GENTECH archive


Re: re cotton, archives 1125

>Devinder Sharma wrote:
>I don't think anybody who is on the gentech list will not vote for
>saving lives over principles. But the fact is that not many of us have
>our research projects sponsored by private companies, including
>biotechnology seed companies. And so we do not have to speak for these

Rick replies:
I am glad that we agree that saving lives is paramount. I have never had my research on transgenic crops sponsored by any company, nor have I ever been sponsored by any biotechnology seed company. Since you have raised the issue, may I ask who sponsors you?

>It was sometimes in 1945 that the TIME magazine had a cover story,
>titled something like this " I love DDT". Thirty years later the
>chemical was banned by many industrialised countries and today no one
>wants to talk about it. Why should we repeat the mistake again....

Rick responds:

That was FIFTY years ago. What about all of the cases since DDT that have not gone wrong? Can't you accept that we have learned something from DDT and other pesticides? As a consequence of DDT, persistent and fat soluble pesticides are now rarely developed. Many promising pesticides have been shelved to avoid these mistakes. What are your more recent examples?

>Let us get back to the cotton story. In India, the average landholding
>size is 0.2 hectares. Not all farmers in a given area can afford to use
>Bt-resistant cotton seed or use Bt sprays. With such small holdings and
>with the kind of diversity in cotton varieties prevalent within a given
>area, Bt-resistance is only going to invite problems. Resistance will
>appear in the bollworms much faster than anywhere else in the world. And
>so will be the gene flow.

Rick responds:

In the US and Australia, Bt cotton costs no more than the sprays currently used, and from what I have heard, will cost less to Indian growers. If your complaint is cost, surely the Indian government can intervene. As I understand it, any company producing products in India (where the seed would have to be grown) would be Indian majority-owned.

Your assertions about resistance are simply wrong. Small holdings and diversity enhance resistance management by assuring that refuges for susceptible insects are close to the transgenic crop. If you are really interested, I can send you about a dozen literature citations to broaden your perspective.

What do you mean about "gene flow"? In the insects or plants?

>Indian farmers, including cotton growers are already under huge debt.
>And let us not forget, agriculture in India operates to quite an extent
>on the principles of demand and supply. Unlike in Australia and the
>west, where farm prices go up substantially with every harvest (thanks
>to the massive subsidies being pumped in the farm sector), Indian
>farmers receive no such financial cushion......

Rick replies:

Quite wrong again. Australian agriculture has no subsidies, and works entirely on supply and demand.

>There was a time when every economist worth the name would swear by the
>Tiger economies of the Southeast Asian countries. Now, none of them want
>to even acknowledge the fact that they were strong supporters of the
>Asian tigers. I see a great similarity in the ongoing debate on genetic
>engineering...... But I
>am certainly against promoting the financial interests of the biotech
>companies. We certainly cannot allow half a dozen executives sitting in
>a board room to take profit-oriented decisions in the name of farmers
>and the civil society. And then walk away with the profits while the
>rest of the world gets busy with the clean-up act !

Rick responds:

Oh please, this is not the invisible hand and grand machinations of a world economy. This is the simple substitution of an alternative to chemical pesticides.

A recent economic study by Falck-Zepeda et al at Auburn University in the US found that US cotton growers benefited from Bt cotton by US$128 million, Monsanto by $62 million, and consumers by $29-50 million. At least in the US, as corroborated by the rate at which growers adopted the cotton (now over 1 million hectares), the growers are doing very well. They are also using 80-90% less insecticide, literally tonnes. Some American growers might be delighted to hear of your efforts to prevent Indian growers from sharing in the benefits and becoming more competitive.