GENET archive


7-Business: Monsanto's Bt cotton sold on lies and lures in India

                                  PART I
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SOURCE: Greenpeace India
DATE:   18 Sep 2005

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Bangalore, India -- Pied piper Monsanto is using every trick and tune to
beguile poor farmers with its Bt serenade. First it decided to play God
and tinker irresponsibly with genes. Now this smooth operator is working
to ensure that it's mutated creations are thrust down the fields of
Indian farmers by hook or crook. Monsanto likes pushing the boundaries of
reason. Now it is pushing the boundaries of advertising and marketing.

The Monitoring and Evaluation Committee has been touring the countryside
in six Bt cotton states and reports back shocking instances of unethical
advertising and trade practices.

Forget retribution, this company is so sure that our pusillanimous state
will not react, it now blatantly puts an address to a panwallah's claim
of a bumper Bt harvest. Talk about chuna lagana! Kar lo jo karna hai.

So will the Government of India dare?

In Maharastra, Nana Patekar endorses the Bollgard brand and extracts a
price but in Punjab who needs a star when you have the Chief Minister and
all the administrative machinery and the agriculture extension system
working for you? For free.

Monsanto is blatant because it got Punjab Chief Minister Amrinder Singh
to personally endorse the Bollgard brand. It works like this. Each time
Markfed, the Punjab state agriculture marketing machine promotes
Bollgard, your tax money foots the bill for the advertising which has
Capt. Amrinder Singh as popular mascot. The desperate farmer pays dearly
for Bt seeds he shouldn't be buying which his Chief Minister has no
business pedalling. The company, of course, keeps the profits. Public
investments made for private profit.

The real meaning of public-private partnership finally visits us.

At the beginning of this season, Mr Palanisamy of Salem, Tamil Nadu was
approached by a company representative to register for a contest that
could take him to Mumbai. That is when the company took a picture of Mr
Palanisamy in front of a tractor. Investigations by MEC revealed that he
had acquired it on a personal loan and was still paying it off!
Palaniswamy says "with the yields that I get from Bt Cotton, I would not
be able to buy even two tractor tyres"! This is part of a Monsanto poster

Three months ago the agriculture minister in Andhra Pradesh called
Monsanto a bad corporate citizen and threw it out. The state was singed
when the irresponsible corporate had refused to honour the MoU it had
signed regarding the performance of its BT cottonseeds. Monsanto had also
fudged data when its Bt cotton crop was a spectacular failure. For a
moment its true ugly and evil face was revealed.

That alone should have cautioned our elected representatives in other
cotton growing states. Instead of framing a MoU to safeguard the interest
of the small farmer in the eventuality of a crop failure they are
endorsing, abetting and conspiring against their own citizens.

With Pied piper Monsanto you can never tell. Never mind the performance
of crop: Heads they win. Tails they win. And Chief Ministers do their bidding.

Read the related Press Release
[see below]

See the Slideshow on Bt aggression

Read the report : Marketing of Bt Cotton in India

The Monitoring and Evaluation Committee [MEC] to monitor Bt Cotton across
the country was set up by Adivasi Ekta Sangathan, AKRSP, CEAD, Centre for
Sustainable Agriculture, Grameen Vikas Trust, Greenpeace India, Jan
Saahas, Kheti Virasat Mission, Krishnadevaraya Rythu Sankshema Sangam,
Krushi, MARI, Navajyothi, Pasumai Tayagam, Prasun, Rashtriya Satyagrah
Dal, Sampark, Sarvodaya Youth Organisation, SECURE, VASPS and YUVA.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Monsanto's Bt Cotton sold on Lies and Lures: Greenpeace & CSA
SOURCE: Greenpeace India & Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, India
DATE:   18 Sep 2005

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Monsanto's Bt Cotton sold on Lies and Lures: Greenpeace & CSA

Bangalore, INDIA -- The Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) on Bt
Cotton , coordinated by Greenpeace India and Centre for Sustainable
Agriculture today condemned Monsanto for using false and misleading
claims as well as unethical practices to sell their Bt Cotton seed. The
organizations put forward evidence to support their claims against such
marketing which included compilation of numerous practices that the
company adopts to sell its product and then to claim it as "the
willingness of Indian farmers". The MEC has called for accountability
mechanisms to be put in place, to ensure that aggressive and unethical
practices used by the Bt Cotton seed corporations to gain market share
are put under check.

