GENET archive


2-Plants: Gene Campaign demands independent enquiry on Bt cotton in India

                                 PART I
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SOURCE: Gene Campaign, India
DATE:   28 Sep 2005

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Gene Campaign said today that the story of Bt cotton is getting murkier
by the day. Dr Kranthi, a scientist from the prestigious cotton research
institute in Nagpur publishes a paper providing the scientific data that
provides evidence that Bt cotton is not very effective in India, then
writes an article in a newspaper recanting pretty much all that he has
said in the scientific publication! Not only does he deny his earlier
findings and assertions, he springs to the defense of his boss, the DG of
ICAR , absolving him of any responsibility in the questionable decisions
taken to release Bt cotton. If there has been any pressure on Dr Kranthi
to revise his views as published in Current Science, this must come out
in a careful enquiry. It is highly unusual for a scientist to present
another view of his data in a newspaper article after publishing a
scientific paper.

Gene Campaign demands a full fledged enquiry on all aspects of Bt cotton.

- Given that there are several contradictory reports on its performance,
- several reports of the failure of the Mahyco- Monsanto MECH Bt cotton
- rampant proliferation of illegal varieties to the extent that spurious
Bt seeds being sold on the market often do not even contain the Bt gene,
- the fact that the burden of expensive and risky Bt cotton is increasing
the misery of farmers already crushed under the burden of debts
- that despite corroborated reports of failure, Monsanto has refused to
pay any compensation to farmers who have suffered losses and GEAC has not
taken any action in this regard.

Asking for a panel of independent experts involving a cross section of
stakeholders, not just selected scientists, Gene Campaign director Dr
Suman Sahai said the contradictory situations that have arisen around Bt
cotton must be investigated thoroughly. A time bound enquiry process of
six months, headed by a respected scientist must include farmers,
consumers, academicians, scientists and NGOs who should examine the
available information to come up with a status report on Bt cotton. This
must be presented to Parliament and made widely available. Farmers and
other citizens have the right to know what exactly is happening with
respect to Bt cotton, who has suffered losses, what is the efficacy of
the technology and take a decision on whether this technology is good or
not, for the farmers in the longer term.

Dr Suman Sahai said that it is criminal on the part of the government and
regulatory agencies to continue to pretend that all is well with Bt
cotton, when there is so much evidence that it is not. It is also
shameful that the GEAC continues to release Bt cotton varieties without
taking any action on the spread of spurious Bt cotton that is obviously
failing and causing immense suffering to farmers. Nor has GEAC taken up
the question of compensation to those farmers who have suffered losses,
even after the AP govt's ban on the Mahyco- Monsanto Bt cotton.

The GEAC also needs to explain why it is promoting Bt cotton as a hybrid
in this country which will result in farmers being forced to buy fresh
seeds every year, when it is known that true breeding varieties from
which farmers can save seeds for subsequent crops are much more effective
against bollworm that the hybrids ( mentioned also by Kranthi) . China
promotes true breeding varieties , not hybrids therefore the performance
of Bt cotton is far better there than here.

Kranthi and his group had provided scientific data in a paper published
in Current Science ( July 25, 2005) which explains why Bt cotton hybrids
in India were unstable and unpredictable, the result of faulty technology
in which gene expression is variable, showing declining levels of Bt
toxin . Bt expression was found to be lowest in the economically most
important part of the cotton- the boll itself.

The publication said that since Bt cotton does not provide adequate
protection, farmers must use chemical pesticides to protect their crops.
This is in consonance with the findings of many groups including Gene
Campaign, that the Mahyco-Monsanto cotton failed to protect against
bollworm, that farmers had to use chemical pesticides, and that savings
on pesticide were therefore not significant.

