Non Bt Hybrids Desi Varieties
A. Expenditure on Inputs (Seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation etc.) Rs. 9700/- Rs. 5750/- None
B. Total Yield 2 quintals 10 quintals 5 quintals
C. Output Value Rs. 3300/- Rs. 16500/- Rs. 8250/-
C ? A Loss of Rs. 6400/acre Saving of Rs. 10750/acre Saving of Rs. 8250/acre
Gene Campaign's study:
A Bt cotton evaluation study carried out in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh by a Delhi-based agricultural policy think tank, Gene Campaign, reported complete failure of the crop in both the States. The study showed that 60 per cent of the farmers did not recover costs and that most of them incurred a loss of Rs.80 an acre. The input costs for Bt cotton sown on an acre are about Rs.1,000 higher than that for non-Bt cotton. The seed cost per acre is four times that of quality non-Bt varieties. The savings on pesticides is a mere Rs.217 an acre, while the seed cost, including the licence fee for using the patented Bt seeds, is Rs.1,200 higher.
Farm Type Non Bt Cotton Bt Cotton
Farmers (%) Income/Acre (Rs.) Net Profit/ Acre (Rs.) Farmers (%) Income (Rs) Net Profit / Acre (Rs.)
Low Yielding 35 7394 2661 60 5637 (-) 79
Medium Yielding 58 12512 7779 35 9737 4021
High Yielding 07 20475 15742 05 15375 9659
According to the study, in most cases Bt cotton did not resist even the bollworm, and farmers had to spray the same quantity of pesticides for both Bt and non-Bt crops. The study also showed that cotton traders in the two States were not buying Bt cotton; they prefer non-Bt varieties such as Brahma and Banny. Some farmers seem to be mixing Bt cotton with non-Bt varieties to sell off the former.
However, the most shocking fact, according to the Gene Campaign study, is that neither Andhra Pradesh nor Maharashtra has set up the regulatory authority mandated by the 1989 Environmental Protection Act to oversee the cultivation of genetically modified crops.
In their analysis about the causes for failure of Bt Cotton, Gene Campaign attributes a few reasons for the failure:
* expression of Bt gene is uneven in the plants (with the top portions having a higher expression whereas the lower nodes are more susceptible to pest attack)
* inadequate endotoxin production under harsh environmental conditions like drought where only a sub-lethal dose is produced
* refuge maintenance for resistance management leads to wasting of land making Bt cotton non-viable especially for small farmers
* susceptibility to pink boll worm attack
* Bt varieties developed from hybrids which were themselves moderate to poor yielders
Department of Agriculture, Government of AP Study:
The Commissioner of Agriculture in the Department of Agriculture also came up with a performance report of Bt Cotton during Kharif 2002 which was submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests. This was a report that looked at the performance of MECH 12 Bt and MECH 162 Bt. In that year, as against 650,317 hectares of cotton crop cultivated in the state, 3315 hectares were covered with Bt Cotton (about 0.5%).
Following media reports on the failure of Bt Cotton, the department of agriculture conducted a farmer-wise survey on the performance of Bt Cotton through the Joint Directors of Agriculture in all the Bt Cotton growing districts of the state. The criteria fixed for evaluation of performance were mainly incidence of bollworm and sucking pests, yields obtained and quality of lint. The results of this survey are given in a table that follows the summary of the survey below:
Incidence of Bollworm
Low to Moderate.
Incidence was less during the year and hence advantage of Bt Cotton could not be assessed correctly
Incidence of sucking pests
Moderate to high
Maturity 30-45 days earlier to non-Bt
Average number of bolls per plant and size 30-32 bolls/plant, compared to 28-30 bolls/plant in other hybrids. Boll size is relatively small (3 to 4 grams)
Low yields compared to indigenous popular hybrids. Majority of farmers got less than 5 qtls/acre whereas indigenous hybrids have recorded more than 5 qtls/acre under well managed conditions
Staple length 24-26 mm
Majority of farmers are of the opinion that due to short staple length of lint, less price of Rs 150/- to Rs. 200/- per quintal of kapas were offered. Farmers are finding it difficult in selling their produce.
While there were 6949 farmers who went in for Bt Cotton in 2003-04 in Andhra Pradesh as per the Sales figures of Monsanto-Mahyco, the department?s survey covered 3709 of these farmers. This continues to be the largest survey of Bt Cotton performance in the country to this day. For this survey, the department used the following classification for Yields: Low ? below 5 quintals/acre; Medium 5-10 quintals/acre and High 10 quintals and above per acre. Similarly, market value was considered Poor where it was Rs. 1800 to Rs. 2000/- per quintal, and considered Good where it was Rs. 2000/- and above per quintal. The results were damning.
District Farmers surveyed Incidence of Bollworm Incidence of Sucking pests Yields compared to local hybrids Quality of produce Market Value
L M H L M H L M H Good Poor Avg Poor
Vizianagaram 58 19 12 27 30 25 3 55 3 0 0 58 0 58
East Godavari 27 5 18 4 2 5 20 24 3 19 0 27 0 27
Krishna 137 95 13 29 56 16 65 37 70 11 0 137 2 135
Guntur 967 290 468 209 340 299 328 731 213 30 0 967 6 961
Prakasam 82 70 7 5 28 40 14 70 5 10 0 82 0 82
Kurnool 92 26 33 23 18 42 32 41 36 15 0 92 15 77
Rangareddy 117 26 58 33 0 42 75 117 0 12 0 117 0 117
Medak 12 12 0 0 12 0 0 0 0 0 0 12 0 12
Nalgonda 169 79 22 68 61 12 96 95 65 9 4 165 10 159
Mahbubnagar 129 10 97 22 0 129 0 129 0 0 0 129 0 129
Khammam 291 37 152 102 55 131 106 150 117 24 0 291 25 266
Karimnagar 585 163 160 252 153 166 258 513 59 3 0 575 16 559
Warangal 891 253 204 434 191 198 502 527 314 50 32 859 278 613
Adilabad 152 140 2 10 15 86 51 143 7 2 0 153 4 148
TOTAL 3709 1225 1246 1218 961 1191 1550 2632 892 185 36 3664 356 3343
As can be seen, against the question on bollworm incidence, nearly equal numbers of farmers had reported Low, Medium and High incidence, whereas most of the farmers found the incidence of sucking pests in Bt Cotton to be on the higher side. While the marketing blitzkrieg of the company promised Higher Yields in all its propaganda material, a whopping majority of the respondents in this survey (71%) reported Low yields with Bt Cotton (MECH 162 Bt mostly). There were also issues related to the quality of produce including staple length and color of the cotton; therefore, market prices fetched by Bt Cotton were reported to be lower than Rs. 2000/- per quintal. The devastation in districts like Mahbubnagar is apparent from the table above.
Mr Jerome Reddy and Mr Chinnapu Reddy, Fatimapur village, Kothur Mandal, Mahbubnagar district (Interviewed by Greenpeace India on 2/3/03)
Jerome Reddy of Fatimapur village owns around 13 acres of land in the village, and is considered to be one of the progressive farmers of the village. Last season, he experimented with Bollgard, the Bt Cotton variety of Mahyco-Monsanto on 10 acres of his land. Looking back, he regrets the decision, and says that he does not feel good about growing Bt Cotton. His Bt Cotton crop yielded just 1 quintals per acre! In all, he got 15 quintals out of his 10 acres. The exact amount that he was told that he would get, and that he had hoped to get from just one acre of his land with Bt cotton! With the economics working out very adversely, Jerome Reddy, like his brother, Thomas Reddy, is all set to experience a loss that runs into tens of thousands of rupees.
The investment per acre, as per his calculation is around Rs 10,000/- per acre, with the return being Rs 3000/- per acre (the 1 quintals of yield sold at Rs 2000/- per quintal). The investment pattern was like this: on seed, for every acre: Rs 1600/-; on fertilizers (he applied 3 bags of fertilizers): around Rs 1500/-; on pesticides, for spraying Cypermethrin, Monocrotophos, Chlorpyriphos, Ekalux, Endosulfan, Stop etc.: Rs 5000/. He also used ?tractor pumps? for spraying pesticides. Once the pests appeared, it was uncontrollable, he informed. In the earlier days, when the pest was spotted, he was advised by the company representatives not to resort to spraying. Believing them, he did not spray. But then, the pest attack became intense. Expensive pesticides like Tracer were also resorted to. In addition, he had to spend on agricultural operations like ploughing, sowing, weeding, plucking etc., in addition to spending on irrigation (he irrigated the crop twice during the season).
The net loss per acre, according to him, is around Rs 7000/-. It has failed on the very counts on which promises were made, he said: on low pesticide expenses and on higher yields.
Jerome Reddy and his son, Chinnapu Reddy have some very interesting experiences and stories to share about Bt Cotton.
* in 2001, they were all taken to a neighboring village, Reddypalem, where a large farmer called Rayapu Reddy had agreed to grow Bt Cotton of Mahyco-Monsanto on his land, as part of field trials. The crop on this 10-gunta plot was impressive - what was sown on this plot was Mech 12 variety however, and not Mech 162 that was later sold to the farmers; worse yet, the sowing season for the demonstrated variety was delayed by a whole month, knowingly and wrongfully by the Company. Rayapu Reddy was given the seeds only on July 22nd of 2001, while the normal sowing time is in the month of June. Incidentally, neighbors of Rayapu Reddy feel that the incidence of Heliothis was low on his crop during the field trial season because of the adjacent poultry farms with its lights on (these lights attract the insects away from the crops, according to them)
* the boll size of Bt Cotton was very small, and very less cotton in it. The number of seeds per boll was also less - around 6-7, compared to a normal rate of 10-15. The number of bolls for Bt Cotton was only 20-30 bolls per plant, whereas other varieties in neighboring fields had nearly 100 bolls per plant. In their crop, the non-Bt refuge did not yield any bolls at all. Further, because of the small size of the boll, the plucking activity of cotton becomes more difficult and labour-intensive. The staple length of Bt is short and they had to plead with buyers to take it. While non-Bt varieties fetched around Rs 2500/- per quintal for other farmers, Bt Cotton fetched only Rs 2000/- per quintal. While the other varieties have more weight per volume, the Bt cotton is lighter and the farmer loses out on this count too, according to them. While non-Bt varieties yielded even without irrigation, the Bt Cotton crop of Thomas Reddy, though he irrigated it around 5-6 times in the last season,
* In fact, one other characteristic noticed on the Bt crop was that though it flowers profusely, there is a tendency for the flowers to dry up and fall. Similarly with the bolls.
* The company representatives have stopped visiting them once the crop started showing its true characteristics. When confronted with the utter failure, the company representatives would only ask them to go to Warangal and meet the farmers there who have had good yields.
* Chinnapu Reddy also narrated the story of Ranga Reddy of neighboring Mallapuram village who incurred huge losses and threatened to kill himself with the very pesticides that he had used on the crop. He reported that Ranga Reddy had to sell two of his bullocks and three buffaloes after the Bt losses of last season. Like Jerome Reddy, Ranga Reddy also tried Bt Cotton on a large extent of land, believing in the promises made.
