cotton Experiment a Failure
16 April, 2003.
Gene Campaign today presented
the data on India's very first GM crop, Bt cotton, which had received
conditional approval for commercial cultivation in March 2002. The data
collected from 100 farmers selected from 16 villages in Warangal in
Andhra Pradesh and Yavatmal in Maharashtra were presented in a discussion
with NGOs, experts and the media.
Gene Campaign, which showed
a video film about the interviews with farmers, presented data clearly
showing that Bt cotton had failed. Bt cotton was not resistant to the
bollworm and farmers sprayed about the same amount of pesticides on
both, thus showing no great saving in pesticide, as claimed by Monsanto,
the owner of the variety.
Field data also show that
the Bt cotton plant is weak and that the boll size is small, The length
of the cotton fibre is shorter than in non Bt cotton, so the yield is
less and the quality poor. Angry cotton farmers are vowing that they
will not grow Bt cotton again.
Cotton traders are not lifting
Bt cotton, preferring instead the successful non Bt varieties like Brahma
and Banny . They pay a better rate for non Bt cotton so far farmers
are surreptiously mixing Bt cotton with non Bt to sell their Bt cotton
What is clear is that the
economics of Bt cotton simply does not work. Input costs are almost
Rs. 1000/ acre higher than for non Bt cotton. The seed alone costs 4
times as much as good varieties of non Bt cotton. Savings on pesticides
are merely Rs.217/ acre while seed is Rs. 1200/acre more expensive.
The failure of Bt cotton is bitter and widespread. Sixty percent of
Bt farmers were unable to recover their costs and actually were in the
red to the tune of Rs. 80/per acre. Non-Bt cotton farmers did better
in all categories of farm types, low, medium and high yielders.
What is shocking is that
GM crop cultivation has been sanctioned and allowed to continue in states
even though the mandated regulatory authorities have not been set up,
No state Level Committee or District Level Committee is set up in either
Andhra Pradesh or Maharashtra. This is in blatant violation of the Rules
for the regulation of GM organisms which comes under the Environmental
Protection Act, 1989.
Gene Campaign has demanded
an investigation into this act of criminal negligence which has endangered
the fundamental rights of every citizen to a healthy life and safe environment
guaranteed under the Constitution of India. The GEAC, India's top level
authority for approving GM crops has some answering to do.
* Why did the GEAC grant
approval to Mahyco- Monsanto's Bt 162, Bt 184, when these are well known
as poor to modest performing varieties ?
* Why was approval given
to Bt 12,Bt 162, Bt 184 when other better Bt cotton varieties are in
the pipeline ?
* How did the GEAC grant
approval for cultivating a GM crop when the mandated Regulatory Committees
to oversee performance and safety are not even constituted ?
* Gene Campaign has charged
the GEAC with criminal negligence in another context. The Campaign has
been demanding that the field trial data of the Monsanto Bt cotton be
made available to the public. The GEAC has consistently refused to do
so. Had this been done, there is a strong chance that the poor performance
would have been detected early and farmers would have been spared this
debacle and loss .
* Gene Campaign demands that
the government ensure that Monsanto is made to pay compensation to those
farmers who have suffered losses on account of Bt cotton. Law mandates
this. Section 39 (2) of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers
Rights Act, 2001, requires breeder to pay compensation if his variety
fails to perform as claimed.
[Field data on Bt and non-Bt
cotton performance can be requested from firstname.lastname@example.org