This press release is an important follow-on on the findings of government scientists at the the Central Institute of Cotton Research in India showing that Bt cotton is inherently ineffective.
The CICR study has provided a confirmation of what studies by non-government scientists and NGOs have repeatedly shown - the extremely uneven performance of Bt Cotton across varieties, across seasons and across locations.
As we reported yesterday, Dr Suman Sahai has asked, "Why weren't rigorous studies such as this one conducted earlier?" To which one of the government scientists involved replied, "We're now asking ourselves the same question."
BUT this may be disingenuous as it has now emerged that the shocking findings in the CICR's study have been known about since 2003!!!
And by sitting on these findings and not informing the regulators of the problems found with Bt cotton, a series of fresh releases of Bt Cotton in India have been made possible. These approvals, says the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, must now be revoked in order to protect farmers.
CSA fears the release of the delayed findings may be part of a deliberate PR strategy.
CICR knew about the ineffective expression of Bt toxin all along Shows again that decision-making on GE crops in this country is highly questionable
PRESS RELEASE: Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Hyderabad, July 28, 2005: Reacting to the latest report of the Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur on the toxin expression of Bt Cotton being ineffective against bollworm in the most vulnerable parts of the Bt Cotton plant, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture calls for an immediate revoking of all the approved Bt Cotton varieties from the market immediately.
Questioning the fact that CICR chooses to put out these shocking findings which emerged in 2003 only now, Dr Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, CSA said "CICR should be made accountable for not informing the decision-making processes within GEAC in time and for not stopping fresh releases of Bt Cotton in India, even after finding that inter-hybrid variability of toxin expression is 2 to 7 fold, that Bt Cotton becomes ineffective after 110 days after sowing and that within the plant, the toxin expressions were the lowest in the ovary of flowers and boll rind of green bolls which constitute the most favored sites of bollworm attack."
The findings vindicate the stand that groups like CSA have been taking about the extremely uneven performance of Bt Cotton on the ground across varieties, across seasons and across locations. Coupled with an earlier study of Dharwad Agricultural University which shows that existing resistance to Bt toxin is high in many bollworm populations across the country, the entire Bt Cotton technology becomes highly questionable on the one hand is inadequate expression of the Bt toxin in different varieties, at different stages of the crop and in different parts of the crop and on the other hand is existing resistance to such Bt toxin. The whole episode shows once again that scientists have no control over the toxin expression and that the technology of genetic modification is imprecise and unpredictable.
"Many such reports and studies are available with various agricultural universities across the country which have not been made public so far. It is imperative that these be shared with the public at large and the decision-making processes related to GE crops in the country opened up to public scrutiny", said Dr Ramanjaneyulu.
"This has many implications for resistance building up faster in bollworm populations, given that resistance management practices laid down are ineffective and are completely non-existent on the ground. One wonders if this is the ground-laying for introduction of Bollgard II, which is in a seed production stage this year, on the grounds that Bollgard I is ineffective. Based on these findings, CICR and the entire ICAR set up is to be made accountable for allowing the commercial release of an imperfect technology at the expense of hapless farmers and their environment and to the benefit of corporations", added Ms Kavitha Kuruganti of CSA.
The CICR paper also mentions that Bt Cotton is known to be more effective in varieties than in hybrids [though in India, it has been approved for hybrids only], that "the Indian farmer would have to be mentally prepared for the possibility of extra supplemental insecticide applications for bollworm control on Bt Cotton hybrids", that the original US Bt Cotton varieties are designed to protect the crop from tobacco budworm more than Helicoverpa armigera which is a major pest in India and which is at least ten fold more tolerant to the Cry 1 Ac protein.
It is worth noting that the CICR found Bt toxin ineffective in varieties like RCH2 Bt even though the variety was commercialized around the same time that GEAC approved the Bt Cotton hybrid of Rasi Seeds in 2004.
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The above mentioned scientific papers are available on line at the following links:
 "Temporal and Intra-plant variability of Cry1Ac expression in Bt Cotton and its influence on the survival of the Cotton Bollworm", Kranthi K R et al (of Central Institute of Cotton Research, <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags"> / Nagpur), Current Science, Vol 89, No 2, 25th July 2005
 "Baseline Resistance to Cry1Ac toxin in cotton bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera in south Indian Cotton Ecosystem", Fakrudin B et al, (of Department of Biotechnology, University of Agriculture Sciences, Dharwad), Current Science, Vol 84, No 10, 25th May 2003