1.A Disaster in Search of Success: Bt Cotton
2.Buthelezi comes clean on Bt cotton
3.EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK - THE MARKETING OF BT COTTON IN INDIA
4.The herd mentality driving GM crops
EXTRACTS: Posters appeared in many places in Madhya Pradesh before sowing time featuring a person who claimed to have gained great benefits from using Bt Cotton seed. These advertisements urged other farmers to benefit similarly... Investigations revealed that this 'farmer' was actually a paan dabbahwala (the owner of a little shop selling betel leaves and cigarettes) who is not even a farmer, let alone a Bt cotton farmer. [item 3]
Monsanto forgot to include Mrs Buthelezi on its hospitality programme. She states on camera that her family makes no profit from the crop. Even Mr Buthelezi seems low-key, saying that Bt cotton is only suitable for large holdings and that farmers need other options. [item 1]
Interestingly, the problems that Buthelezi and his wife own up to in the new film, regarding profitability and the unsuitability of Bt cotton for small farmers, tie in exactly with the findings of a whole series of recent studies, including research on Bt cotton cultivation in Buthelezi's Makhathini Flats. [item 2]
The Washington University researcher Glenn Stone's multiyear study of the behaviour of cotton farmers in the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh, found that seed fads underlay the rapid spread of Bt cotton there. [item 4]
1.A Disaster in Search of Success: Bt Cotton in Global South
Film review for GM Watch
Reviewer: Claire Robinson
The biotech industry has hyped its GM Bt cotton as a saviour of the developing world. But the experiences of farmers who have grown the crop suggest otherwise. A group of women farmer-filmmakers from the DDS Community Media Trust traveled to Mali, South Africa and Indonesia to document farmers' experiences of Bt cotton.
In Makhatini, South Africa, often cited as the showcase Bt cotton project for small farmers, 100,000 hectares were planted with Bt cotton at the start of the project in 1998. By 2002, that had crashed to 22,500 hectares, an 80% reduction in 4 years. By 2004, 85% of farmers who used to grow Bt cotton had given up. The farmers found pest problems and no increase in yield. Those farmers who still grow the crop do so at a loss, continuing only because the South African government subsidizes the project and there's a guaranteed market for the cotton.
The only farmer who defends Bt cotton in the film is T J Buthelezi, who has long touted GM crops around the globe courtesy of Monsanto. Apparently, though, Monsanto forgot to include Mrs Buthelezi on its hospitality programme. She states on camera that her family makes no profit from the crop. Even Mr. Buthelezi seems low-key, saying that Bt cotton is only suitable for large holdings and that farmers need other options.
In Mali, USAID is pushing for the introduction of Bt cotton. But Malian cotton farmers have produced huge increases in yield without using GM crops. And at the conclusion of a citizens' jury in which Malian farmers heard evidence from pro- and anti-GM sources, the farmers unanimously sent their government the stern message that they do not want GMOs.
Bt cotton seeds were introduced into Indonesia with the army riding shotgun and Monsanto giving massive bribes to officials to bypass environmental restrictions. But no amount of heavy-handed force will make a dud crop flourish, and problems with pests, poor yields, and high seed costs so angered farmers that they burned the Bt cotton fields. Monsanto fled.
In the light of such repeated failure in the developing world, it's obvious why the biotech industry is now focusing on India. Unbelievably, the Indian government has continued to welcome Bt cotton despite the thousands of farmers who have committed suicide after their Bt cotton crops have failed. This situation is exacerbated not just by corrupt politicians and a coterie of industry-friendly regulators but by a largely uncritical media happy to soak up industry spin. This award-winning film provides a welcome antidote to the hype of corporations and the willful blindness of governments and the media.
A film by Community Media Trust, Pastapur, and Deccan Development Society, Hyderabad, India Published February 2007
Price: GBP10.00 UK / $18.00 US
More information: http://www.iied.org/pubs/display.php?n=1&l=6&k=cotton
2.Buthelezi comes clean on Bt cotton
In her review Claire Robinson drew attention to some striking comments made by the South African farmer TJ Buthelezi and his wife.
'Mrs Buthelezi... states on camera that her family makes no profit from the crop. Even Mr. Buthelezi seems low-key, saying that Bt cotton is only suitable for large holdings and that farmers need other options.' (A Disaster in Search of Success)
What makes these comments so remarkable is the way they contrast with how the Buthelezis supposed experience as 'small farmers' with Bt cotton has been promoted by Monsanto as part of the corporation's declared strategy of 'gaining global acceptance of biotechnology'.
