ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
10 December 2002


AgBioIndia Mailing List
10 December 2002

Subject: India: Bt cotton fraud proved

Bt cotton: neither the science nor its economics were correct. While Monsanto walked away with its first year profits from selling prohibitively expensive inferior seeds, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in India gets ready to accord approval to yet another strain(s) of Bt cotton for the northwestern parts of the country and too after a hurridly conducted one-year of farm trials. Cotton farmers, in the bargain, have been left high and dry.

That in the very first year of commercial planting, Bt cotton should be faced with American bollworm attack (the insect against which it is supposedly resistant), is a clear pointer to the fact that the science/technology was not at all perfect. Bt cotton has also seen an increased infestation of other sucking pests. The crop came under an increased attack of wilt disease and of course has proved to be a water guzzler. And as far as the economics is concerned, it has gone wrong everywhere.

At no place in the country was the crop monitored for the riders that the GEAC had imposed to ensure that the environmental damages are minimised if not eliminated.

The scientific fraud that we pointed to at the very beginning has been very well established.


1.Bt cotton lets down AP farmers: Study
2.Central India: Farmers recount their fears over Bt cotton
3.Bt cotton: An economist report card
4. In Brief: Kerala farmers plan campaign against GM food

1.Bt cotton lets down AP farmers: Study
Business Line,

HYDERABAD, Dec. 9: Bt Cotton, introduced by Mahyco-Monsanto company in Andhra Pradesh (in South India), has failed to fulfil its promise, says a study made by agricultural scientists Dr Abdul Qayoom, former Joint Director of Agriculture in the State and Mr Sakkari Kiran of Permaculture Institute of India.

The study report was released to the press here on Saturday by Mr P. V. Sateesh, Convenor of Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity, a non-government organisation.

The study, conducted in 11 villages of Warangal district in AP, states that in economic terms, Bt cotton has proved a total failure. The current yields for both Bt and non-Bt cotton are same at 4-5 quintals per acre. But non-Bt plants have a life of 2-3 months more and are expected to yield another 3-4 quintals. Therefore, non-Bt cotton will produce at least 30 per cent more cotton.

Besides, the pesticides use has shown only a marginal difference. While farmers have sprayed pesticides 4-6 times, they have sprayed 5-7 times on non-Bt cotton crop.

On the whole, the study states, Bt cotton farmers have spent a total of Rs 8,000 per acre while non-Bt farmers spent Rs 7,100 till date. Bt farmers paid Rs 1,600 for seeds per acre while non-Bt farmers paid only Rs 450 per acre. However, Bt farmers had one spray of pesticides less than the non-Bt farmers resulting in a saving of Rs 400. Despite this, Bt farmer had to end up spending Rs 900 more per acre than non-Bt farmer as had to pay Rs 1,150 more towards the purchase of seed. Besides, the labour charges are stated to be about Rs 150 more for picking Bt cotton.

This apart, the price of Bt cotton is 10 per cent less than the non-Bt cotton in the local market as the size of its bolls and staple length is smaller than the conventional cotton hybrids under cultivation. As a result, in terms of total earning at the end of the cotton season, a non-Bt farmer is estimated to earn around Rs 6,000 more per acre than a Bt farmer, the study says.

Mr Sateesh told newspersons that the findings completely belie the expectations and hype raised by the Bt cotton industry. Bt cotton was expected to reduce pesticide usage, increase the crop yields and enhance the earnings of the farmers. However, it had failed on all three counts and the cotton farmers of Warangal district were saying they would not cultivate Bt cotton hereafter.

2.Central India: Farmers recount their fears over Bt cotton

By Dr R.B.Thakare

The purpose of releasing Bt cotton was to protect the environment by avoiding several damaging expensive insecticidal sprays to control bollworms. But looking at the fate of cotton crop grown in the Vidharbha region of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, the results are to the contrary. This report is based on the experience of many farmers in the region and also based on the visits of the authors to see some trials and visit farmers fields.

One thing is clear. More expensive sprays were need in this region for controlling bollworms pests.

At the farm of the well known environmentalist Baba Amte, at Aandwan in Warora,  in Chandrapur district, at both in Yeotmal district, at Smudrapur in Wardha District, at Wani and Warora in Chdrapur Dist and at Dhapewada in Nagpur district and else where in the Gujarat State, several Bt trials on the farmers fields gave very upsetting results. These results contradicted the purpose the transgenic Bt cotton varieties were developed and released.