* "The company guys and the dealers came to our doorstep to deliver the seeds. We should have known right then that something was wrong", points out Chinnapu Reddy. One day, before the last cropping season, Chinnapu Reddy came back from the town, to find a large gathering and much activity. There were also reporters from the local papers present. When he went closer he discovered that this was about Bollgard, the "miracle Bt cotton" seed. In this "function", the discussions on the seed were held for one and half hours and more time was spent on a big feast. As Chinnapu Reddy recalls, there was 95 kilos of non-vegetarian food cooked that day and there was biryani and chicken fry. On that very day, "bookings" for the season's seed supply were made by the dealers and the company representatives. "They had thrown parties and people like us thought there must be something in here. And we agreed to buy the seeds. Now, it has brought the farmers nearer to the gates of suicide deaths again",
Mr Akki Ramulu of Mallapuram, Kothur Mandal, Mahbubnagar Dist.
Ramulu had grown Bt Cotton in one acre of land, expecting around 18 quintals of yield per acre as per the promises made to him. He did not get even two quintals of yield!
He, along with other farmers (this village saw around 23-25 acres of Bt cotton sown in the last season, with just one farmer, Ranga Reddy growing on 12 acres of land) were told that no pesticides would be required, he reported. "Pests could not be controlled even with pesticides, leave alone the fact that they will not appear", he remarks. "It has been a complete loss".
It is true that bollworm did not appear for the first three months, he reports, but when it did appear, there was no controlling it. He used Monocrotophos, Ekalux, Pride a couple of times and so on. Sprayed around five times in all and after realizing that the pest cannot be controlled, stopped. He counts himself as the one who got the worst experience from Bt Cotton - slightly more than one quintal from his one acre. While he calculates his expenses to be around Rs 12000/- (seed: 1600/; Farm Yard Manure of one tractorload: 3000/; 3 bags of fertilizers - one urea and 2 DAP bags: 2000/; pesticides: 2000/; other expenses of ploughing, labor, sowing etc.: 3500/), the return was Rs 2000/- only. He laughs deprecatingly, asked about the return. The net loss is around 10,000/- rupees.
Asked about what he plans to do now, he joins the other farmers around him in saying that they are waiting for the company representatives to turn up in the area again so that they can bash them up and burn their jeeps! He says that this company's objective is to make farmers lose, with varieties and technologies like this. The despair of the farmers is obvious, with nowhere to turn to. One of them says, "what can we do? Even earlier, when companies cheated the farmers and we got a top executive of XXX company arrested, did he not come out soon after? What can we do if the government is not interested in protecting us"
Ramulu also shared other interesting information:
- the company representatives used to visit him quite often in the beginning. Then they stopped coming, once the problems started manifesting themselves on the crop. When confronted about the losses, they even promised to give compensation, only to escape and not to be seen again. Another time, they were told that the company would "adjust" the losses against the seed price in the next season and promised to give the Bt cotton seed at a lower price to them the next season. Farmers immediately folded their hands and said that they did not want to touch the seeds ever again!
- Buyers refused to buy the variety separately until mixed with other varieties and sold. The boll size was smaller and the staple length was also shorter
- One of the neighboring farmers said that it was because of the extravagant feasts that the company threw for the farmers that the farmers believed them and lined up for buying the seeds. Now, they know better.
Tirumalreddy Rayapu Reddy and his brother, Melkior Reddy, Reddypalem, Kothur Mandal, Mahbubnagar District, Andhra Pradesh
It was Rayapu Reddy's Bt Cotton field trial plot of 10 guntas (1/4th of an acre) in 2001 that had drawn many other farmers to the fatal temptation of Bollgard. What they saw that year on the field trial plot was the Mech 12 variety, that too sown in the last week of July. In this country, one of the main objections to the field trials of Bt Cotton prior to 2001, is the unscientificity especially in terms of the sowing time. That is the reason why the GEAC had asked for one more year of trials. The company, of course, resorted to wrongful procedures in 2001 too to get the approval for commercialization.
Rayapu Reddy owns 25 acres of land in the village, and between him and his brother Melkior Reddy, they had sown Bt cotton in 8 acres of land ? 4 acres each. The yield has not been more than 3 quintals per acre. Worse yet, when they tried to sell their Bt cotton, the price that was quoted was Rs 1300/- only, while other varieties were fetching farmers upto Rs 2400/- per quintal. After they mixed Bt cotton variety with other varieties, buyers were willing to pay upto Rs 1800/-.
They point out that even the labourers in the village were not too keen to work in the Bt fields since the plucking activity from the small bolls is too tedious. The costs on labour for Bt cotton were double than the normal costs on other varieties.
The brothers had also sown other cotton varieties in around five acres of land, and the yield was around ten quintals on an average per acre, last season. And these varieties fetched even uptil Rs 2600/- per quintal for a couple of days in the market.
They found bollworm incidence to be excessively high on Bt Cotton after the first 60-70 days. They had to resort to using pesticides like endosulfan, monocrotophos, cypermethrin and "Tracer". In fact, a highly expensive pesticide like Tracer was used twice to control the pest incidence. They also found that the flowers and bolls would form but soon dry up and fall. Melkior Reddy also opines that the Bt plant itself is not as strong as non-Bt varieties.
The brothers reported about the fact that Monsanto-Mahyco had given them the seeds for the field trial only in the month of July (could sow on July 22nd) in 2001. They feel that with late sowing and the onset of winter, the incidence of bollworm would expectably, be lesser and that is what the company had shown. But in real growing conditions of farmers, they cannot afford to sow late because the incidence of other pests and diseases would be unbearably higher in such a case.
Rayapu Reddy and Melkior Reddy are thoroughly disappointed with the company. While the expenditure was around Rs 12000/- per acre, including the irrigation that they provided to the crop, the yield was just 3 quintals per acre, amounting to returns of around Rs 5400/-. Therefore, there was a net loss of Rs 6600/- per acre, and a total loss of Rs 52,800/- approximately in all the 8 acres.
They point out that the company representatives had stopped coming. When they were confronted by an angry mob of farmers during their last visit, they had promised to give seeds for next season at a lower price. They said, "we can't pay you money since there will be many other who will be asking us for compensation. Therefore, the company can?t pay you money, but we will try and 'adjust' against next season's seed supply". The farmers of course refused to get more Bt seeds. It was only the presence of senior political leaders during the last visit that prevented the company representatives from being bashed up by the farmers, they reported.
We have now experienced that the promises of the company are not true, the brothers say.
There was a huge uproar in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly with the Congress (I) government, then in the Opposition, demanding compensation for Bt Cotton farmers. Based on their own survey, on March 10 2003, the then Minister for Agriculture in the Government of Andhra Pradesh made a statement in the Assembly admitting that the performance of Bt Cotton has been less than satisfactory. He said that "overall information is that the farmers have not experienced very positive and encouraging results" and that therefore, the farmers need to be compensated. To this, MMB (Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech) said that it will compensate farmers only for failure to germinate and for absence of genetic purity promised by the company and not for yield losses . This response from the company was not questioned by the government and a bad precedent was set, as similar results from 2004-05 would show. The Andhra Pradesh government did not make any changes to its "MoU system" to prevent such responses
from seed companies. The fiasco went unchallenged while the first GE/Bt Cotton farmer in the country committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh in 2003 after the very first season of the commercialization of Bt Cotton.
Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University's Study:
The Regional Agricultural Research Station in Palam, Mahbubnagar district collected data about Bt Cotton performance from 100 farmers of South Telangana districts of Mahbubnagar, Nalgonda, Rangareddy and Medak districts using three main parameters for assessment ? yields and market rates fetched; expenditure and net income per hectare of Bt Cotton cultivated; and Bt Cotton's ability to resist Bollworm . The survey compared Bt Cotton with other hybrids like Bunny, Brahma, Veda, Savitha etc. The following were the results of this survey.
Yields and Average Market Prices fetched by Bt Cotton and other non-Bt Hybrids,
South Telangana region:
District Yields - Quintals per Hectare Market Price - Rupees per quintal
Bt Cotton - Other Hybrids - Bt Cotton Other - Hybrids
Mahbubnagar 10.74 19.41 2008.00 2143.00
Nalgonda 10.96 14.50 1923.25 2962.50
Rangareddy 07.36 15.00 1908.16 2226.30
Medak 24.00 19.18 2065.00 2290.00
10.80 16.90 2015.13 2202.41
As the above table shows, except for Medak district, the average yields of non-Bt popular hybrids were much more than the yields from Bt Cotton. The following table presents a picture of the costs and net incomes per hectare from Bt Cotton and non-Bt hybrids from the survey locations.
District Expenditure - Rupees per Hectare Net Income - Rupees per Hectare
Bt Cotton - Other Hybrids - Bt Cotton - Other Hybrids
Mahbubnagar 20538.66 20165.13 00670.00 20800.00
Nalgonda 17560.08 15849.20 04396.13 15380.16
Rangareddy 19116.68 17036.30 -04404.21 16523.00
Medak 20269.40 18965.40 25078.30 14927.40
19319.43 18069.39 2405.72 18780.81
As the above table shows, the expenditure on growing Bt Cotton did not decrease as the projections seemed to indicate but rather increased. The net income from Bt Cotton was almost negligible compared to other hybrids. In fact, in Rangareddy district, the survey found that farmers have negative incomes from growing Bt Cotton.
The most important finding of this study was that the average number of pesticide sprays with the use of Bt Cotton was only one spray lesser than non-Bt hybrids. While 61% of the farmers surveyed found that Bt Cotton was effective against bollworm upto 100 days, the remaining farmers found no difference in this aspect between Bt and non-Bt. Since the pesticides used were of the expensive categories, the average costs did not reflect a great deal of difference. The study also found that the cost of plucking was higher in the case of Bt Cotton. Only in Medak district, Bt Cotton gave more incomes to the farmers than non-Bt hybrids, as per this survey. The study also found that Bt Cotton was unable to withstand water/moisture stress.
The report from this survey points out that even though the company would like to call the 2002-03 season as being adverse in general, other hybrids had performed quite well.
The Acharya N G Ranga Agriculture University (ANGRAU) authorities had also conducted a detailed survey to evaluate the performance of Bt Cotton which as an agro-climatic zone-wise survey. The salient findings from their evaluation include:
*with non-Bt hybrids was not possible by the time of the evaluation since pickings were not completed in non-Bt Cotton. However, the number of sprays on Bt Cotton were more, averaging 6-7 sprays per acre. This zone includes districts like Guntur, Krishna and Prakasam.
*In the North Telangana zone, it was found that cost of cultivation in the case of Bt Cotton was slightly more compared to the non-Bt varieties. The net returns from Bt Cotton were too low compared to non-Bt Cotton (Rs. 4800/- and Rs. 14880/- per hectare respectively); here, the surveys revealed that 90% of the farmers who raised Bt Cotton during 2002 have expressed their unwillingness to raise Bt Cotton in the following season citing small sized bolls, poor vigour, lack of rejuvenation, short staple length, low yield potential and low market value as the reasons. This zone consists of districts like Warangal, Khammam, Adilabad and Karimnagar.