An article by the Monsanto-backed Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI), for instance, about the experience of small farmers with Bt cotton, shows how Buthelezi's experience has been projected and how far removed the claims that are made are from what he and his wife say on camera in the film. Buthelezi's comments in the CBI article are drawn from a variety of sources including remarks he made at a U.S. congressional luncheon.
[extracted from 'Small Farmer in Africa Gets Big Gains From Bt Cotton']
'T.J. Buthelezi says Bt cotton improves yields and earns more money for his family.'
''For the first time, I'm making money,' Buthelezi says. 'I can pay my debts.''
'By selling his surplus crop on the open market, Buthelezi was able to double the size of his farm and purchase new equipment to till it.'
'Buthelezi, who recently built a concrete brick home to replace the mud-and-thatch hut his family had lived in for years, is one of several farmers in the region who are generating higher yields and larger incomes with the new technology.'
'Buthelezi says he knows the benefits are real.'
''Normally, at the end of the year, I would ask my wife how we are going to pay our bills,' he says. 'Now I ask her, how are we gonna spend this money?''
And yet anyone who watches the DDS film will see Buthelezi's wife state unequivocally that her family makes no profit from Bt cotton.
Interestingly, the problems that Buthelezi and his wife own up to in the new film, regarding profitability and the unsuitability of Bt cotton for small farmers, tie in exactly with the findings of a whole series of recent studies, including research on Bt cotton cultivation in Buthelezi's Makhathini Flats.
SEE ALSO: TJ Buthelezi - a GM watch profile
3.EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK
(all information taken from the new report: THE MARKETING OF BT COTTON IN INDIA)
In Madhya Pradesh”¦
Posters appeared in many places in Madhya Pradesh before sowing time, featuring a person who claimed to have gained great benefits from using Bt Cotton seed. These advertisements urged other farmers to benefit similarly from the use of Bt Cotton.
Investigations revealed that this 'farmer' was actually a paan dabbahwala (the owner of a little shop selling betel leaves and cigarettes) who is not even a farmer, let alone a Bt Cotton farmer!!!
In the same state, other posters showed real farmers claiming very good yields from growing Bt Cotton. For instance, Ravinder Narain Patidaar of Sarangi village, Jhabua is shown in one poster as having obtained a yield of 20 quintals per acre of Bt Cotton.
In reality, Ravinder Narain, obtained only 25 quintals from all the five acres of Bt Cotton he'd sown (ie 5 rather than 20 quintals per acre!!). He is disgusted that the company is misusing the photos they took of him in this manner.
A farmer called Pyarelal Patidaar (from Jamli village) is also unhappy with the fact that his photo appears on posters which extol the virtues of Bt Cotton - 'I said do not put my photo because I do not think that Bt Cotton is better than other varieties - however, they did not listen to me', he explains.
In Tamil Nadu”¦
MORE FAKE ADVERTISING
A farmer called S Palanisamy s/o Chellapa Gounder Agarathodai of Vellaiyur of Salem district appeared proudly displaying a tractor on a poster that suggested that he had bought it after using Bt Cotton.
We went to investigate. At the beginning of this season, Mr Palanisamy was approached by a company representative who urged the farmer to register for a contest that could take him to Mumbai. That is when the company took a picture of Mr Palanisamy in front of a tractor. However, what the poster does not reveal is that the farmer was not informed that this photo was for an advertisement for Bollgard (the Monsanto Bt cotton) or that the tractor was in fact obtained by the farmer with a private loan! The farmer says that with the yields he got from Bt Cotton, 'I would not be able to buy even two tractor tyres'!
This episode inevitably appears on a poster called 'TRUE STORIES OF FARMERS WHO HAVE SOWN BT COTTON'!
STATE SUBSIDY AND DANCING GIRLS
The state government has helped Monsanto by running big promotionals for Bt cotton in a series of different newspapers. Meanwhile, Monsanto's Bt promotional tours around Punjabi villages have included enticing dancing girls performing to music relayed over the public address system!
In Andhra Pradesh”¦
EAT, DRINK AND BE FLEECED
The company launched its product in 2002 by giving a big feast for farmers in many villages.
Chinnapu Reddy reports on his experience:
'There was 95 kilos of non-vegetarian food cooked that day and there was biryani and chicken fry. On that very day, bookings for the season's seed supply were made by the dealers and the company representatives. When parties like that are thrown, farmers like me tend to think that there must be something to what they are saying and we agreed to buy the seed. The seeds have now brought farmers nearer to the gates of suicide deaths again.'
