Seems this journalist checked out what the recent Greenpeace report on the economics of Monsanto's Bt corn in the Philippines had to say about the advice being given to farmers regarding fertilizer use with Bt corn: "A check with some farmers in Tantangan town in South Cotabato showed the same recommendations from Monsanto personnel."

What Monsanto's agents appear to be doing is recommending large quantities of fertilizer in the hope of artificially boosting the yield of the Bt crop and so convincing other farmers that it's worth switching to Bt corn.

This follows on from previous reports of Monsanto's Bt corn acreage in the Philippines expanding through stealth, deception and the complicity of government officials who have been subjected to intensive lobbying.

Bt-corn not financially rewarding
Allen V. Estabillo
Sun Star, June 27, 2005

THE genetically-engineered Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn does not directly offer increase in production yields, contrary to claims of "windfall benefits" by its producers and proponents in the government, a study made by environmental group Greenpeace bared.

The study, entitled "The Economics of Bt Corn: Whose interest does it really serve?" claimed that Bt corn, which is being sold commercially in the country over the last two and a half years, is not a viable option for small Filipino farmers due to the high cost of the seeds, fertilizers and other inputs required in planting the crop.

Greenpeace said it released the study last Monday to counter the continuing "misleading claims" by Bt corn seed producer Monsanto and the Department of Agriculture that the crop ensures increase in yields and reduces the farmers' dependence on fertilizers and chemicals.

"Our findings prove that the Arroyo government should never have approved the commercialization of Bt corn. Monsanto is promoting it as profitable for small farmers but it's not. Bt corn is actually a lot more expensive than conventional corn varieties," Greenpeace genetic engineering (GE) campaigner Daniel Ocampo said in a separate statement emailed to this reporter.

According to the Greenpeace study, Bt corn seeds, which were developed to resist the Asiatic corn borer pests, are currently sold at P4,400 to P4,900 per 18-kilogram bag, approximately twice the price of the more expensive non-Bt hybrid corn seeds.

Conventionally bred hybrid seeds sell at about P1,500 to P,2700 while the open pollinated varieties (OPVs) are priced between P460 to P1,200, it said.

An 18-kilogram bag of seeds covers one hectare of land for hybrid and Bt corn while and 20-kilograms for OPVs.

For fertilizers, Greenpeace said it has established that Bt corn plants require more usage of Urea, complete or 14-14-14 and the 16-20-0.

It said the usage is two to three bags per hectare for OPVs, six bags for hybrid and 15 bags for Bt corn.

The said usage rate was reportedly recommended by Monsanto field technicians to farmers in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro. In Isabela, the recommended fertilizer usage is around 4 bags per hectare for OPVs and 6 to 8 bags both for hybrid and Bt corn.

A check with some farmers in Tantangan town in South Cotabato showed the same recommendations from Monsanto personnel.

"This large quantity of fertilizers recommended by the Monsanto agent was probably to artificially boost the yield for the first crops and convince other farmers to switch to Bt corn," Greenpeace said.

For pest control, Greenpeace said a farmer who uses non-Bt hybrids and OPVs and biological control methods like trichocards for protection from corn borer may spend only for seeds if the trichocards are availed of for free.

But if a charge of P1 per card is set, with the recommended 70 cards per hectare by the Regional Crop Protection Center, a farmer will incur an added cost of P 70 only for pest control instead of P2000 for pesticides, it said.

"If the price of hybrid seed is pegged at P2,000 per bag, then the cost will reach a maximum of P2,070. Therefore, the use of non-Bt varieties with trichocards is still much cheaper than Bt corn seeds," the study said.

Ocampo said such findings make it clear from the beginning that planting Bt corn comes at a huge premium that most farmers cannot recover from.

South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos or the Socsksargen area is currently considered by Monsanto as a primary production area of Bt corn, which was placed at 4,700 hectares in January.

Mindanao's total Bt corn production area reportedly reached close to 7,000 hectares as of January, Monsanto cited.

Ronaldo Cayomo, Monsanto's corn lead for the area, earlier claimed that the utilization of Bt corn in the Socsksargen area has been on an upward trend supposedly due to the increased yield and income experienced by its users.