*The South Telangana results were similar (presented in this report in the preceding section).
*In Kurnool district of the scarce rainfall zone, farmers felt that Bt Cotton possessed resistance to bollworm but MECH 162 Bt did not have sufficient yield potential compared to other hybrids. The net returns obtained per hectare in Bt Cotton here were Rs. 16800/- whereas non-Bt was Rs. 22300/-.
There was also a brief ('preliminary') report filed by the Director of Research of ANGRAU, Dr Padmaraju, on the performance of Bt Cotton in Mahabubnagar district based on the observations of university scientists in the farmers' fields. As per this report, the difference in the average number of sprays between Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton is just 2 sprays. The report points out that the 'expenditure saved in plant protection is taken away by high seed cost'. This report records that Bt cotton bolls are relatively small in size, that the staple length is less in Bt Cotton and the price offered for Bt Cotton kapas is Rs. 100 to Rs. 200 less as compared to other varieties. The report admits that the pest load was not much that season (2002-03) and hence, correct assessment could not be made. The pest load was noticed to be less in initial stages of crop growth as evidenced by higher number of bolls in Bt Cotton as against refugia. Healthy growth of Helicoverpa was noticed in later stages
of crop growth. The report concludes by saying that it is based on preliminary observations and that the performance has to be studied in farmers' fields for at least three years to arrive at a valid conclusion.
Telangana Natural Resource Management Group's (TNRMG) Public Hearing:
A team of eminent scientists comprising of K R Chowdhary, Prasada Rao and S. Jeevananda Reddy met with farmers from villages like Mallapur, Fatimapur, Gudur, Reddypalem, Cheguru and Narsappagudem in Mahbubnagar district along with farmers from Rangareddy and Adilabad districts in the month of December 2002. Most of these farmers had tales of devastation to share with the scientists, after one season of growing Bt Cotton in its first season of commercialization.
Later, on 29th July 2003, TNRMG organized a public hearing in Hyderabad where farmers who cultivated Bt Cotton, agricultural administrators, agricultural scientists, NGO representatives, seed industry representatives, lawyers etc., presented their case in front of a 3-member panel. It was clear from the sharing by farmers that there was no significant reduction in cost of cultivation, no yield benefit in particular, that the bolls were small with more seeds, the lint and staple length were short as compared to other regions, that there was lower price realization and overall loss of income by farmers who opted for Bt Cotton cultivation. The Panel, in its conclusions stated that the government cannot absolve itself of responsibilities as both Central and State governments have permitted the cultivation of this variety. Under the Principle of Promissory Estoppel, the government has to come to the rescue of the farmers, the Panel judged. They clearly concluded that the situation calls for compensating the farmers for losses suffered due to the cultivation of the Bt Cotton variety.
"Did Bt Cotton Save Farmers in Warangal District?": Study by Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity (APCIDD) and Deccan Development Society (DDS)
This study covered a set of farmers who were monitored for a season long study, another set for a mid-season study and a third and larger group for an end-of-the-season survey. In all, the study drew its findings from around 225 farmers who took up Bt Cotton cultivation in Warangal district.
According to the study, the Bt hybrid was most affected by the prevailing weather conditions (hot and dry). It was also evident that though the Bt cotton plants produced more bolls, these suffered from heavy premature drying as well as boll shedding. MECH Bt 162, which constituted 98% of the Bt cotton grown, appeared to be characterised by small boll size and short staple length, which affected market preference as well as the price of seed cotton. Another important finding was Bt cotton contained more seeds than non-Bt hybrids, which affected the lint to seed ratio as well as its price. In addition, pickings from the non-Bt crop extended till March, as compared with late December/early January for the Bt cotton in most areas, which reduced the yield of the Bt cotton crop.
Early sucking pests like aphids and jassids were absent in both the Bt and non-Bt plants during the first 30 to 35 days after germination, as all the hybrid seed sold in the market is pretreated with the pesticide Imidacloprid. But, from early October, when the crop was 80 to 90 days old, moderate to heavy infestation of aphids and white flies was reported throughout the area, more prominently on Bt than on non Bt crop. But from November, the bollworm infestation increased in both the Bt and non-Bt crops, with 81% of non-Bt and 71% of Bt farmers pointing the finger at the bollworm as the pest that did the most damage to their crop. Most farmers concurred that sucking pests attacked the Bt crop more than the non-Bt crop. Therefore, even though the incidence of bollworm was slightly lower, the level of pesticide use was almost identical for Bt and non-Bt farmers.
Qualitative differences in Bt and non-Bt cotton crops
Characteristic - Bt cotton - Conventional hybrid
Flowering - 15-20 days earlier - 15-20 days later
Plant height - 90-110cm - 115-130 cm
Boll size - Smaller - Larger
Number of bolls/plant - 40-45 more - 40-45 less
Premature drying and shedding of bolls - More - Less
Tolerance to abiotic stress - Poor - Moderate
Staple length - Short - Long
Number seeds/boll - 30-35 - 16-20
Pest incidence - Bollworm - 71%- 81%
Pest incidence - Sucking pests - 29% - 19%
Number of pickings - Less - More
The economics of Bt and non-Bt production show that farmers who cultivated Bt cotton spent 15% of the total cost of cultivation on the seed as against 5% in case of non-Bt farmers, in the hope that it would reduce their spending on pesticide sprays and improve their yields substantially. But in reality, expenditure on plant protection was only around 25 rupees/ha less for Bt cotton farmers. Non-Bt cotton farmers averaged a yield of 276 kg/ha compared with 180 kg/ha for Bt cotton farmers, which represents a net 35% decrease in yield. So, in spite of spending 3.5 times more on pesticide-resistant seed, a Bt farmer had only a 4% reduction in pesticide costs, and ended up with a 35 % loss in final yield.
These losses were compounded by the fact that the market value of Bt cotton was lower than non-Bt. To offset the reduction in the price of Bt seed cotton, almost all farmers resorted to mixing both Bt and non-Bt cotton before marketing. In the end, non-Bt cotton farmers netted four times as much as Bt farmers from their 2002-2003 cotton crop. Some 71% of Bt cotton farmers experienced losses, compared with 18% of non-Bt farmers.
The economics of cultivating Bt and non-Bt cotton
Characteristic Bt Popular hybrids
Total cost of cultivation/ha Rs 4,262 - Rs 3,825
Cost of seed/ha Rs 640 - Rs 180-200
Expenditure on pesticides/ha Rs. 1,164 - Rs. 1,188
% of total expenditure spent on plant protection 27 % - 31 %
Average yields/ha 180 kg - 276 kg
Market price/100 kg seed cotton Rs 2,080 - Rs 2,164
Net returns/ha at the end of cropping season Rs 518 - Rs 2147
No of farmers who profited 65 (29%) - 185 (82%)
* Up to Rs 5,000 ($108) - 39 (17%) - 67 (30%)
* Rs 5,000-7,500 ($108-162) - 4 (2%) - 28 (12%)
* Rs 7,500-10,000 ($162-216) - 9 (4%) - 20 (9%)
* Rs >10,000 (>$216) - 13 (6%) - 70 (31%)
The Company's response:
Following the initial reports of failure of Bt Cotton, Mahyco and Monsanto came out with a response in the month of November 2002 itself saying that "there has been no failure of the GM technology" ? rather, the GM cotton like non-GM cotton hybrids has been affected by "new wilt" (also called as 'parawilt'). MMB said that the phenomenon noticed was a physiological disorder which occurred when cotton hybrids were exposed to prolonged dry spells followed by heavy showers or high temperature during the formation of cotton bolls. "Since Bt Cotton had more bolls, the environmental stress on them was more and the wilt was more evident", the company explained.
The company also discounted studies like that of Gene Campaign and presented its own survey findings. MMB had surveyed 1090 farmers in 52 districts across 6 states and found that 65% of the farmers had expressed their satisfaction with Bt Cotton, reported 65-70% reduction in pesticide usage and have also obtained a 30% increase in yields. It also claimed that there is no evidence of field level resistance to pink bollworms yet. The company also reported that a massive education programme in 6 states has been conducted with 5000 farmer meetings in the villages with trained staff.
The following is the data from the survey done by MMB . As per this, a yield increase of 8.1 quintals of cotton and a reduction of 1.93 sprays result from growing Bt Cotton. These two factors contribute to an average additional income of more than Rs. 18000/ha according to the company.
Bt cotton results from kharifa 2002 season, June-December (yield in quintalsb):
State Non-Bt yield Bt yield Yield increase with Bt Non-Bt sprays Bt sprays Spray reduction with Bt Economic benefit per hectarec
Andhra Pradesh 14.42(5-25) 20.52(12.5-32.5) 6.10 4.81(1-8) 2.08(0-4) 2.73 Rs.16,747
Gujarat 19.80(3.7-37.5) 28.35(10-44) 8.55 3.42(1-7) 2.09(0-5) 1.33 Rs.18,430
Karnataka 10.50(1.3-30) 17.82(7.5-40) 7.32 2.53(0-6) 1.00(0-3) 1.53 Rs.16,170
Madhya Pradesh 15.00(10-50) 25.82(35-62.5) 10.82 3.29(1-9) 0.93(0-3) 2.36 Rs.24,000
Maharashtra 14.47(2.5-45) 20.82(2.5-62.5) 6.35 2.78(0-7) 0.99(0-4) 1.79 Rs.14,490
Tamil Nadud ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Total 13.25 21.35 8.10 3.10 1.17 1.93 Rs.18,130
Note. All figures given in the table are based on a survey conducted by Mahyco in the six states where Bt cottonseed cotton was sold in the kharif 2002 season.a The total sample size was 1,069 farmers. Averages are on weighted average basis. Figures in parentheses represent the range for yield (quintals per hectare) and number of sprays.a Kharif refers to a crop that is harvested at the beginning of winter; b 1 quintal = 100 kg.c Economic benefit per hectare was calculated on the basis of an average cotton rate of Rs.2,000/q and an average cost of each bollworm complex spray of Rs.1,000/ha.d Cotton picking still in progress in Tamil Nadu at date of writing.
On 5th March 2003, the government of Andhra Pradesh admitted that Bt Cotton did not give positive and encouraging results, and that farmers need to be compensated. This was followed by the company openly announcing that it will not pay any compensation.
Later, in the month of July 2003, under continued pressure, the then Minister for Agriculture, Mr Vadde Sobhanadeeswara Rao of Andhra Pradesh expressed his government?s helplessness when it comes to seeking a ban on the sale of Bt Cotton. He was of the opinion that the state government has done its job by sending a detailed report of the failure of the crop to GEAC. "We submitted it without any prejudice or favour. We cannot go beyond it", he said.
Following this, the company and the government got into an agreement for Bt Cotton seed to be sold at the reduced price of Rs 1200/- per packet instead of Rs. 1600/-. The dealer commission of Rs. 400/- would be foregone and the company was agreeable to this, media reports indicated.
