Storm of protest in India against Bt crops / Halt approval for Mahyco-Monsanto
2.Halt approval for Mahyco-Monsanto Bt cotton
1.Storm of protest against nod for more Bt crops
ASHOK B SHARMA & BV MAHALAKSHMI
Finacial Express, 17 April 2005
NEW DELHI, HYDERABAD, APRIL 17:
Farmers' groups and civil society organisations across the country have expressed deep concerns over the country’s regulatory authority approving new biotech (Bt) cotton hybrids for cultivation in new areas when the case for extension of the approval period for three such varieties under cultivation has become controversial.
As part of the Global Week of Action (GWA) being celebrated worldwide, several civil society and farmers’ groups have stepped up the campaign against "unwarranted approval of new Bt cotton hybrids, when the case for old varieties remains undecided."
The country's regulatory authority, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has so far approved six new Bt cotton hybrids for commercial cultivation in north India in the current season. At its last meeting on April 13, the GEAC approved one new Bt cotton hybrid for commercial cultivation in central India and 12 such transgenic cotton varieties are in pipeline for commercial cultivation in central India.
In March 2002, three Bt cotton hybrids developed by Mahyco Monsanto, namely Mech-162, Mech-12 and Mech-184 were approved for commercial cultivation in south and central India. This approval period expired on March 31, 2005. The GEAC, which deliberated twice on the proposal for extension of the approval period, could not decide on the issue as the Andhra Pradesh government had given unfavourable reports about the performance of Bt cotton. The GEAC is awaiting favourable reports from other states before giving its nod for the extension of the approval period for these three varieties.
Some civil society groups have conducted scientific studies, which show the failure of Bt cotton in south India. The Secunderabad-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) conducted a study under the leadership of Dr GV Ramanjaneyulu and entomologist Dr SMA Ali, which showed the failure of Bt cotton in Warangal and Medak districts of Andhra Pradesh. A similar study conducted by Dr Abdul Qayum and Kiran Sakkhari on behalf of the Deccan Development Society (DDS), Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity and Permaculture Association of India bared farmers suffering from heavy losses on account of Bt cotton cultivation. The district authority of Warangal has asked Mahyco Monsanto to compensate the farmers for the losses.
Also, studies conducted by the Gene Campaign, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology and Greenpeace India have shown the failure of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil nadu. Eminent scientist and Padma Bhushan awardee Dr Pushpa M Bhargava has gone on record saying that Bt cotton has failed to live up to expectations. So far, only one survey which was conducted by an advertising and market research agency, IMRB on behalf on Monsanto India has attested to the success of Bt cotton cultivation. However, the CSA has refuted point-by-point the survey conducted by IMRB.
As part of the GWA campaign, a two-day international consultation on Bt cotton was organised by DDS and Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN) in Hyderabad. Farmers’ groups and civil society organisations from Bangladesh, Canada, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mali, Nepal, the Phillipines, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Thailand, who gathered for this conclave called ‘Southern Encounters’ expressed concerns over the deliberate thrusting of transgenic technology in farmers’ fields at the cost of genetic pollution, environmental degradation and health hazards. Local farmers’ groups from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra narrated their experiences of incurring losses on account of Bt cotton cultivation.
"The use of transgenic crops has unleashed new hazards into our farms. The profit-driven life science industry is more life-destroying than life-giving. Newer evidences and ever-growing failures of promise and performance of both the products and the corporate interests marketing them reveal darker truths about this technology. Claims of increased yields, reduced pesticide and larger profits for farmers have proved to be false. On the contrary, it has increased their losses. This was the essence of the two-day deliberations," said PV Satheesh, Convenor, Deccan Development Society.
Among the notable participants in the Hyderabad Southern Encounters were Collen Ross and Jennifer Bromm of National Farmers’ Union of Canada, Lawrence Mkhaliphi of Biowatch, South Africa, Hira Jhamtani, Konphalindo, Indonesia, Lim Li Lin of Thrid World Network, Malaysia, Vladimir Riveria of GRAIN, The Philippines, Witoon Lianchamroon of BioThai, Thailand. Noted Indian scientist Dr MV Rao also participated.
