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SPECIAL - THE MARKETING OF BT COTTON (11/2/2008)

10 YEARS OF GM WATCH

1.A Disaster in Search of Success: Bt Cotton
2.Buthelezi comes clean on Bt cotton
3.EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK - THE MARKETING OF BT COTTON IN INDIA
4.The herd mentality driving GM crops

EXTRACTS: 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... 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. [item 3]

Monsanto forgot to include Mrs Buthelezi on its hospitality programme. She states on camera that her family makes no profit from the crop. Even Mr Buthelezi seems low-key, saying that Bt cotton is only suitable for large holdings and that farmers need other options. [item 1]

Interestingly, the problems that Buthelezi and his wife own up to in the new film, regarding profitability and the unsuitability of Bt cotton for small farmers, tie in exactly with the findings of a whole series of recent studies, including research on Bt cotton cultivation in Buthelezi's Makhathini Flats. [item 2]

The Washington University researcher Glenn Stone's multiyear study of the behaviour of cotton farmers in the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh, found that seed fads underlay the rapid spread of Bt cotton there. [item 4]

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1.A Disaster in Search of Success: Bt Cotton in Global South
Film review for GM Watch
Reviewer: Claire Robinson
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7994

The biotech industry has hyped its GM Bt cotton as a saviour of the developing world. But the experiences of farmers who have grown the crop suggest otherwise. A group of women farmer-filmmakers from the DDS Community Media Trust traveled to Mali, South Africa and Indonesia to document farmers' experiences of Bt cotton.

In Makhatini, South Africa, often cited as the showcase Bt cotton project for small farmers, 100,000 hectares were planted with Bt cotton at the start of the project in 1998. By 2002, that had crashed to 22,500 hectares, an 80% reduction in 4 years. By 2004, 85% of farmers who used to grow Bt cotton had given up. The farmers found pest problems and no increase in yield. Those farmers who still grow the crop do so at a loss, continuing only because the South African government subsidizes the project and there's a guaranteed market for the cotton.

The only farmer who defends Bt cotton in the film is T J Buthelezi, who has long touted GM crops around the globe courtesy of Monsanto. Apparently, though, Monsanto forgot to include Mrs Buthelezi on its hospitality programme. She states on camera that her family makes no profit from the crop. Even Mr. Buthelezi seems low-key, saying that Bt cotton is only suitable for large holdings and that farmers need other options.

In Mali, USAID is pushing for the introduction of Bt cotton. But Malian cotton farmers have produced huge increases in yield without using GM crops. And at the conclusion of a citizens' jury in which Malian farmers heard evidence from pro- and anti-GM sources, the farmers unanimously sent their government the stern message that they do not want GMOs.

Bt cotton seeds were introduced into Indonesia with the army riding shotgun and Monsanto giving massive bribes to officials to bypass environmental restrictions. But no amount of heavy-handed force will make a dud crop flourish, and problems with pests, poor yields, and high seed costs so angered farmers that they burned the Bt cotton fields. Monsanto fled.

In the light of such repeated failure in the developing world, it's obvious why the biotech industry is now focusing on India. Unbelievably, the Indian government has continued to welcome Bt cotton despite the thousands of farmers who have committed suicide after their Bt cotton crops have failed. This situation is exacerbated not just by corrupt politicians and a coterie of industry-friendly regulators but by a largely uncritical media happy to soak up industry spin. This award-winning film provides a welcome antidote to the hype of corporations and the willful blindness of governments and the media.

Specifics

A film by Community Media Trust, Pastapur, and Deccan Development Society, Hyderabad, India Published February 2007

Price: GBP10.00 UK / $18.00 US

To request a copy, please email sustag@iied.org
More information:
http://www.iied.org/pubs/display.php?n=1&l=6&k=cotton

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2.Buthelezi comes clean on Bt cotton

In her review Claire Robinson drew attention to some striking comments made by the South African farmer TJ Buthelezi and his wife.

Claire wrote:

'Mrs Buthelezi... states on camera that her family makes no profit from the crop. Even Mr. Buthelezi seems low-key, saying that Bt cotton is only suitable for large holdings and that farmers need other options.' (A Disaster in Search of Success)

What makes these comments so remarkable is the way they contrast with how the Buthelezis supposed experience as 'small farmers' with Bt cotton has been promoted by Monsanto as part of the corporation's declared strategy of 'gaining global acceptance of biotechnology'.

An article by the Monsanto-backed Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI), for instance, about the experience of small farmers with Bt cotton, shows how Buthelezi's experience has been projected and how far removed the claims that are made are from what he and his wife say on camera in the film. Buthelezi's comments in the CBI article are drawn from a variety of sources including remarks he made at a U.S. congressional luncheon.

[extracted from 'Small Farmer in Africa Gets Big Gains From Bt Cotton']

'T.J. Buthelezi says Bt cotton improves yields and earns more money for his family.'

''For the first time, I'm making money,' Buthelezi says. 'I can pay my debts.''

'By selling his surplus crop on the open market, Buthelezi was able to double the size of his farm and purchase new equipment to till it.'

'Buthelezi, who recently built a concrete brick home to replace the mud-and-thatch hut his family had lived in for years, is one of several farmers in the region who are generating higher yields and larger incomes with the new technology.'

'Buthelezi says he knows the benefits are real.'

''Normally, at the end of the year, I would ask my wife how we are going to pay our bil

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