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New report - Farmers lied to and lured into Bt cotton (19/9/2005)

1.EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK - THE MARKETING OF BT COTTON IN INDIA
2.Bollgard Bt Cotton sold on Lies and Lures

COMMENT

A new report - THE MARKETING OF BT COTTON IN INDIA: AGGRESSIVE, UNSCRUPULOUS AND FALSE - explodes Monsanto's claims that its achieving higher Bt cotton seed sales in India off the back of the success of its scientifically-based technology.

Investigations by Greenpeace India and the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture reveal a very different story. Their report shows that Monsanto's Indian subsidiary, Monsanto-Mahyco, and its sub-licensee Bt Cotton seed companies have been pulling every dirty trick in the PR book in order to lure India's poor farmers into using GM cotton.

Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture told a press conference in Hyderabad, "The assertion by Monsanto that the increase in acreage of Bt Cotton is an indication of the success of Bt Cotton is as questionable as their false advertising."

Below (item 2) is the press release, but first here are some of the examples (sometimes shortened or paraphrased) in the report that show the kind of extraordinary things Monsanto & co have actually been up to... state by state (item 1).

For copies of the new report as a pdf file, contact Kavitha Kruganti kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com
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1.EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK
(all information taken from the new report: THE MARKETING OF BT COTTON IN INDIA)

In Madhya Pradesh…

FAKE FARMERS

Posters appeared in many places in Madhya Pradesh before sowing time, featuring a person who claimed to have gained great benefits from using Bt Cotton seed. These advertisements urged other farmers to benefit similarly from the use of Bt Cotton.

Investigations revealed that this "farmer" was actually a paan dabbahwala (the owner of a little shop selling betel leaves and cigarettes) who is not even a farmer, let alone a Bt Cotton farmer!!!

FAKE CLAIMS

In the same state, other posters showed real farmers claiming very good yields from growing Bt Cotton. For instance, Ravinder Narain Patidaar of Sarangi village, Jhabua is shown in one poster as having obtained a yield of 20 quintals per acre of Bt Cotton.

In reality, Ravinder Narain, obtained only 25 quintals from all the five acres of Bt Cotton he'd sown (ie 5 rather than 20 quintals per acre!!). He is disgusted that the company is misusing the photos they took of him in this manner.

A farmer called Pyarelal Patidaar (from Jamli village) is also unhappy with the fact that his photo appears on posters which extol the virtues of Bt Cotton - "I said do not put my photo because I do not think that Bt Cotton is better than other varieties - however, they did not listen to me", he explains.

In Tamil Nadu…

MORE FAKE ADVERTISING

A farmer called S Palanisamy s/o Chellapa Gounder Agarathodai of Vellaiyur of Salem district appeared proudly displaying a tractor on a poster that suggested that he had bought it after using Bt Cotton.

We went to investigate. At the beginning of this season, Mr Palanisamy was approached by a company representative who urged the farmer to register for a contest that could take him to Mumbai. That is when the company took a picture of Mr Palanisamy in front of a tractor. However, what the poster does not reveal is that the farmer was not informed that this photo was for an advertisement for Bollgard (the Monsanto Bt cotton) or that the tractor was in fact obtained by the farmer with a private loan! The farmer says that with the yields he got from Bt Cotton, "I would not be able to buy even two tractor tyres"!

This episode inevitably appears on a poster called "TRUE STORIES OF FARMERS WHO HAVE SOWN BT COTTON"!

In Punjab….

STATE SUBSIDY AND DANCING GIRLS

The state government has helped Monsanto by running big promotionals for Bt cotton in a series of different newspapers. Meanwhile, Monsanto's Bt promotional tours around Punjabi villages have included enticing dancing girls performing to music relayed over the public address system!

In Andhra Pradesh…

EAT, DRINK AND BE FLEECED

The company launched its product in 2002 by giving a big feast for farmers in many villages.

Chinnapu Reddy reports on his experience:

"There was 95 kilos of non-vegetarian food cooked that day and there was biryani and chicken fry. On that very day, bookings for the season's seed supply were made by the dealers and the company representatives. When parties like that are thrown, farmers like me tend to think that there must be something to what they are saying and we agreed to buy the seed. The seeds have now brought farmers nearer to the gates of suicide deaths again."

Other farmers tell the same story. One farmer in Mallapuram said that after having eaten the food of the company, a farmer cannot refuse the seed ("after having eaten from their hand, can we refuse their seed?")

OTHER "FREEBIES"

In states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Monsanto is also known to have distributed free pesticides with its Bt Cotton seed!!

And in the 2005 sales season in the Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh, free bags were on offer to people who participated in village level publicity meetings.