Other farmers tell the same story. One farmer in Mallapuram said that after having eaten the food of the company, a farmer cannot refuse the seed ('after having eaten from their hand, can we refuse their seed?')
In states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Monsanto is also known to have distributed free pesticides with its Bt Cotton seed!!
And in the 2005 sales season in the Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh, free bags were on offer to people who participated in village level publicity meetings.
VIRAL MARKETING: SPREADING THE WORD
There is also a wide network of informal agents placed at the village level - farmers who earn commission on sales that they bring about by promoting the Bt seed to fellow farmers.
Many of the above practices are used to sell Bt Cotton in Maharashtra too. In addition, Nana Patekar, a Bollywood star, who has been used by the company in its prime time television advertisements and posters in several states, was engaged to address farmers meetings in several places in Maharashtra, urging them to use Bt Cotton.
MORE CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT!
Maharashtra also has other kinds of opinion-leaders promoting Bt Cotton. For instance, a religious leader called Sant Satyapal Maharaj is known to urge his followers to adopt Bt Cotton in places like Akola. It is not clear how the Sant, who is not a farmer, is vouching for the product!
To sum up”¦.
Unabashed by what science has been disclosing about the ineffectiveness of the Bt technology, Monsanto's Indian subsidiary Monsanto-Mahyco and its sub-licensee Bt Cotton seed companies have been busy aggressively hyping GM seeds to India's poor farmers by all kinds of dubious and dishonest means.
There's a striking contrast between the lavish nature of Monsanto's brash promotional campaigns in India and its flat refusal to pay any compensation to the farmers who have suffered often terrible losses as a result of cultivating its GM seeds.
4.GM crops and a herd mentality
GM WATCH comment: [T]he Washington University researcher Glenn Stone's multiyear study of the behaviour of cotton farmers in the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh,  found that seed fads underlay the rapid spread of Bt cotton there.
It's been suggested the study may have more general relevance to GM crop adoption in the developing world, but could there be still wider lessons?
Stone's study suggests that it's wrong to see the number of farmers growing Bt cotton as an automatic endorsement of the effectiveness of the technology. This is because he found 'social learning' was taking place rather than careful assessment ('environmental learning') - 'everyone is copying everyone else, which results in fads, not testing'.
This is totally at odds with the endlessly repeated claims by Monsanto and others that the increase in Bt cotton acres in India 'bear testimony to the success of this technology and the benefit that farmers derive from it.' (Ranjana Smetacek, Director of Corporate Affairs for India, Monsanto)
But, however extreme the seed fads Stone found in Warangal, should we assume that it's only developing world farmers who are vulnerable to hype and fashion. After all, Donald White, a University of Illinois plant pathologist, has described some US GM crop adoption as the product of 'a herd mentality'. 'Everyone has to have a biotech program', he says, and this chimes in with a University of Iowa study on why farmers are growing GM soya. That study found that while increasing yields was cited by the majority of farmers in the study as the reason for planting GM soya, the research showed they were actually getting lower yields.
And this isn't peculiar to Iowa. An ISAAA annual review of the uptake of GM crops for 1998 reported yield improvements of 12% for farmers in the US growing GM soya, based on their own estimates. But a review of over 8,000 university-based controlled varietal trials involving GM soya in the US for that same year showed almost exactly the opposite - yield reductions averaging 7%. This suggests a serious gap between perception and reality.
It's interesting in this context that with biotech traits, the industry has abandoned its previous practice of making its new seeds available to extension ag. scientists first to run controlled trials on and then recommend to farmers according to the results. Instead, the companies have gone direct to the farmers with their PR machines at full throttle.
Stone's paper also contains the suggestion that this kind of agricultural deskilling may have occurred in the US over a long period, starting with the Green Revolution. He notes that, 'In her history of maize breeding in the United States, Fitzgerald (1993) argued that adoption of hybrids led to 'deskilling' of American farmers, turning farmers into passive customers of seed firms. Within a few years of the spread of hybrid corn, farmers who had previously been developing landraces and collaborating with public-sector breeders were told, 'You may not know which strain to order. Just order FUNK'S HYBRID CORN. We will supply you with the hybrid best adapted to your locality' (Funk Bros. 1936 Seed Catalog, quoted in Fitzgerald 1993, 339).
Agricultural Deskilling and the Spread of Genetically Modified Cotton in Warangal by Glenn Davis Stone, Current Anthropology Volume 48, Number 1, February 2007 67 http://artsci.wustl.edu/~anthro/research/stone480102.web.pdf