"Agriculture is a state subject and most states have failed utterly to
evaluate the frightening scale of this Bt Cotton disaster. The
agricultural department needs to take a firm stand to ensure that the
regulatory regime is strengthened for the protection of the farmer," said
Thangamma Monnappa, GE-Free India campaigner, Greenpeace India.

"The Bt Cotton seed companies are going berserk with their deceitful ways
claiming high yields and great benefits on Bt Cotton. Never before have
seed companies used so many tools and methods to ensure sales for their
product. The aggressive and misleading selling techniques adopted by the
Bt Cotton companies show utter disregard for the farmers' choice to buy
seed. This also severely limits the options available for promoting safer
alternatives like organic farming. The assertion by Monsanto that the
increase in acreage of Bt Cotton is an indication of the success of Bt
Cotton is as questionable as their false advertising", she added.

Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable
Agriculture said, "The Bt Cotton industry would like us to believe that
their sales are an indication of farmers' acceptance of the technology
and that it is a science-based industry. We have a different story to
tell. This compilation of various marketing practices, including stories
of outright lies on the Bollgard posters, misleading advertisements of
farmers with exaggerated claims to lure other farmers, of using a variety
of incentives and even questionable means to attract and entrap farmers
makes us question the claims of the company. Such aggressive marketing in
a situation where the technology itself is imprecise and where
accountability mechanisms are non-existent is bound to spell doom for
many farmers".

The MEC organizations, based on their documentation of Bt Cotton
marketing practices from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh,
Maharashtra, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, have written to the State Directors
of Agriculture for immediate action in the matter. They have also
approached the Advertisements Standards Council of India for its
intervention in this regard.

The MEC has been using the 'Kisaan Suraksha Kawach' -a legal manual that
has been developed to assist farmers in fixing liability on the seed
corporations in the event of crop failure. The Monitoring and Evaluation
Committee (MEC) demands:
- that the aggressive and even false marketing of Bt Cotton be stopped
- that the Bt Cotton companies reveal the total amount spent on marketing
the seed so far
- that liability be fixed on the companies in all those cases where they
are found to have resorted to unscrupulous, misleading, aggressive and
false marketing
- that the governments pro-actively put out information to farmers about
how to protect themselves from such companies and also put into place
simple mechanisms for loss-incurring farmers to claim compensation and

For further information, contact:

Thangamma Monnappa, Genetic Engineering Campaigner, Greenpeace India
Tel: +91-98454 37337, E-mail:

Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Tel: +91-9393001550, E-mail:

                                 PART III
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TITLE:  Is Bt Cotton Unsuitable?
SOURCE: The Hindu, ndia, by K.R. Kranthi
DATE:   5 Sep 2005

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Is Bt Cotton Unsuitable?

'Bt cotton is the most potent and best available option for bollworm
management in the country.'

Suman Sahai wrote in The Hindu of August 29, 2005, that our research
article (Kranthi et al., Current Science, July 25, 2005) gives scientific
reasons for the failure of Monsanto Bt cotton varieties in India. She
points out that our paper shows that the technology is faulty and does
not protect against the bollworm; hence the Genetic Engineering Approval
Committee (GEAC) must be made accountable for the losses for poor
farmers. Dr. Sahai argues further that because this information was
available by the end of 2003, the Director-General, Indian Council of
Agricultural Research (ICAR), who is an ex-officio member of the GEAC,
should have raised his voice to stop any further releases of Bt cotton.
Does our research paper support her argument? It does not.

Our report does not provide evidence to say that the technology is
ineffective or flawed, as Dr. Sahai wants the world to believe. It shows
that the technology works for most part of the season, but also has a few
inherent inadequacies. That does not take away the merit of the
technology. It only asks for improvements to be made. We never mentioned
in the Current Science paper or elsewhere that the technology was
ineffective or unsustainable as it is made out to be. Despite the
shortcomings mentioned in our paper, Bt cotton is still the most potent
and best available option for bollworm management in India. Even the best
of the currently available pesticides do not kill more than 70-80 per
cent bollworm larvae under field conditions, which Bt cotton does. Hence,
the Bt technology is considered to be more effective than the best of
currently recommended pesticides against H. armigera.

