GENET archive


2-Plants: Update on Bt cotton in India

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Storm of protest against nod for more Bt crops
SOURCE: The Financial Express, India, by Ashok B. Sharma & B. V. Mahalakshmi
DATE:   18 Apr 2005

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Storm of protest against nod for more Bt crops

NEW DELHI, HYDERABAD, APRIL 17: Farmers’ groups and civil society
organisations across the country have expressed deep concerns over the
country’s regulatory authority approving new biotech (Bt) cotton hybrids
for cultivation in new areas when the case for extension of the approval
period for three such varieties under cultivation has become controversial.

As part of the Global Week of Action (GWA) being celebrated worldwide,
several civil society and farmers’ groups have stepped up the campaign
against "unwarranted approval of new Bt cotton hybrids, when the case for
old varieties remains undecided."

The country’s regulatory authority, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee
(GEAC) has so far approved six new Bt cotton hybrids for commercial
cultivation in north India in the current season. At its last meeting on
April 13, the GEAC approved one new Bt cotton hybrid for commercial
cultivation in central India and 12 such transgenic cotton varieties are in
pipeline for commercial cultivation in central India.

In March 2002, three Bt cotton hybrids developed by Mahyco Monsanto, namely
Mech-162, Mech-12 and Mech-184 were approved for commercial cultivation in
south and central India. This approval period expired on March 31, 2005.
The GEAC, which deliberated twice on the proposal for extension of the
approval period, could not decide on the issue as the Andhra Pradesh
government had given unfavourable reports about the performance of Bt
cotton. The GEAC is awaiting favourable reports from other states before
giving its nod for the extension of the approval period for these three

Some civil society groups have conducted scientific studies, which show the
failure of Bt cotton in south India. The Secunderabad-based Centre for
Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) conducted a study under the leadership of Dr
GV Ramanjaneyulu and entomologist Dr SMA Ali, which showed the failure of
Bt cotton in Warangal and Medak districts of Andhra Pradesh. A similar
study conducted by Dr Abdul Qayum and Kiran Sakkhari on behalf of the
Deccan Development Society (DDS), Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of
Diversity and Permaculture Association of India bared farmers suffering
from heavy losses on account of Bt cotton cultivation. The district
authority of Warangal has asked Mahyco Monsanto to compensate the farmers
for the losses.

Also, studies conducted by the Gene Campaign, Research Foundation for
Science, Technology and Ecology and Greenpeace India have shown the failure
of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil nadu. Eminent scientist
and Padma Bhushan awardee Dr Pushpa M Bhargava has gone on record saying
that Bt cotton has failed to live up to expectations. So far, only one
survey which was conducted by an advertising and market research agency,
IMRB on behalf on Monsanto India has attested to the success of Bt cotton
cultivation. However, the CSA has refuted point-by-point the survey
conducted by IMRB.

As part of the GWA campaign, a two-day international consultation on Bt
cotton was organised by DDS and Genetic Resources Action International
(GRAIN) in Hyderabad. Farmers’ groups and civil society organisations from
Bangladesh, Canada, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mali, Nepal, the
Phillipines, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Thailand, who gathered for this
conclave called ‘Southern Encounters’ expressed concerns over the
deliberate thrusting of transgenic technology in farmers’ fields at the
cost of genetic pollution, environmental degradation and health hazards.
Local farmers’ groups from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra
narrated their experiences of incurring losses on account of Bt cotton

"The use of transgenic crops has unleashed new hazards into our farms. The
profit-driven life science industry is more life-destroying than
life-giving. Newer evidences and ever-growing failures of promise and
performance of both the products and the corporate interests marketing them
reveal darker truths about this technology. Claims of increased yields,
reduced pesticide and larger profits for farmers have proved to be false.
On the contrary, it has increased their losses. This was the essence of the
two-day deliberations," said PV Satheesh, Convenor, Deccan Development

Among the notable participants in the Hyderabad Southern Encounters were
Collen Ross and Jennifer Bromm of National Farmers’ Union of Canada,
Lawrence Mkhaliphi of Biowatch, South Africa, Hira Jhamtani, Konphalindo,
Indonesia, Lim Li Lin of Thrid World Network, Malaysia, Vladimir Riveria of
GRAIN, The Philippines, Witoon Lianchamroon of BioThai, Thailand. Noted
Indian scientist Dr MV Rao also participated.

