"Campaign against Bt cotton is motivated" (23/4/2007)

1.Campaign against Bt cotton is motivated, says research scientist
2.'Bt is the breakthrough technology'

GM WATCH comment: The following articles would seem to typify the hype, disinformation and vested interests that typify the pro-GM lobby in India.

In the first R. Krishnamurthy claims first that it's really pesticide companies that are behind farmer opposition to Bt cotton in India, and then goes on to claim that, "Bt cotton is a roaring success... because it is able to combat diseases."

This is total nonsense. Bt cotton's supposed to be pest resistant - not disease resistant, and there have been many reports that the Bt cotton varieties Monsanto markets so aggressively in India are actually less disease resistant than non-Bt cotton varieties, with big problems being reported with wilt and with Tobacco Streak Virus.

The second article reports on a two-day 'Media Worskhop on Agricultural Biotechnology' during which journalists seem to have been tutored on GM by C. D. Mayee, amongst others. Mayee is described in the article as the Chairman of the Agricultural Science Recruitment Board. The article doesn't mention that Mayee is also co-Chair of the GEAC, India's apex GM regulatory body.

Still more to the point, Mayee is also a board member of the GM evangelising ISAAA, a lobby group with prominent biotech industry figures on its board and big financial backing from the companies that file applications before the GEAC.

Earlier this year, Mayee even did a star turn punting GMOs at an ISAAA media event held in India to launch the ISAAA's natorious annual global review on GM crops.

And C. D. Mayee's son, Hrishikesh Mayee, reportedly has as his father-in-law a Director of Ankur Seeds, one of the Bt Cotton companies permitted by the GEAC to sell its GM seeds to farmers.

What a small world.

As both the reports below are out of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu on exactly the same day, it would also be interesting to know whether R. Krishnamurthy's outrageously misleading remarks were also addressed to Indian journalists attending the 'Media Worskhop on Agricultural Biotechnology'.

Either way, it seems media training in spotting hype, disinformation and real vested interests would all be of great use to journalists covering agbiotech promotion.


1.Campaign against Bt cotton is motivated, says research scientist
The Hindu, April 16 2007 [extract only]

Coimbatore: For the septuagenarian R. Krishnamurthy, an authority on cotton research in the country after six decades of dedication and innovation, the campaign against genetically engineered (Bt) cottonseeds is a motivated one.

"This campaign of toxicity in this cotton is triggered by some pesticide companies as their use in the cotton sector has slumped drastically, thanks to the Bt seeds.

"After all, it is cotton which consumes 50 per cent of the total pesticide used in the country," contends the doyen of cotton breeding.

"Bt cotton is a roaring success not because it is a hybrid or is of high quality, but because it is able to combat diseases," he says.


2.'Bt is the breakthrough technology'
Press Trust of India, April 17 2007

COIMBATORE, APR 16: With the production of foodgrains and oil seeds remaining either stagnant or facing a shortfall, India, which stands at the crossroads, needed a breakthrough technology to increase productivity in the available land, a senior official in the Agricultural Science Recruitment Board, New Delhi, said on Monday.

The yield of oilseeds was short by 24 million tonne, pulses by 15 mt, wheat remaining at 70 mt and rice at 85 to 90 mt and biotechnology could be an improved tool to introduce a second green revolution in India, CD Mayee, chairman of the board said.

Addressing a two-day seminar on the 'Media Worskhop on Agricultural Biotechnology' here, Mayee, however, said that there were lot of misconceptions and misunderstanding about the technology, which has created a fear among the farming community.

With basic need of food sufficiency in the long run, in the wake of foodgrains production remaining stagnant at 210 mt to 215 mt in the last one decade, India has already started importing wheat now, he said.

Cotton production, after the introduction of Bt, a small fraction of the technology, in 2002 in India, has witnessed tremendous growth from 140 lakh bales to 270 lakh bales now.

Media has a vital role to play to provide the right kind of information on the advantages of Bt to the maximum benefit of farmers. When biotechnology was adopted in human and veterinary care, why was it not adopted in agriculture, Mayee asked.

In his address, G Balachandran, joint secretary, the ministry of environment and forests, said, "More than 38 lakh hectares of cotton cultivation in the country is an indication that the farmers have accepted biotechnology." India was one of the early movers in the matter of biosafety laws and policies and adopted biosafety rules in 1989.


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