26 April 2003
India Says No To Bt Cotton!
Regarding item 2, we don't as yet have details on where to send the supportive statements. We will forward when we do.
1.Regulator Says No To Bt Cotton Cultivation
2.Message from Satheesh
3."Monsanto tried to disrupt our meeting"
1. Regulator Says No To Bt Cotton Cultivation
Ashok B Sharma
Financial Expresss, New Delhi, April 25
The Indian government's regulatory authority, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), unanimously rejected the proposal for commercial cultivation in north India of a new variety of Bt cotton developed by Mahyco Seed Company in collaboration with Monsanto. It called for more field trials for genetically modified (GM) mustard seeds developed by ProAgro in collaboration with Aventis & PGS.
The 36th meeting of the GEAC presided over by its chairperson Sushma Choudhary on Friday deliberated for over two and half hours and came to the conclusion that "cultivation of the new Bt cotton, Mech 915 in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh should not be allowed as this variety is highly sensitive to the leaf curl virus. Leaf curl virus is common in the regions bordering Pakistan. It affects the yield of cotton and can affect other crops in the region as it is easily carried by white flies".
The local varieties of cotton grown in region are resistant to leaf curl virus as compared to Bt Cotton, Mech 915. It has been assessed that Mech 915 is sensitive to leaf curl virus by 56 per cent on an average and by 92 per cent in certain cases.
Regarding GM mustard seeds developed by ProAgro in collaboration with Aventis & PGS, the panel was of the view that that the results of the field trials conducted so far under the supervision of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (Icar) in four locations of the country were not conclusive. Further field trials under Icar supervisions are necessary "to assess the agronomic superiority, if any, effects of crossability and pollen transfer and resistance to herbicides." The panel was also of the view that as mustard seeds and leaves were used in food there was a need to assess the possible health hazards, if any, in the GM mustard seeds.
The GEAC chairperson, Sushma Choudhary speaking to the media admitted that the performance of Bt cotton cultivation in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat was discussed in the meeting. She said that there were reports from some state governments and agencies that Bt cotton had not performed well in some areas. When questioned as to whether the GEAC would withdraw its conditional approval for commercial cultivation in these states, she said, "More time should be given to assess the performance of Bt cotton in the regions where it has been approved. One season's performance is not enough."
2. Message from p v satheesh, Director of the Deccan Development Society
In these gloomy days of US hegemony and brutality there are very few things to rejoice. But one such small flicker for hope is the rejection of Monsanto-Mahyco's applicationn to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Government of India.
The India's national newspaper The Hindu reports that The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee[GEAC] rejected the proposalof Mahyco Seed Company for commercial release of theBtCotton MECH-915 varietyin the Northern States.
This may not be a categorical rejection of GE itself. But every step forward is a step forward. North Indian states are crtical to the success of Bt Cotton. The present rejection puts off the aggression of Monsanto at least by another year.
Therefore it would be wonderful if you all applaud this decision of GEAC and send them your letters of appreciation. We know the tremendous pressure from the GE lobby and their stooges in and outside the government. Therefore any such rejection takes a rare courage on the part of the GEAC.
A previous chair of GEAC Dr Gokhale was replaced once he took a firm stand on this issue. There is a new woman Ms Sushma Chowdhury who heads the panel now. She has apparently shown an exemplary courage in doing this fully in the knowledge of what has happened to her predecessor.
Unless we start supporting their actions, they will feel isolated more and more.
Please help in this positive gesture.
p v satheesh
Deccan Development Society
3."Monsanto tried to disrupt our meeting" -- Suman Sahai, Gene Campaign, India
Letter to AgBioIndia from Gene Campaign. Date: 17 April 2003
Dear Sharma ji
You would have probably heard of the effort made to "disrupt" our Bt cotton discussion today. I am providing you additional details:
Gene Campaign had organised a discussion on April 15, 2003, at the India International Centre, New Delhi, to discuss the results of a field study on the first ever GM crop harvest in India, that of Bt cotton.
The discussion was organised with experts, NGOs and the media. The Chairperson of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) was also invited but she did not come. Monsanto and Mahyco were invited, and they too did not turn up.
Suddenly after the meeting had started, a stream of about 30 farmers entered the room where the discussion were being held and started occupying the chairs . They were speaking in " telugu" (the language spoken in Andhra Pradesh) and so it was obvious they were from Andhra. Their leader, one Mr. Jaipal Reddy began to interrupt and started taking over the discussion. I suggested to them that we have done a study in those regions of AP that they point out, and that we had directly gone to the farmers to find out the truth. I even offered to hold a joint study once again to find out the truth.
