Burkina Faso is a Trojan horse for GMOs in Africa
2.The marketing of Bt cotton in India
NOTE: According to this article, the reality of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso in West Africa is far removed from the hyperbole. The cost of Bt cotton seed in Burkina Faso has quickly more than tripled in return for no increase in yields exactly the opposite of the claims used to promote Bt cotton to Burkina Faso's farmers of massive increases in yield. These kinds of wildly misleading promotionals for Bt cotton are already familiar from India – see item 2 – and South Africa: http://gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/12693
EXTRACT: ...in 2003, a pro-GM propaganda campaign was launched. In all media and organised forums on the subject, we heard the fabulous promises of GMOs: four times higher yields, fourfold savings on inputs.
...The increase in the cost of the [Bt cotton] seed, from 1600 FCFA [24 Euros/34 USD] per hectare for conventional seeds last year to 54000 FCFA [82 Euros/115 USD] hectare for GM seeds this year, is not accompanied by increasing yield as was promised.
1.Burkina Faso is a Trojan Horse for GMOs in Africa
Interview with Ousmane Tiendrébéogo, Secretary General of the National Union of Agropastoral Workers (Syntapa)
by Combat Monsanto
Journal of Alternatives, June 28 2011
Article in French: http://bit.ly/qSTmiR
[Unofficial English translation by Claire Robinson of GMWatch]
Ousmane Tiendrébéogo, Secretary General of the National Union of Agro-Pastoral Workers (Syntapa), and Burkina Faso cotton farmers' union activist for GMO-free Burkina Faso, has been in France for the past two weeks at the invitation of the Artisans of the Monde-Rhone Alps. Combat Monsanto took the opportunity to meet him and to examine the record of GMOs in Burkina Faso. The findings are alarming!
Combat Monsanto: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and Syntapa?
Ousmane Tiendrébéogo: I am a peasant cotton farmer in Burkina Faso and Secretary General of Syntapa. Syntapa was started in 2003, based on the observation that the National Union of Cotton Producers of Burkina Faso (UNPCB), the only organization bringing together producers, merely applied the policies of the government and completely forgot what should be its primary function working for the interests of farmers. The Syntapa's mission is leading the fight for better compensation for farmers. In this context, Syntapa is fighting against GMOs (Bt cotton, biofortified sorghum) because, in addition to their adverse effects on health and the environment, they exacerbate the impoverishment of farmers.
CM: Can you expand on this? What does Syntapa claim with regard to GMOs?
OT: We are opposed to GMOs for several obvious reasons. The first reason is the catastrophic economic impact that the adoption of GMOs has had on farmers. The increase in the cost of the seed, from 1600 FCFA [24 Euros/34 USD] per hectare for conventional seeds last year to 54000 FCFA [82 Euros/115 USD] hectare for GM seeds this year, is not accompanied by increasing yield as was promised. Worse, the Bt cotton produces fewer seeds than the conventional variety, and is thus two times lighter in weight for the same output of fiber. Thus, peasant farmers, who are paid by the weight of their harvest, are the losers, whereas Sofitex [a state-controlled agro-industrial and commercial entity, involved in the entire cotton production cycle, including planting, ginning of seed cotton and export of cotton fiber] is the winner.
To take a concrete example: a truck full of conventional fiber weighed about 12 tons and generated 1.8 million FCFA [2748 euros] in revenue for the farmers. This same truck today, filled with the same amount of fiber, but from GM cotton, weighs 6 tons [50% less] and generates 900 000 FCFA [1374 euros, 50% less] for the farmers. This has caused significant financial losses for farmers during the first harvest of Bt cotton. Indebted farmers may have to sell their land, which will likely be bought by multinationals for monoculture export or biofuel.
Then we see an environmental impact: I saw farmers' herds of goats become seriously ill and die after GM cotton was planted in their fields. The authorities responded to this problem by ordering analyses of cotton leaves. But due to lack of funds and of independent testing bodies, the cotton samples were sent to Monsanto's own labs for testing.... Of course, the multinational, which sells Bt cotton, found nothing suspicious in the samples. We are not even sure that the analyses were even done.