In New Delhi, the National Kisan Panchayat organised a one-day seminar on 'Globalisation and Indian Agriculture' on April 16, where former Union agriculture minister Chaturanan Mishra, farmers' leaders like Atul Anjaan, Dr Krishna Bir Chaudhary, Naresh Sirohi and civil society groups like Gene Campaign participated. As a follow-up to the GWA, Kheti Virasat and Punjab Organic Farming Association have planned a 'Peoples Dialogue on GM Crops' and Organic Cotton Workshop.
2.HALT THE NEXT CYCLE OF APPROVAL FOR MAHYCO MONSANTO BT COTTON
Bt cotton results from Andhra Pradesh say Mahyco Monsanto Bt cotton failed on all counts
MEDIA RELEASE, April 12, 2005
The first ever independent scientific study on bt cotton done on season long basis continuously for three years has come out with startling disclosures that uncover the false claims surrounding the Mahyco-Monsanto’s Bollgard in Andhra Pradesh.
The results from the three year study have provided conclusive evidence to say that almost every one of the claims have been very economical with truth. Let us begin with a comparative performance of Mahyco-Monsanto Bt hybrids vis a vis non Bt hybrids popular among farmers in the region.
The study Bt Coton in Andhra Pradesh: a three year assessment is a dispassionate report that captures farmers’ engagement with Bt cotton, their resultant economics and the ultimate desperation.
On the other hand, an associated film Bt Cotton in AP; a three year fraud, brilliantly captures the mood and feelings of the farmers as they are led up the garden path by the false promises of a ruthless industry. Both these are historic documents in analysing the impact of Bt cotton in India.
The Monsanto Corporation makes a claim that Bt Cotton returns socio economic benefits to smallholder farmers globally. [from Monsanto Website] .
To evaluate this claim, the study justifiably wanted to see how small farmers, especially under the rainfed conditions benefited from this scientific miracle. It therefore kept its focus sharply on this section of farmers.
And now, what does the study reveal?
Table 4 - see end
* Mahyco-Monsanto Bt cotton, Bollgard, has failed miserably for small farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India, in terms of yields.
While the three year average yield from Bollgard cotton for small farmers, has remained at around 650 kgs per acre, the yield for small farmers under rainfed conditions in 2005 from Bt is just about 535 kgs. The same farmers got 150 kgs more yield from growing non Bt hybrids under the same conditions as Bt. Thus non-Bt has surpassed Bt in terms of yield by nearly 30% with 10% less expense. Therefore Bt has failed the farmers twice over in terms of yield.
* Bollgard Cotton did not reduce pesticide use.
Actually the volume of pesticide use by Bt farmers and Non Bt farmers was so thin that it was untraceable. Bt farmers on an average bought and used Rs. 2571 worth of pesticide while the non Bt farmers bought and used Rs.2766 worth of pesticides over three years. The difference is barely around 7% of the pest management costs and an invisible 2% of their total cultivation costs.
* Bollgard did not bring profit to farmers
The three year average tells us that the non-Bt farmers earned 60% more than Bt farmers. In actual fact, in place of profit, Bt cotton, especially the Mahyco Monsanto varieties, brought untold miseries to farmers culminating in violent street protests and the burning of seed outlets in the city of Warangal. Farmers tied up Mahyco Monsanto representatives in their villages and the police had to go and rescue the hapless salesmen.
* Bollgard did not reduce the cost of cultivation
Looking back, it is evident that farmers had to spend not only 3-4 times more for the Mahyco-Monsanto’s proprietary Bollgard seeds but had to take extra care to manure, irrigate and look after their precious Bt crop. Many farmers, especially in the rainfed areas, spent at least a couple of thousand rupees more per acre in comparison to their non Bt hybrids. On an average, the Bt farmers had incurred 12% more costs in cultivating their Bt crops in comparison with their non Bt fraternity.
* Bollgard did not generate healthier environment.
On the contrary. Our researchers have a strong feeling that a special kind of root rot was being spread by Bollgard cotton. Farmers came out with complaints that they were not able to grow crops like chilli after harvesting Bt crop because it had infected their soil very badly. As against this, the soil in which the farmers grew non-Bt hybrids was extremely friendly to other crops. This is an early warning and needs active research by soil scientists and plant pathologists immediately.
