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2-Plants: Bt-cotton completely failed in India - Farmers are Angry

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TITLE:  Bt. Cotton completely failed - Farmers are Angry
SOURCE: Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, India, 
        Press Release
DATE:   Nov 6, 2002

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Bt. Cotton completely failed - Farmers are Angry

Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology calls for a 
withdrawal of the conditional clearance given by GEAC to the genetically 
engineered Bt. cotton on the basis of its field survey showing complete 
failure of Bt. cotton

On 26th March 2002the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the 
Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, gave the 
conditional clearance for commercial planting of the controversial 
genetically engineered Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt.) cotton to Monsanto and 
Mahyco. This has been done in spite of the fact that:

A. A Supreme Court case challenging the 1998 field trials is ongoing;
B. The GEAC is aware that there have been numerous irregularities and 
   violations of biosafety laws and guidelines in Monsanto-Mahyco's field 
   trials of Bt cotton (presented to GEAC in a Memorandum of 5th November 

The commercial clearance to Bt. cotton was granted on grounds that it had 
been fully tested in Indian condition, that it does not require pesticide 
sprays and it gives higher yield and farmers have higher incomes. All the 
claims on the basis of which the clearance was granted have been proven 
false by the total failure of Bt. cotton in states where it was cleared for 
plating including Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology has carried out 
a field survey between 23rd October to 2nd November 2002 and the following 
are the results of the survey.

1. False Claim of Bt. Cotton as Pest Resistant

Bt. cotton has been devastated by pest attacks. Pest occurrence on Bt. was 
higher than non-Bt. cotton. As the trail data had already indicated with 
250-300% increase in non-target pests for Bt. cotton, there was a 
substantial attack of bollworm and sucking pests e.g. Jassids, aphids and 
Thrips on Bt. cotton in both the states where commercial planting was done 
on a large scale. The normal sprays on Bt. cotton is upto 7 times for 
controlling bollworm and sucking pests. Farmers in Warangal are 
sprayingTracer which cost about Rs. 1500 per spray including labour charges 
on Bt. The Bt. toxin has also found to be ineffective after 90 days while 
Goucha effect also goes away by 45 days and followed by heavy attack by 
sucking pests. Mahyco varieties are foundto be susceptible to sucking 
pests. In fact, Mahyco has also recommended for sprays if Economic 
Threshold Limit (ETL) level is crossed which is defined as 20 bollworms in 
per acre is crossed. So their own propagation material proves that their 
claim of pest resistance was only to misguide farmers for profit making. 
Bt. cotton has been attacked by wilt (fusarium oxysporum fsp. Vasinfectum) 
and Root rot (Rhizoctoria bactaticola) in Yawatmal, Anandwan (Maharashtra), 
in Warangal (Andhra Pradesh). These diseases have only affected the Bt. 
cotton varieties.

2. False Claim of Higher Yield

Bt. cotton was sold with the claim that it would give 15 quintals of yield 
per acre. However yields have been as low as 20 kgs in one acre. On average 
yields of Bt. cotton are 1.2 quintals per acre. Nowhere Bt. cotton yield 
can cross 4 quintal/acre at the end of the harvest. In most of the field 
visited, the Bt. cotton plants are in stage of maturity with its leaves 
getting red (and then it drops and the plant are dried). It is very 
apparent in plots with non-Bt. on fringes because non-Bt plant looks 
healthier, taller and are more green than Bt. plants.

So the highest yield in Bt. cotton could be upto 4 quintals which is much 
below the expected yield in other hybrids which normally goes upto 15 
quintals per acre. The boll setting in Bt. cotton plant is not more than 60 
bolls per plant while on Sasya or Brahma cotton variety there are upto 200-
250 bolls on each plant which indicates good yield.

3. False Claim of Higher Incomes for Farmers

The failure of Bt. cotton has completely exposed the companies who are 
trying to market their genetically engineered seeds at the cost of the 
farmers' live and livelihood and calls into question the GEAC clearance 
given to an unreliable, untested hazardous variety. Mr. Mala Rao Krishna 
Rao Thakre of the Both village in Pandharkawada (Kelapur) tehsil of 
Yawatmal has suffered a major heart attack when he found his 27 acres of 
Bt. cotton completely devastated by diseases and pests. He is still 
hospitalized in an Hospital in Bombay. He is big farmer and can afford 
better treatment but the failure of Bt. cotton can create a Warangal of 
December 1997 when hundreds of cotton farmers have committed suicides due 
to the failure of their crops.

There are some Bt. growers who have received very poor yield in Bt. For 
example Mr. Purshotam Kushalrao Kakre of Aloda village has got 86 kilograms 
in 1 acre, Mr. Pandit Rao Rathod has got 40 kilograms from three acres, Mr. 
Rai Singh Seva Rathod of Jamwari village in Yawatmal has not picked 
anything from Bt. cotton so far, Mr. Sharad Choudhury of Wani has only 
received 8 quintals in 7 acres while Mr. Ganeshjee Gupta of the same tehsil 
has got only 63 kilo in one acre so far. Each Bt. farmers have spent 
thousands of rupees on its cultivation and the poor return has made the 
farmers angry against the companies who have sold Bt. cotton. They would 
not get enough to even compensate for the seed cost and labour cost, 
which together comes to about Rs 3500  4000/acre.