Unmatched bio-safety

With an unmatched bio-safety profile, incomparable to that of
conventional pesticides, Bt cotton is most sought after by farmers not
just because of its efficacy in effective bollworm control, but also
because it makes cotton cultivation easier and healthier with fewer
pesticides to spray. If anything, the GEAC had been over-cautious in
releasing Bt cotton in India. The approvals were also based on our own
results of three-year scientific field trial evaluation data, which
consistently showed yield and ecological benefits from Bt cotton despite
the minor inadequacies in toxin expression. I have had a chance to attend
a few GEAC meetings as an invited expert. If our data were detrimental to
the Indian farmer's interest, wouldn't I have pointed out this to the
members when I attended these meetings? So would have the Director-
General of ICAR, who is known to be forthright with his views on all
issues concerning good science and technologies for farmer welfare. Bt
cotton has now been endorsed by thousands of farmers ever since its
introduction in 2002, as can be seen from immense popularity and enormous
technology adoption rate. It is unfortunate that the NGOs are trying to
wage a meaningless war against the GM technology by misinterpreting some
selective portions of our scientific paper.

Indeed, our paper describes the seasonal decline of Cry1Ac toxin levels
and its variability in various plant parts of a few Bt cotton hybrids. We
also said that, "the toxin expression in the boll-rind, square bud and
ovary of flowers was clearly inadequate to confer full protection to the
fruiting parts." Interestingly two papers were published from China and
Australia around the same time in 2005, in an American journal, Journal
of Economic Entomology, describing almost similar data to point out a
seasonal decline of the Cry1Ac toxin in their Bt cotton varieties and low
toxin levels in ovules and bolls. Does this make Bt cotton ineffective
against bollworm? The answer is 'no'.

We said in our paper very clearly that "despite the variability in toxin
expression, the pest control properties are unlikely to be affected
significantly at least until the crop becomes 100-115 days old. Though
some larvae survived on various plant parts in invitro bioassays, the
surviving larvae on all the parts were stunted with a weight reduction of
48.8 to 98 per cent, compared to the larvae on non-Bt cotton plants." The
cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) generally infests cotton 60-120
days after sowing. While Bt cotton is highly effective 60-115 days after
sowing, there are chances of bollworm causing damage during the remaining
one to two weeks. We therefore recommended pest scouting and need-based
supplemental sprays for this period. We did not mention in our paper a
commonly known fact that majority (70-80 per cent) of bollworm eggs are
laid on leaves of the upper canopy and neonate larvae scrape and feed on
the surface of the leaf soon after hatching and get killed. Eggs laid
directly on flowers or a few other fruiting parts may survive, depending
on the levels of toxin expression. Thus in an overall analysis, Bt cotton
controls at least about 70-80 per cent of bollworm infestation. This is
very significant in economic and environmental terms.

We never said that Cry1Ac expression was more in varieties compared to
hybrids. We speculated that the relatively higher efficacy of Bt cotton
varieties on H. armigera in China and Australia may have been because of
the use of straight varieties in these countries compared to the use of
hybrids in India. However, the recent data published on the Bt cotton
varieties of China and Australia -- showing expression levels in their
varieties similar, if not less than, to those of the hybrids in India --
do not support this speculation either. However, I would like to re-
emphasise that Bt straight varieties would have the advantage of Cry1Ac
expression in all of the seeds in green bolls as against the segregating
75 per cent Bt seeds in the bolls of F1 hybrid plants as mentioned in our
paper. Hence Indian researchers including our own group at the Central
Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur, must intensify the efforts
to develop Bt straight varieties for the use of Indian farmers.

Why did we publish this data? We wanted farmers to appreciate what
exactly was to be expected from the technology. Importantly, our main
intention was to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the technology so
that it can be improved further. We pointed out some inherent
inadequacies that need to be addressed by all concerned so that the
technology can become more potent. We suggested that, "1. Biotechnology
efforts in India should focus on developing transgenic cotton varieties
with tissue specific promoters to enhance the expression of the toxin
genes in fruiting parts, and 2. The choice of parental background is
crucial for sustainable expression of the Cry1Ac transgene and therefore
seed companies should evaluate their hybrids critically for highest
levels of expression in fruiting parts and also for relatively effective
level of toxin expression late in the season."

We concluded our paper by making our objective clear that, "Since the Bt-
transgenic technology has thus far proven itself to be one of the most
environment-friendly methods of bollworm management, it is in the
interest of the technology itself that researchers, technology providers
and administrators ensure that it must be provided to the farmers in a
form which gives the best possible returns for the investment."

