GENET archive


PLANTS: Bt cotton has failed in Vidarbha (India)

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  "Bt cotton has failed in Vidarbha"
SOURCE: The Times of India, India
DATE:   11.05.2007

"Bt cotton has failed in Vidarbha"

NAGPUR: If any proof about failure of genetically modified Bt cotton in
the main cotton growing area of Vidarbha was needed, it came on
Wednesday from Maharashtra agriculture minister Balasaheb Thorat. After
a meeting with agriculture experts, officials, people's representatives
for the coming Kharif season, Thorat admitted that the much-hyped, and
high-priced Bt seeds were only adding to the burden of Vidarbha's
farmers. Thorat said the opening of Bt to more private companies was
likely to bring down the prices and make it more affordable for farmers.

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                                 PART II
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TITLE:  Maharashtra promotes soybean to halt farmer suicides
SOURCE: Reuters, India
AUTHOR: Rajendra Jadhav
DATE:   11.05.2007

Maharashtra promotes soybean to halt farmer suicides

Mumbai (Reuters) - Maharashtra is trying to fix the problem of farmers'
suicides by crop diversification -- encouraging farmers to shift to
soybean from capital-intensive cotton.

In Maharashtra 1,448 farmers, mostly cotton growers, committed suicide
in 2006 and the suicides are still continuing despite various attempts
by the state and central governments.

"High input cost for cotton cultivation and lower output is one of the
major reasons for farmers' suicides," Balasaheb Thorat, state
agriculture minister, told Reuters. "For soybean cultivation farmers
need less inputs and returns are attractive."

"Farmers are cultivating cotton for decades. Soybean is new for many of
them. We are explaining them how to cultivate it. Besides, we are
distributing seeds and giving grants for seed purchase. This year many
villages have set up their own seed banks at local level," he said.

In case of cotton, the per-hectare input cost is 17,094 rupees in
Vidarbha, where the maximum number of suicides were reported in 2006,
while for soybean it is only 3,500 rupees, said a senior researcher with
the Nagpur-based Central Institute of Cotton Research, on condition of

"Costly seeds, pesticides and inter-culturing operations like weeding
increase the cost of cultivation of cotton," he added.

"The high input cost usually forces farmers to borrow from banks or
moneylenders at high interest. But if the crop fails due to erratic
weather he becomes a defaulter. Such debt-trapped farmers are committing
suicides," said Kishore Tiwari, president, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti,
a non-government organization.

Wrong crop selection also causes problems, and it would be better to
grows crops like soyabean, which can be grown even on less fertile land,
said Appasaheb Bhujbal, director of agriculture (inputs and quality
control), Maharashtra.

According to data compiled by The Soybean Processors Association of
India, per-hectare soybean yield in Maharashtra rose to 1,040 kg in
2006/07 from 822 kg a year earlier.

However, in case of cotton, the yield is decreasing while input costs
are rising. According to the East India Cotton Association, in 2006/07,
India's per-hectare cotton yield rose to 500 kg from 340 kg in 2003/04,
while in Maharashtra the yield was only 283 kg in 2006/07.

"It is possible for farmers to cultivate soybean or arhar without taking
loan from anybody as cost of cultivation is very less. Besides, in the
present scenario, there is price guarantee for both crops," Thorat said.

According to Radha Vallabhji Purohit, a Nagpur-based soybean trader, in
this June-December season farmers will cultivate more soybean as in the
last season they got good prices. In 2006/07, farmers sold soybean at
1,100-1,700 rupees per quintal.

"Last year we had cultivated soybean on 9 hectares of land. This year we
are planning to cultivate on 14 hectares," said Krishna Thakre, a Nagpur-
based farmer, who got a remunerative price for his produce last year.

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                                 PART III
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TITLE:  'Exploitation drove farmers to suicide'
SOURCE: The Statesman, India
DATE:   10.05.2007

'Exploitation drove farmers to suicide'

BHUBANESWAR, May 10: Lured by private companies and exploited by money
lenders, distressed cotton farmers in the state have very little option
but to commit suicide, observed peasant leaders and social activists who
returned from Bolangir after conducting an inquiry into the death of
Akrura Sahu and his two daughters.

Scoffing at government claims of intervention in terms of lifting cotton
from mandis at a decent price, the delegation of social activists said
even a fleeting visit to cotton growing areas exposed this lie of the
government. It is vicious circle ~ the middlemen, private money lender,
BT cotton, low production all combine to virtually strangulate the
cotton farmer, they charged.

Mr Sahu and his daughters consumed poison and the version of family feud-
related suicide is being dished out to cover up the facts, said Mr
Prafulla Samantara, president of Lok Shakti Abhijan.

He had incurred loan of Rs 25,000 from the cooperative bank, Rs 9000
from a money lender and even sold his daughters' cycle, said Mr Chitta
Mohanty, human rights activist, while Natabar Sarangi and other alleged
that BT cotton as well as BT brinjal was given secretively.

The farmers got a good yield in the first year but the second and third
year production of cotton dropped resulting in distress conditions. They
could not return to paddy cultivation as the soil condition had been
destroyed due to excessive fertiliser and pesticide. Sahu for instance
got only two quintals from one acre of land and the price of cotton was
only Rs 2,000 per quintal. He had spent over Rs 7,000, said the fact
finding time.