In New Delhi, the National Kisan Panchayat organised a one-day seminar on
‘Globalisation and Indian Agriculture’ on April 16, where former Union
agriculture minister Chaturanan Mishra, farmers’ leaders like Atul Anjaan,
Dr Krishna Bir Chaudhary, Naresh Sirohi and civil society groups like Gene
Campaign participated. As a follow-up to the GWA, Kheti Virasat and Punjab
Organic Farming Association have planned a ‘Peoples Dialogue on GM Crops’
and Organic Cotton Workshop.

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

DATE:   20 Apr 2005

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Dear Friends and colleagues,

We would like to bring to your attention the results of a three-year study
(2002-2005) of the impact of bollworm resistant Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh
in India by the Deccan Development Society and the AP Coalition in Defence
of Diversity.

The study, undertaken by scientists Dr Abdul Qayum, and Mr Kiran Sakkhari,
in collaboration with village based grassroots researchers, examined the
agro-socio-economic impact of three genetically engineered Bt cotton
hybrids viz., MECH-12, MECH-162 and MECH 184. These are marketed under the
brand name "Bollgard". The study is the outcome of a transparent and open
methodology, which involved interviewing farmers, and gathering information
from them on a fortnightly basis over the three-year period.

The study "Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: a three year assessment" captures
farmers' engagement with Bt cotton, the resultant economics of the
cultivation, and the ultimate desperation when crop failures hit the
farmers. There is also available a film "Bt Cotton in AP: a three year
fraud", which captures the mood and feelings of the farmers caught up in
the false promises of Bt cotton. As PV Satheesh, Director of the Deccan
Development Society, puts it, this is "a story of terrible loss, deep pain,
and cold anger, leading to explosive violence and even death".

Monsanto Inc, through its joint venture Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech Ltd, is
responsible for the supply of Bt cotton for commercial cultivation in the
country. Monsanto in its website claims that "Bt cotton returns socio-
economic benefits to smallholder farmers globally". The study is an
evaluation of this claim by recording the experiences of Bt cotton growers
in Andhra Pradesh.

The study found that:

- 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 kg per acre, the yield for small farmers under
rainfed conditions in 2005 from Bt is just about 535 kg. The same farmers
got 150 kg more yield from growing non-Bt hybrids under the same conditions
as the Bt cotton. 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

- Bollgard did not bring profit to farmers
The three year average revealed 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

- Bollgard did not reduce the cost of cultivation
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
The 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.

Attached below is the Executive Summary of the report. If you wish to
receive a soft copy of the study, please let us know and we'll send you a
copy. Details can also be obtained from the website of the Deccan
Development Society

With best wishes, Chee Yoke Heong and Chee Yoke Ling Third World Network
121-S Jalan Utama 10450 Penang Malaysia Email: Website:


REF: Doc.TWN/Biosafety/2005/H

Executive Summary

Cotton crop occupies about 10% of the total area in Andhra Pradesh. Warangal
has a prominent place in the cotton cultivation in Andhra Pradesh covering
18% of the total state's cotton acreage. It has acquired a very bad name
with more than 200 farmers committing suicides due to heavy pest
infestations leading to irrevocable losses. Responding to the crisis in
cotton cultivation, some NGOs in Warangal district have initiated
alternative pest management approaches (Non Pesticidal methods popularly
known as NPM) using cost effective, locally available resources, which
proved to be successful on community basis.

Under these circumstances, Monsanto Inc through its joint venture
Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech Ltd has introduced three Bt cotton hybrids viz.,
MECH-12, MECH-162 and MECH 184 for commercial cultivation with the approval
from Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of Ministry of
Environments and Forests of Government of India in March 2002 despite lot
of resistance from different corners such as Environmentalists, NGOs to
these Genetically Modified Crops as it is not a sustainable technology and
will only increase the costs of cultivation.

Bt cotton was given a wide publicity both on visual and print media as great
a saviour of cotton farmers from the bollworms. Bollworms are major
devastating pests on cotton causing lot of damage to the crops.
Advertisements and press releases like "Bollworm resistant Bt varieties
could increase the yields by 30 to 40 per cent and require 70 per cent less
pesticide" (statement given by Raju Barwale, Managing Director of the
company which released the Bt cotton seeds in India -The Biotech Advantage
June 12, 2002) naturally attract farmers and tend them to grow Bt cotton.

AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity in association with Deccan Development
Society constituted a scientific team in August 2002 to look in to the
performance of the Bt crop and also to verify the truthfulness of the
claims made by Monsanto about the Bt cotton. The study team in
collaboration with the NGOs identified two villages and tracked its
performance vis-à-vis Non-Bt hybrids till end of the crop season. A mid
season study was also conducted in the November 2002 covering 11 villages.
Later at the end of the cotton season, a large scale survey had been
conducted covering 225 farmers who had grown both Bt and Non-Bt hybrids.

The results of the survey revealed that Monsanto hybrids were utter failure
compared to the Non-Bt hybrids. Despite that fact that, the season 2002-03
was a drought year, farmers could harvest reasonable harvests from Non-Bt
hybrids, while loosing heavily from Monsanto Hybrids. In spite of the
catastrophic failure, industry continued the false propaganda, through
advertisements in the media.

During the second year i.e., kharif 2003-04, in order to cover wider area,
two more districts were roped in order to have a wider representation from
different agro climatic areas of the state. The study was conducted by
taking a sample of 164 farmers from three cotton-growing districts viz.,
Warangal, Adilabad and Kurnool. The crop economics data was sourced from
all these 164 farmers at fortnightly intervals, so as to capture even the
minutest details of the crop economics without any memory bias. The season
long study revealed that,
-  Farmers had to incur an expenditure that was 230% more for Bt seeds than
Non Bt hybrids. * Total investments for Bt ware 8% higher than for the
cultivation of non-Bt cotton.
- The reduction in pesticide consumption by Bt farmers was just 12%
- Net profits from Bt was 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 of farmers, the yield difference between Bt
and non-Bt was negligible.

In fact, 2003-04 was a year of timely & good rains, least pest infestations
and unusually with good market price for cotton throughout the season,
making the cotton farmers a happy lot with bountiful returns. Even under
these conditions, the Monsanto Bt hybrids failed miserably in delivering
its promises of reduced pesticide usage, and increase in yields.

Despite the fact that yield is not an attribute of the Bt gene inserted in
to the cotton hybrid, the continued ad propaganda both in the print and
visual media about the bumper yields from Bt cotton, backed by the AC
Neilson's study caught a wide spread attraction among the farming community
especially who are literate and can influence the decisions of the fellow
farmers in their vicinity.

As these Monsanto hybrids were given permission for a period of three years
for commercial sales, we also thought of continuing he study for one more
year and to track the performance of the Monsato hybrids in the third year
also, and continued study in three cotton growing areas. The earlier
studies revealed that these Monsanto hybrids proved to be fatal for the
small and medium farming categories; this year study (2004-05) was mainly
focused on the small and medium farmers growing Monsanto hybrids.

As more than 60% of the cotton is grown under rainfed conditions, Nalgonda
district has been selected for the study by dropping Kurnool district from
the study areas. Data collection was done as was done in 2003-04, at
fortnightly intervals. The results of the study are as follows:
- The Monsanto Bt seed was 3 times costlier than Non-Bt hybrids
- Farmers spent 75% more on irrigation and 8% more on fertilizers for
growing Monsanto hybrids than the Non-Bt hybrids
- The pesticide consumption was just 8% less for Bt hybrids than Non-Bt
hybrids yield benefit was just 5% for the Bt hybrids
- Monsanto hybrids required 18% more overall investments for their
- While Monsanto hybrids resulted in a net loss of Rs -217/- per acre, the
Non-bt hybrids helped farmers with a net benefit of +594/- per acre

                                  PART III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Biotech cotton may push India ahead of U.S. - USDA
SOURCE: Reuters

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Biotech cotton may push India ahead of U.S. - USDA

Business News, WASHINGTON (Reuters) - India is poised to overtake the United
States in annual cotton production if India's cotton yield improvements
remain on an upward track, the U.S. Agriculture Department said on Monday.

China is the world's largest cotton producer, now followed by the United
States and India.

In a special report on India's cotton production, the USDA's Foreign
Agricultural Service examined how cotton crop yields have steadily
increased in India since 2002 due largely to the adoption of genetically
modified cotton.

Both the United States and India are forecast to produce record cotton crops
in the 2004/05 marketing year with 23.1 million and 18 million bales
respectively, the USDA said.

India's forecast production of 18 million bales will surpass the United
States' 10-year average production of 17.9 million bales, it said.

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