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2-Plants: Failure of Bt cotton in India (2)

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Monsanto's "shock and awe"
SOURCE: The AgBioIndia Bulletin - Presenting the Real Picture
DATE:   Apr 17, 2003

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Monsanto's "shock and awe"

The American biotech giant, Monsanto, seems to have picked up a leaf from
the empty book of George Bush Jr. -- if you are not with us in pushing
the risky genetically engineered seeds, than you are against us. So goes
the new refrain.

True to the mantra, it demonstrated its "shock and awe" fire power when a
bus load of farmers brought from Andhra Pradesh disembarked in New Delhi
to 'disrupt' a meeting organised by the New Delhi-based NGO Gene
Campaign, on Tuesday, April 15. Gene campaign was merely presenting the
data of a field study on the performance of Bt cotton crop in Andhra Pradesh.

The sad incident happened in the presence of a former Finance Minister of
India, Dr Manmohan Singh, who too pleaded with Monsanto's hired farmers
to let the data of the Bt cotton harvest be presented. These farmers were
accompanied by the head of the Liberty Institute, an arch supporter of
Mahyco-Monsanto and a promoter of free trade and economic liberalisation.

It wasn't unexpected. We have always warned against the games being
enacted in the name of agricultural development and growth. Multinational
companies can go to any extent, even use muscle-power to browbeat the
country into acceptance of faulty technologies. We bring you the report
of the unsavoury incident from the pen of the Gene Campaign's director Dr
Suman Sahai, along with the results of the study.

1. "Monsanto tried to disrupt our meeting" -- Suman Sahai
2. Field data on India's first Bt cotton harvest -- Gene Campaign


1. "Monsanto tried to disrupt our meeting" -- Suman Sahai

Dear Sharma ji

You would have probably heard of the effort made to "disrupt" our Bt
cotton discussion today. I am providing you additional details:

Gene Campaign had organised a discussion on April 15, 2003, at the India
International Centre, New Delhi, to discuss the results of a field study
on the first ever GM crop harvest in India, that of Bt cotton.

The discussion was organised with experts, NGOs and the media. The
Chairperson of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) was also
invited but she did not come. Monsanto and Mahyco were invited, and they
too did not turn up.

Suddenly after the meeting had started, a stream of about 30 farmers
entered the room where the discussion were being held and started
occupying the chairs . They were speaking in " telugu" (the language
spoken in Andhra Pradesh) and so it was obvious they were from Andhra.
Their leader, one Mr. Jaipal Reddy began to interrupt and started taking
over the discussion. I suggested to them that we have done a study in
those regions of AP that they point out, and that we had directly gone to
the farmers to find out the truth. I even offered to hold a joint study
once again to find out the truth.

But unfortunately, there were attempts to disrupt the meeting which did
not succeed too well. Farmers meanwhile began to interact with the media,
specially the TV crews, saying they were getting fantastic results with
Bt cotton and everyone was definitely going to grow it again. They began
denouncing the work being reported in the discussion saying the results
were not true.

On being questioned, farmers admitted they had been sent by Monsanto,
their fare and hospitality had been paid by Monsanto and they were sent
by train the night before specifically for Gene Campaign's meeting. They
also said they were asked by Monsanto to speak strongly in favor of Bt
cotton and to say they were all in support of Bt cotton.

Accompanying Monsanto's farmers into the India International Centre (IIC)
were some unknown people as well as Barun Mitra of Liberty Institute,
known to be Monsanto's point man in Delhi. He was guiding the 'farmers'
and encouraging them to occupy the front seats and not move from there.

A luxury air-conditioned bus waited outside the IIC to take Monsanto's
farmers back, guided and sheapered by Mr. Jaipal Reddy and Mr. Barun Mitra.

However, in the film clip that we had shown (recorded on location in AP
), the Agriculture Minister of Andhra Pradesh is seen on record saying
that the state agriculture department and the scientists from the State
Agriculture University who had independently collected data, have
reported that Bt had not performed well and farmers were very disappointed.

Monsanto chose not to come up front to debate the results or present its
case even though it was invited to do so. It chose instead to send a
bunch of paid 'farmers' to act aggressive and try to break up the meeting.

Suman Sahai


2. Field data on India's first Bt cotton harvest -- Gene Campaign

Press Release April 15, 2003.

Gene Campaign today presented the data on India's very first GM crop, Bt
cotton, which had received conditional approval for commercial
cultivation in March 2002. The data collected from 100 farmers selected
from 16 villages in Warangal in Andhra Pradesh and Yavatmal in
Maharashtra were presented in a discussion with NGOs, experts and the media.

Gene Campaign, which showed a video film about the interviews with
farmers, presented data clearly showing that Bt cotton had failed. Bt
cotton was not resistant to the bollworm and farmers sprayed about the
same amount of pesticides on both, thus showing no great saving in
pesticide, as claimed by Monsanto, the owner of the variety.

Field data also show that the Bt cotton plant is weak and that the boll
size is small, The length of the cotton fibre is shorter than in non Bt
cotton, so the yield is less and the quality poor. Angry cotton farmers
are vowing that they will not grow Bt cotton again.

