Monsanto profits at the expense of farmers (7/9/2005)

1.Sales of Monsanto's BT cotton seeds rise by 131 percent in India
2.Bt cotton and farmer suicides


Monsanto's chief flak in India, Ranjana Smetacek, claims in the article below that an increase in the sales of its Bt cotton - something that could be pretty much predicted given that states in the north of India had approval for the sale and cultivation of Bt cotton for the first time this year - are an endorsement by Indian farmers: "Our numbers show the willingness of Indian farmers to adopt modern technology."

In fact, Monsanto has been using every trick in the book to promote its GM cotton seeds in India in the face of studies that have documented the failure of its Bt cotton and even a ban on some varieties in some states as a result of their poor performance.

Monsanto's Indian subsidiary has been busy hyping GM seeds to India's poor farmers as magical, as celebrity-endorsed and even as sexy!!!

For its promotional work this spring in the Punjab, where GM cotton varieties have been approved for the first time, the company hired Bollywood star Nana Patekar to give glamour to its products. It also made use of Guru Nanak in its sales pitch to the state's Sikh farmers in order to try and give its seeds a semi-miraculous aura. And in its promotional tours of Punjabi villages Monsanto even resorted to using dancing girls! (see 'Monsanto brings on the dancing girls')

Such old fashioned hype has precious little to do with the triumph of "modern technology". And, as we have noted before, there's a striking contrast between the lavish nature of Monsanto's brash promotional campaigns in India and its flat refusal to pay any compensation to the poor farmers who have suffered often appalling losses as a result of cultivating its seeds. Such losses have contributed to the terrible spate of farmer suicides in India, as Chad Heeter of U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism has chronicled. (see item 2)

Monsanto's refusal to pay compensation for the harm it has done has already led the government in Andhra Pradesh to ban Monsanto from the state.

1.Sales of Monsanto's BT cotton seeds rise by 131 percent in India

U.S. agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. said Wednesday that it had sold more than three million packets of its genetically modified cotton seeds so far this year in India, a 131 percent jump over last year's sales

Monsanto touted the growth in sales of its BT cotton seeds as a vindication of its effort to market genetically modified crops in India, where it has faced protests by environmental activists, delays in getting government approval for some of its products and even bans on varieties of seeds.

"Our numbers show the willingness of Indian farmers to adopt modern technology," Ranjana Smetacek, the Indian spokeswoman for Monsanto, based in St. Louis, told The Associated Press.

BT stands for bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium whose gene is injected into cotton seeds to give them resistance against boll worms, a major concern in India. BT cotton is the only transgenic crop allowed in the country.

Each of the three million 16-ounce packets of seeds sold by Monsanto and its Indian partners covers an acre, of cultivation, meaning that some three million acres should have been planted so far this year.

India's cotton industry plants all types of cotton seeds on more than 22 million acres a year. The country's cotton sowing season runs from June to early September.

Monsanto sold 1.3 million packets in 2004, 230,000 packets in 2003 and 72,000 in 2002, the year India opened its doors to transgenic crops.

Environmental activists on Wednesday repeated oft-heard concerns that farmers do not benefit from genetically modified seeds.

"When we interview farmers, they say the costs of growing BT cotton far outweighs any economic benefit," said M. Thangamma, a Greenpeace activist. "So, one has to question the data coming out of Monsanto."

The price of each packet of BT cotton seeds is about $40, or four times that of conventional seeds, but she said yields increase by only about 3 percent.

Monsanto, on its part, claims BT cotton farmers get anywhere between 30 percent to 60 percent more profits compared to those sowing conventional seeds.

Monsanto has licensed the BT cotton technology to 19 Indian partners, which have introduced 20 varieties and have submitted another 100 for approval by regulators.

Rasi Seeds, one of Monsanto's Indian partners, said this year's sales improved because Indian farmers were less resistant to using GM seeds.

"Our seeds are now highly accepted," said M. Ramaswamy, the company's managing director. "All that protest is going away and nothing can stop farmers from buying the seeds."

Critics say the adverse effects of GM seeds have not been studied adequately and that the seeds are environmentally hazardous and could contaminate the genes of native varieties.

Advocates of genetic modification counter by saying the crops can better resist disease, increasing yields.

Monsanto's Indian subsidiary

2a.Bt cotton and farmer suicides

Watch the video: http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/rough/2005/07/seeds_of_suicid.html#

excerpt from the script:

Historically, farmers grew a diversity of food crops but now they grow cash crops for export. Here cotton is king... Then came genetically modified cotton from Monsanto...

Monsanto insists this new generation of GM cotton will save farmers money with reduced chemical sprays. The Bt technology should repel bollworms for 90 days but its only been 60 days and these farmers' fieldsare covered in bollworms. This leaves the farmers confused.

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