One of the dangers in the horizon is the extended life of American Bollworm which the Bt cotton has facilitated. The American Bollworm, Helicoverva Armighera, used to appear on cotton fields around the 60th day of cotton. But since the advent of Bt Cotton, it has started appearing from 45th day itself. And stays for the next six days and establishes itself strongly spreading to other non Bt crops far more vigorously than before. Thus Bt cotton which came with the promise of eliminating Heliothis has helped it to survive even more strongly.
On all counts, the Mahyco-Monsanto Bt hybrids had failed the farming community in Andhra Pradesh.
But with an unimaginable audacity, the industry commissioned a study to a market research agency [recall that in 2004 also the company had commissioned the study to another market research agency and not to scientists or development economists] and with its now well known data manipulation tactics, claimed that the AP farmers had gained five fold from Bollgard, compared to their non Bt hybrids. Hundreds of farmers, who have testified in the study as well as in the film, have repeatedly told us how the Bollgard cultivation had ruined them totally. In the face of this reality, the claim by Mahyco Monsanto is an example of dark humour and can easily earn them the Lie of the Century award.
* WE STRONGLY DEMAND FROM THE GENETIC ENGINEERING APPROVAL COMMITTEE OF THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA THAT THEY WITHHOLD THE LICENSE FOR NEXT THREE YEARS TO THE BOLLGARD BT HYBRIDS OF MAHYCO MONSANTO.
* WE DEMAND FROM THE GOVERNMENT OF ANDHRA PRADESH THAT THEY IMMEDIATELY TAKE STEPS TO PREVENT THE SALE OF THESE SEEDS FOR THE 2005-2006 SEASON WHICH IS CLANDESTINELY GOING ON ALREADY.
* WE ALSO DEMAND FROM THE GOVERNMENT OF ANDHRA PRADESH THAT THEY IMMEDIATELY ORDER A JUDICIAN ENQUIRY INTO THE INCIDENTS WHERE THE OFFICIAL AGENCIES HAVE EITHER SUPPRESSED THE TRUTH OR MANIPULATED IT TO FAVOUR THE COMPANY AND PUNISH THE GUILTY.
* IN THE SAME PROCESS, WE DEMAND A COMPLETE ECONOMIC ASSESSMENT OF THE SMALL FARMERS WHO HAVE BEEN RUINED BY THEIR BT COTTON FARMING AND GET MAHYCO MONSANTO PAY THEM IMMEDIATE COMPENSATION. MAHYCO MONSANTO SHOULD BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR SPREADING IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS THAT ARE RUINING FARMERS LIVES.
* WE STRONGLY DEMAND THAT THE STATE AGRICULTURAL UNIVERSITIES AND RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS IMMEDIATELY START AN INDEPENDENT ENQUIRY INTO THE PHENOMENON OF EXTENDED HELIOTHIS LIFE AND SOIL PATHOGENS AND SAVE LONG TERM DISASTER TO OUR SOILS AND OUR ENVIRONMENT.
* FINALLY WE DEMAND THAT THERE SHOULD BE A MORATORIUM ON GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS IN INDIA FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS UNTIL A WIDE PUBLIC DEBATE IS HELD ON THE ISSUE. FARMERS JURIES INVOLVING VERY SMALL FARMERS AND WOMEN MUST BE HELD TO ESTABLISH THE TRUTH ABOUT BT COTTON.
[P V SATHEESH]
CONVENOR, A P COALITION IN DEFENCE OF DIVERSITY
DIRECTOR, DECCAN DEVELOPMENT SOCIETY
Table 4: Three-year averages of Mahyco-Monsanto hybrids and Non-Bt hybrids
Description (Costs / acre) A three year average
Mech Bt Non Bt Gain with Bt
Seed cost (Rs/acre) 1557 (13.4%) 466 (4.5%) -1090 [- 234%]
Pest management cost (Rs/acre) 2571 (22%) 2766 (27%) 195 [+ 7%]
total costs of cultivation (Rs/acre) 11594 10336 -1259 [- 12%]
Net returns (Rs/acre) 2032 4787 -2755 [- 57%]
Yield (kg/acre) 649 708 -59 [- 8.3]