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2-Plants: "Mahyco-Monsanto Bt hybrids failed the farming community in Andhra Pradesh"

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TITLE:  Genetically-modified Bt cotton a cropper: Study
SOURCE: Deccan Herald, India, by R Akhileshwari
DATE:   13 Apr 2005

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Genetically-modified Bt cotton a cropper: Study

Despite claims that Bt cotton provides socio-economic benefits, the study
reveals that it infected soil and no other crop could grow after the Bt
cotton crop was harvested.

A study that tracked genetically modified Bt cotton crop for three years in
Andhra Pradesh has proved conclusively that it has failed on all fronts
including yield, cost of cultivation, returns to farmers and resistance to
pests. On the other hand, the non-Bt cotton performed better on all counts.

“There are negative returns on every count other than pesticide use in Bt
cotton crop, said Mr P V Satheesh, convener of AP Coalition on Defence of
Diversity and Director of Deccan Development Society, which sponsored the

Incidentally, this is the first-ever independent scientific study on Bt
cotton done on season-long basis continuously for three years in 87
villages of Warangal, Nalgonda, Adilabad and Kurnool districts, which are
the major cotton growing districts of the State.

The AP Coalition, which comprises 140 civil society groups across the State,
demanded that the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Government
of India should withhold the three-year license to the Bollgard Bt hybrids
of Mahyco-Monsanto.

Monsanto Corporation, that markets Bollgard variety of Bt Cotton in India
through Mahyco, asserts that it returns huge socio-economic benefits to
farmers. It also claims that Bt cotton contributes to a healthier
environment, as it involves lesser use of pesticide. However, the study
shows that it infected the soil and no other crop could grow after the Bt
Cotton crop was harvested.

As against this, the soil of the non-Bt cotton was friendly to other crops
like chilly. “This is an early warning and needs to be researched by soil
scientists and plant pathologists,”said Satheesh.

Hybrids, a failure

The study conducted by Dr Abdul Qayum and Kiran Sakkhari, agricultural
scientists, found that the three-year average yield of Bt cotton was 649 kg
per acre while that of non-Bt cotton was 708 kg per acre. The costs of
cultivation for Bt cotton was 12 per cent higher than that of non-Bt
cotton. The three-year average returns on Bt cotton was 60 per cent less
than that for non-Bt cotton. “On all accounts, the Mahyco-Monsanto Bt
hybrids failed the farming community in Andhra Pradesh,” said Mr Satheesh.

He recalled that Mahyco-Monsanto had commissioned studies by market research
agencies rather that scientists, which claimed that AP farmers had gained
five-fold gain from Bollgard compared to non-BT hybrids. “Hundreds of
farmers, who have testified in the study have told us how Bollgard
cultivation has ruined them totally. In the face of reality, this claim by
Mahyco-Monsanto is an example of dark humour,” he said.

The Coalition demanded that the AP government immediately take steps to
prevent the sale of Bollgard seeds for the present season, which is already
going on. It also demanded that the government order a judicial enquiry into
the incidents where the official agencies have either suppressed the truth
or manipulated it to favour the Mahyco-Monsanto corporation. Demanding that
Mahyco-Monsanto compensate the small farmers, the Coalition said,
“Mahyco-Monsanto should be held responsible for spreading impossible dreams
that are ruining the farmers lives.”

It also demanded that a five-year moratorium be imposed on genetically
engineered crops until the issue is debated widely.

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