Greenpeace India's Expose - "Government lies to the Nation":
Even before the full picture of the performance of Bt Cotton emerged from various states and even as NGOs and environmental activists were trying to highlight the losses that farmers incurred in many places, the Minister for Environment and Forests, Government of India, Mr T R Baalu gave a statement in the Parliament that Bt Cotton had shown a "satisfactory performance" in its first year of commercial cultivation. This statement is based on a few farms visited in flying visits by GEAC team members along with the state agriculture officials in the six states where approval was granted. This was a case of "rural development tourism" as described by Robert Chambers. An investigation was carried out by Greenpeace India into the GEAC team's visit and their report from the visit in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The Greenpeace team visited the same farmers as the GEAC team and found that the statement of the Minister for Environment and Forests on December 16 2002 is a gross
misrepresentation of farmers' experience.
While other studies and surveys during this season tried to assess the performance of Bt Cotton, the Greenpeace investigation was about the gross falsification of data that the government was indulging in. This expose "Government lies to the Nation" revealed that the expert team was directed and managed by Monsanto-Mahyco, that the number of farmers who were met was very small compared to the number of farmers who grew Bt Cotton; that there was no rationale for the sample chosen or the sample size except probably convenience and guidance by the company; that farmers who have had a bad experience with Bt Cotton have not been met; that the scope of assessment was too narrow; and that even in cases where farmers have been met, data was misrepresented.
A further investigation in Karnataka revealed similar falsification of records by the government department in Haveri district.
The nexus and the pressure on the government became clearer with all this evidence.
While this was the case specifically with regard to Andhra Pradesh, reports poured in about the extremely uneven performance of Bt Cotton throughout the season from other states too. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture had asked the Centre to re-evaluate the economic viability of Bt cotton. A six-member panel set up by the Gujarat government under Joint Director, Agriculture (Oilseeds), S.K. Sangami, to evaluate the performance of Bt cotton in the State, said that "it is unfit for cultivation and should be banned in the State".
The Story of Bt Cotton in India and in Andhra Pradesh [PART 2]
Year II: 2003-04
Given the widespread reports of Bt Cotton failure in various parts of the country in its first year of commercial cultivation (2002-03), the second year began on an aggressive push for Bt Cotton by the companies involved. They would not admit to failure, nor were they willing to pay compensation to farmers who have incurred losses. Confronted by Greenpeace India activists who stormed the Monsanto office in Bangalore exactly one year after approval for commercial cultivation, Monsanto began backtracking on its promises and said in its interview to NDTV, "we had never promised higher yields". This is a clear lie since all their propaganda material promises higher yields to farmers.
In a desperate bid to save face and their markets, the company intensified its aggressive marketing and changed its strategies.
Free Pesticides and Propaganda: New schemes were introduced for farmers, including free gifts of pesticides along with Bt Cotton seeds and more efforts put into PR, especially with the media. A Tata Mida container was given free of cost with the purchase of Bt Cotton seed as one of the marketing strategies. There was a blitzkrieg of advertisements showing farmers claiming to have gotten very good results from growing Bt Cotton. Activists asked some basic questions about these advertisements: why is it that advertisements being put out in Warangal district, for instance, had farmers vouching for better performance from districts like Guntur and Karimnagar. How are farmers in Warangal supposed to check the veracity of such advertisements and their claims? Also, is it by intention that these advertisements were sometimes made to look like media reports?
A controversial and thoroughly discredited scientific paper was published in a reputed journal around this time (by Qaim and Zilberman, which reported an 87% increase in yield with Monsanto's Bt Cotton, using data supplied by Monsanto without collecting or analyzing any other data), with questionable data from the field trials projecting great results with Bt Cotton even as data from the farmers indicated the burden that Bt Cotton cultivation had placed on farmers who were already in distress. Many activists sprung into action to show the scientific paper for what it really was, given its timing and its questionable credibility.
Replacement of non-performing varieties: Instead of MECH 162 Bt in states like Andhra Pradesh, MECH 12 Bt was increased. A variety that is supposed to be more high yielding and with longer staple than MECH 162 Bt was promoted during this year.
Sub-licensing the technology: This year also saw Monsanto sub-license its Bollgard gene to other hybrid-cotton producing companies like Raasi, Ankur, Ajeet, Nuziveedu, Sri Tulasi etc. The sub-licensing to companies other than Mahyco is a desperate search for more acceptable varieties by Monsanto. In June 2003, Raasi Seeds was disallowed its application for commercial release of RCH2 Bt, but allowed seed production and large scale field trials of this variety on 100,000 hectares in the southern and central zones. Using the opportunity, during the 2003-04 season, Raasi Seeds readied seed that could cover 360,000 acres. GE advocates also predicted that the competition would bring down the price of Bt Cotton seed, conveniently forgetting the fact that the Indian companies which have been sub-licensed the Bt technology by Monsanto were ending up paying crores of rupees as the licence fees and would therefore like to recover the same from farmers.
In the second season of commercial cultivation of Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh (2003-04), 12,148 Bt Cotton seed packets were sold (Mahyco 6207 and Monsanto 5941) to cover an area of 4859 hectares. The coverage of Bt Cotton against the total actual cotton sown area of 7,85,230 hectares was 0.62% during Kharif 2003. Compared to the 9341 Bt Cotton seed packets sold in 2002-03, this meant an increase of about 30%. The increase in Bt Cotton area is nearly proportional to the increase in the total area under cotton cultivation in the state.
The district wise distribution of Bt Cotton in Kharif 2003 was:
District No. of packets sold Total
Monsanto India Ltd - MECH 12 - Bt Mahyco Seeds - MECH 12 - Bt Mahyco Seeds - MECH 162 Bt
Srikakulam 0 0 0 0
Vizianagaram 0 17 0 17
Visakhapatnam 0 0 0 0
East Godavari 160 37 0 197
West Godavari 0 42 0 42
Krishna 330 265 30 625
Guntur 1179 1205 26 2410
Prakasam 0 134 0 134
Nellore 0 0 0 0
Kurnool 229 0 0 229
Anantapur 0 0 0 0
Kadapa 0 9 0 9
Chittoor 0 0 0 0
Rangareddy 82 663 0 745
Nizamabad 0 0 0 0
Medak 228 350 0 578
Mahbubnagar 160 155 0 315
Nalgonda 424 549 9 982
Warangal 1479 900 118 2497
Khammam 1306 843 70 2219
Karimnagar 103 396 0 499
Adilabad 261 235 2 498
5941 5812 395 12148
One of the strategies seemed to be to focus on particular districts like Warangal, Khammam and Guntur and reduce the area in districts like Mahbubnagar and Karimnagar from where some of the most disastrous results emerged during the previous season.
It has to be observed here that independent assessments of Bt Cotton performance in the second year were few. Even the media did not pay much attention to Bt Cotton in the second year. This was probably because of a few reasons:
* in all those cases where Bt Cotton fared poorly in the first year of commercial cultivation, it was probably expected to die a natural death; this assumption however did not take into account the aggressive propaganda to be launched by the company
* there was also a sense of disillusionment with the AP government which did not show any will to fix any liability on the company for the large scale failure
* at the Central level also, things began to be run in a more opaque manner than ever. Data or decision-making processes were not transparent to be influenced. The first year reports submitted by various independent agencies were simply ignored and disregarded.
However, Monsanto-Mahyco chose one more strategy to promote its products. This time, instead of using a Mahyco-conducted survey to talk about the performance of Bt Cotton, A C Nielson was commissioned to do a survey. A C Nielson came up with a (predictably) positive report. However, a season-long monitoring done by independent competent agencies like Deccan Development Society, Permaculture Association of India and AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity of Andhra Pradesh has other things to point out about the second year?s performance too.
"Did Bt Fail AP Again in 2003-2004?", as this report was called, also challenges the AC Nielson study commissioned by MMB, for its design and methodology in addition to the veracity of findings. This report disproves Bt Cotton failed on all its three main promises ? pesticide use reduction, subsequent reduction in cultivation costs and enhancement of farmers? profits.
The study found that:
* farmers had to incur an expenditure that was 230% more for Bt Cotton seeds than Non-Bt hybrids
* total investments for Bt were 8% higher than for the cultivation of non-Bt cotton with a difference of Rs. 903/- per acre
* reduction in pesticide consumption by Bt farmers was negligible at just 12% at Rs. 321/- - the net difference across the three farming categories assessed in the study clearly shows that the net difference between Bt and non-Bt crops when it comes to bollworm management between Bt and non-Bt crops was less than Rs. 500/- which is the cost of just one additional spray
* Bt crop required more number of sprays for controlling sucking pests than non-Bt
* net profits from Bt Cotton were 9% less compared to profits from non-bt hybrids
* the benefit-cost ratio was in favour of non-Bt hybrids
* for small and medium category farmers, the yield difference between Bt and non-Bt was negligible
A comparison of the findings from AC Nielson?s study (commissioned by Monsanto) and APCIDD's study is very interesting for the contrasting pictures they present.
State - Bollworm Reduction - Pesticide Usage - Yield Increase - Increase in Net Profit
% Rs - % Quintals/Acre - % Rs/Acre
Andhra Pradesh : Monsanto Study - 58% - 1856/ - 24% - 1.98 - 92 - 5138/-
Andhra Pradesh: APCIDD Study - 14% - 321/ - 2% - 0.09 - 750/-
As is apparent, the industry has claimed four times more than the actual reduction in pesticide use, 12 times more yield and 100 times more profit than the actual.
As per the AC Nielson's study, the average number of pesticide sprays on Bollgard Bt Cotton was 3.6 times in 2003-04, while on Non-Bt it was 5.2 times. A report by the State Level Committee in Andhra Pradesh during a visit on 11-11-2003 in Medak and Rangareddy districts clearly shows a different thing. Five farmers met by the Committee on that day reported an average number of 5.2 sprays on MECH 12 Bt.
Meanwhile, Gene Campaign also surveyed 136 farm families in the four districts of Warangal, Guntur, Mahbubnagar and Rangareddy for the 2003-04 cotton cultivation. The study found that like in the first year, the economics of cultivating the Monsanto variety remains adverse to the farmer. The study also found that AP was swamped with a large number of illegal variants of Bt Cotton. There is chaos in the cotton fields and nobody can say with any guarantee what has been cultivated and how much, says Suman Sahai. According to Gene Campaign, almost no one had planted Monsanto?s failed MECH 162 from the earlier year. The few that did, reported the same poor results. An interesting finding from the study was that farmers who had planted Monsanto?s MECH 162 last year got poor chilli crops in the same fields the next year. Other Chilli fields which were not earlier planted with Bt Cotton were not affected and this needs further investigation, the report points. Suman Sahai, speculating on three possibilities for illegal varieties by the names of Rasi Bt, Bunny Bt, Ankur Bt etc., proliferating ("one, it could be leaking of Rasi, Ankur Bt varieties before completion of official approval; two, it could be a cover up for the illegal Navbharat varieties; or three, fly by night operators are marketing spurious Bt cotton seeds which may not even contain the Bt gene") says that most local cottons carrying the Bt gene are outperforming the Monsanto varieties.