VIRAL MARKETING: SPREADING THE WORD

There is also a wide network of informal agents placed at the village level - farmers who earn commission on sales that they bring about by promoting the Bt seed to fellow farmers.

In Maharashtra…

BOLLYWOOD BOOSTER

Many of the above practices are used to sell Bt Cotton in Maharashtra too. In addition, Nana Patekar, a Bollywood star, who has been used by the company in its prime time television advertisements and posters in several states, was engaged to address farmers meetings in several places in Maharashtra, urging them to use Bt Cotton.

MORE CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT!

Maharashtra also has other kinds of opinion-leaders promoting Bt Cotton. For instance, a religious leader called Sant Satyapal Maharaj is known to urge his followers to adopt Bt Cotton in places like Akola. It is not clear how the Sant, who is not a farmer, is vouching for the product!

To sum up….

Unabashed by what science has been disclosing about the ineffectiveness of the Bt technology, Monsanto's Indian subsidiary Monsanto-Mahyco and its sub-licensee Bt Cotton seed companies have been busy aggressively hyping GM seeds to India's poor farmers by all kinds of dubious and dishonest means.

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 farmers who have suffered often terrible losses as a result of cultivating its GM seeds.
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2.Bollgard Bt Cotton sold on Lies and Lures: Greenpeace & CS
PRESS RELEASE

Hyderabad, September 19th, 2005: The Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) on Bt Cotton[i], coordinated by Greenpeace India and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) today condemned Monsanto and other Bt Cotton companies for using false and misleading claims as well as unethical practices to sell their Bt Cotton seed.

The organizations put forward evidence to support their claims against such marketing which included compilation of numerous practices that the companies adopt to sell its product and then to claim it as "the willingness of Indian farmers". The MEC has called for accountability mechanisms to be put in place, to ensure that aggressive and unethical practices used by the Bt Cotton seed corporations to gain market share are put under check.

"The Bt Cotton seed companies are going berserk with their deceitful ways claiming high yields and great benefits on Bt Cotton. Never before have seed companies used so many tools and methods to ensure sales for their product. The aggressive and misleading selling techniques adopted by the Bt Cotton companies show utter disregard for the farmers’ choice to buy seed. This also severely limits the options available for promoting safer alternatives like organic farming," said Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at a press conference in Hyderabad. "The assertion by Monsanto that the increase in acreage of Bt Cotton is an indication of the success of Bt Cotton is as questionable as their false advertising", he added.

"Agriculture is a state subject and most states have failed utterly to evaluate the frightening scale of this Bt Cotton disaster. The agricultural department needs to take a firm stand to ensure that the regulatory regime is strengthened for the protection of the farmer," said Thangamma Monnappa, GE-Free India campaigner, Greenpeace India.

Ms Kavitha Kuruganti, Researcher, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture said, "The Bt Cotton industry would like us to believe that their sales are an indication of farmers’ acceptance of the technology and that it is a science-based industry. We have a different story to tell. This compilation of various marketing practices, including stories of outright lies on the Bollgard posters, misleading advertisements of farmers with exaggerated claims to lure other farmers, of using a variety of incentives and even questionable means to attract and entrap farmers makes us question the claims of the company. Such aggressive marketing in a situation where the technology itself is imprecise and where accountability mechanisms are non-existent is bound to spell doom for many farmers".

The MEC organizations, based on their documentation of Bt Cotton marketing practices from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, would write to the State Directors of Agriculture for immediate action in the matter. They would also approach the Advertisements Standards Council of India for its intervention in this regard.

The Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) demands:

- that the aggressive and even false marketing of Bt Cotton be stopped immediately

- that the Bt Cotton companies reveal the total amount spent on marketing the seed so far

- that liability be fixed on the companies in all those cases where they are found to have resorted to unscrupulous, misleading, aggressive and false marketing

- that the governments pro-actively put out information to farmers about how to protect themselves from such companies and also put into place simple mechanisms for loss-incurring farmers to claim compensation and remediation

For further information, contact:
Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Tel: +91-9393001550, E-mail:
kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com
Thangamma Monnappa, Genetic Engineering Campaigner, Greenpeace India
Tel: +91-98454 37337, E-mail: tmonnapp@dialb.greenpeace.org

[i] The Monitoring and Evaluation Committee [MEC] to monitor Bt Cotton across the country was set up by Adivasi Ekta Sangathan, AKRSP, CEAD, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Grameen Vikas Trust, Greenpeace India, Jan Saahas, Kheti Virasat Mission, Krishnadevaraya Rythu Sankshema Sangam, Krushi, MARI, Navajyothi, Pasumai Tayagam, Prasun, Rashtriya Satyagrah Dal, Sampark, Sarvodaya Youth Organisation, SECURE, VASPS and YUVA.

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