The firstever independent scientific study on bt cotton done on season
long basis continuously for three years has come out with startling
What is the story that the farmers in AP are telling us with regard
to Mahyco-Monsanto Bt hybrids? It is a story of terrible loss, deep
pain, and cold anger, leading to explosive violence and even death...
Hundreds of farmers, who have testified in the study as well as in
the film, have repeatedly told us how the Bollgard cultivation had ruined
them totally. In the face of this reality, the claim by Mahyco Monsanto
[that farmers in Andhra Pradesh had gained five fold from Bollgard]
is an example of dark humour and can easily earn them the Lie of the
The study Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: a three year assessment
is a dispassionate report that captures farmers' engagement with Bt
cotton, their resultant economics and the ultimate desperation.
On the other hand, an associated film Bt Cotton in AP; a three
year fraud, brilliantly captures the mood and feelings of the
farmers as they are led up the garden path by the false promises of
a ruthless industry. Both these are historic documents in analysing
the impact of Bt cotton in India.
The Monsanto Corporation makes a claim that Bt Cotton returns
socio economic benefits to smallholder farmers globally. [from Monsanto
To evaluate this claim, the study justifiably wanted to see how small
farmers, especially under the rainfed conditions benefited from this
scientific miracle. It therefore kept its focus sharply on this section
And now, what does the study reveal?
Table 4: Three-year averages of Mahyco-Monsanto hybrids and Non-Bt hybrids
(Costs / acre)
A three year average
Gain with Bt
Seed cost (Rs/acre)
Pest management cost (Rs/acre)
195 [+ 7%]
Total costs of cultivation (Rs/acre)
Net returns (Rs/acre)
-59 [- 8.3]
Mahyco-Monsanto Bt cotton, Bollgard, has failed miserably
for small farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India, in terms of yields.
While the three year average yield from Bollgard cotton for small farmers,
has remained at around 650 kgs per acre, the yield for small farmers
under rainfed conditions in 2005 from Bt is just about 535 kgs. The
same farmers got 150 kgs more yield from growing non Bt hybrids under
the same conditions as Bt. Thus non-Bt has surpassed Bt in terms of
yield by nearly 30% with 10% less expense. Therefore Bt has failed the
farmers twice over in terms of yield.
Bollgard Cotton did not reduce pesticide use.
Actually the volume of pesticide use by Bt farmers and Non Bt farmers
was so thin that it was untraceable. Bt farmers on an average bought
and used Rs. 2571 worth of pesticide while the non Bt farmers bought
and used Rs.2766 worth of pesticides over three years. The difference
is barely around 7% of the pest management costs and an invisible 2%
of their total cultivation costs.
Bollgard did not bring profit to farmers
The three year average tells us that the non-Bt farmers earned
60% more than Bt farmers. In actual fact, in place of profit,
Bt cotton, especially the Mahyco Monsanto varieties, brought untold
miseries to farmers culminating in violent street protests and the burning
of seed outlets in the city of Warangal. Farmers tied up Mahyco Monsanto
representatives in their villages and the police had to go and rescue
the hapless salesmen.
Bollgard did not reduce the cost of cultivation
Looking back, it is evident that farmers had to spend not only 3-4 times
more for the Mahyco-Monsanto's proprietary Bollgard seeds but had to
take extra care to manure, irrigate and look after their precious Bt
crop. Many farmers, especially in the rainfed areas, spent at least
a couple of thousand rupees more per acre in comparison to their non
Bt hybrids. On an average, the Bt farmers had incurred 12% more costs
in cultivating their Bt crops in comparison with their non Bt fraternity.
Bollgard did not generate healthier environment.