Given that there is widespread cultivation of illegal Bt Cotton in the state, Suman Sahai questions Nielson's data. "What have they actually surveyed and what do their results mean? It would be difficult to take at face value the data that A C Nielson has put out and their ringing endorsement of Monsanto's Bollgard we are in a rather curious situation where the only people praising the Monsanto varieties are Monsanto themselves. Every other agency is reporting results to the contrary, that Monsanto varieties are the worst performers when compared to good local hybrids and illegal Bt variants", she says.
As can be seen, 2003-04 once again brought home the utter failure of the regulatory mechanisms in this country.
Year III: 2004-05
On 6th April 2004, conditional approval was granted by the GEAC for commercial release of RCH2 Bt of Rasi Seeds for South (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu) and Central Zone (Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh) from Kharif 2004 upto March 2007. The approval was granted after only two years of large scale field trials. The conditions were similar to those imposed while approving the three MECH Bt varieties for commercial cultivation earlier in March 2002. Approval was also granted for large scale field trials in Kharif 2004 for other Raasi varieties like RCH 20 Bt (in the southern zone), RCH 138 Bt and RCH 144 Bt (in the central zone). The total area for the large scale field trials in farmers? fields was not to exceed 150 hectares, at the rate of 50 hectares for each hybrid in the respective zones.
The table below shows the state-wise breakup of Bt Cotton seed sales (packets sold, with one packet equivalent to one acre of land) in 2003-04 and 2004-05:
State Kharif 2003 Kharif 2004
Andhra Pradesh 13500 190000
Gujarat 103000 320000
Karnataka 7500 45000
Madhya Pradesh 33000 207000
Maharashtra 54000 525000
Tamil Nadu 19000 13000
Total 230000 1300000
Source: Monsanto India, quoted in Financial Express, 29/11/04
The total acreage of Bt Cotton increased by around 6 times from the previous year. This included four varieties including a very popular local hybrid from Raasi (which is a popular variety in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka). The Bt Cotton area is still a negligible part ? 5.7% - of the total cotton acreage of 22.5 million (or 225 lakh) acres in the country. These seed sales are alone worth Rs 208 crores of rupees for the companies involved.
The following is the extent of Bt Cotton seed sales in Andhra Pradesh during Kharif 2004:
District Mahyco Seeds Ltd Rasi Seeds Ltd Total
Mech 12 Bt Mech 162 Bt Mech 184 Bt RCH 2 Bt
Vizianagaram 230 0 0 30 260
East Godavari 230 0 0 80 310
West Godavari 50 0 0 0 50
Krishna 2340 0 0 3310 5650
Guntur 8163 0 10 14500 22673
Prakasam 370 30 0 100 500
Kurnool 1580 240 0 350 2170
Cuddapah 0 0 0 0 0
Rangareddy 8625 25 0 2525 11175
Nizamabad 125 0 200 100 425
Medak 4770 0 0 1290 6060
Mahbubnagar 7330 0 0 8220 15550
Nalgonda 5911 0 0 70 5981
Warangal 15100 550 4300 26110 46060
Khammam 9170 170 40 8510 17890
Karimnagar 14960 0 20 6720 21700
Adilabad 14400 0 1850 9170 25420
Others 20 0 0 290 310
TOTAL 93374 1015 6420 81375 182184
The projected sales in Andhra Pradesh before the beginning of the season was put at 228,000 seed packets whereas the actual sales were to the tune of around 182000 packets. This covers an area of nearly 72,874 hectares. From 4859 hectares in 2003-04, this shows an increase of around 14 times. Out of this, RCH2 Bt alone contributes to a 6-fold increase.
In April 2004, GEAC approved large scale field trials and seed production of 12 more Bt hybrid varieties ? Rasi seeds was allowed to conduct trials with RCH 368 in South India and RCH 316 in North India. Ankur Seeds was allowed to go ahead with Ankur 651 Bt and Ankur 2534 Bt in North India, and Ankur 651 Bt and Ankur 09 Bt in Central India. Nuziveedu?s NCS 145 Bt and NCS 207 Bt for Central and South zones were also allowed. Mahyco has been allowed field trials and seed production with MRC 6301 Bt and MRC 6160 Bt in central India, MRC 6301 Bt and MRC 6322 Bt in South India. The seed production for each variety was allowed on a maximum extent of 100 hectares.
Early in the season in 2004, there were some unfounded statements made by the Andhra Pradesh Minister for Agriculture and Commissioner & Director for Agriculture on the excellent performance of Bt Cotton in the state.
Also as early as November 5 2004, the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Sharad Pawar made a surprising media statement saying that the "Bt cotton yield was definitely better in quality and quantity, boosting production by 30 to 35 percent in areas it was sown". He also noted that relatively low infestation levels of cotton's principal pest, the bollworm, and favorable monsoon rains helped produce the bumper cotton crop. This statement is surprising given that there was no data with the officials about the share of Bt Cotton in the total production of cotton ? the harvesting season had just begun for many cotton growing states, in fact.
Meanwhile, in the month of October 2004 itself, the Minister for Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh Mr Raghuveera Reddy had to announce that there is prima-facie evidence to indicate the failure of MECH 184 Bt in Warangal district. He informed that farmers have sown this seed on an extent of around 25000 acres.
A six member expert team from the government, which examined the standing crop of nine farmers in Atmakur and Chennaraopet mandals of the district, found only 15 to 20 cotton bolls in the first stage and no cotton boll in the second stage of Mech-184 Bt cotton. On the basis of this report, 50 teams had been formed which would visit the field of every farmer who had sown Bt cottonseed in the district and submit report within a week, the Minister announced. The Minister also announced that compensation to farmers would be given on the basis of these reports within the 15 days stipulated by the MoU the State Government had entered into with the seed companies.
The Minister was forced to make a second statement in the State Legislative Assembly in the middle of December on the performance of Bt Cotton. According to him Bt Cotton seed was resistant to bollworm but it has not been found free from other diseases. He once again announced that compensation could be claimed through the MoU system. There is a background to the Minister?s statements on both these occasions where he clearly backtracked from an optimistic statement he put out early on in the season.
Bt Cotton Farmers begin agitating in different districts:Just days after the Commissioner, Agriculture in the Government of Andhra Pradesh made positive remarks about Bt Cotton in the state (October 4, 2004, The Hindu Business Line "Bt Cotton crop likely to create problem of plenty in AP"), farmers went on a rampage in Warangal district fearing that they might have been sold spurious seeds by the local traders. What has triggered the panic is the failure of Bt Cotton in yet another season
It is estimated that out of 160 thousand hectares sown in Warangal district with cotton, around 25 thousand hectares are under Bt Cotton (the sales of 450 gm packets of Bt Cotton touched the 25000 mark this year, as per media reports). Starting from 12th October, farmers started their protests across the district of Warangal where they raided shops and imprisoned seed company employees and are demanding compensation ranging from Rs. 10,000/- to Rs. 25,000/- per acre for the losses incurred.
On 12th October hundreds of farmers turned up on the streets of Warangal town where the seed and pesticide dealer shops are located. They were demanding at least ten thousand rupees per acre as compensation for the losses they incurred by growing Mech Bt 12 and Mech Bt 184 varieties. They raided Vasavi Fertilisers and Seeds shop, from which they had bought the expensive Bt Cotton seeds. The dealer tried to assure them that he would get the company officials to come to the villages and assess the damage, and get them to pay compensation if needed. The farmers were not ready to accept this. They staged a sit-in on the highway holding up a long chain of traffic. The farmers wanted the officials to visit their village and see the damage for themselves. A group of officials and the seeds dealer went to the village along with the farmers and checked the cotton crop there. Later, the Deputy Director of Agriculture, Warangal district assured the farmers that there would be an inquiry and after submitting the report to the government, any compensation to be paid would be arranged.
An assurance from the district officials that a wider field investigation would be taken up calmed the farmers. Following this, on Wednesday, agriculture department officials and Mahyco Company Area Manager and other officials went to Mogilicherla village where more than 500 acres of Bt Cotton had been sown. Here, the farmers like farmers in other parts of Warangal had spent Rs. 1650/- on procuring seeds (450 gms of Bollguard Bt Cotton ? Mech Bt 12) and had sown the seed. They found that the crop grew well but did not flower well or yield more than ten bolls. Representatives of Mahyco company who had come to the village to inspect the fields by themselves were imprisoned by the farmers for more than three hours in the village, demanding immediate payment of compensation. The employees were freed when they assured the farmers that they would bring senior officials of the company to the village on the 14th.
On the 14th of October, hundreds of more farmers once again raided seed shops in Warangal town demanding compensation and accountability from the company, the dealers and the government. They came with Bt Cotton plants which did not yield either flowers or bolls on their fields. Farmers from various blocks like Atmakur, Sangem, Jafargad, Parvathagiri, Parakala, Geesukonda, Hanmakonda, Dharmasagar, Mogullapalli etc., soon joined the agitating farmers in huge numbers. They attacked the shop of Vasavi Seeds and Fertilisers, the supplier of Bollguard seeds to them. By this time, all the seed, pesticide and fertilizer dealers in Warangal town had closed their shutters down and ran away from the scene, fearing the wrath of the farmers. A Committee was formed with one representative each from each village, along with some local officials (who came to placate the farmers) to look into the matter by visiting the fields. After this, the farmers withdrew their protest for the day. The District Collector had meanwhile sent word to the company representatives to hear their explanation. The Collector is making preparations to send teams consisting of the company representatives, officials and the farmer representatives to all the villages from where reports of losses were obtained, as per media reports. Meanwhile all Bt Cotton farmers who have incurred losses due to the failure of crop have been asked to register their name and other details with the concerned agriculture department officials.
Around this time, there was news of a suicide committed by a Bt Cotton farmer in Warangal district who killed himself unable to bear the heavy losses incurred.
This was only the beginning of the season. Soon, agitations from other districts started. Farmers in Sathenapalli of Guntur district imprisoned a company representative and demanded compensation for the losses that they incurred. Karimnagar, Nalgonda, Krishna and Khammam had similar scenes with irate farmers agitating for compensation.
Meanwhile the vernacular media, especially the district editions of newspapers and telugu television channels started covering the problems of Bt Cotton farmers in a widespread manner. There were regular news reports as well as special feature programmes run by them and hundreds of farmers were heard to report their losses and their dismal crop performance witnessed.
All of this built tremendous pressure on the government to take some action and protect the interests of farmers who have incurred losses. However, the MoU system that the government of Andhra Pradesh had adopted began to come in the way of farmers securing justice. Like in the first year of Bt Cotton commercial cultivation, one of the arguments heard this year too was that losses incurred do not fit into the MoU framework which only talks about germination failure and lack of genetic purity.
Government survey's findings:
No information is forthcoming from the government on the performance of Bt Cotton in the state though 50 teams are supposed to have visited the field and compiled a report on the same. The admission by the Minister about Bt Cotton being susceptible to diseases and other pests tacitly seems to say that Bt Cotton was found to be effective against bollworm (which is questionable as other reports point out). He also acknowledged that the reason for the rapid spread of Bt Cotton was false propaganda about the ability of the seed to withstand all pests and diseases.
Joint Directors of Agriculture who have been approached for information of the survey results in their own districts have also refused to part with the reports. Once again, the question of transparent procedures and processes comes to the fore. It is as though the government wants to protect the companies and their products from independent scrutiny.