Finally GMOs pose a safety problem: children have became ill through contact with the seeds and Sofitex itself advises pregnant women and children to stay away from GM seeds.
CM: Bt cotton was approved for marketing in Burkina Faso in 2008. Three years later, GM cotton represents 70% of the total cotton production in Burkina Faso. How do you explain this rapid adoption despite the negative effects that you just mentioned?
OT: There are several explanations for this rapid growth of Bt cotton. First, in Burkina Faso, the cotton sector is an integrated sector controlled by three cotton companies that share the geographical territory of Burkina Faso. The main one, Sofitex, actively promotes Bt cotton. Sofitex has therefore made every effort to impose GMOs on farmers. Then in 2003, a pro-GM propaganda campaign was launched. In all media and organised forums on the subject, we heard the fabulous promises of GMOs: four times higher yields, fourfold savings on inputs ... the peasants believed them and bought GM seeds. The UNPCB [National Union of Cotton Producers of Burkina Faso], which owns one third of the capital of Sofitex, was heavily involved in propaganda.
In fact, Monsanto took advantage of the integration of the farming system in Burkina Faso to impose its GM seeds faster. It also exploited the "weakness of democracy" in Burkina Faso, which for 24 years has been dominated by the Compaore clan. Also, Monsanto made a deal with the government. 50% of revenues from the sale of the seeds goes to the government. At the moment, to avoid the wrath of the farmers, the government is not collecting its share of the seed. But it has every interest in encouraging GM in order to continue to attract funders and international donors like the United States, which make their development aid conditional on the adoption of GMOs.
CM: Faced with this pro-GM "machine", what is doing Syntapa to fight?
OT: For example, we participated in a caravan of social movements which traveled from Ouagadougou to reach Dakar at the time of the World Social Forum. We used these moments to get across our anti-GM message.
But it is very difficult to take action and to make the peasant farmers' voices heard. The secret police service is active in Burkina Faso and the peasants are very afraid of the Compaore regime. It is therefore difficult to gather farmers against GMOs and convince them to fight. In addition, the censorship against Syntapa and the anti-GM movement is terrible. Today, there is only one news organization that agrees to listen to us and to relay our messages and the government is very imaginative in finding excuses not to meet us. That's why I take advantage of my visit to France to meet with French associations and international networks of farmers, to get support and learn from their experience of struggle – and to take back good ideas with me in my luggage!
CM: What is your message to French organizations?
OT: What happens in Burkina does not only concern the people of Burkina. Monsanto and other biotechnology firms will use Burkina as a Trojan Horse to spread GMOs in the subregion. Eventually, European countries will be isolated and will find it more difficult to hold firm against GMOs. Burkina has also become a veritable laboratory. A foundation supported by agribiotech firms and the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations is experimenting with biofortified sorghum and insecticidal cowpeas. Sorghum is the staple food of nearly 300 million people in Africa. A patented GM sorghum would seriously threaten food security and food sovereignty in Africa. For all these reasons, we must unite to fight against the invasion of GMOs, which works against the interests of farmers and the people's food sovereignty.
Interview by Combat Monsanto, June 17 2011
2.The marketing of Bt cotton in India
All information taken from the report 'The marketing of Bt cotton in India'
In Madhya Pradesh”¦
Posters appeared in many places in Madhya Pradesh before sowing time, featuring a person who claimed to have gained great benefits from using Bt Cotton seed. These advertisements urged other farmers to benefit similarly from the use of Bt Cotton.
Investigations revealed that this "farmer" was actually a paan dabbahwala (the owner of a little shop selling betel leaves and cigarettes) who is not even a farmer, let alone a Bt Cotton farmer!!!
In the same state, other posters showed real farmers claiming very good yields from growing Bt Cotton. For instance, Ravinder Narain Patidaar of Sarangi village, Jhabua is shown in one poster as having obtained a yield of 20 quintals per acre of Bt Cotton.
