Wednesday April 13 2005
Genetically-modified Bt cotton a cropper: Study
From R Akhileshwari
DH News Service Hyderabad:
Despite claims that Bt cotton provides socio-economic benefits, the study reveals that it infected soil and no other crop could grow after the Bt cotton crop was harvested.
A study that tracked genetically modified Bt cotton crop for three years in Andhra Pradesh has proved conclusively that it has failed on all fronts including yield, cost of cultivation, returns to farmers and resistance to pests. On the other hand, the non-Bt cotton performed better on all counts.
“There are negative returns on every count other than pesticide use in Bt cotton crop, said Mr P V Satheesh, convener of AP Coalition on Defence of Diversity and Director of Deccan Development Society, which sponsored the study.
Incidentally, this is the first-ever independent scientific study on Bt cotton done on season-long basis continuously for three years in 87 villages of Warangal, Nalgonda, Adilabad and Kurnool districts, which are the major cotton growing districts of the State. The AP Coalition, which comprises 140 civil society groups across the State, demanded that the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Government of India should withhold the three-year license to the Bollgard Bt hybrids of Mahyco-Monsanto.
Monsanto Corporation, that markets Bollgard variety of Bt Cotton in India through Mahyco, asserts that it returns huge socio-economic benefits to farmers. It also claims that Bt cotton contributes to a healthier environment, as it involves lesser use of pesticide. However, the study shows that it infected the soil and no other crop could grow after the Bt Cotton crop was harvested.
As against this, the soil of the non-Bt cotton was friendly to other crops like chilly. “This is an early warning and needs to be researched by soil scientists and plant pathologists,” said Satheesh.
Hybrids, a failure
The study conducted by Dr Abdul Qayum and Kiran Sakkhari, agricultural scientists, found that the three-year average yield of Bt cotton was 649 kg per acre while that of non-Bt cotton was 708 kg per acre. The costs of cultivation for Bt cotton was 12 per cent higher than that of non-Bt cotton. The three-year average returns on Bt cotton was 60 per cent less than that for non-Bt cotton. “On all accounts, the Mahyco-Monsanto Bt hybrids failed the farming community in Andhra Pradesh,” said Mr Satheesh.
He recalled that Mahyco-Monsanto had commissioned studies by market research agencies rather that scientists, which claimed that AP farmers had gained five-fold gain from Bollgard compared to non-BT hybrids. “Hundreds of farmers, who have testified in the study have told us how Bollgard cultivation has ruined them totally. In the face of reality, this claim by Mahyco-Monsanto is an example of dark humour,” he said.
The Coalition demanded that the AP government immediately take steps to prevent the sale of Bollgard seeds for the present season, which is already going on. It also demanded that the government order a judicial enquiry into the incidents where the official agencies have either suppressed the truth or manipulated it to favour the Mahyco-Monsanto corporation. Demanding that Mahyco-Monsanto compensate the small farmers, the Coalition said, “Mahyco-Monsanto should be held responsible for spreading impossible dreams that are ruining the farmers lives.”
It also demanded that a five-year moratorium be imposed on genetically engineered crops until the issue is debated widely.