Dr. Suman Sahai

Regd. Office - New Delhi
Gene Campaign, J-235/A, Lane W-15C, Sainik Farms, Khanpur, New Delhi -
110 062 (INDIA)
Ph: +91 11 26517248:  Fx: +91 11 26965961:    Em: :

Regional Office- Jharkhand
Gene Campaign; Millat Colony, Bariatu Basti, Ranchi - 834009, Jharkhand
Ph: +91 651 2545016;  Em:

Regional Office: -Uttaranchal
Gene Campaign, Ramgarh, Dist. Nainital, Uttaranchal

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

TITLE:  Expert demands inquiry into Bt cotton cultivation
SOURCE:, India, by Sheela Bhatt
DATE:   29 Sep 2005

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Expert demands inquiry into Bt cotton cultivation

The story of Bt cotton cultivation in India is getting murkier by the day
and it deserves a full fledged inquiry on all aspects, said Dr Suman
Sahai of 'Gene Campaign'.

In a press conference in New Delhi, Sahai told media that multinational
corporations are having vested interests in the cultivation of Bt cotton
and it's high time the Indian government stood up for the farmers and
consumers of India.

The letters 'Bt' stand for Bacillus thuringiensis, a toxin-producing
bacterium found naturally in soils. Scientists have, with the help of
genetic engineering, separated toxin producing genes to produce certain
seeds. Pests die when they eat Bt cotton plants.

The United States company Monsanto is enjoying monopoly over the most
used variety of cotton seed Bollgard.

After a large number of suicides of debt-ridden farmers due to use of
fake varieties of seed, and campaigning by non-government organisations,
Andhra Pradesh has banned Monsanto Bt cotton which is distributed with
help of Mahyco.

Dr Sahai said that, it is criminal on the part of the government and on
the part of the regulatory authority to pretend that all is well with Bt
cotton when there is so much evidence that it is not.

In the biotech industry, Bt cotton is a critical technology for the
success of the marketing of genetically modified agriculture all over the

For India, the issue raised by Dr Sahai deserves attention because the
government's monitoring is not only weak, but absolutely inadequate and
inefficient, believe the experts.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee haven't been able to respond
satifactorily to most arguments against the failure of Bt cotton varieties.

Dr Sahai alleged that "despite corroborated reports of failure, Monsanto
has refused to pay any compensation to Indian farmers who have suffered
losses and GEAC has not taken any action in this regard".

The issue deserves attention also because Dr Mangala Rai, director
general of Indian Council of Agricultural Research is currently engaged
in deliberations with a powerful team within the government over how to
bring about a second green revolution in India with the help of US technology.

"Indo-US nuclear deal's quid pro quo is the agriculture deal signed with
the US," Dr Sahai said.

Commenting on the huge economic interest and aggressive marketing of
multinationals, she added, "It's obvious that America allowed us the
access to nuclear technology and in return asked India to allow an access
to the Indian agriculture market for American biotech companies."

Dr Sahai, in support of her argument to demand a through inquiry against
Bt cotton cultivation, quoted a startling example of well-known scientist
Dr Kranthi belonging to the Cotton Research Institute of Nagpur.

Dr Sahai alleges that Dr Kranthi published a paper in the scientific
journal Current Science providing scientific data on how Bt cotton is not
very effective in India.

Dr Sahai picked up from there and quoted him in The Hindu to prove that
Bt cotton technology is faulty and doesn't protect farmers against the

But Dr Kranthi retaliated soon. He wrote a column in The Hindu absolving
himself and his boss Dr Mangala Rai.

About his evidence in the scientific journal, Dr Kranthi says that Bt
cotton "has a few inherent adequacies. That does not take away the merit
of the technology".

Dr Kranthi has described Bt cotton as a brilliant technology.

The tussle between the two scientists has raised a cloud over Monsanto's
future plans in India.

Dr Sahai says that farmers need to answer why Bt cotton hybrids in India
were unstable and unpredictable. She says that everything should be on
hold till the inquiry is made.

She said one of the causes of farmers' suicides in India was a failure of
Bt cotton cultivation and cultivation of fake and illegal variety of Bt
cotton. Dubious seeds are a major threat to Indian farmers.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
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D - 38116 Braunschweig

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