In November, the agriculture officials in Warangal admitted that out of 20,000 hectares of Bt Cotton grown in the district, 65% of the crop was damaged. According to the Joint Director of Agriculture, Monsanto-Mahyco's seed created losses in all the places surveyed whereas Raasi Bt was found to be damaged upto 15%. The reason was wilt where the flower, bolls and the plants dried up resulting in very low yields.
The MoU system fails to protect farmers:
The stand of the government that the MoU system will take care of such Bt farmers who have incurred enormous losses does not lend hope to the already-distressed cotton farmers in the state. This is due to several reasons:
* Firstly, there has been no large scale campaign taken up so far to educate farmers about their rights either through the MoU system or through the Consumer Courts and what they are required to do under these systems to secure justice. The MoU system comes with its own set of problems including the fact that farmers are expected to report in a time-bound manner and that the companies usually go in Appeal against the JDA committee?s awards in cases where awards have been passed in favour of farmers. This is reflected in the current Bt Cotton cases also. At the Appellate level, farmers have very little chance to defend themselves directly.
* Secondly, the MoUs cover only two aspects related to seed performance: germination failure and genetic impurity.
* With regard to germination, when it comes to crops like Bt Cotton with around 20% dedicated to non-Bt varieties for refugia, the germination that a seed producer/supplier could be allowed to show can be as low as 53%, given that cotton crop itself is allowed around 67% germination rates.
* When it comes to genetic impurity, the MoU that the government has signed along with several seed companies does not specify anywhere what constitutes genetic impurity. Genetic impurity is defined against morphological and genetic parameters obtained during registration. However, as Bt Cotton farmers are witnessing across this state, the rate of flower fall or wilt or other problems is much higher in this crop than other cotton hybrids. Studies elsewhere have also shown that while Bt Cotton might initially take care of bollworm infestation, other pests and diseases which are hitherto secondary, take on the role of primary pests and diseases. This is being seen in Andhra Pradesh. Genetic Impurity does not however cover these aspects.
* The farmers who incur losses in Bt Cotton inevitably lose out more than ordinary cotton farmers given the expensive rates at which the seed is being sold. Therefore, their distress levels now are that much more acute.
The MoU Committees investigating the crop performance in the field are reporting that things are fine as far as the MoU framework goes [since they do not see germination failure or genetic impurity] even as Agriculture Officers who have verified fields have testified that there has been large scale flower and boll drop, which would imply losses to the farmers.
Meanwhile, the company has announced in the month of October itself that it is not responsible for the failure of the crop since there has been a general failure of all varieties and hybrids of cotton. This is however not true as is reflected in the large scale excessive production of cotton this season, as well as from fact finding visits to Bt Cotton and other hybrid cotton fields in Warangal and Kurnool. These fact finding teams have found that other hybrids are not affected in neighboring fields.
Fact-finding visits in 2004:
By Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and AP Rythu Sangam:
Scientists from Centre from Sustainable Agriculture, Dr. Ramanjaneyulu and Mr. Ali, along with Mr. Sarampalli Malla Reddy, Secretary AP Rythu Sangam, Dr. Venugopal, Entomology Department, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, Dr. Abdul Qayum, Consultant with MARI and DDS, Mr. Kiran Sakkari, Permaculture Association of India and Mr. Krishna Reddy, AP Rythu Sangam Warangal unit, visited villages in Geesukonda Mandal of Warangal district. The following are the findings.
In Rattiram Tanda, a small hamlet of Kommala village, various Bt cotton hybrids are being grown in more than 100 acres. The villagers purchased the Bt cotton hybrids from Warangal market hoping to tackle the dreaded Bollworm. But shattering their hopes the Bt hybrids failed. Mr. Veeraswamy, has grown Bt MECH-12. The plants are small, with only few bolls. Insects are eating away the bolls, despite the so-called new technology. More than 30% of the plants in the field have dried up. When split open, wilt symptoms are clearly seen. The story is repeated with Ms. Vankloth Vijaya who grew Bt RCH-2 of Raasi seeds, or Vankloth Balaraju who grew Bt MECH-184. Till now farmers have spent around 8 thousand rupees on pesticides like Avaunt and Tracer besides Rs. 1600 on seeds. When the suffering farmers contacted the dealers, they were told that the dealers were not responsible and were asked to meet the scientists of the Agricultural Research Station, Warangal. The company team never visited and advised the farmers.
In Elukurthi Haveli, Mr. Yadava Reddy has grown Bt RCH-2. The crop has not performed as expected. The plants suffered wilt. The bolls are infested with bollworms.
In Konayamakula Mr. Narasinga Rao has grown Bt MECH-12 and has a similar experience to narrate.
The wilt symptoms in Bt cotton started appearing in the initial year itself. The company and the government had turned a deaf ear to the apprehensions raised by several investigating teams closely following the Bt cotton performance. The scientists said that the weather fluctuations have caused the damage. It is surprising to see that all other cotton hybrids in the neighboring fields are better, given the same weather conditions. What is more striking is that wherever gap filling was done with non-bt cotton hybrids, the plants are healthy.
By Jana Vignyana Vedika:
These fact finding visits were conducted in eight blocks of three districts of Kurnool, Mahbubnagar and Warangal, covering 25 Bt Cotton farmers. This fact finding mission revealed:
- the incidence of bollworm is not very high this season. In the fields visited, both Bt and non-Bt have shown about 5-8% impact from Bollworm attack
- Upto November, even Bt Cotton had witnessed around 6 to 10 pesticide sprays on an average per acre. Only 2 of the 25 farmers met had used only 4 sprays
- Farmers have used very expensive as well as toxic pesticides on Bt Cotton ? these include quinalphos, profenophos, imidacloprid, monocrotophos, lambda-cyhalothrin, indoxacarb, everpectin, thiodicarb etc.
- In Warangal and Mahbubnagar districts, both in MECH 12 Bt and RCH2 Bt, around 10-25% of the plants were damaged by wilt. These plants cannot yield anything.
- In addition to approved varieties, farmers in Kurnool and Mahbubnagar are found to be using illegal Bt varieties too. The main attraction seems to be the lower cost (lower by around 200-300 rupees)
- Since there are no other commercial crops available, it has been found that farmers opt for Bt Cotton even in unsuitable soils
- In three quarters of the fields, aphids, white fly and spodoptera are likely to increase
- In all Bt varieties, drying up of the square and subsequent falling has been observed
By TNRMG (Telangana Natural Resource Management Group):
A team of 6 members including agriculture scientists visited four villages in Atmakur and Geesukonda mandals of Warangal district in the month of October ? these villages include Lingamadugupalli, Peddapur, Akkampeta and Mogilicherla. Findings are:
* it was found that fields of MECH 12 Bt and MECH 184 Bt consisted of unidentical plants which indicates spurious seeds to some extent.
* The flowering and cotton pod dropout rate is high and the crop looked dried up
* It was claimed that pesticide usage is not required for a period of 90 days but since the fields were infested with Helicoverpa and white fly, at the behest of pesticide dealers, farmers had sprayed pesticides like Tracer, Avaunt and Confidor.
* Farmers were lured to purchase the Bt seeds by coercive persuasion and demonstration of great returns. One way of luring the farmers is through advance bookings in the month of January itself, and by taking farmers to some "model farms" of the said varieties
One of the main points stressed by the TNRMG fact-finding visit report is the complete failure of regulation of aggressive marketing and spread of illegal varieties by the government and about the way farmers are being lured towards Bt Cotton.
SUMMING UP THE THREE YEARS
Hasty approval for commercial cultivation: The experience in the past three years with Bt Cotton shows the lack of comprehensive assessments at the trials stage itself, in addition to the legal violations of those trials. Data from elsewhere which needed India to take a precautionary approach to GMOs was conveniently ignored. Now, experimentation seems to be happening on which varieties would be suitable and so on, at the expense of hapless farmers.
More fundamental questions about the agricultural research priorities in this country - how they are set and implemented = arise from this experience.
Complete failure of regulatory mechanisms: There has been a complete failure of regulatory mechanisms right from the stage of field trials. The approval conditions demonstrate the non-practicability of certain conditions as well as the conflict of interest embodied in certain conditions where the company promoting Bt Cotton was also given the responsibility to monitor and so on. Currently, there is no accountability at the field level either for lack of monitoring or for failure of crop.
Even in cases where damage to the crop (where such damage is not reported or witnessed with the local non-Bt hybrids) has been established officially through survey teams, compensation could not be ensured for even one farmer. It is often heard by not just the seed industry people but even by the government representatives that paying compensation to even one farmer opens up a floodgate of demands from others ? however, this is no reason why farmers who have genuinely incurred losses cannot be identified through a suitable system and why they cannot be compensated.
The spread of illegal and unapproved varieties of Bt Cotton is another major evidence for the failure of regulation. These varieties are proliferating unchecked without paying heed to medium and long term impacts of bollworm resistance to Bt Cotton building up. In the immediate term, farmers cannot make anyone accountable for any losses that they incur with these varieties.
Monitoring systems highly questionable: The monitoring of Bt Cotton that has happened over the past three years is highly questionable. On the one hand is evidence of patent falsification of records. On the other hand is the media hype that the company has created with results that its commissioned surveys have ?revealed?. There is a general non-transparent way of functioning that the government itself is adopting. There is no independent assessment happening and no recognition to data produced by other agencies.
On top of this are questions related to broad-based assessment of the GM crop in all its implications. The sampling being used by the monitoring systems is questionable as well as the times at which such monitoring is being done.
Extremely uneven performance by the crop and failure of the technology: The experience with Bt Cotton in the past three years has shown extremely uneven performance across different states, across different districts within each state, across varieties and also across the past three years. Bt Cotton, as per AP government?s official data, has failed in the first year. In the third year also, compensation has been ordered for loss-incurring farmers. A variety of agronomic and other problems have been witnessed with Bt Cotton including increased outbreak of pests and diseases, compared to other non-Bt hybrids. Their ability to withstand stress has also been found to be low. There are informal reports from farmers that in those cases where Bt Cotton has been grown in all the past three years, bollworm incidence is noted to be increasing indicating resistance build-up.
Any variety or technology that is not stable or uniform is a failure and Bt Cotton has therefore failed in India.
Safer and better alternatives ignored: Bt Cotton was introduced by conveniently ignoring safer and better alternatives that exist in this country. There is very successful experience with organic and Non-Pesticidal Management (NPM) approaches to crop cultivation in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. These approaches are both eco-friendly and economically viable. The very pest management paradigm that the scientific establishment has adopted first with pesticides and now with a crop like Bt Cotton needs to be recast.
Bt Cotton was conveniently sought to fit into an IPM framework by the government and the company. However, the constant release of an endotoxin at lethal levels for a major part of the season is itself antithetical to the IPM approach. IPM is a knowledge-intensive approach whereas Bt Cotton as its cultivation is being practiced shows a large level of ignorance in the farmers' understanding of the Bt technology. There are a variety of understandings with regard to Bt Cotton.