But unfortunately, there were attempts to disrupt the meeting which did not succeed too well. Farmers meanwhile began to interact with the media, specially the TV crews, saying they were getting fantastic results with Bt cotton and everyone was definitely going to grow it again. They began denouncing the work being reported in the discussion saying the results were not true.
On being questioned, farmers admitted they had been sent by Monsanto, their fare and hospitality had been paid by Monsanto and they were sent by train the night before specifically for Gene Campaign's meeting. They also said they were asked by Monsanto to speak strongly in favor of Bt cotton and to say they were all in support of Bt cotton.
Accompanying Monsanto's farmers into the India International Centre (IIC) were some unknown people as well as Barun Mitra of Liberty Institute, known to be Monsanto's point man in Delhi. He was guiding the 'farmers' and encouraging them to occupy the front seats and not move from there. A luxury air-conditioned bus waited outside the IIC to take Monsanto's farmers back, guided and sheapered by Mr. Jaipal Reddy and Mr. Barun Mitra.
However, in the film clip that we had shown (recorded on location in AP ), the Agriculture Minister of Andhra Pradesh is seen on record saying that the state agriculture department and the scientists from the State Agriculture University who had independently collected data, have reported that Bt had not performed well and farmers were very disappointed.
Monsanto chose not to come up front to debate the results or present its case even though it was invited to do so. It chose instead to send a bunch of paid 'farmers' to act aggressive and try to break up the meeting.
Field Data on India's First Bt Cotton Harvest
Press Release from Gene Campaign. Date: 15 April 2003.
Gene Campaign today presented the data on India's very first GM crop, Bt cotton, which had received conditional approval for commercial cultivation in March 2002. The data collected from 100 farmers selected from 16 villages in Warangal in Andhra Pradesh and Yavatmal in Maharashtra were presented in a discussion with NGOs, experts and the media.
Gene Campaign, which showed a video film about the interviews with farmers, presented data clearly showing that Bt cotton had failed. Bt cotton was not resistant to the bollworm and farmers sprayed about the same amount of pesticides on both, thus showing no great saving in pesticide, as claimed by Monsanto, the owner of the variety.
Field data also show that the Bt cotton plant is weak and that the boll size is small, The length of the cotton fibre is shorter than in non Bt cotton, so the yield is less and the quality poor. Angry cotton farmers are vowing that they will not grow Bt cotton again.
Cotton traders are not lifting Bt cotton, preferring instead the successful non Bt varieties like Brahma and Banny . They pay a better rate for non Bt cotton so far farmers are surreptiously mixing Bt cotton with non Bt to sell their Bt cotton harvest.
What is clear is that the economics of Bt cotton simply does not work. Input costs are almost Rs. 1000/ acre higher than for non Bt cotton. The seed alone costs 4 times as much as good varieties of non Bt cotton. Savings on pesticides are merely Rs.217/ acre while seed is Rs. 1200/acre more expensive. The failure of Bt cotton is bitter and widespread. Sixty percent of Bt farmers were unable to recover their costs and actually were in the red to the tune of Rs. 80/per acre. Non-Bt cotton farmers did better in all categories of farm types, low, medium and high yielders.
What is shocking is that GM crop cultivation has been sanctioned and allowed to continue in states even though the mandated regulatory authorities have not been set up, No state Level Committee or District Level Committee is set up in either Andhra Pradesh or Maharashtra. This is in blatant violation of the Rules for the regulation of GM organisms which comes under the Environmental Protection Act, 1989.
Gene Campaign has demanded an investigation into this act of criminal negligence which has endangered the fundamental rights of every citizen to a healthy life and safe environment guaranteed under the Constitution of India. The GEAC, India's top level authority for approving GM crops has some answering to do.
- Why did the GEAC grant approval to Mahyco- Monsanto's Bt 162, Bt 184, when these are well known as poor to modest performing varieties ?
- Why was approval given to Bt 12,Bt 162, Bt 184 when other better Bt cotton varieties are in the pipeline ?
- How did the GEAC grant approval for cultivating a GM crop when the mandated Regulatory Committees to oversee performance and safety are not even constituted ?
- Gene Campaign has charged the GEAC with criminal negligence in another context. The Campaign has been demanding that the field trial data of the Monsanto Bt cotton be made available to the public. The GEAC has consistently refused to do so. Had this been done, there is a strong chance that the poor performance would have been detected early and farmers would have been spared this debacle and loss .
- Gene Campaign demands that the government ensure that Monsanto is made to pay compensation to those farmers who have suffered losses on account of Bt cotton. Law mandates this. Section 39 (2) of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, 2001, requires breeder to pay compensation if his variety fails to perform as claimed.
[Field data on Bt and non-Bt cotton performance can be requested from
CAMPAIGN OF THE WEEK
Stop the commercial sale of Bt corn in the Philippines
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for more details on the Hunger Strike