Experience at Baba Amte's Anandwan farm
[By: Dr. Palarpawar, Principal and Dean, Anandwan; in a talk with the team that visited Warora on October 29, 2002.]

A team comprising scientists and farmers representatives had visited the Anandwan farm. This team included:  Dr P. T. Shukla - a  geneticist and former head, department of botany, Gujarat Universsity; Dr. C. S.Chaudhary - Associate Dean, PKV Nagpur; Dr. Bhagvat - PKV Nagpur; Dr R B Thakare - geneticist and Editor, Farmers Forum; Mr. N. S. Ole Patil - President, Bharat Krishak Samaj, Maharashtra State; and some farmers.

After visiting the farm, the team also had discussions with the research staff at the Anandwan agriculture college, where apart from Dr. Palarpawar, other scientist  also joined: Prof. B M Chandore, head, Entomolgy; Prof M V Pusaddekar, head, Agronomy; Prof. P S Neharkar, incharge, Biotechnology; and Dr. Dhanorkar.

Dr. Palarpawar and his staff narrated their experience with Mech-162 variety of Bt cotton grown at the Anandwan farm. This crop was planted by Dr Palarpawar, who had also kept all the records pertaining to the trials.

Following are the excerpts:

Bt cotton seed details: (Sr. No. 026264 Cotton hybrid MECH - 162 Bt. Lot No. K01-66-29 ctq 84093 Date of Test : 13-05- 2002 Valid up to: 12.02.2003). Maximum retail price quoted at Rs 1600. The transgenic seeds of MECH - 162 Bt incomposite can contain Cry1 Ac gene and nptil and aad marker genes. GEAC approval D.O. No. 10/1/2002 - C S dated April 5, 2002.

Harvesting of the cotton crop was in progress when this visited the farm. Dr Palarpawar informed that he had so far incurred a total expenditure of Rs 11,000 on its cultivation. What he was expecting from this Bt crop was something around Rs. 5,000 -- a loss of Rs 6,000.

He had to spray the Bt as well as the non-Bt refuge several times to control the attack of bollworm insects and other sucking pests. They had also collected and killed several thousands bollworms from this Bt field in September. He was expecting a yield of about 4.5 to 5 quintals per acre this year, which would fetch him about Rs 5,000. He informed that there was no significant difference in the yield and performance of transgenic cotton with that of non-Bt cotton at his Warora farm but a local variety Nanded - 44 planted nearby was much better than the Bt cotton. Similar results were seen at other locations at some nearby places in Padhurna region, in Wani and Samudrapur in Wardha, Madhya Pradesh.

Farmer, Mr. R. R. Pawar, from Dhapewada, near Nagpur said: "he had (illegally) planted Bt cotton in 2001 and all that he could get was about 2 quintals/acre whereas the local cotton varieties gave him yields of 5 to 6 quintals/acre. He also clarified that he had sown Bt seed much late.

[Editors note: in its submission before GEAC, Monsanto-Mahyco had claimed 50 per cent higher yields from a crop sown two months late !!]

Experience of some Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra farmers:

At a cotton field day conducted at Padhurna in Madhya Pradesh, some farmers were interviewed by Dr R.V.Thakare: Raju Gharpure, Vijay Nakade, Devilal Paradkar and Nandu Bande. Most of these farmers except Nandu Bande, who grew Bt cotton, said that they will not plant the transgenic Bt cotton the next year because the cost of seed was prohitively high for them. Besides, this year Bt cotton was also attacked by the American Bollworm and at the same time the attack of sucking pests was much higher. Despite the protective Bt gene in cotton, extensive insecticides sprays had to be made. The difference between Bt cotton and non-Bt cotton was not significant and the other cotton varieties planted nearby viz  Dhanno, and Binny gave better yields with and with out sprays. "Then why go for expensive Bt cotton?"

[This field report was contributed by Dr R.B.Thakare]

3.Bt cotton: An economist report card

by Ashok B Sharma
Financial Express

New Delhi, Dec 9: The commercial sowing of legally approved Bt cotton seeds for one complete season in India is over. The harvesting of cotton in the country has almost come to a close. This is the time to assess the impact of largescale sowing of Bt cotton in the country.

