|The pseudo-science of biotech lobbyists (6/3/2006)|
EXCERPTS: "Bt Cotton is killing Indian farmers, not increasing their incomes."
"It should come as no surprise that Brookes and Barfoot are manufacuturing false data to make GMOs appear beneficial to farmers and the environment. They have come from the biotech industry. Barfoot worked for 12 years with the Agricultural genetics company, which eventually led onto Axis genetics which aimed to produce pharmaceuticals from plants. Axis's GM potatoes were found to have damaging effects on rats in research carried out by Arpad Putzai. Axis failed, Barfoot continued to sell biotech failures as miracles. Brookes speaks on Monsanto's website to promote GMO crops. Peter Barfoot and Graham Brookes are now Directors of PG Economics who claim to be "independent and objective consultants". The studies of PG Economies are funded by big biotech firms. Their pseudo science and close links to industry show that they are neither independent nor objective. Their "study" should be viewed as part of the PR arsenal of the biotech industry."
Apologies for any problems with the formatting of tables. This article and its tables can be downloaded at http://www.ourworldisnotforsale.org/showarticle.asp?search=1316
The Pseudo-Science of Biotech Lobbyists:
While biotech crops fail farmers, and destroy biodiversity the "global" studies of biotech lobbyists continue to cook up benefits to farmers and the environment. A recent example of such pseudo-science is a report by Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot of PG Economies Limited, U.K entitled.
"GM Crops : The Global Economic and Environmental Impact The First Nine Years 1996-2004". The report falsely claims environmental benefits of reduced chemical use and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. It also falsely claims benefits to farmers amounting to $27 billion.
Bt Cotton is killing Indian farmers, not increasing their incomes
Brookes was in India recently and claimed $ 124 million increased in farm incomes and 54% increase in yields from Bt. Cotton. However, every study in India carried out by citizens groups and government shows that Indian farmers are loosing not just incomes but lives.
Bt. cotton was sold with the claim that it would give 15 quintals of yield per acre. However yields have been as low as 20 kgs in one acre. On average yields of Bt. cotton are 1.2 quintals per acre in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh; nowhere did Bt. cotton yield cross 4 quintals per acre at the end of the harvest. In Madhya Pradesh, in Badwani, Khargaon, Dhar and Khandwa districts, almost half the 42 farmers visited reported that their crop had failed. Khargaon farmers faced total crops failure. In the other districts only one expected a yield of 12.5 quintals, the average yield expected by the others was 4.01 quintals, as compared to the 15 quintals promised by Monsanto-Mahyco. In Karnataka, 15 of the 40 farmers visited in Bellary, Sirippupa and Haveri/Dharwad districts, expected a total failure of their crops. The average yield expected by remaining farmers was 3.82 quintals per ha.
In most of the fields visited, the Bt. cotton plants were in a stage of maturity with leaves turning red before dropping off. The non-Bt on fringes looked far healthier, taller and were greener than Bt. plants. According to Dr. Jalapathi Rao, this was probably due to the toxin gene. This means that unlike other hybrid cotton, which yields up to March, Bt. cotton farmers will not get any yield after November-December.
False Claim of higher income
The failure/drastically reduced yield of Bt cotton has devastated Bt cotton farmers, who are faced with penury. Mr. Mala Rao Krishna Rao Thakre of the Both village in Maharashtra suffered a major heart attack when he found his 27 acres of Bt cotton completely devastated by diseases and pests.
The income of Bt cotton farmers is being reduced not just because of low yields, but also because of staple size. The Monsanto-Mahyco claim a staple size ranging from 26-29 mm, in actuality, it is hardly 15-20 mm, and would fetch the rate of a short staple cotton (around Rs. 1500 per quintal) while the normal rate offered for best quality cotton is Rs. 2000 to 2200 per quintal. One of the buyers in the Warangal cotton market, Mr. Sarangapani of the K.N.R. Enterprises said that Bt. cotton staples are only 6-7 mm long while the staples of good quality cotton is 32 mm.
Warangal has seen suicides by thousands of cotton farmers since 1997. The region has become famous for distress sales not just of land, but of body parts such as kidneys. The introduction of Bt cotton heralds the death of thousands more farmers, not just in Warangal, but in other parts of the country, as they are pushed into deepening debt and penury by Monsanto-Mahyco and other genetic engineering MNCs.
For many farmers Bt. Cotton has totally failed in the 2005 season. Nander Singh, farmers lilke Sukhlal, Chamar, Shiv Charan, Prem Singh, Manohar Singh, Madan Lal, Manohar, Dhanna Lal, Shree Ram, Jhajju Bhar, Ramdhan Bhar, Laxmi Narayan in Neemad and Tulsiram, Narender Rathor, A.M. Subedar, Sudhakar Govind Rao, Sahidrao Piraji, Manhar Bhadhar, Mama Sahib Nirmal, Ashok Rao Nirmal, Sekh Navi, Sekh Biram, Dilip Kaunda, Sukhdev Thoor, Gajanand Dhage, Gyan Bhaji Supare, Namdev Rao Jhade in Vidharba lost their entire crop. Others got average yields of 3 quintals per acre at average costs of Rs. 6000 per acre.
