27 March 2002
INDIA JOINS THE AGBIOTECH POWERS
"All scientific norms have been thrown to the wind while evaluating the field trials of Monsanto's GM cotton." - Devinder Sharma
"The trials conducted have been highly inadequate and led to a corrupt decision under the pressure of MNCs like Monsanto," - Vandana Shiva
"India has finally joined the community of progressive nations", - Indian government advisor, CS Prakash, who issued an "AGBIOVIEW SPECIAL: Historic Milestone In Indian Agriculture: India Joins the AgBiotech Powers"
Prakash's "community of progressive nations" - "the AgBiotech Powers", is a tiny club whose membership includes: the farm-export damaged US under Bush, a highly-equivocal state-capitalist China, and a bankrupt Argentina. Very progressive...
1. Stock Market - Top Story - Monsanto up 2% on nod for GM seeds
2. World's biggest cotton grower allows new seed despite long battle by local farmers and academics
3. Bt Cotton Clearance Divides Experts
1. Monsanto up 2% on nod for GM seeds
Stock Market - Top Story
Dow Jones, 27th March 2002
MUMBAI, March 27 - Monsanto is up 2.2% to Rs 581, off an early high of Rs 599, on hopes that the government approval for conditional use of genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton seed (insect-resistant variety) will boost sales.
Monsanto plans to market Bt cotton to Indian farmers through its JV with Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco). Dealers think shares could rise further as details on market size and demand projections for seeds become clearer.
2. New Delhi opens door to GM crops
World's biggest cotton grower allows new seed despite long battle by local farmers and academics
John Vidal, The Guardian, 27th March 2001
India, the world's largest grower of cotton, has opened its doors to genetically modified varieties after a four-year rearguard battle by academics and farmers' groups who fear that this will lead to hundreds of thousands of poor farmers being forced off the land.
New Delhi's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee yesterday approved the release of Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) cotton into the environment with certain conditions. Bt seeds are genetically modified to contain a common bacterium which protects the cotton from bollworm - the most common pest that attacks cotton crops.
Monsanto, the world's leading GM company and GM cotton seed producer, which has pressed New Delhi for years to accept the crop, made no statement yesterday pending further announcements on which variety had been approved, but was said to be delighted.
Monsanto invested millions of pounds in buying several of India's largest seed companies to promote GM varieties if and when the government finally gave permission. With GM cotton finally approved, India is expected to move swiftly to approve genetically modified foods. GM mustard, potato, fish and other crops are awaiting approval after trials.
If, as expected large-scale Indian farmers switch to the new varieties, then most of the world's cotton is expected to be genetically modified within a few years. Up to 90% of all US cotton is now modified, and South Africa, Argentina and other major exporters have all changed in the past three years. China now grows more than 400,000 hectares (1m acres) of GM cotton.
The world supply of GM cotton seeds is effectively in the control of just four companies who own the patents. The companies say their research shows that genetically modified cotton more than halves the need to use insecticides, and also increases yields by up to 30%, and returns by 8%. Average Indian yields are about 120kg per hectare, less than half the global average.
The government decision is likely to lead to further confrontations between Monsanto and farmers' groups who can organise rallies of up to one million people. Field tests of GM cotton in Andhra Pradesh and other states were burned down in the late 1990s by activists who feared that its introduction would prove suicidal for farmers, who would be forced to buy expensive seeds from multinational companies and go further into debt.
Some 4,000 hectares of GM cotton were found to be growing illegally in India last year and had to be destroyed.
The activists have argued that the introduction of GM cotton will again lead to the economic colonisation of India by outsiders. Freedom from cotton colonisation was a central argument for independence more than 50 years ago, and handwoven cotton cloth was Mahatma Gandhi's symbol of resistance to British rule.
Opponents of GM crops in India called the government approval process a "scandal" and demanded an inquiry.
"All scientific norms have been thrown to the wind while evaluating the field trials of Monsanto's GM cotton. The trials were held for only four years, but for three years they were found to have been faulty. The government has also refused to make the scientific data public for independent scrutiny", said Devinder Sharma of the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security in New Delhi.
He and others say that the bollworm will develop resistance to the GM crop, as in other countries growing Bt cotton.
"Indian farms average less than a hectare in size. Can you regulate pollen dispersal and ensure farmers also retain the right not to grow GM crops?" Suman Saha of India Gene Campaign asked.
Pro-GM groups were delighted. "India has finally joined the community of progressive nations by approving the first biotech crop for use by its farmers", said Dr CS Prakash, professor in Plant Molecular Genetics and director of the Centre for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University, US.
More than 50m hectares of GM crops are now grown worldwide across a dozen countries, mainly the US and Canada, but Argentina and China are thought to be catching up. Brazil, EU states and others have come under great pressure from the US and its corporations, who largely control the seeds, to allow their introduction.
3. Bt Cotton Clearance Divides Experts
Economic Times (India), March 27, 2002
NEW DELHI: The vertical division in the Indian intelligentsia has been evident once again after the government gave its nod for commercial cultivation of Bt cotton. While those in favour of the decision have described as freedom of access to technology, the critics have termed it as a threat to Indian biodiversity and getting pressurised by the multinational seeds lobby.
"The trials conducted have been highly inadequate and led to a corrupt decision under the pressure of MNCs like Monsanto," environmentalist Vandana Shiva said. After the government's announcement, she said within a generation or two bollworm pest becomes resistant to Bt Cotton toxin and the transgenic seeds will be counterproductive in the long run.
However, taking the opposite view, Kisan Coordination Committee's Sharad Joshi said cultivation of Bt cotton will be a boon for farmers which have been reeling under virulent bollworm attacks which had destroyed a major part of the crop. He expressed optimism that the farmers will be better placed to take on competition in the international arena.
Echoing similar sentiments, assistant secretary general of Assocham DS Rawat said the new seeds will help enhance the productivity of the crop which at present at 300 kg per hectar is the lowest in the world.
Disagreeing, NGO Gene Campaign's Suman Sahai said Indian cropping pattern and climate was not at all suited for cultivation of Bt cotton which will lose its resistance to pests sooner rather than later. Sahai explained that to prevent the crop from losing its resistance to pests like bollworm, the non-genentic cotton has to be grown around areas where the Bt variety is grown.
Sahai pointed out that to have 'refuge' of this kind around areas on which transgenic cotton is sown is not possible in India where the land holdings are small and average around one to 1.5 acres. "Design of planting is in such a manner so as to determine the area which is safe for cultivation and 50 per cent of the land in US is planted with non-genetic cotton," Shiva added.
Due to climatic differences between India and the US, the number of pests are higher in India and they are liable to acquire resistance to Bt toxin earlier than expected due to absence of refuge.
Joshi, however, said there were no hazards in Bt cotton cultivation which cannot be taken care of in future and what is more important is enhanced production.
Shiva countered saying results show 70 per cent decline yield after planting Bt cotton and in fact non-genetic varieties like LH-144 have higher yield than Bt crop like Megh-184. She said presence of other pests like Jassids and White Fly increased by 200-250 per cent in Bt cotton. Bt varieties also have negative effect on insects which feed on pests thereby disturbing the entire ecosystem, she said, adding "integrated pest management calls for protecting biodiversity while effect of trangenic cotton is opposite".
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