I earnestly hope that the meaningless hullabaloo raised over Bt cotton by
the NGOs comes to an end soon and that a brilliant technology such as Bt
cotton, which is state-of-the-art in eco-friendly cotton pest management,
will be improved further and stabilised in good varieties and hybrids so
as to ensure a pesticide-free profitable and sustainable cotton pest
management in India.

-- The writer is Senior Scientist, Central Institute for Cotton Research
-CICR, Nagpur.

                                 PART IV
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TITLE:  The Science of Bt Cotton Failure in India
SOURCE: The Hindu, India, by Suman Sahai
DATE:   29 Aug 2005

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The Science of Bt Cotton Failure in India

'Bt cotton must be permitted only in the form of true breeding varieties,
not hybrids. '

A new report by scientists of the Central Institute for Cotton Research
(CICR), Nagpur, published in the July 25 issue of Current Science gives
scientific reasons for the failure of the Monsanto Bt cotton varieties.
It shows that India's Bt cotton technology is faulty and will fail to
protect against the bollworm.

The CICR study validates the principal findings made by Gene Campaign and
other groups such as Greenpeace and the Centre for Sustainable
Agriculture, that pesticide savings are not significant in India; that
protection offered by Bt cotton lasts only for a part of the plant's life
cycle; and, most critically, that bollworm readily attack the bolls
because Bt toxin expression is below effective levels in the economically
most important part of the plant.

Alarmingly, the study shows that Bt cotton cannot be effective in India
because the major cotton pest in the country, the bollworm, is not
susceptible to the Cry1Ac toxin of Bt cotton. Cry1Ac works against the
tobacco budworm (Heliothis virescens), which is the major pest affecting
cotton in the United States. Bt cotton varieties in the U.S. kill 99-100
per cent of the budworm pest, hence they are successful.

The CICR study further suggests that the poor performance of Bt cotton in
India is also due to the fact that it is being produced as hybrids
containing only one copy of the Bt gene, as against the true breeding
varieties containing two copies of the Bt gene, which are produced in
countries such as China, Australia, and South Africa. Global analysis of
Bt cotton shows that true breeding Bt cotton varieties perform better
than hybrids.

Indian regulators must answer why they are promoting Bt cotton hybrids
that are expensive and will force farmers to buy seeds for every new
planting. Why does India's top decision making body, the Genetic
Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), not decide that only true breeding
varieties of Bt cotton will be permitted in India not just because they
perform better but also because they will be a cheaper option for farmers
who could save seeds for the next harvest?

The information about the defects in India's Bt technology was available
to the ICAR at the end of 2003 when widespread failures were reported by
a number of agencies, including the Andhra Pradesh Government. The ICAR
Director-General is an ex officio member of the GEAC and yet did not
raise his voice about the clear-cut scientific evidence that an ICAR
institution had provided that the Cry1Ac-based Bt technology would not
succeed in India and that the Bt cotton should be held back till a better
technology could be developed. Instead, the GEAC has continued to release
Bt cotton varieties for many other parts of India, without conducting any
review of failures of the technology.

What the GEAC is doing with respect to Bt cotton amounts to indefensible
negligence. Its biased decisions are resulting in debilitating losses for
poor farmers, specially in rain-fed areas. The members of the GEAC must
be held accountable for the losses faced by farmers, sometimes forcing
them to taking extreme steps. The Government has remained unmoved by
reports of crop failures and impervious to demands that a thorough review
be undertaken of the Bt cotton performance in India before proceeding any
fulrther with it. It continues to harm farmers by allowing a substandard
product to be sold to them.

Gene Campaign has now issued a notice to the Ministry of Environment and
Forests to file a complaint for the commission of offences under the
Environment Protection Act and the Rules framed under it, to regulate
genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The GEAC had full knowledge of the
CICR study and the ineffectiveness of the Bt technology being used. Yet,
far from revoking the approval granted to the Mahyco-Monsanto varieties,
it continued to grant approval to several other Bt cotton varieties for

The National Commission on Farmers must recommend that Bt cotton hybrids
be withdrawn from the fields and a moratorium placed on any further
cultivation of Bt cotton until the technology is made relevant to Indian
pests and agricultural conditions. Mahyco-Monsanto must be made to
compensate the losses incurred by farmers. Also, Bt cotton must be
permitted in India only in the form of true breeding varieties as is the
case in China, Australia and South Africa, not as hybrids the way
industry is pushing helre.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
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D - 38116 Braunschweig

P: +49-531-5168746
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