THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
23 June 2005
RE: The Economics of Bt corn in the Philippines
We wish to bring to your attention a new report by Greenpeace which provides an in-depth look into the economics of Bt corn in the Philippines. According to the environment group, Bt corn has neither proven to be a practical, nor ecologically sustainable option for small Filipino farmers.
"Bt Corn in the Philippines was designed to be resistant to the Asiatic Corn Borer (ACB), Ostrinia Furnacalis (Guenee), one of the most destructive corn pests in the Philippines. It is also presented as a 'golden opportunity', a practical and ecologically sustainable solution for poor corn farmers everywhere to increase their yields, thus improving their livelihoods and alleviating poverty. These claims are misleading. There are safer and more viable options in solving the corn borer woes of our corn farmers. Bt corn is definitely not a biological means of controlling pests and it is not ecologically sustainable," says the report.
According to the environment
group, Bt corn has neither proven to be a practical, nor ecologically
sustainable option for small Filipino farmers for the following reasons:
Greenpeace therefore urge the government of the Philippines to:
1. Stop the release of new
GE crops into the environment;
Attached below is the Executive Summary of the report "The Economics of Bt Corn: Whose interest does it really serve?" The full document can be downloaded from: http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/en/press/reports/rpt-ge-bteconomics.
Chee Yoke Heong
Bt Corn in the Philippines was designed to be resistant to the Asiatic Corn Borer (ACB), Ostrinia furnacalis (Guenee), one of the most destructive corn pests in the Philippines. It is also presented as a 'golden opportunity', a practical and ecologically sustainable solution for poor corn farmers everywhere to increase their yields, thus improving their livelihoods and alleviating poverty. These claims are misleading. There are safer and more viable options in solving the corn borer woes of our corn farmers.
Bt corn is definitely not a biological means of controlling pests and it is not ecologically sustainable.
DOES IT HAVE TO BE
BT CORN? (OR BT CORN IS NOT THE BEST
Synchronized planting by farmers with adjacent farms is the most common method used to avoid heavy corn borer attacks per farm. They also recommend planting corn as the main crop during the dry season as more severe infestation usually occurs during the rainy or wet season (July to September).
Detasselling of corn has also been proven to be effective against heavy corn borer attacks. The tassel is the corn borer's primary food source, and taking out 75% of the tassel per fie ld will reduce tremendously the number of larvae that reaches molting when they start boring holes into the corn stem. Other pest management strategies that farmers employ are intercropping, rotation cropping, fallow cropping and planting of conventional corn varieties that are resistant or tolerant to the corn borer.
Use of Bt corn also breeds concern about its impacts on soil health because the toxin in Bt crops is present in the whole plant and is expressed during its whole life cycle. The accumulation of Bt toxin in soil is possible since Bt toxin can persist in soils for over 200 days, particularly if there is a cold winter period. Insect resistance to Bt corn is another growing concern. In a meeting with several government agencies, including the Regional Crop Protection Center in Isabela, Monsanto is said to be looking for ways to assess how long it takes before the Asian corn borer gains resistance to Bt corn. There is overwhelming scientific data to support concerns of insect pest resistance.
THE BT CORN YIELD:
MORE OR LESS?
Among the 43 varieties listed, 11 had the potential yield of more than 8.5 tonnes to 10.5 tonnes per hectare. Monsanto is misleading farmers by making them believe that only Bt corn could yield more than 8 tonnes.
IS THE WAY FORWARD
The female Trichogramma lays an egg within a recently laid host egg, and could parasitize about 100 eggs and may also destroy additional eggs by host feeding. These wasps are harmless to people, animals, and plants.
Another promising biological control agent against the corn borer is the earwig since it does not only attack corn borer eggs but also the larvae, pupae and adult as well as other corn pests.
The flower bug is yet another predator of the corn borer. Field studies show that 5-7 flower bugs per plant can effective ly regulate corn borer populations.
IS BT CORN WORTH IT?
Comparison of costs for 1 hectare of land shows that OPV costs only about P3,570 if Trichogramma is used to protect crops, and around P5,500 if common pesticide is used. Hybrid on the other hand ranges only from P7,470 (tricho-protection) to P11,100 (pesticide). Bt corn however, at its cheapest, already costs P12,100 to around P18,400.
TAKING CONTROL OF OUR
Even a farmer who does not choose to plant GE seed may also face the risk of getting sued from patent infringement if his field gets contaminated by GE crops via cross pollination or seed mixing. There are numerous cases in North America where Monsanto took legal action against farmers whose fields got contaminated by GE crops. Monsanto has an annual budget of $10 Million and 75 staff devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers.
The most famous case is that of Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian canola farmer whose field got contaminated with GE canola from a neighbor's field. He has spent more than $230,000 in legal bills for the past 5 years. After several years of deliberation, the Supreme Court of Canada decided on May 2004 that Monsanto's patent claims is valid.
With GE crops, genetic contamination is inevitable. Bt corn, in particular, is a wind-pollinated crop, thus, contamination is highly likely. Data shows that 98% of the pollen may be found within a 25-50 m radius. Smaller amounts travel to as far as 0.8 km under "suitable conditions".
Greepeace concludes that:
To date, Bt corn has neither
proven to be a practical, nor ecologically sustainable option for small
Filipino farmers for the following reasons:
Clearly, Bt corn is not a viable option for small Filipino farmers. It is an economic fluke. Bt corn has shown the true intentions of the GE companies, whose main motive for forcing GE crops on the world is, and remain to be, profit maximization.
FOR THE GOVERNMENT: