Massive GM cotton hype exposed (31/8/2005)

Here's yet more evidence of the astounding level of GM industry hype being pushed out through the media in India.

A recent Reuters article claimed that cotton output in India was reaching record levels thanks to genetically modified seeds, increased cotton cultivation and good weather. In support of its claim about the contribution of GM cotton, it reported:

"The share of transgenic cotton has been estimated at about 90 percent of total plantings in Gujarat, India's largest cotton producer, nearly 75 percent in the neighbouring western state of Maharashtra and some 60 percent in northern India."

But newly released figures on Bt cotton sowing in India show that Bt cotton is being cultivated not on between 60-90% percent of the land under cotton-cultivation but on just 8.7%!!!

Meanwhile the poor quality of GM cotton continies to get attention. This article is from the US farm press:
Transgenics have ways to go in quality
Delta Farm Press, USA

The following report is from Kavitha Kuruganti in Andhra Pradesh.

The first figures of Bt Cotton sowing this kharif across the country are out - Business Standard's Markets and Investing page has a story today saying that the extent of Bt Cotton is 7.21 lakh hectares in the country this season. This works out to 17.81 lakh acres or 1.78 million acres.

Last year, Bt Cotton was sown on 13 lakh acres out of 225 lakh acres of cotton in all. If the Business Standard figures are right, the increase is therefore about 37% in terms of absolute increase in area of Bt Cotton. [ which is hardly surprising as it has approval in northern India for the first time this season]

This year's cotton area is 205 lakh acres [8.3 mn ha, as per the same story]. This means that Bt Cotton is still a minuscule 8.7% of the total cotton land, despite the hype that the media and the industry have created.

If we calculate the seed cost of this and the earnings of the Bt Cotton companies (four of them in the market) in Kharif 2004, at an average of Rs. 1650/packet (though some varieties are sold at Rs. 1818/packet) it works out to 2.9 billion rupees or nearly 294 crores of rupees.

As per reports available on royalty charges being collected by Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech Ltd, a large chunk of this - upto Rs. 1250/- per packet - goes to MMB.

Companies like Nuziveedu Seeds have also paid more than 1.5 crores rupees for seed replacement/damages, after germination failure in various districts of Andhra Pradesh in the month of July/August. On the one hand is MMB collecting its royalties and on the other hand is a technology that has failed at the germination stage itself. For many Indian companies which have made a beeline for the Bt gene in their own cotton lines, this spells doom.


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