Bumper crop of GM hype in India (23/12/2004)

The article below provides a perfect example of the industry-driven "hype and concealment" that GM Watch editor, Jonathan Matthews, recently noted was going on right around the world.

Matthews gave this illustration of what's occurring, "In India you've got Monsanto pumping out studies and claims that GM cotton is great for Indian farmers, sales are up etc., etc., and at the same time you've got carefully conducted research in India showing the diametric opposite. You've also got protests going on and even stories of farmers killing themselves because their crops failed, but Monsanto's PR machine captures far more of the headlines."

Matthews noted the extraordinary schizophrenia this could produce: "You've got Indian politicians talking up biotech because they think it makes them look progressive and like they're doing something for the country, at the same time that you've got angy farmers going on the rampage because of the problems they're getting from just this one GM crop. In Indonesia Monsanto had to pull GM cotton out completely because of all the problems, and yet I regularly see claims that Indonesia is one of the Asian giants embracing GM!"

Each of these points is perfectly illustrated in the "Biotech Cotton Produces Bumper Crop in India" article, which takes as its starting point recent claims coming out of India's pro-GM ministry of agriculture.

According to the Indo-Asian News Service, "agriculture ministry sources" in India have been claiming that "the large-scale plantation of genetically modified cotton this year has played a big role in helping India achieve a bumper crop"

But compare and contrast that "big role" claim with what an internal ministry of agriculture report revealed. Earlier this year, India's Financial Express reported that despite the claims that India was "a key GM crop cultivator", the actual area planted with India's first GM crop, Bt cotton, was miniscule in terms of the total area devoted to cotton in India.

The newspaper went on to quote an internal agriculture ministry report, "In 2002-03, the first year of its approval for commercial cultivation, Bt cotton covered an area of only 38,038 hectares, representing only 0.51 per cent of the area under cotton in the period. In 2003-04, with good monsoon rains, the area under Bt cotton increased to 92,000 hectares. This area coverage under Bt cotton is almost negligible as compared to over 9 million hectares under cotton crop in the country. This points to the low acceptability of Bt cotton by farmers."

In another Indo-Asian News Service story tIndia's Agriculture Minister was quoted as saying, "The Bt cotton yield was definitely better in quality and quantity, boosting production by 30 to 35 percent in areas it was sown."

But even if such yield increases had occurred, given that Bt cotton is still being grown only on a relatively miniscule area (the last official figures placed it under 1%), there is no conceivable way it could be having the big national impact that is being claimed for it.
But even the yield gains themselves are suspect. In the article below, the research quoted is that of "ACNielsen ORG-MARG". This is a marketing survey organisation hired by Monsanto to carry out a survey among Bt cotton growing farmers. This survey involved just one contact with the farmers during the growing season.

It was carried out in the second year of Bt cotton production in India. In the first year Monsanto's Bt cotton is known to have performed extraordinarily badly. A series of studies showed it had proven a total failure and had left farmers in debt.  http://www.mindfully.org/GE/2003/India-Bt-Cotton-Failure8feb03.htm

In the second year of production a detailed study was carried out by Dr Abdul Qayoom, former Joint Director of Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh, and Mr Sakkari Kiran, working with farmers continuously, contacting them every 15 days. Unlike Monsanto's study, this showed that Monsanto's Bt cotton had yet again been economically outperformed by non-GM cotton.

The study also showed that the Monsanto- commissioned AC Nielsen study had actually claimed for Bt cotton four times more than the actual reduction in pesticide use, 12 times more than the actual yield and 100 times more profit!!

In the current year despite India's bumper cotton harvest, farmers growing Monsanto's Bt cotton have gone on the rampage in Andhra Pradesh because of the severe losses they've faced. Farmers even resorted to taking a Monsanto official hostage in order to to back up their demands for compensation.

The following Council for Biotechnology Information article is the very model of hype and concealment. It comes from an organisation funded by the industry, and it is being widely circulated on lists supported by the industry, and it makes use of research commissioned by the industry.

And note how it even gives Indonesia - a country where Monsanto had to pull GM cotton out completely because of all the problems and where it is now being investigated for corruption over the manner in which it was introduced - as an example of its GM cotton success story.

Biotech Cotton Produces Bumper Crop in India
Enhanced cotton nets yield gains of up to 35 percent
The Council for Biotechnology Information

Genetically enhanced varieties of cotton led to yield gains of between 30 and 35 percent and boosted cotton production in India to record levels in 2004, according to India's agriculture minister.

And with more of India's estimated 4 million cotton farmers expected to plant biotech cotton in coming years, production - and rural ec

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