On the contrary. Our researchers have a strong feeling that a special
kind of root rot was being spread by Bollgard cotton. Farmers
came out with complaints that they were not able to grow crops like
chilli after harvesting Bt crop because it had infected their soil very
badly. As against this, the soil in which the farmers grew non-Bt
hybrids was extremely friendly to other crops. This is an early warning
and needs active research by soil scientists and plant pathologists
One of the dangers in the horizon is the extended life of American
Bollworm which the Bt cotton has facilitated. The American
Bollworm, Helicoverva Armighera, used to appear on cotton fields
around the 60th day of cotton. But since the advent of Bt Cotton, it
has started appearing from 45th day itself. And stays for the next six
days and establishes itself strongly spreading to other non Bt crops
far more vigorously than before. Thus Bt cotton which came with
the promise of eliminating Heliothis has helped it to survive even more
On all counts, the Mahyco-Monsanto Bt hybrids had failed the farming
community in Andhra Pradesh.
But with an unimaginable audacity, the industry commissioned a study
to a market research agency [recall that in 2004 also the company had
commissioned the study to another market research agency and not to
scientists or development economists] and with its now well known data
manipulation tactics, claimed that the AP farmers had gained five fold
from Bollgard, compared to
their non Bt hybrids. Hundreds of farmers, who have testified in the
study as well as in the film, have repeatedly told us how the Bollgard
cultivation had ruined them totally. In the face of this reality, the
claim by Mahyco Monsanto is an example of dark humour and can easily
earn them the Lie of the Century award.
- WE STRONGLY DEMAND FROM THE GENETIC ENGINEERING APPROVAL COMMITTEE
OF THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA THAT THEY WITHHOLD THE LICENSE FOR NEXT
THREE YEARS TO THE BOLLGARD BT HYBRIDS OF MAHYCO MONSANTO.
- WE DEMAND FROM THE GOVERNMENT OF ANDHRA PRADESH THAT THEY IMMEDIATELY
TAKE STEPS TO PREVENT THE SALE OF THESE SEEDS FOR THE 2005-2006 SEASON
WHICH IS CLANDESTINELY GOING ON ALREADY.
- WE ALSO DEMAND FROM THE GOVERNMENT OF ANDHRA PRADESH THAT THEY
IMMEDIATELY ORDER A JUDICIAN ENQUIRY INTO THE INCIDENTS WHERE THE
OFFICIAL AGENCIES HAVE EITHER SUPPRESSED THE TRUTH OR MANIPULATED
IT TO FAVOUR THE COMPANY AND PUNISH THE GUILTY.
- IN THE SAME PROCESS, WE DEMAND A COMPLETE ECONOMIC ASSESSMENT
OF THE SMALL FARMERS WHO HAVE BEEN RUINED BY THEIR BT COTTON FARMING
AND GET MAHYCO MONSANTO PAY THEM IMMEDIATE COMPENSATION. MAHYCO
MONSANTO SHOULD BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR SPREADING IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS
THAT ARE RUINING FARMERS LIVES.
- WE STRONGLY DEMAND THAT THE STATE AGRICULTURAL UNIVERSITIES AND
RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS IMMEDIATELY START AN INDEPENDENT ENQUIRY INTO
THE PHENOMENON OF EXTENDED HELIOTHIS LIFE AND SOIL PATHOGENS AND SAVE
LONG TERM DISASTER TO OUR SOILS AND OUR ENVIRONMENT.
- FINALLY WE DEMAND THAT THERE SHOULD BE A MORATORIUM ON GENETICALLY
ENGINEERED CROPS IN INDIA FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS UNTIL A WIDE PUBLIC
DEBATE IS HELD ON THE ISSUE. FARMERS JURIES INVOLVING VERY SMALL FARMERS
AND WOMEN MUST BE HELD TO ESTABLISH THE TRUTH ABOUT BT COTTON. THE
TRAILS AND DEMONSTRATIONS WITH THE NEW GM HYBRIDS SHOULD BE TRANSPARENT
[P V SATHEESH]
CONVENOR, A P COALITION IN DEFENCE OF DIVERSITY
DIRECTOR, DECCAN DEVELOPMENT SOCIETY