Our surveys of earlier planting seasons showed average yields of 1.2 quintals per acre in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
A study by the Center for Sustainable Agriculture showed that Bt. Cotton farmers uses seed that cost Rs. 1600 per acre, while organic farmers used seed of Rs. 450 per acre, a 355% difference. Bt. was sprayed with pesticides like Monocrotuphos, Confidor, Trace, Avarint, Eudosulfab, Acephate, Demethoate, Imidacloprid, Quinalphos, Chlorpyriphos, Cypermethrin, etc. Average sprays were 3.5 times costing Rs. 2632 per acre. Organic farmers used ecological pest control agents like Neem, Trichoderma, Panchakavya etc. at Rs. 382 per acre. This is a difference of Rs. 2250/- or Rs. 7625/- per acre. Pest control in Bt. Cotton is thus 690% more costly than in ecological farming.
High costs of cultivation, and low returns have trapped Indian peasants in a debt trap, from which they are escaping by taking their lives. More than 40,000 farmers suicides have taken place over the past decade in India. However, these are not suicides this is homicide, it is genocide. More than 90% of farmers who died in Andhra Pradesh and Vidharbha in the 2005 cotton season had planted Bt. Cotton. Genetic Engineering is killing Indian farmers.
Yet biotech lobbyists like Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot manipulate data to cover up this genocide. In a recent visit to India Brookes claimed Indian farmers had gained by Rs. 5 billion by having cost saving of Rs. 2000 per hectare. In reality, farmers had an additional burden of Rs. 2250 per acre or Rs. 7625 per acre.
The Brookes and Barfoot study is not based on primary empirical data but extrapolations from false assumptions and manipulated studies. For the U.S, the lobbyists claim $66.59 per ha of additional benefits for Herbicide Resistant Cotton. Yet 90 Texas Cotton farmers have sued Monsanto claiming they suffered widespread crop losses because Monsanto failed to warn of a defect in its genetically engineered cotton. The lawsuit seeks an injunction against what it calls a "longstanding campaign of deception" (The Hindu Business Line, February 26, 2006, p.4 "Cotton Farmers Sue Monsanto").
GM crops have increased use of chemicals
The environmental benefits are also a false claim. Friends of the Earth recently released a report showing that GM crops had increased use of chemicals. The Indian experience also shows increase of pesticide use as new pests attach Bt Cotton and the bollworm evolves resistance to the Bt. Gene.
GM crops reduce Carbon Sequestration
The claim of reduced greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing five million cars from the roads is also totally false and fraudulent. Brookes and Barfoot refer to herbicide resistant crops as "no till" systems. This is not true. Herbicide resistant crops avoid one tillage for weeding. Further, since they are part of industrial agriculture systems based on fossil fuels not ecological agriculture based on renewable animal and human energy, they inevitably use more fossil fuels than small-scale biodiverse ecological farms. Finally, since herbicides destroy all plants except the genetically engineered herbicide resistant plant. Genetically engineered crops like Herbicide Resistant soya beans reduce carbon sequestration by reducing biodiversity and hence reducing carbon uptake by plants and soils.
The following is the description of Round-up Ready Soyabean by Monsanto,
Figure showing How Herbicide Resistant Crops destroy Biodiversity, Increase Soil erosion and Increase herbicide Use
Broad spectrum herbicides like Round-up are directly aimed at Biodiversity destruction. The total destruction of biodiversity is however promoted as ecologically friendly by Monsanto.
It is also argued that Round-up Ready crops contribute to soil conservation. This false claim is based on comparing a large monoculture Iowa farm using other herbicides and a similar farm using Round Up.
However, the expansion of Round up Ready crops will also be introduced in biodiversity rich agroecosystems of the Third World. The direct destruction of biodiversity will in fact lead to more rapid soil and water erosion since without cover crops, there will be no protection against the tropical sun and rain.
The benefits are fictitious and illusionary when Round-up Ready technology is applied to polyculture systems. Round up Ready crops will lead to increased use of round up and hence destruction of both cultivated and wild biodiversity.
In Indian agriculture women can use up to 150 different species of plants (which are called weeds) as medicine, food, or fodder.
In West Bengal, 124 weed species collected from rich fields have economic importance for local farmers. In a Tanzanian village, over 80% of vegetable dishes are prepared from uncultivated plant.
Round up therefore destroys the economies of the poorest especially women. What is a weed for Monsnato is a medicinal plant or food for the rural people. Round-up Ready crops will therefore destroy biodiversity in biodiversity rich areas and with it, the economy of the poorest.