No accountability being fixed: many of the promises being made by the companies as well as sellers of illegal varieties do not get covered by the existing legislations which are ostensibly existing to protect farmers' interests. The current failure of Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh, if there is political will, can be brought under the purview of the PVPFR Act or the MoU system. However, governments are finding it difficult to do so. Similarly, for a farmer to take protection under the Consumer Act is very difficult. There are a variety of propaganda and marketing mechanisms being used by the companies which cannot be easily controlled by the government.
On the other hand, there are issues related to bio-safety too. Refuge criteria laid down during the approval are being violated openly given the practical constraints that Indian farmers face. This might mean a faster building up of resistance which would affect both Bt Cotton farmers and non-Bt cotton farmers. Who is going to be accountable for these medium and long term effects?
Farmers' true needs not being met: what the farmers need are seeds that perform well on all fronts. While bollworm resistance is only one additional parameter that the Bt Cotton companies offer to farmers, should not varieties be judged by their overall crop performance? Does it help the farmer that there is less bollworm incidence but that the crop is lost since there has been heavy flower/boll fall, even after having paid exorbitant prices for the seed? There are Indian studies also done by the official bodies concerned about secondary pests being higher in Bt Cotton. Therefore, does it help that the farmers might reduce their pesticide costs on bollworm but increase it on other pests and diseases?
Finally, before we end the report, we would like to counterpose our arguments to a few arguments thrown at people who are demanding a revoking of the approval of Bt Cotton in this country. The industry as well as the government have found a few convenient arguments with which to arm themselves, despite several studies and reports showcasing the extremely uneven, unpredictable and erratic performance of Bt Cotton.
What they would like to argue in their defence, even as the Bt crop failed
What we say
XYZ problem has been seen across all varieties, including conventional hybrids this year and it is not just in Bt Cotton
This is simply not true as official surveys in 2002-03 also indicate - Bt was found to be more susceptible to stress conditions and there was large scale drying up noted; in the third year, the bumper crop in cotton cannot be explained if all varieties including conventional hybrids had failed with the problems that afflicated Bt Cotton
"Bt technology" has not failed since it has been seen to be effective against bollworm - Bt crop could have failed here and there
An argument mostly heard from the scientific establishment where they think that performance of Bt cotton had suffered because of the insertion of the Bt gene into not-so-well-performing hybrids. Our question to them is:·
Can the technology be termed as successful if bollworm has been controlled to an extent but results in a resurgence of sucking pests and diseases?
Can the technology be termed a success if resistance in the pests is already showing even in layperson observations by farmers?·
Can the technology be termed a success if farmers end up using the same amount of sprays for pesticides, now to control increased pests? The difference in pesticide sprays even for bollworm in various studies was found to range between 1-2 sprays.
Finally, how does this "success" explain the continued incidence of bollworm too in many fields visited by several fact finding teams? How about the comeback by the pesticides after 90 days or so? Is it enough that a seed that a farmer buys has one prominent characteristic (resistance to bollworm) but fails in many other ways? How does this fit into the conventional assessments and decision-making that farmers have made about which seed to use? Any technology and product that is not uniform and stable - and even by the definition used for the registration of plant varieties, any variety that does not exhibit uniformity and stability - is a failure. Given the extremely uneven performance of Bt Cotton, including two years of large scale failure in Andhra Pradesh, it has to be declared as a failure.
Why is it catching up so much if it was not popular? Hasn't the worldwide extent increased? Haven't the markets of these companies increased? Have not other companies started inserting the gene too under license from Monsanto? Has not the spread of illegal Bt Cotton been phenomenal?
Even the Minister for Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh had something to say about the vested interests and false propaganda surrounding the spread of Bt Cotton.
In India, approved Bt Varieties occupy less than 6% of the cotton area. If the area increases, it is because of a multitude of corporate strategies including sub-licensing of the Bt technology to many local companies that the farmers trust.
The aggressive marketing strategies of Bt Cotton companies are worth taking note of. On a product that is supposed to bring down the use of pesticides, free pesticides are given as an incentive! There are carefully identified seed agents and representatives in each village where marketing happens ? often times, they are the relatives of seed dealers who, after having paid huge advance deposits with the companies, have a stake in selling off their stocks. 2003-04 has also witnessed seed being sold on credit, to be settled in cash paid in regular instalments, in some places in Warangal district. Advertisements that look uncannily similar to news reports, lauding the performance of Bt Cotton are placed in the local papers.
Initial propaganda, written as well as unwritten, makes a variety of promises to farmers including on increased yields and better quality of produce. Farmers are lured by such propaganda.
It is important that the government regulate such propaganda and that the companies come out with data on how much monies are being spent on propaganda and marketing at all levels in the Bt Cotton supply chain.
Why would the farmers be willing to spend Rs. 1600/- per acre if it Bt Cotton not effective?
Farmers are being lured by a variety of means to go in for Bt Cotton · given the high-value, low-volume pesticides that are popular in the market now, farmers believe that investing in expensive seed which could bring down pesticide use is better but as experience shows, farmers ultimately end up spending a lot on the expensive seed as well as on expensive pesticides.
Isn't RCH2 Bt's success an evidence for the success of Bt Cotton?
A much hyped reasoning heard throughout the season is that Raasi's RCH2 Bt has performed extremely well and that farmers are very happy with it. If RCH2Bt is working better than MECH Bt, then obviously it is a varietal characteristic. Our own fact finding visits contradict this uniformly superior performance of RCH2 Bt. RCH2 Bt seemed to show better results when it comes to yields, given that it is a high-yielding variety but when it comes to vulnerability to pests and diseases, there was not much difference seen between RCH2 and other Bt Cotton hybrids and the number of pesticide sprays on the crop. The overall economics favor RCH2 Bt slightly but this is not to say that its performance is better than some of the best performing non-Bt hybrids In Nalgonda district, the JDA Committee received complaints on the failure of RCH2 Bt and after investigations, the Committee ordered the company to pay compensation. This is an indicator of its performance.
Why should farmers worry about resistance when it is 10-15 years away? Isn't that the average age of pesticides too?
Except for the CICR study, other resistance studies even within India point out to resistance building up much earlier than 10 years, and probably within 5-6 years; such resistance is likely to build up much faster given that resistance management strategies are not followed on the ground. Gujarat farmers are reportedly now seeking 2-gene Bt Cotton to solve their problems. Farmers are already reporting that in their own observation, they found that Bt Cotton grown continuously for three years meant higher and higher incidence of bollworm. It is not just the farmers who are growing Bt Cotton who need to worry about resistance but farmers who are their neighbors too. Ultimately, more than the farmers it is a responsible government that has to worry about resistance and therefore, take a precautionary approach. Also, it is the companies which are jumping on the Bt Cotton bandwagon which will ultimately lose out in this story
Farmers are free to go in for, or reject Bt Cotton.
There is no informed choice happening· The choices are getting narrower and narrower with many companies going in for Bt technology from Monsanto. In effect, there would be no choice soon.
There are adequate mechanisms in place to protect farmers' interests.
Experience right from the first year has shown that there are no mechanisms to fix accountability on the company in the existing laws or systems like the MoU system of Andhra Pradesh. Even in cases where the government's own data reports failure, farmers' interests were not protected.
In this scenario of erratic and illegal Bt Cotton proliferation, we demand that the government look seriously at its pest management paradigm and at successful, sustainable alternatives. Rich experience with alternatives is present all over the country with many farmers and non-governmental organizations and it is not too late for the government to revoke its approval of Bt cotton cultivation and to focus on promoting and supporting such alternatives. The government should also hold the company accountable for all the losses incurred so far.
1. "Corporate Hijack of Biodiversity": Dr Vandana Shiva, Radha Holla Bhar and Afsar Jafri, Navdanya, December 2002
2. "A Lesson from the Field": Asha Krishnakumar, May 24 ? June 6, 2003, FrontLine
3. "Background Note on Bt Cotton Cultivation in India", on the website of the Ministry of Environment and Forests
4. "Bt Cotton - Confusion Prevails", Suman Sahai, EPW, June 19, 2002
5. "Local Pests Take the Bite out of Bt Cotton", Financial Express, August 10, 2002
6. "Bt Cotton - Bitter Harvest": Debashis Banerjee and Mihir Shah, The Hindu, August 24, 2002
7. "Status of Bt Cotton and its Performance": internal document of the Department of Agriculture, Government of Andhra Pradesh, submitted to the Legislative Assembly by the Minister for Agriculture
8. "Preliminary Report on the Performance of Bt Cotton in Mahbubnagar District", internal document from the Director of Research, ANGRAU, Hyderabad
9. "A lesson from the Field", Asha Krishnakumar, Frontline May 24-June 6 2003
10. 10. Barwale, R.B., Gadwal, V.R., Zehr, U., & Zehr, B. (2004). Prospects for Bt cotton technology in India. AgBioForum, 7(1&2), 23-26. Available on the World Wide Web: http://www.agbioforum.org/
11. "Corporate Hijack of Biodiversity": Dr Vandana Shiva, Radha Holla Bhar and Afsar Jafri, Navdanya, December 2002
12. "Dakshina Telangana Mandalamlo Bt patthi ? survey phalithaalu", Dr K Suhasini, Palam, Mahbubnagar in Paadi Pantalu, July 2003
Conditions Stipulated by GEAC:
(i) The period of validity of approval is three years from April 2002 ? March 2005.
(ii) Every field where Bt cotton is planted shall be fully surrounded by a belt of land called ?refuge? in which the same non-Bt cotton variety shall be sown. The size of the refuge belt should be such as to take at least five rows of non-Bt cotton or shall be 20% of total sown area whichever is more.
(iii) To facilitate this, each packet of seeds of the approved varieties should also contain a separate packet of the seeds of the same non-Bt cotton variety which is sufficient for planting in the refuge defined above.
(iv) Each packet should be appropriately labeled indicating the contents and the description of the Bt hybrid including the name of the transgene, the GEAC approval reference, physical and genetic purity of the seeds. The packet should also contain detailed directions for use including sowing pattern, pest management, suitability of agro-climatic conditions etc., in vernacular language.
(v) MAHYCO will enter into agreements with their dealers/agents, that will specify the requirements from dealers/agents to provide details about the sale of seeds, acreage cultivated, and state/regions where Bt cotton is sown.
(vi) MAHYCO will prepare annual reports by 31st March each year on the use of Bt cotton hybrid varieties by dealers, acreage, locality (state and region) and submit the same in electronic form to GEAC, if asked for by the GEAC.
(vii) MAHYCO will develop plans for Bt based Integrated Pest Management and include this information in the seed packet.
(viii) MAHYCO will monitor annually the susceptibility of bollworms to Bt gene vis-à-vis baseline susceptibility data and submit data relating to resistance development, if any, to GEAC.
(ix) Monitoring of susceptibility of bollworms to the Bt gene will also be undertaken by an agency identified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests at applicant?s cost. The Ministry has entrusted Central Institute for Cotton research, Nagpur to carry out the above monitoring.
(x) MAHYCO will undertake an awareness and education programme, interalia through development and distribution of educational material on Bt cotton, for farmers, dealers and others.