Cotton traders are not lifting Bt cotton, preferring instead the
successful non Bt varieties like Brahma and Banny . They pay a better
rate for non Bt cotton so far farmers are surreptiously mixing Bt cotton
with non Bt to sell their Bt cotton harvest.

What is clear is that the economics of Bt cotton simply does not work.
Input costs are almost Rs. 1000/ acre higher than for non Bt cotton. The
seed alone costs 4 times as much as good varieties of non Bt cotton.
Savings on pesticides are merely Rs.217/ acre while seed is Rs. 1200/acre
more expensive. The failure of Bt cotton is bitter and widespread. Sixty
percent of Bt farmers were unable to recover their costs and actually
were in the red to the tune of Rs. 80/per acre. Non-Bt cotton farmers did
better in all categories of farm types, low, medium and high yielders.

What is shocking is that GM crop cultivation has been sanctioned and
allowed to continue in states even though the mandated regulatory
authorities have not been set up, No state Level Committee or District
Level Committee is set up in either Andhra Pradesh or Maharashtra. This
is in blatant violation of the Rules for the regulation of GM organisms
which comes under the Environmental Protection Act, 1989.

Gene Campaign has demanded an investigation into this act of criminal
negligence which has endangered the fundamental rights of every citizen
to a healthy life and safe environment guaranteed under the Constitution
of India. The GEAC, India's top level authority for approving GM crops
has some answering to do.

- Why did the GEAC grant approval to Mahyco- Monsanto's Bt 162, Bt 184,
when these are well known as poor to modest performing varieties ?

- Why was approval given to Bt 12,Bt 162, Bt 184 when other better Bt
cotton varieties are in the pipeline ?

- How did the GEAC grant approval for cultivating a GM crop when the
mandated Regulatory Committees to oversee performance and safety are not
even constituted ?

- Gene Campaign has charged the GEAC with criminal negligence in another
context. The Campaign has been demanding that the field trial data of the
Monsanto Bt cotton be made available to the public. The GEAC has
consistently refused to do so. Had this been done, there is a strong
chance that the poor performance would have been detected early and
farmers would have been spared this debacle and loss .

- Gene Campaign demands that the government ensure that Monsanto is made
to pay compensation to those farmers who have suffered losses on account
of Bt cotton. Law mandates this. Section 39 (2) of the Protection of
Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, 2001, requires breeder to pay
compensation if his variety fails to perform as claimed.

[Field data on Bt and non-Bt cotton performance can be requested from]

The AgBioIndia bulletins are an effort by the Forum for Biotechnology &
Food Security to bridge the yawning gap in our understanding of the
politics of food. We believe these bulletins will create wider awareness
and understanding of the compexities of the crisis facing Indian
agriculture and food security. We will keep you posted on the intricacies
and games being enacted in the name of eradicating hunger.

It is a non-commercial educational service for non-profit organisations
and individuals. Subscribers are welcome to contribute information.

You can view previous issues at

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Probe sought into failure of first Bt cotton crop
SOURCE: The Hindu, India
DATE:   Apr 15, 2003

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Probe sought into failure of first Bt cotton crop

NEW DELHI APRIL 15. Confirming doubts over the quality and economic
viability of Bt cotton, Gene Campaign - a non-governmental organisation
working for the farmers' rights - has demanded an investigation by the
Government into the failure of the first harvest, amounting to criminal
negligence that had endangered the fundamental rights of the citizens.

Releasing the results of the first Bt cotton crop, Suman Sahai of the
Gene Campaign said a random survey in the cotton-growing districts of
Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh showed that it was not resistant to
bollworm and the farmers used the same quantity of pesticide as on the
non-Bt variety, thus proving wrong the claims of the owner, Mahyco-
Monsanto. The Bt cotton plant was weak and the boll size small. Even the
length of the cotton fibre was shorter and hence the yield less, the
survey showed.

Gene Campaign has written to the Union Agriculture Minister demanding
compensation for the farmers who had suffered because of the low yield in
the Bt cotton plantation. It demanded that Mahyco-Monsanto be made to pay
for the loss to the farmers under the Protection of Plant Variety and
Farmers Rights Act, 2001. "However, the more important question is how
did the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) allow the
commercial cultivation of this Genetically Modified (GM) crop when it was
know that its varieties were low yielding," Ms. Sahai said.

What is shocking is that GM crop cultivation has been sanctioned and
allowed to continue in States even though the mandatory regulatory
authorities have not been set up, amounting to blatant violation of the
Environmental Protection Act, 1989, she pointed out.

Gene Campaign activists along with scientists from the Andhra Pradesh
Agriculture University visited six villages in Yavatmal and 10 in
Warangal where they spoke to 100 farmers. The survey indicated that
traders were not lifting Bt cotton, preferring instead varieties such as
Brahma and Banny. The input costs are almost Rs. 1,000 per acre higher
than for non-Bt cotton. "The failure of Bt cotton is bitter and more
widespread with 60 per cent of Bt cotton farmers unable to recover their
costs," the survey said.

Charging the GEAC with criminal negligence, Gene Campaign has demanded
that data from the field trial of Monsanto's Bt cotton be made public.
The GEAC has consistently refused to do so. Had this been done, the
farmers could have avoided heavy losses, the NGO said.

According to Ms. Sahai, 98 of the 100 farmers surveyed said they would
not grow Bt cotton next season.