Rodney Garrison was among the U.S farmers who believed in Monsantos miracle Round-up Ready cotton a cotton variety meant to be resistant to Monsanto herbicide "Round-up". However, in the Mississipi delta where Rodney farms, the revolution has produced such casualties that officials are warning farmers to hold off until further testing. Dozens of farmers are seeking millions of dollars in damages from Monsanto and its partner Delta-Pine. The genetically engineered cotton plants have started to shed their bolls. Farmers have lost upto 40% of their crop failing in almost 30,000 acres.
Case Studies of Impact of Round-Up on Biodiversity
Case Study A
For the study of destruction that can be caused due to the use of Round Up even in degraded ecosystems three plots measuring 10 metres x 10 metres were selected in different areas. One plot was on farmland which had not been cultivated season. The other was by the roadside in a rural area and the third was on the roadside in an urban area. The rural area is Panchgaon which is about 70 kms from Delhi on the Delhi-Jaipur highway. The urban area is near Dilshad Garden, New Delhi.
First a survey was done of three plots to determine the types of plants, herbs, grasses and weeds growing in them. Application of Round-up destroyed all plants in each sample. Extrapolated to the fields and farms of Third World countries the introduction of Round up Ready crops becomes a major source of biodiversity destruction, especially when Roundup will be applied to the fields and commons fear where the poorest people derive their livelihoods.
The result of the survey is :
Plot 1, Farmland in Panchgaon
Plot 2, by the Roadside (Panchgaon)
Plot 3, by the Road Side (East Delhi)
Case Study B
Genetic engineering focuses on single gene, single function manipulation of complex traits of single crops. When compared to polycultures, this is both non-sustainable and unproductive. If herbicide tolerant crop monocultures are compared to the complex mixed farming systems still prevalent in large parts of the world, genetic engineering strategies are less productive and more wasteful of resources.
In the mountain farming systems of the Garhwal Himalaya, a particular cropping pattern takes place called Baranaja which means, literally twelve seeds. The seeds of twelve different crops (so often more than twelve, never less than 12) are mixed an then randomly sown in a field which is fertilized by cow dung and farm year manure. The twelve crops are :
1 Phaphra Fagophrum tataricum/esculentum
Mandua and Marsha are the primary crops in this 12 crop selection. Care is taken to balance the distribution of the 12 crops in each area of the field. Thus, after sowing the farmer is required to transplant crops from one area of the field to another area in order to maintain an even distribution of the crops. As in other cultivation practices, constant weeding is necessary. The crops are all sown in May, but are harvested at different times, from late August (Jakhia) to early November and beyond. The 12 different crops have been selected by the farmers over the ages by observing certain relationships between plant and plant, and between plant and soil. For example, the rajma creeper will climb only on the marsha plant and on no other plant in the field.
Relationship between different plants leads to symbiosis, which contributes to increased productivity of the crops. Assessments made show that if farmers cultivate baranaja, they get higher yields, diverse outputs, and better market price for their produce than the soya bean monoculture which is being propagated by agricultural agencies. Soyabean sells for only Rs. 5/- kg, whereas jakhia, one of the baranaja crops that matures earliest, is selling for Rs. 60/- kg. Phapra is another high value crop in the baranaja family, which has always been cultivated as a cash crop by Garhwal farmers, which used to be traditionally exchanged for salt.
Cultivating diversity can therefore be part of a farming strategy for high yields and high comes. Since these yields and incomes are of diverse crops, centralized commercial interests are not interested in them. For them uniformity and monocultures are an imperative. However, from the point of view of small farmers, diversity is both highly productive and sustainable.
Monsanto Round Up Ready Soya bean introduced in these regions would destroy the baranaja biodiversity, undermine food production and the income of small farming households.
More importantly, destruction of biodiversity translates into reducing the capacity of agro ecosystems to sequester carbon. GMOs are in fact adding the equivalent of millions of cars by reducing the capacity of farm crop diversity and farm soils to absorb carbon.
It should come as no surprise that Brookes and Barfoot are manufacuturing false data to make GMOs appear beneficial to farmers and the environment. They have come from the biotech industry. Barfoot worked for 12 years with the Agricultural genetics company, which eventually led onto Axis genetics which aimed to produce pharmaceuticals from plants. Axis's GM potatoes were found to have damaging effects on rats in research carried out by Arpad Putzai. Axis failed, Barfoot continued to sell biotech failures as miracles. Brookes speaks on Monsanto's website to promote GMO crops. Peter Barfoot and Graham Brookes are now Directors of PG Economics who claim to be "independent and objective consultants". The studies of PG Economies are funded by big biotech firms. Their pseudo science and close links to industry show that they are neither independent nor objective. Their "study" should be viewed as part of the PR arsenal of the biotech industry.