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Pest Explosion In China From Bt Cotton

By Devinder Sharma

15 May, 2010
Ground Reality

It was always on cards. Only agricultural scientists, blinded by the money and perks that biotech companies keep on dangling in front of them, refused to see. Pest explosion is something that happens naturally whenever you promote monocultures. It happened when chemical pesticides were pumped in, and it is happening now with Bt cotton. Farmers paid the price earlier, and once again farmers will suffer.

Agricultural scientists will retire gracefully, hoping for re-employment with private companies. Scientists work for promoting the companies commercial interests, and not for farmers.

In US, in Latin America, in China and in India, the story is the same. These are the countries where you have enough evidence of pest explosion (from even GM crops). As The Hindu op-ed page article says: Farmland struck by infestations of bugs following widespread adoption of Bt cotton made by biotech giant Monsanto. This report is certainly not going to trigger an overhaul of the way scientific research is carried out, and to change the criminal way the inconclusive findings are imposed by the scientific regulators on the farming community.

Regulatory bodies deliberately avoid looking into the pest emergence issue. The reason is simple. These regulatory bodies are corrupt, and are under the influence of the lobbyists. In the US alone, for instance, Monsanto spent US $ 8.7 million in 2009 on lobbying, in part to oppose labeling of GM foods.

Let me provide you a little more insight into how lobbying works. Since 1998, the agribusiness sector has poured more than $1 billion into lobbying for the purpose of protecting and advancing its legislative interests. The sector includes the crop production and basic processing industry, which alone spent $20.3 million in 2009; the food processing and sales industry, which spent $30.2 million in 2009 and the mighty agriculture services and products industry, which spent $34.4 million last year.

McDonald's, for its part, recorded its strongest lobbying output ever in 2009, spending $480,000 at the federal level to influence government. You can read it all here: http://www.d-sector.org/article-external.asp?id=93

Meanwhile, have a look at this news report from the pages of The Guardian. It is time to demand suitable action against the erring regulatory bodies and the scientific institutions. In India, we cannot allow GEAC to walk free. Neither can we allow another 'independent' scientific panel to be set up simply to endorse the wrongs that have been perpetuated by GEAC. The GEAC, which accorded environmental clearance to the controversial Bt brinjal, and which is now on hold pending the outcome of the national consultations held by the Environment & Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh, needs to be held accountable for its scandalous role.

Pest resurgence is a major cause for farmer suicides in the cotton belt in India. The Indian Council for Agricultural research (ICAR), as well as the GEAC is responsible for the cotton suicides.

Scientists call for GM review after surge in pests around cotton farms in China

Farmland struck by infestations of bugs following widespread adoption of Bt cotton made by biotech giant Monsanto

Scientists are calling for the long-term risks of GM crops to be reassessed after field studies revealed an explosion in pest numbers around farms growing modified strains of cotton.

The unexpected surge of infestations "highlights a critical need" for better ways of predicting the impact of GM crops and spotting potentially damaging knock-on effects arising from their cultivation, researchers said.

Millions of hectares of farmland in northern China have been struck by infestations of bugs following the widespread adoption of Bt cotton, an engineered variety made by the US biotech giant, Monsanto.

Outbreaks of mirid bugs, which can devastate around 200 varieties of fruit, vegetable and corn crops, have risen dramatically in the past decade, as cotton farmers have shifted from traditional cotton crops to GM varieties, scientists said.

Traditional cotton famers have to spray their crops with insecticides to combat destructive bollworm pests, but Bt cotton produces its own insecticide, meaning farmers can save money by spraying it less.

But a 10-year study across six major cotton-growing regions of China found that by spraying their crops less, farmers allowed mirid bugs to thrive and infest their own and neighbouring farms.

The infestations are potentially catastrophic for more than 10m small-scale farmers who cultivate 26 million hectares of vulnerable crops in the region studied.

The findings mark the first confirmed report of mass infestations arising as an unintended consequence of farmers using less pesticide – a feature of Bt cotton that was supposed to save money and lessen the crops' environmental impact. The research, led by Kongming Wu at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, is published in the US journal, Science.

"Our work highlights a critical need to do ecological assessments and monitoring at the landscape-level to better understand the impacts of GM crop adoption," Dr Wu told the Guardian.

Environmental campaigners seized on the study as further evidence that GM crops are not the environmental saviour that manufacturers have led farmers to believe.

Read the full report at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/may/13/gm-crops-pests-cotton-china/print