Cost Benefit Analysis of Bt. cotton vs other cotton in one acre
                              Bt. Cotton(1)      Non-Bt.          Desi 
                                                 Hybrids(2)     varieties(3)
A. Expenditure  Seeds
   on Inputs    Pesticide     Rs. 3200           Rs.  450    Own Saved Seeds
                              Rs. 4000           Rs. 2800    Nothing 
                              (approx.)          (4 sprays)
                Irrigation    Rs. 2500           Rs. 2500    Rainfed variety
   Total                      Rs. 9700           Rs. 5750    Zero 
B. Total Yield                2 quintals         10 quintals       5 

Output Value                  Rs. 3300           Rs. 16500         Rs. 8250
                            (Rs.1650/qtl)     (Rs.1650/qt)     (Rs.1650/qtl)
C. B  A                      Loss of            Profit of         Profit of
                              Rs. 6400/acre      Rs. 10750/acre    Rs. 8250/

(1) Planted by Anandwan Agriculture Institute, Warora
(2) Brahma variety in a farmer field in Andhra
(3) AKA 5 & 7 growing in ZARC, Yawatmal

The failure of Bt. cotton in giving good yield exposes the false claim 
about higher yield by Monsanto-Mahyco as well as the GEAC, which said that 
a Bt. cotton grower would get an average increased income of Rs. 10,000
per acre.

Since each farmer would have got an average yield of 10 quintals through 
normal non-Bt. hybrid and after cutting allcosts, he would have got an 
income of Rs. 10750, the Bt. cotton failure has cost the farmers a total 
loss of Rs. 11,28,750,000 (Rs. 112.8 crores or Rs. 1128 million) in 
105000 acres in one cropping season.

The company must be held liable for this loss to farmers until strict 
liability is brought into Seed Laws and Biosafety Laws, no further 
clearance should be given to any genetically engineered seed variety.

4. No Effective Safeguards for Biosafety

During the field survey of Bt. cotton it was found that there are quite a 
few farmers who have not planted refugia. Mr. Raju Ratnakar Gandhewar of 
Both village in Pandharkawada (Kelapur) tehsil clearly said that he has 
sold his non-Bt. seeds pouches and has not planted refugia at all. He in 
fact said that there are other farmers also in Both village who have not 
planted refugia. Mr. Ingle, ADO, Yawatmal have also accepted that there are 
Bt. cotton growers who have not planted refugia on the borders of Bt. plot. 
Dr. Jalapathi Rao also said that there are farmers in Warangal who did not 
grow refugia because company did not pursue it.

However every farmer who bought Bt. cotton seeds was made to sign on a 
printed page in which it was said that if the buyer does not follow the 
conditions laid down by GEAC, they would be liable for it and non-
compliance of the conditions will attract penalties under Environment 
Protection Act and the rules framed there under.

It clearly indicate that there was no effective means to ensure biosafety 
in Bt. cotton through planting of refugia which may help in checking 
genetic pollution and contamination through cross pollination as well as 
minimizing the pests resistance to Bt. toxin. The companies made the Bt. 
growers responsible for non-compliance of GEAC conditions.

Again the burden of non-compliance is being shifted by the company to the 
farmer and the GEAC is complicit in this unfair transfer of liability.

The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology Demands:

1. Monsanto-Mahyco should recall all Bt. cottonseeds from market and pay 
compensation of atleast Rs. 112.8 crores (Rs. 1.12 billion) to farmers 
whose Bt. crop has been damaged by pests and diseases.

2. Strict liability for seed and biotechnology corporations should be 
introduced in Seed Laws and Biosafety Laws to ensure that disasters the Bt. 
cotton distress are not repeated.

3. Ministry of Agriculture should ban commercial sales of Bt. since it has 
brought high risks and costs to farmers with no benefits, unknown risks to 

4. GEAC should immediately withdraw its conditional clearance given in 
needless hurry to commercial planting of Bt. cotton.

5. A high level commission of inquiry should be set up with strong 
participation of independent experts, NGO's, specialists in biosafety and 
farmers organisations to both assess damage to farmers and the conditions 
under which GEAC gave clearance for Bt. cotton. No further application of 
GM crops should be allowed till this Inquiry Commission submits its report.

6. GEAC should not give commercial clearance to the transgenic mustard of 
ProAgro in its forthcoming meeting on 7th November 2002, in the light of 
its irresponsible clearance of the Bt. cotton.

7. The undue influence of seed and biotech corporations on government 
decision making has been the reason for unjustified clearance to GM crops 
by GEAC. In this context we demand that no seed MNCs be allowed on the 
board of CGIAR (Consultative Groupon International Agriculture Research, 
the global system under World Bank which coordinates national agriculture 
research systems). (The Financial Express, November 6, 2002)

Prepared by :
Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
A  60, Hauz Khas, New Delhi  110016  INDIA
Tel: 0091 - 11  696 8077, 685 3772, 656 1868
Fax: 0091 - 11  685 6795, 656 2093
Email:	rfste@vsnl.come and


The complete report on the failure of Bt. cotton will be ready soon and can 
be ordered from Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
For background on the transgenic cotton in India, you can visit our website


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