(xi) MAHYCO will also continue to undertake studies on possible impacts on non-target insects and crops, and report back to GEAC annually.
(xii) The label on each packet of seeds, and the instruction manual inside the packet should contain all relevant information.
(xiii) MAHYCO will deposit 100 g seed each of approved hybrids as well as their parental lines with the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR).
(xiv) MAHYCO will develop and deposit with the NBPGR, the DNA fingerprints of the approved varieties.
(xv) MAHYCO will also provide to the NBPGR, the testing procedures for identifying transgenic traits in the approved varieties by DNA and protein methods
15 November 2004 - Bayer pulls out of Genetic Engineering Research in India; Admits to Greenpeace the Future is in 'Conventional' Breeding.
In an admission of immense significance to the entire genetic engineering (GE) industry, Bayer Crop Science has conceded to Greenpeace India that all its projects on genetically engineered (GE) crops have been 'discontinued.' This admission is a direct result of a protracted direct action by Greenpeace at the Bayer headquarters in Mumbai on 30th September 2004. In a letter sent to Greenpeace last week, Aloke V. Pradhan, head of Corporate Communications states Bayer's future plans for India, "Overall, Bayer Crop Science India will continue to focus in the coming years on its conventional plant breeding research programme."
"We don't need genetically engineered crops to feed India," said Divya Raghunandan, genetic engineering campaigner for Greenpeace India. "Around the world, in fact, the promises made by the genetic engineering industry have been unfulfilled, whether of increasing crop yields or reducing pesticide use." (see footnote 1) She continued, "It doesn't surprise us that Bayer is giving up GE experiments in India. They saw the writing on the wall - the Indian public was not going to accept their manipulated cabbages and cauliflowers - and they cut their losses. It's time for the rest of the industry to give up on this misguided and inappropriate technology."
The significance of this pull-out for Bayer, and indeed the entire genetic engineering industry, cannot be overestimated. In the second largest country in the world, with 80% of the population involved in agriculture, the Indian market for agro-chemical and seed companies is enormous. This retreat follows two decisions that set Bayer back earlier this year. In March 2004, the company announced they would be pulling out of GE crop research in the UK. A few months later, in June, Bayer announced they would not pursue commercialization of GE canola in Australia. Bayer's letter to Greenpeace India concedes that research into engineered cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, tomato and mustard seed has all been halted.
Bayer's withdrawal from GE research around the world is part of a larger pattern of retreat in the global biotechnology industry. For example, in a high profile turn-around, Monsanto globally abandoned genetically engineered wheat research earlier this year. The company also shelved its Australian work on genetically engineered canola one month prior to a similar decision by Bayer.
"It is clear that popular resistance to genetic engineering is not diminishing as the industry had hoped it would," said Doreen Stabinsky, GE campaigner for Greenpeace International. "No matter what country we're talking about, consumers are on the same page. They don't want to eat genetically engineered food. That's good news for farmers and good news for the environment."
Divya Raghunandan, GE campaigner, Greenpeace India: +919845535406, email@example.com
further information: Protests in Bombay against Bayer; Campaign against GM Rice in India - Coalition against BAYER-dangers http://www.CBGnetwork.org
Indian President Supports Transgenic Technology, But Sounds A Note Of Caution
Ashok B Sharma - Our Economy Bureau - New Delhi, Nov 3 - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=73265
The President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam said that advances in science particularly in biotechnology, information technology and nano-technology are expected to bring a revolution in agriculture. "Country's rich biodiversity integrated with technology for developing a genetically engineered seed or transforming a molecule extracted from an herb into a drug adds dramatic value that can be a wealth generator for the nation," he said.
Inaugurating the National Agricultural Science Museum, the first of its kind in the country, the president said ; "There should be an exclusive section in the museum to present the visualisation of the future, particularly the agricultural growth trajectory." He said that the museum should have interactive displays to present how India will graduate through second green revolution to achieve the production target of 400 million tonne of foodgrains per year by 2020. This presentation will lead to inspiration for the researchers, students, farmers, sometimes even the political and administrative functionaries, he said. However, the president sounded a note of caution about new transgenic seeds. He said : "as we keep doing more and more researches in biotechnology and come up with new seeds and new species of plants, the older ones will slowly disappear. The museum should preserve such seeds and species because in some future date, the new seeds may have some negative side effects, new species may not prove to be as tasty as the older species. We have to replace it with the older species."
Dr Kalam also suggested incorporation of 10 specific additional features in the museum like a mechanism for updating informations displayed, creation of a replica of the museum in the website to be viewed by farmers and students spread across the country, displaying progress of innovative farmers, setting up of mobile museums, publication of newsletters in local languages, organisation of competition amongst farmers, displaying ideas generated by rural innovators and different models developed to mitigate effects of drought, preservation of seeds and displaying of country's achievement from a situation of food scarcity to net exporter of food.
The Union agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar said a taskforce has been constituted to suggest commercialisation of farm technologies developed in the public sector.
Exporters Cautious Over Worries On GM Food - Food Industry To Maintain Image Of Being Supplier Of Non-GM Foods http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=49365 Ashok B Sharma - New Delhi, Dec 28, 2003.
The bouyant processed food industry in the country has decided to maintain its image of a supplier of non-genetically modified (non-GM) foods to the European Union, Japan and Korea and other principal export destinations. (See the above link for the full text)
Future Of GM Crops Uncertain Despite Govt Project On Transgenic Foods http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=49366
Ashok B Sharma New Delhi, Dec 28
Though the government has prosposed a Rs 40 crore network project on transgenics, covering 12 crops including maize, pigeonpea, chickpea, soyabean, cotton, brassica, tomato, brinjal, banana, papaya, potato and cassava, the future of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country seems uncertain.
In the recent winter session of the Parliament replying to the queries by Opposition members, the Union minister of state for agriculture, Hukamdeo Narayan Yadav, admitted that the government has received complaints on the failure of Bt cotton, the country's first GM crop developed by Monsanto-Mahyco. He said the government was ready to hold investigation in this regard. (See the above link for the full text)
New Asian Experiences Of Food Security http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=49371
Ashok B Sharma
Governments in Asian countries are gradually withdrawing from the dual objectives of rendering remunerative prices to farmers against direct procurement and distributing subsidised food to target consumers. They are also reducing buffer stocks.
The reason being cited by them is to integrate with the global economy and allow market forces to gradually determine the prices of grains. But the real fact is that the governments in these countries are unwilling to bear the growing fiscal burden of procuring and subsidising grains to target groups. Farm subsidies in developing countries in Asia are much below the permissible limits determined by the WTO. Laying the blame for reducing food subsidy bill at the behest of WTO is, therefore, untenable. Only China, being a new member of WTO has some additional obligations to comply with in liberating its food economy. (See above link for the full text)
Announcement of Release of GE Potato in India is Premature
Prof. C Kameswara Rao <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I appreciate the doggedness with which the Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, is pursuing the issue of release of GE potato in India. If, as per the information from the Director CPRI, Shimla, the GE potato is in the preliminary stage and is going to take some three years, another three to four years would be needed for the regulatory process to complete. The product is unlikely to see the light of the day in this decade.
A single variety of the much hyped protein rich GE potato is not adequate, as the country needs several different varieties, to be grown in different potato growing states. Developing such varieties in itself would take a long time and there is no information on time frame in this regard.
While the idea of a protein enriched potato is welcome, trying to sell it in the name of improving school children's nutritional intake through the mid-day meal project is not entirely honest or convincing. The amaranth grain has about 16 per cent of protein (much more than in any cereal or millet, though far lower than in pulses), but only a very small portion of this is realized in the GE potato. No explanation is available on this insignificant expression of the transgene(s).
I noticed that the potato used to make wafer chips in England has 6.0 to 6.5 per cent of protein, while that of the GE potato is only about 2.5 per cent. I do not understand how this dismal product could generate so much euphoria in the product developer and its sole promoter.
Where is the need to hurry this inadequate product? On every count, the repeated announcement of the release of the GE potato is premature. In fact, this effort is worsening the already vitiated climate for genetically engineered crops in the country.
If all of us got this 'protato' wrong and the DBT is right, the situation can be remedied only if the DBT publicizes all information relating to this curate's egg. Keeping the scientific community and the general public in the dark does not augur well, not just for the GE potato, but more importantly for the future of transgenic products in India.
Professor C Kameswara Rao, Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education, India; www.fbae.org
http://www.bharattextile.com/newsitems/1983925 Southern Cotton Becoming Bt Resistant Source: Deccan Herald, June 23, 2003 INDIA: Even as the genetically-modified Bt cotton is struggling to get a foothold in India, Karnataka scientists have shown that in the long run Bt cotton will fail to resist the pest...
A new scientific study of GM (Bt) cotton production in Andhra Pradesh, India, together with a film, shows how farmers who planted Monsanto-Mayhco's Bt cotton in their fields suffered severe losses. Such farmers have no subsidies or insurance to fall back on. Andhra Pradesh is an area, in fact, which has seen a high level of suicide in the past when poor farmers have been forced into debt. Now Monsanto-Mayhco's expensive seeds have brought a harvest of anger. A film to accompany the new study, made by women farmers, powerfully documents the traumatic season of Bt cotton. An added irony in all this is that nowhere in India have GM crops been more promoted that in Andhra Pradesh, with the state government keen, with the World Bank backing, to stake its future - or rather, the future of tens of millions of small farmers and landless labourers - on GM crops and hi-tech farming.
SATHEESH <email@example.com> (director of the Deccan Development Society www.ddsindia.com)
From: Shantu Sharma <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I bring to you a new development in India. The chairperson of Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, Sushma Choudhary has been shifted out as she did not allow imports of GM corn-soya blend by CARE-India and CRS. She also rejected the Monsanto's Bt cotton, Mech 915, which was slated for cultivation in north India, this summer and also called for more field trials of GM mustard seeds. The Indian agriculture minister, Ajit Singh was also forced to quit for taking a pro-farmer stand. Mr Singh apart from pleading forthe farmers of the developing countries at WTO had also sought a change in the government's policies to make India's drought-hit farmers competitive in global markets. The analytical piece in Today's 'The Financial Express', India discusses how the lobby interests of MNCs can rule the roost and prevent development in agriculture. http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=34992
A lesson from the field
ASHA KRISHNAKUMAR - Frontline, India, Online, Volume 20 - Issue 11, May 24 - June 06, 2003; (India's National Magazine from the publishers of THE HINDU) http://flonnet.com/fl2011/stories/20030606005912300.htm
Surveys done by government committees and non-governmental organisations support the claim of farmers in several States that Bt cotton yielded inferior crops and even did not perform well in the matter of resistance to pests.
[Photo caption: A Bt cotton plant at harvest time. Farmers are generally unhappy about the quality of the crop - the length and weight of the staple and the texture of the cotton.]
The so-called genetic revolution in cotton appears to be coming apart at the seams. Reports are pouring in from different parts of the country of a "failed" or "unsatisfactory" harvest of the first commercial transgenic Bt cotton crop. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture has asked the Centre to re-evaluate the economic viability of Bt cotton. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests has rejected the use of MECH 915 Bt cotton seeds in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.