Monsanto's catalogue of horrors in India / Angry farmers give their verdict (12/5/2004)

The Indian documentary film maker Pavitra Chalam delivered a hard-hitting report on GMOs in India at the Convergence Festival in Dublin two weeks ago.

The full text of the talk (together with its multiple references) has beenmade available with permission via Ireland's excellent Planorganic website -www.planorganic.com.

Planorganic's editor, the redoubtable and multi-talented Jim O'Connor, notesthat Pavitra exposes a "catalogue of horrors". It's a catalogue that includes the industry's "doctored reports" and the "financial ruin ofgrowers". http://www.planorganic.com/news&comment.htm

The second item below contains Devinder Sharma's reflections on how smalland marginal farmers in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh, in tandem withthe State's many landless labourers, have given their devastating electoralverdict on the anti-poor "economic reforms" there, which included theintroduction of GM crops. These plans, known as the Vision 2020 programme,have been heavily backed by the World Bank together with the UK Government'sDepartment for International Development (DfID).

In September 2002, DfID was exposed as running a GBP13.4m programme tocreate a new generation of GM animals, crops and drugs throughout the ThirdWorld. The previously unpublicised programme had financed research in morethan 24 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe into at least 80GM projects. DfID was accused by Dr Sue Mayer of having "deceived" thepublic about the scale of the programme.

The controversial GBP65m DFID aid programme to support Vision 2020 in AndhraPradesh - a programme which critics allege will help push 20 millionsubsistence farmers off their land - was assessed by a citizens' jury with'scenario workshops' (or 'prajapeertu'), conducted by social scientistsamong poor farmers and landless labourers in Andhra Pradesh. Their verdictwas a unanimous rejection of the Vision 2020 programme.

Andhra Pradesh's farmers and labourers appear to have now delivered thatverdict once again, sweeping AP's Chief Minister away in a tidal wave ofdiscontent.

For more on DfID, the prajapeertu etc.http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=175

1.Pavitra Chalam's talk at the Convergence Festival in Dublin
2.AP debacle : Angry farmers give their verdict

1.Pavitra Chalam's talk at the Convergence Festival in Dublin
[well worth reading online for all the embedded links to source material]

INDIA is the third largest producer of cotton after China and the U.S. TheMaharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Ltd Mahyco is one of the largest and mosttrusted seed companies in India. In 1998,after 8 years of negotiation,Monsanto became a 50% shareholder in the company and received approval toconduct countrywide field trials. The data compiled was never made public.

On the 26th of March 2002 the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee ofIndia, gave the conditional clearance to Monsanto and Mahyco for commercialplanting of the genetically engineered Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt.) cottonin four states of southern and central India.

In June 2002, about 55,000 cotton farmers decided to grow Bt cotton, whichwas developed by inserting a gene of bacteria into the plant’s genome toenable it to resist bollworm, a major pest for cotton.

In the first few months the farmers were delighted with the crop since itgrew fast and looked healthy. Most satisfying was that the leaves were notbeing eaten by worms.

Unfortunately, in the fourth month, the Bt cotton stopped growing andproducing new buds while the existing cotton bolls did not get any bigger.The crop then wilted and dried up at the peak bolling stage. This wasaccompanied by leaf-drooping and shedding. There was also bursting ofimmature bolls and heavy infestation of bollworm. In the state of AndhraPradesh 79% of the crop was lost. In Madhya Pradesh 100% of the crop waslost. In Maharastra, the Bt crop has failed across 30,000 hec. In Gujarat,it was completely destroyed by the bollworm.

Subsequently, about 200 farmers committed suicide.

The Bt. cotton failure has cost the farming industry a total loss of Rs.1128 million or twenty million euro in 105000 acres across the country inone cropping season. The law states that any company that provides poorquality seeds, the performance of which does not match the claims made bythe company, is to be held liable for the failure of the variety. Despitethis Monsanto has refused to acknowledge the failure or provide anycompensation to the farmers.

Monsanto claimed that the crop would be completely pest resistant. Resultshave clearly shown that the BT cotton crop was devastated by pest attacks.When the BT toxin in the crop proved ineffective in 90 days the farmers usedpesticides bought from Monsanto. The spraying of these expensive pesticideshad an adverse affect on the crop. Theplants developed the leaf curl virus and the root rot disease and weredestroyed. Monsanto took no responsibility.

Monsanto claimed that the crop would be resistant to the bollworm providedthat there was a 20 percent refuge crop of non-BT cotton planted alongsidethe BT crop. This would ensure that the bollworm would attack only theconventional crop.

In reality however the bollworm not only attacked the conventional crop butalso devastated the bt crop. A relative of the American bollworm called thepink bollworm developed with immunity to the BT toxin.

Also in these instances, the 20% refuge of conventional crop actuallyyielded a better harvest. In most cases it was only the conventional refugecrop that survived. Again Monsanto took no responsibility.

Monsanto claimed that there would be no attack from any other pests. But inreality sucking pests like Jassids, aphids and Thrips thrived on the Bt.Cotton. The sprays bought from Monsanto to control these pests were seventimes more expensive than conventional sprays even though Monsanto hadoriginally claimed that they would notbe necessary.

Monsanto claimed that the yields of the bt cotton crop would be 15 timeshigher than the average yield of conventional cotton. But nowhere in thesurviving farms did the crop exceed the average yield. A good bt cropproduced 60 cotton bolls per plant while the conventional plant produced 250to 300. The seeds cost the farmers four times morethan the conventional seeds even though they have to be bought on a yearlybasis, as they cannot reproduce. The labor costs also increased by 50%.

Following the dire publicity over the performance of its GM (Bt) cotton inIndia, and with many poor Indian farmers facing ruin, Monsanto-Mahyco cameup with findings which it provided to the Indian government showing that ithad been a gr

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