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AGRICULTURE & DEVELOPMENT: Bt cotton brands leave Indian farmersconfused

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Bt cotton brands leave AP farmers confused
SOURCE: The Times of India, India
AUTHOR: Saira Kurup
DATE:   22.04.2007

Bt cotton brands leave AP farmers confused

NEW DELHI: Genetically-modified crops continue to make news for the
wrong reasons. The Andhra Pradesh government recently sought a ban on Bt
cottonseeds following the death of cattle which reportedly grazed on
leftover Bt cottonfields. And now, a study by a US professor in AP's
Warangal district finds that farmers growing Bt cotton there are not
being able to keep pace with the biotechnological changes.

Glenn D Stone, author of the study and professor of anthropology and
environmental studies, Washington University, says, "Farmers are in a
situation where it's extremely difficult to make informed decisions
about cotton cultivation, because they don't know what they're planting.
The market offers hundreds of seed brands; some brands are actually the
same seed, and some vary from box to box; and brands come and go with
dizzying speed."

Warangal is one of India's key cotton-growing areas. By area, India is
the fifth largest grower of GM crops in the world and all 3.8 million
hectares of GM crops in the country are under Bt cotton. The crop,
genetically modified to produce its own insecticide, was introduced in
India in 2002. Between 2003 and 2005, the market share of Bt seed rose
from 12% to a whopping 62%.

According to Stone's research, the increase resulted not from
traditional farming methods of testing seeds for efficacy, but from a
pattern of "social learning"  farmers relying on word of mouth to choose

The study, published recently in Current Anthropology, says the speed of
change, the overwhelming number of choices in the market and the desire
for novelty all these lead to lack of proper seed testing by farmers.
The report says, "They aren't able to digest new technologies as they
come along. In Warangal, there were 78 kinds being sold in 2005, but
only 24 of those were around in 2003."

Adds Stone, "The government makes only a ludicrous token effort at
regulating these products....the indigenous technical knowledge that so
many people romanticise about gets swamped by the flood of
misinformation and by technology changing too quickly." He does not
blame the crop for the agrarian distress and farmer suicides in AP,
which he says "clearly predates the arrival of Bt cotton".

But the study shows that farmers' inability to identify various seeds
contributes to their woes.

Warangal's experience with Bt cotton is not a national phenomenon, he
says. In Gujarat, the Bt trait has been liberated from the unreliable
and largely unaccountable formal breeding system and put more into the
hands of local breeders. This has been highly beneficial for many
farmers and local breeders. But Stone says that claims by NGOs that Bt
cotton farming has been a colossal failure, and by industry that it has
been a phenomenal success are inaccurate.

The solution, Stone says, is that farmers need to be brought back into
the process of producing and testing seeds. They have to know what they
are planting, which means slowing down the pace of technological change
and having them as part of the process.

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                                 PART II
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TITLE:  'Adopt biotechnology in agriculture'
SOURCE: Chennai Online, India
DATE:   16.04.2007

'Adopt biotechnology in agriculture'

Coimbatore, April 16: With production of foodgrains and oilseeds
remaining either stagnant or facing a shortfall, India, which stands at
the crossroads, needed a breakthrough technology to increase
productivity in the available land, a senior official in Agricultural
Science Recruitment Board, Delhi, said today.

The yield of oilseeds was short by 24 million tonnes, pulses 15 million
tonnes, wheat remaining at 70 million tonnes and rice at 85 to 90
million tonnes. Biotechnology could be an improved tool to introduce a
second green revolution in India, Dr C D Mayee, Chairman of the Board, said.

Addressing a two-day media workshop on 'Agricultural Biotechnology'
here, Mayee, however, said there were a lot of misconceptions and
misunderstanding about the technology, which has created a fear among
the farming community.

With basic need of food sufficiency in the long run, in the wake of
foodgrains production remaining stagnant at 210 to 215 million tonnes in
the last one decade, India has already started importing wheat now, he said.

Cotton production, after introduction of BT, a small fraction of the
technology, in 2002 in India, has witnessed tremendous growth from 140
lakh bales to 270 lakh bales now. Media has a vital role to play to
provide right kind of information on the advantages of BT to the maximum
benefit of farmers, he said.

When biotechnology was adopted in human and veterinary care, why was it
not adopted in agriculture, Mayee asked.

In his address, G Balachandran, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment
and Forests, said, "More than 38 lakh hectares of cotton cultivation in
the country are an indication that the farmers have accepted biotechnology."

India was one of the early movers in the matter of biosafety laws and
policies and adopted biosafety rules in 1989. Balachandran said BT
cotton was approved in India in 2002, after rigorous risk assessment
studies conducted by different committees.

To strengthen India's capacity as also to implement the Cartagena
Protocol on Biosafety, the country is implementing a GEF-World Bank
Capacity Building Project on Biosafety. This project carries out
training workshop for all stakeholders and is an incremental factor for
India's National capacity in order to implement the Cartagena Protocol,
Balachandran said.

Apart from cotton, there are many more GM crop under development and
field trials in India, he said.

The workshop is being jointly organised by Tamil Nadu Agricultural
University, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Delhi, and
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, Delhi.

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