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2-Plants: Bt Cotton dashes hopes of ryots in India

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Bt Cotton dashes hopes of ryots
SOURCE: The Hindu, India, by K. Venkateshwarlu
DATE:   Dec 30, 2002

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Bt Cotton dashes hopes of ryots

MALLAPUR (MAHABUBNAGAR DT.) DEC. 29. It is a double shock for the cotton 
farmers of this small dusty village of the perennially drought-hit 
district. First it was drought that cut into their earnings and now it is 
the failure of Bt Cotton.

Influenced by the high-decibel campaign by Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech and with 
a lot of hope, Akki Ramulu raised the Bt Cotton hybrid buying the seed at 
Rs. 1,600 a packet (Bt Mech 162), about four times higher than the usual 
hybrid variety Bunny (Rs. 450) on an acre of his land. But after six 
months, he is a shattered man.

After months of hard work, he may just be able to get a quintal of cotton, 
against the promised yield of 10-12 quintals per acre.

The remaining crop is either stunted or shrivelled up and full of insects. 
He had spent Rs. 1,600 on seed, Rs. 4,000 on eight pesticide sprays and Rs. 
1,200 on fertilizers. "I should not have believed them. I have learnt a 
bitter lesson. I will never raise this Bt Cotton," rued Ramulu.

Another farmer, Venkat Reddy, switched over to Bt from the regular Bunny 
and raised it on three acres, hoping to wipe out his debts. Victim of a 
confidence trick played by the seed dealer who promised to pay him Rs. 
30,000 if the Bt crop failed, Reddy raised it, only to get dejected in four 
months time. Two cotton pickings later, he says there were not many buyers 
for Bt cotton, as the lint was less, seeds were more and the staple length 
was a clear 10 mm less than the Bunny variety.

"While the Bt cotton fetched Rs. 1,300 a quintal, the Bunny still commanded 
a price of Rs. 2,600," he said making rounds of the dealer, in vain.

Considering himself a progressive farmer, P. Ranga Reddy, went the whole 
hog, with liberal help directly from the "company" representative.

Bt cotton was raised all over his 11 acres and he spent Rs. 1 lakhs on 
seed, pesticide sprays and fertilizers.

The Bt Cotton was much better here compared to the other farms but he is 
nowhere near recovering his cost.

Three factors might have helped him in minimising the loss - direct 
supervision by the company man, a switchover from mirchi to cotton and 
heavy use of pesticides.

Farmers of nearby villages such as Fatimapur, Gudur, Reddypalem, Cheguru 
and Narsappagudem in Kothur mandal, who have raised Bt cotton on hundreds 
of acres are also on the verge of incurring huge losses.

But the question is who will pay the compensation for the loss, the company 
or the Government, which has approved its commercialisation. At a meeting 
at Fatimapur, organised by the Telangana Natural Resource Management Group 
(TNRMG) a network of 12 NGOs, cotton farmers from these villages and from 
Ranga Reddy and Adilabad poured out their anger at the crop failure, 
explained the way they were deceived and vowed not to go in for Bt Cotton 
in future.

"It is clear that the Bt Cotton has failed on all counts and the claims 
made by the company have been proved wrong. It has neither improved the 
yield through better plant protection nor reduced the pesticide usage."

In fact, the Bt cotton crop raised by P. Ranga Reddy of Mallapur showed 
that expensive pesticides like tracers, cypermethrin, confidor and avant 
were used defeating the very objective.

"The returns were not as promised as the pod itself was small, seeds were 
more, lint and the staple length were less," said the farm scientists 
team, comprising K.V.R. Chowdary, Prasada Rao and S. Jeevananda Reddy, 
after the field visit.

"In the light of these ground realities," they demanded immediate 
withdrawal of the approval granted by the Genetic Engineering Approval 
Committee to Monsanto-Mahyco and payment of compensation to farmers.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Mahyco's Bt cotton variety 'not up to the mark'
SOURCE: The Hindu, India, by Gargi Parsai
DATE:   Dec 19, 2002

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Mahyco's Bt cotton variety 'not up to the mark'

NEW DELHI DEC. 18. Genetically engineered Bt cotton variety released by 
Monsanto (Mahyco) in India has not been `up to the mark', the President of 
the Indian Industry Seed Association, M. Prabhakar Rao, said here today 
when asked specifically about the failure of the crop in several States 
including Andhra Pradesh. Mr. Rao, who was here to organise a national 
seminar on 'Bhartiya seed industry', was reluctant to be drawn into a 
discussion on the failure of Mahyco variety of cotton. He did, however, 
admit that the Bt cotton "would work better if it went into the right 
genetic background" and addressed the pest scouting performance. To that 
extent, more trials were needed in India. Mr. Rao said in the globalisation 
era, indigenous seed industry needed support from the government for which 
they've organised a national conference on 'Globalisation: Challenges and 
opportunities'. He opposed a new clause introduced in the draft Seeds Act 
which called for compensation to farmers in case of failure of a variety.


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