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Monsanto's biggest lie of the century
April 12, 2005
HALT THE NEXT CYCLE OF APPROVAL FOR MAHYCO MONSANTO BT COTTON

Bt cotton results from Andhra Pradesh say Mahyco Monsanto Bt
cotton failed on all counts

The firstever independent scientific study on bt cotton done on season long basis continuously for three years has come out with startling results.

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 Century award.

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 Website]

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 of farmers.

And now, what does the study reveal?

Table 4: Three-year averages of Mahyco-Monsanto hybrids and Non-Bt
hybrids

Description
(Costs / acre)
A three year average
Mech Bt
Non Bt
Gain with Bt
Seed cost (Rs/acre)
1557 (13.4%)
466 (4.5%)
-1090[-234%]
Pest management cost (Rs/acre)
2571 (22%)
2766 (27%)
195 [+ 7%]
Total costs of cultivation (Rs/acre)
11594
10336
-1259[-12%]
Net returns (Rs/acre)
2032
4787
-2755[-57%]
Yield (kg/acre)
649
708
-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 immediately.

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 strongly

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 TO EVERYONE.

[P V SATHEESH]
CONVENOR, A P COALITION IN DEFENCE OF DIVERSITY
DIRECTOR, DECCAN DEVELOPMENT SOCIETY

Executive Summery