In reality, Ravinder Narain, obtained only 25 quintals from all the five acres of Bt Cotton he'd sown (ie 5 rather than 20 quintals per acre!!). He is disgusted that the company is misusing the photos they took of him in this manner.
A farmer called Pyarelal Patidaar (from Jamli village) is also unhappy with the fact that his photo appears on posters which extol the virtues of Bt Cotton – "I said do not put my photo because I do not think that Bt Cotton is better than other varieties – however, they did not listen to me", he explains.
In Tamil Nadu”¦
MORE FAKE ADVERTISING
A farmer called S Palanisamy s/o Chellapa Gounder Agarathodai of Vellaiyur of Salem district appeared proudly displaying a tractor on a poster that suggested that he had bought it after using Bt Cotton.
We went to investigate. At the beginning of this season, Mr Palanisamy was approached by a company representative who urged the farmer to register for a contest that could take him to Mumbai. That is when the company took a picture of Mr Palanisamy in front of a tractor. However, what the poster does not reveal is that the farmer was not informed that this photo was for an advertisement for Bollgard (the Monsanto Bt cotton) or that the tractor was in fact obtained by the farmer with a private loan! The farmer says that with the yields he got from Bt Cotton, "I would not be able to buy even two tractor tyres"!
This episode inevitably appears on a poster called "TRUE STORIES OF FARMERS WHO HAVE SOWN BT COTTON"!
STATE SUBSIDY AND DANCING GIRLS
The state government has helped Monsanto by running big promotionals for Bt cotton in a series of different newspapers. Meanwhile, Monsanto's Bt promotional tours around Punjabi villages have included enticing dancing girls performing to music relayed over the public address system!
In Andhra Pradesh”¦
EAT, DRINK AND BE FLEECED
The company launched its product in 2002 by giving a big feast for farmers in many villages.
Chinnapu Reddy reports on his experience:
"There was 95 kilos of non-vegetarian food cooked that day and there was biryani and chicken fry. On that very day, bookings for the season's seed supply were made by the dealers and the company representatives. When parties like that are thrown, farmers like me tend to think that there must be something to what they are saying and we agreed to buy the seed. The seeds have now brought farmers nearer to the gates of suicide deaths again."
Other farmers tell the same story. One farmer in Mallapuram said that after having eaten the food of the company, a farmer cannot refuse the seed ("after having eaten from their hand, can we refuse their seed?")
In states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Monsanto is also known to have distributed free pesticides with its Bt Cotton seed!!
And in the 2005 sales season in the Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh, free bags were on offer to people who participated in village level publicity meetings.
VIRAL MARKETING: SPREADING THE WORD
There is also a wide network of informal agents placed at the village level – farmers who earn commission on sales that they bring about by promoting the Bt seed to fellow farmers.
Many of the above practices are used to sell Bt Cotton in Maharashtra too. In addition, Nana Patekar, a Bollywood star, who has been used by the company in its prime time television advertisements and posters in several states, was engaged to address farmers meetings in several places in Maharashtra, urging them to use Bt Cotton.
MORE CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT!
Maharashtra also has other kinds of opinion-leaders promoting Bt Cotton. For instance, a religious leader called Sant Satyapal Maharaj is known to urge his followers to adopt Bt Cotton in places like Akola. It is not clear how the Sant, who is not a farmer, is vouching for the product!
To sum up”¦.
Unabashed by what science has been disclosing about the ineffectiveness of the Bt technology, Monsanto's Indian subsidiary Monsanto-Mahyco and its sub-licensee Bt Cotton seed companies have been busy aggressively hyping GM seeds to India's poor farmers by all kinds of dubious and dishonest means.
There's a striking contrast between the lavish nature of Monsanto's brash promotional campaigns in India and its flat refusal to pay any compensation to the farmers who have suffered often terrible losses as a result of cultivating its GM seeds.