Reports have already come in citing some success stories of Bt cotton cultivation at some places. There are reports of cases where Bt cotton has not fared well in terms of the expected yield and returns to the farmers due to high cost of seeds and more application of fertilisers and water. Some reports say that the seeds 'illegally' distributed by Navbharat have given more promising results in terms of yield and more returns than the legally approved seeds of Mahyco.

In this context, Dr Sudarshan Iyengar, director of Gujarat Institute of Development Research (GIDR), Ahmedabad and Dr N Lalitha, assistant professor of GIDR wrote in the current edition of the prestigious 'Indian Journal of Agricultural Economic' published by the Indian Society of Agricultural Economics, Mumbai castigating the regulatory authority in the country for unnecessarily rushing the approval of Mech 12, Mech 162 and Mech 184 Bt cotton hybrid seeds developed by Mahyco in collaboration with Monsanto.

The experts duo also clarified "the purpose of this paper is not to suggest that we should shun this technology, but to tread cautiously especially in the context of lack of transparency, co-ordination and monitoring by the certifying authorities in adapting a new technology like the transgenic seeds, which has definite implication for India. In future, if it is possible that since the Bt cotton seeds have the government certification to go for commercialisation, there could be a tremendous demand, which could pave for hike in prices and adulterated seeds. There should be an undertaking by the company for eventual compensation of the farmers if the seeds fail. A very strong institution mechanism should be built to prevent the sale of 'truthful' and adulterated varieties of Bt seeds."

Dr Iyengar and Dr Lalitha questioned "when a country like the US had taken more than 10 years to conduct the trials and subsequent commercialisation, it is unclear why the Indian government is in a hurry to release the transgenic crop. Where developed countries like the US, Australia and even China have so far not allowed the transgenic products to enter the food chain, India has taken a very bold decision to do so, in spite of the reports on allergic impact on humans caused by transgenic corn in Mexico.

In all the countries, so far the produce of the transgenic crops is restricted to industrial applicability alone and has not entered the food chain."

Quoting the regulatory authority in India, the writers duo said "more interestingly, GEAC has said that there is no harm in using the transgenic cotton in food products and no labelling is required for the domestic market, while labelling will be essential for the export market."

The two experts also said that there has been mixed results with farmers in US regarding Bt cotton. They said, "Harvest time reported mixed results with farmers from the West to the East coast reporting of bollworm damage of varying degrees and there was no change in the behaviour of the pest attack but a substantial reduction in the pesticide use." They also said: "the returns from the Bt and non-Bt cotton were the same for the US farmers" and further adding, "interestingly, North California State University's research study reported that one in 350 tobacco bud worms carried resistance to the Bt toxin......Bt cotton could remain effective against tobacco budworm for 10 years."

Dr Iyengar and Dr Lalitha said, "Since the concerned State Government's Biotechnology Coordination Committees were not consulted in Mahyco's trials it raises a fundamental question whether the required permission came from GEAC or the RCGM?"

They alleged that field trials were not conducted on a step-by-step basis and the field trial results have not yet been made public.

They said, "ICAR trials have also been carried out only for one season, sometime between June 2001 and March 2002. For identifying the possible pest attack and GMOs impact on the soil diversity and environment, the field trials should have been ideally carried out for a minimum of three to four seasons."


Kerala farmers plan campaign against GM food

Kochi (Kerala), Dec 8: The recently-formed Kerala Karshaka Munnani, a farmers' organisation, plans to undertake a campaign against Genetically-Modified (GM) food and cash crops, being popularised by multinational biotech corporations.

The chairman, P C George, a member of the legislative assembly, said on Saturday that his organisation was determined to educate the farmers on the harms wrought by GM crops as most of them were not aware of it. He urged the State and Union Governments to take immediate steps to save the Indian farmers from the GM crops, which were rejected in developed countries. This apolitical organisation formed under the initiative of Fr Vadakkan, a Catholic priest fighting for the cause of farmers, also proposed to campaign against nationalised banks in Kerala which utilised deposits mobilised from Kerala for lending in other States, neglecting priority sectors like agriculture in the State.


'Bt cotton will kill farmers, financially and literally'
An interview with Devinder Sharma

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