But more than the sad demise of Sahu, the other facts revealed by the
probe team was shocking .They alleged that during their visit to
Bolangir district, they found that a private company had managed to
fraudulently purchase land from scores of villagers.

The company engaged a "baba" who went around telling distressed cotton
farmers to perform puja. He then explained to them that they will
prosper if they provide the land on lease. The private company entered
with attractive offers of three-year lease, wages to work in the field
and a bonus at the end of the lease period.

Several illiterate villagers promptly put their thumb impression to what
they presumed was a lease document. But most of these documents were
sale deeds, said Mr Samantaray. Unless the government intervenes,
Bolangir which is poorest and most backward district. of the state will
witness a spate of suicides, he said.

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                                 PART IV
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TITLE:  VC finds salvation in GM seeds?
SOURCE: The Tribune, India
AUTHOR: Sidhu Damdami
DATE:   08.05.2007

VC finds salvation in GM seeds ?

The solution to the crisis facing the Punjab agriculture sector lies in
genetically modified (GM) crops, contract farming, purpose-oriented agro
research and such varieties of crops, which require less watering.

Spelling out his mantra for salvaging the rapidly deteriorating
agriculture sector, the new Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Agriculture
University, Dr. Manjit Singh Kang, said that PAU would shortly start
research to develop varieties of genetically modified crops.

In an exclusive interview with this writer at the PAU campus in
Ludhiana, the internationally known expert in genetics and plant
breeding said he would probe the possibilities to develop such a high-
yielding variety of paddy, which would require less irrigation. For this
revolutionary purpose, domestic stock of plant germplasm would be used.
If necessary, even germplasm available in foreign countries would be
used. Help would also be taken from the International Rice Research
Institute (IRRI) based in the Philippines, which have a tie-up with PAU,
said Dr Kang.

Expressing grave concern over the depletion of underground water table,
Dr Kang said it was necessary for the farmers to be persuaded to go for
crop diversification and late planting of paddy. It was also necessary
to provide them alternative varieties of crops which are low on water

Describing the environmental controversy related to GM crops as the one
based on unfounded fear; Dr. Kang stated, 'this disinformation' about GM
crops started from the failure of a limited experiment done on
butterflies. Later it was found that butterflies died not because of GM
feed but due to the overdose of the feed.

Openly recommending the cultivation of genetically modified crops in
Punjab, the VC said that the successful experiment of Punjab farmers
with Bt. Cotton has already proved the point.

Favouring co-operative, contractual and corporate farming in Punjab, he
said, PAU would be open to collaborate with private companies on such
research projects. To recharge its funds, the university would also take
up research work outsourced to it by private companies.

Expressing concern over the critical financial health of the university,
he maintained that PAU being a state university is to be mainly funded
by the government. However, for this purpose, he is also in favour of
knocking on the doors of international financial institutions, including
the World Bank. There are also plans to get some research projects
sponsored by PAU alumni spread all over the world. Some offers have
already come in, he added.

Commenting on the existing state of affairs in his alma mater, where he
has returned after spending about four decades in Louisiana State
University, US, Dr. Kang said, the number of students has gone down. The
connection between the students and the faculty has also become weak. A
sense of complacency and fatigue is palpable on the campus.

Citing an example, he said, even the advisory printed in the annual
university diary to guide farmers on farm operations like use of
fertilisers, insecticides, pesticide etc, has not been updated for the
last 2-3 years. "The people at the university need to be made excited to
work. To start with, I have already asked the department heads to
formulate three and five years plans on the basis of SWOT (Strength,
Weakness, Opportunity, Threats)", he stated.

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                                 PART V
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TITLE:  Bt cotton
SOURCE: Frontline, India
AUTHOR: Letters, by Shanthu Shantharam, USA
DATE:   05.05.2007

Bt cotton

THERE is not a shred of scientific evidence, or reason, to believe that
Bt toxin can be either toxic or poisonous for mammals such as sheep and
cattle ("Fatal feed", April 21). I have visited villages in Andhra
Pradesh where Bt cotton is grown. Also, I am a former regulator of GM
crops in the United States and have first-hand knowledge of the toxicity
of Bt toxins.

Contrary to your reports, I did not see any fear in the villages, and no
one had ever heard of sheep deaths due to Bt cotton. The non-
governmental organisations your reporters interviewed have been
repeating these allegations but no one in the world believes them. It
might interest you to know that many acknowledged experts in the field
of biotechnology, GM crops and Bt cotton have been following these
allegations from India for almost two years and have found them to be

GM crops have become a favourite whipping boy of anti-GM activists in
India whose understanding of the science of biotechnology is skewed by
their ideological and political opposition to the modern technology.
Your reporters should have asked two basic questions: why such reports
come only from Andhra Pradesh when Bt cotton is grown in almost half a
dozen other States; and, secondly, why no other credible scientific
report on the deaths of these animals exists.

Shanthu Shantharam
President, Biologistics International
Ellicott, Maryland

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