NOTE: Here's the full text of the important open letter to the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, referred to in the article in The Hindu of 6 May that we circulated previously.
The letter's from P.V. Satheesh, Director of the Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity.
Dear Mr Chief Minister
A news of extraordinary significance that you will address the World Agricultural Forum is buried somewhere in Page 5.
For us, the civil society activists working with the poor and their agriculture, this is an exciting news. This is significant not only for the fact that you as the head of a great agrarian state will be addressing this Global Farm Forum but also for the location where this forum is being held.
Mr Chief Minister, you are surely aware that St Louis is the headquarters of Monsanto Corporation, a corporation that has handed down despair, destruction and death to cotton farmers in Andhra Pradesh through its hyped up sales pitch for Bt Cotton. Small farmers who trusted the propaganda blitz of Monsanto and planted Bt cotton, had all their hopes dashed to the ground, as it started performing disastrously year after year.
When you are addressing the Forum Mr Chief Minister, please share the following results of the sustained independent scientific study that the AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity [APCID] has been carrying out since last five years in the cotton growing areas of the state. They point to an unqualified failure of Bt cotton in AP
In terms of economics:
*To cultivate, Bt cotton cost 17% more than the non Bt cotton *NPM [non-pesticidal management] farmers, who used neither Bt nor any pesticides on their farms, spent 23% less than Bt farmers.
*In terms of yield, Bt cotton’s advantage was a paltry 6%.
*The net return for Bt farmers was 35% less than NPM farmers *Reduction in pest management costs, which is the USP [Unique Selling Point] of the Bt industry was another myth. Actually Bt farmers spent 3% more on pest management costs over non-Bt farmers. In fact Bt farmers spent 100% more than NPM farmers to protect their cotton against pests.
*Thus the Bt industry's claim that it has the answer for the pest problem was the biggest lie.
Mr Chief Minister, while disclosing this miserable economics of Bt cotton, please do not forget to tell the World Agricultural Forum that the greatest danger being posed by the Bt cotton to Indian farmers is the never-seen-before diseases that it is spreading on the cotton fields.
*Root Rot disease, which had never affected cotton plants in their century old history has struck Bt cotton plants.
*Tobacco Streak Virus, a new virus infestation, never seen before, has struck Bt cotton in AP and using it as a vector has spread to other cotton fields.
*Bacterial Leaf Blight hit Bt cotton viciously and was more intense on it than non Bt fields *All these forced farmers to uproot Bt plants from their own fields to detoxify the soil in hundreds of hectares in Nalgonda District.
Mr Chief Minister, you must speak about all this in St Louis. Because that is the Forum which will be used by the Genetic Engineering industry to blow their own trumpets and say how brilliant has been their performance. Already inspired research funded by the GE industry has started saying how great has been the performance of Bt cotton in India. Unless the other side of the picture is brought out, this mega hype will blind people to reality and make them think that Bt cotton has been a God Sent for Indian farmers.
You must also tell the Forum Mr Chief Minister, how the surveys conducted by your own government unambiguously proved that farmers growing Monsanto’s Bt cotton had lost heavily. As a consequence your government ordered Monsanto to pay compensation. You must also tell the world through the Forum that when the arrogant Monsanto flouted your government’s orders, you asked them to pack up and get out of AP. This is very significant because a number of weaker nations do not know how to deal with corporate power and arrogance.
It is another matter [and we leave it to your conscience to tell this Forum or not], how President Bush came calling on you and probably twisted your arms behind the scenes and forced your government to readmit Monsanto even if on the ruse of reduced prices. Because the survival of Monsanto and Genetic Engineering is a part of the US foreign policy in the same manner as their aggression in Iraq. They pursue both with a satanic passion and achieve the same result: death of hundreds of thousands of powerless people. If possible, Mr Chief Minister, please make this comparison and tell the world how US politics is so closely intertwined with its desire to control the food and seed industry to maintain its global hegemony.
The reduced price is itself another important story. That your government forced Monsanto to sell its Bt cotton seeds at 40% of its original prices illustrates how profit hungry corporations bleed poor farmers to death by charging unpardonable prices, criminally oblivious to the tragic consequences of their string of lies and hype coupled with back breaking prices of their products.
This is important because the Monsantos of the world justify their existence by telling their own countrymen that their biotechnology is meeting the needs of the poor. Right now this is the debate in the UN's Solutions Exchange forum and you won't believe the outright lies and half truths served on this forum on behalf of Bt cotton.
Finally, Mr Chief Minister tell the world through the Forum how your government has taken up Non Pesticidal Management [NPM] of pests as a major plank of your agricultural policy. How this is pursued through one of largest anti poverty programme in the world called VELUGU which is a women-focused initiative. And how brilliantly this programme combines the gendered vision of agriculture where all life forms are seen with deep respect. In this manner, by bringing together the poor, the women and NPM, how your government has been able to redefine agriculture and dispel the myths of genetic engineering as the answer for small farming.
This is an important statement to make, Mr Chief Minister. Because in the World Agricultural Forum, you will probably be the only courageous politician who will be able to tell the truth and call the naked US emperor that he is not wearing any clothes at all. You will be shocked to know that US is trying to bring a law which says that Genetically Engineered seeds are organic!! Talk about an Orwellian world!
We wish you the best, Mr Chief Minister and hope that you will keep truth and the interests of millions of the small and marginal farmers of AP above the interests of big farmers and agro chemical industry who will surely try to twist your arm. Please tell all the truths from AP. This is very important for the world to listen.
[p v satheesh]