The two items below Devinder's introduction are well worth reading in full.
I returned today morning after visiting the cotton belt in Punjab.
Interestingly, the local edition of The Hindustan Times had carried a report that stumped the Punjab government. As you are aware, Bt cotton was officially approved for cultivation in Punjab this year. And within a few weeks, negative reports have started pouring in. I am pasting one such report below that created quite a sensation in Punjab.
Bt cotton 'fails' in official debut
Fazilka-Abohar farmers go back to 'desi' varieties
By Ravinder Banwait,
Hindustan Times, June 12, 2005, Chandigarh (Punjab), page 01
Touted as the answer to the American Bollworm menace and making a much-hyped official debut in Punjab this season. Bt cotton seems to have fallen to the very disease it has been designed to resist in Fazilka and Abohar. Cotton growers spoken to in the two districts said many of their plants had been fully or partly eaten up by worms. Some had grown fungus and others didn't germinate at all. Those who tried the seeds illegally last season (these were approved only recently) have gone back to the traditional "desi" (local) varieties after the not-so-happy experience with designer seeds.
The farmers alleged that the government did not bother to assess the ground situation, as the "low price-high yield" seeds were not suitable for sandy soil. The weather, too, was not considered before hard-selling the Bt cotton, they said. The problem seems to be acute in Fazilka as most of the farmers have sown approved seeds this time. The Punjab government had approved six varieties of Bt cotton - RCH-134, RCH-137, Ankur-2534, Ankur-651, MRC-6304 and MRC-6301.
Mohan Lal from Kheo Wali Dhab village in Fazilka, who used RCH-134 in 30 acres, said, "I completed the sowing in the first week of May and within a few days, many of the plants were eaten up by worms. Who will pay for the expensive seeds? A packet of 450 gms cost Rs 17.25. The government should compensate me as 20 per cent of my crop has already been eaten up by worms." Bhagirath, another farmer from the same village, faced a similar problem. He, in fact, is even using pesticides.
Chuni Lal of Khuhi Kehra village said last year he had illegally used Ankur-651 variety and that, too, was attacked by worms. "This year I opted for 'desi' (local) seeds. The sandy soil here needs local varieties." Like him.Amirr Chand also planted local seeds. He had spoken to some farmers before deciding on it. He found that the Bt cotton seeds were expensive and returns didn't match up Nirmal a farmer in Nihal Khera in Fazilka, said he had sown RCH-134 in 13 acres and the crop faced problem in germination.
"Many plants have not grown or are dying after coming up. I am now again sowing the seeds and one can understand how much a fanner has to spend for this as initially I had taken seeds for nearly Rs 17 per packet," he said. Some big farmers had even opted for still-unapproved Bt cotton varieties.
Narender and his cousins, who have grown cotton in 100 acres in Bodiwala village, chose "Badal" variety for 10 acres and "desi" in 70 acres. "I don't know on what basis the new Bt seeds have been approved? There is some problem with the seed as cotton balls are covered by the leaf, which is big and doesn't allow enough sunlight to reach, making it vulnerable to fungus," he said.
From The Fields
* Mainly RCH 134 used; plants eaten up by worms
* Farmers feel seed don't suit soil and climate
* Opt for unapproved varieties rather than those approved by the government
Source: Radar, Business Critical Information
Bt cotton woolly experience
Hindustan Times, June 12, 2005, Chandigarh, page 01
Even as Punjab has approved six Bt cotton varieties for sowing this year, states like Andhra Pradesh have banned these seeds. In was only lust month that Andhra Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy announced that Mahyco-Monsanto was being blacklisted in the state unit their Bt cotton varieties, approved by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), too, would not be allowed in "We will not allow firms like Mahyco to sell their Bt cotton seeds in any part of the state," the Chief Minister had said.
The comprehensive failure of Monsanto's Bt cotton in Andhra was so well documented that eventually even the GEAC decided not to renew the license for three varieties in the state. Media reports coming in from other parts of the country and world, too, have been unfavorable. Despite the state government's massive publicity campaign, farmers in Madhya Pradesh have been protesting the move allowing multinational corporations to push Bt cottonseeds. The farmers alleged that the designer seeds in Nimar region of the state had ruined thousands of farmers.
Even overseas genetically-modified (GM) crops have come in for severe criticism and Monsanto, which is one of the leading produces of GM seeds, has taken a beating Despite claims that Bt cotton will catapult African farmers out of poverty, recent reports revealed that the majority of Bt small-scale cotton farmers on the Makhathini Flats in South Africa have stopped planting the designer seeds as they can't repay their debts.
Firm on Monsanto
Markfed was selling only Monsanto seeds and in case of a problem, farmers could take up the matter with the department, Managing Director S.S. Channy said. "We also ensure to procure the crop on behalf of NAFED and Cotton Corporation of India or CCI", he said. On why a government agency was selling seeds of a company blacklisted in Andhra Pradesh. Channy claimed he was not aware of such a ban. The agriculture department could further examine the seeds and see if they suited the soil or not, he said.