EXCERPT: "It is unethical for any company to take the route of misleading advertising to reach its target customers. The impact magnifies when the difference is between a lifestyle product and a product that is the base of a livelihood. In the case of Bt Cotton, misleading advertising can lead a farmer to the brink of poverty and, sometimes, drive him to commit suicide. In such cases, ethics in advertising becomes of grave concern."
See also the report: THE MARKETING OF BT COTTON IN INDIA: AGGRESSIVE, UNSCRUPULOUS AND FALSE
Greenpeace files complaint against Mahyco-Monsanto's misleading ad
NEW DELHI, November 2 2005
NGO Greenpeace and its local partner, Pasumai Thaayagam (Green Motherland), have filed a complaint with the ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) against a print campaign by seeds company Mahyco Monsanto Biotech, alleging it to be misleading.
BT cotton seed-manufacturer Bollgard had published an ad titled, 'True Stories of Farmers who have Grown Bt Cotton', in the monthly Tamil magazine, 'Indraya Velaanmai'. The ad showed a farmer standing in front of a tractor. The message conveyed to other farmers was that if a farmer sows Bt cotton, he will be able to afford assets such as a tractor, lorry, etc. According to the NGOs, this is far from the reality. The NGOs claim to have interviewed the farmer and learnt that he was approached by a company representative and told that if he registered for a contest, he might win a ticket to Mumbai. He was asked to pose for a photograph in front of a tractor, which he had purchased on a loan, and was not informed what his photograph would be used for.
Greenpeace feels that there is a plethora of advertisements by seed corporations that misrepresent farmers. Such advertisements take advantage of the farmers' vulnerability and lure them to buy Bt cotton when there has been consistent failure of the crop. The result is that the gullible farmers incur tremendous economic losses.
Divya Raghunandan, campaigner, Greenpeace, says, "It is unethical for any company to take the route of misleading advertising to reach its target customers. The impact magnifies when the difference is between a lifestyle product and a product that is the base of a livelihood. In the case of Bt Cotton, misleading advertising can lead a farmer to the brink of poverty and, sometimes, drive him to commit suicide. In such cases, ethics in advertising becomes of grave concern."
After the complaint was filed with the ASCI, Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Ltd clarified its stand through a press statement. The statement asserts that the 2004 IMRB survey reconfirms the benefits of Bollgard cotton to Indian farmers and establishes that both large and small farmers working in diverse agronomic conditions have benefited from this technology. The survey estimates that there has been approximately 58 per cent or 2.95 quintals per acre increase in Bollgard yields, when compared with conventional cotton. The net profit increase for Bollgard farmers is Rs 5,950 per acre or over 60 per cent. "In creating our advertisements and promotional campaigns, we abide by a strict code of ethics and the farmers that share their experience in advertisements do so willingly," stresses the statement.
When contacted, the Secretariat of the ASCI in Mumbai declined to comment as the matter is sub judice. However, spokespersons clarified that once a complaint was filed, it usually takes 6-8 weeks to come out with a verdict.