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THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE

23 June 2005


Dear Friends and colleagues,

RE: THREE VARIETIES OF BT COTTON REJECTED IN ANDHRA PRADESH, INDIA

There is some respite for farmers in India who have experienced disappointment from growing GM cotton. In early May, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the Indian regulatory authority, withheld licenses for the commercial cultivation of three varieties of GM cotton developed by Monsanto -- Mech-12 Bt, Mech-162 Bt and Mech-184 Bt, following the release of studies which showed the dismal performance of these varieties over the past three years.

A three-year scientific study by the Deccan Development Society (DDS) tracked the experiences of small farmers from planting to harvest in the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh. It found that the three GM cotton varieties did not live up to the claims made by Maycho-Monsanto and performed less well than traditional non-GM seeds. Its socio-economic impacts included severe hardship to farmers that at times even lead to death. (see BIS "Study on Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh" dated 20 April 2005).

Apart from the DDS study, numerous other reports by farmers' organizations and the government also painted a similar picture. Based on these reports, the GEAC made its decision to ban the three varieties in Andhra Pradesh.

Mech-12 Bt, Mech-162 Bt and Mech-184 Bt were approved in March 2002 for commercial cultivation in south India and central India. The GEAC had deferred its decision, twice in recent months, on the proposal to renew the extension period for these three Bt cotton varieties, before deciding to ban the three varieties in Andhra Pradesh. In addition, the GEAC decided not to renew the approval for commercial cultivation of Mech-12 Bt in the whole of South India. However, the three varieties can be cultivated in other parts of India, and other varieties of Bt cotton were approved by the GEAC.


With best wishes,

Chee Yoke Heong
Third World Network
121-S Jalan Utama
10450 Penang
Malaysia
Email: twnet@po.jaring.my
Website: www.twnside.org.sg


REF: Doc.TWN/Biosafety/2005/B


Item 1

Environment: Indian farmers win battle against GM cotton

London, 25 May (IPS/Sanjay Suri) -- Indian farmers have won a small battle against GM crops by establishing simply that they can be less productive than normal crops.

Earlier this month, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Indian government withheld licenses for commercial cultivation on three varieties of genetically modified (GM) cotton developed by the US firm Monsanto - Mech-12 Bt, Mech-162 Bt and Mech-184 Bt.

That was followed by a painstaking campaign by several non-governmental organizations. ''For the last three years we carried out systemic research in Monsanto's Bt cotton,'' P. V. Satheesh, who heads the Coalition in Defence of Diversity in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, told IPS in London Tuesday. That led to the ban on the three varieties of GM cotton seeds.

''Every year we have been socking the results into the face of Monsanto,'' Satheesh said. ''They were not able to counter us. So it became very compelling for the Andhra government and for the Government of India to act.''

The three-year scientific study tracked the experiences of small farmers from planting to harvest in the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh.

''It found that three GM cotton varieties did not live up to the claims made by the agro-company Maycho-Monsanto and performed less well than traditional non-GM seeds,'' the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), which supported the anti-GM campaign, said in a statement Tuesday.

Though costing nearly 400% more to buy, the average yield from the GM cotton was about 150kg per acre, 30% less than from other non-GM varieties. The GM seeds also cost 12% more to cultivate in their need for manure and irrigation, and the reduction in pesticide use was negligible.

''Non-GM farmers earned 60% more than their GM counterparts over the three-year period,'' IIED said.

This is the first success of the campaign against GM crops in India, Satheesh said. ''India has one percent of the global GM crop coverage, but there is a strong biotech wing that wants to push it ahead. They see in this global opportunities for India,'' he said.

That push is being countered at present by many groups of farmers, NGOs, and by ''people involved in agricultural research who are trying to express concern,'' Satheesh said.

India imports GM seeds from Monsanto and Syngenta, the leading companies developing GM crops, and is also seeking to develop genes from seeds bought from these companies. In such cases the major royalties and control lie with Monsanto and Syngenta, Satheesh said.

Several farmers have been cornered into buying GM seeds, Satheesh said. ''Small farmers have to buy seeds on credit from dealers. The dealers get huge commissions from Monsanto, and since they cost four times as much as normal seeds, they get larger commissions.''

The dealers ask farmers to take a part of the seeds that are GM, and farmers have to comply, Satheesh said. ''Add to that pesticides and fertilizers; it is all a part of a credit package, and farmers have to accept the package.''

Every year farmers have been suffering huge losses as a result, he said. ''Earlier this year, farmers went into Warangal town, and smashed into the stores of dealers selling Monsanto seeds. They created an environment in which the government group had to ban these crops.''

But the campaign against the GM cotton is only a small step forward for anti-GM campaigners. Strong government lobbies are pushing hard for further development of GM crops.

''This is a small but significant victory that signposts a way forward for small farmers and civil society the world over,'' Satheesh said in a statement earlier. ''But only a moratorium on the commercial release of GM cotton seeds will ensure that the Andhra Pradesh tragedy is not repeated across Asia, Africa and Latin America.''

Dr Michel Pimbert, director of the sustainable agriculture and rural livelihoods programme at IIED, said: ''Rich government leaders are hotly debating the development agenda, but, sadly, small farmers and others such as the urban poor go largely unheard. This democratic deficit is harming both people and environment.''

"This is the first time that GM crops have been banned in India. Cotton is being cultivated first but other crops are in the pipeline,'' Satheesh said.

''Rice, mustard and vegetables are being looked at.''


Item 2

GEAC rejects 3 varieties of Monsanto Bt cotton in AP
The Financial Times, India, by Ashok B. Sharma (http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=89912)
3 May 2005

NEW DELHI, MAY 3: The regulatory authority, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) disallowed commercial cultivation of three varieties of Mahyco-Monsanto's Bt cotton hybrids in Andhra Pradesh.

These three varieties are Mech-12 Bt, Mech-162 Bt and Mech-184 Bt. These varieties completed three years of commercial cultivation and were waiting for the renewal at the beginning of the current season.

The GEAC also disallowed commercial cultivation of Mech-12 Bt in entire south India on receiving adverse reports about its performance in the last three years. Mech-12 can only be cultivated in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Mech-162 Bt and Mech-184 Bt will continue to be cultivated in southern states, with the exception of Andhra Pradesh and also in central India, consisting of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

Mech-12 Bt, Mech-162 Bt and Mech-184 Bt were approved in March 2002 for commercial cultivation in south India and central India. The GEAC deferred its decision, twice in the past two months, on the proposal to renew the extension period for these three Bt cotton varieties.

"It was a very difficult decision," said a senior GEAC member. He said, "This decision was taken on receiving adverse reports from about 20 farmers' organisations. The Andhra Pradesh government had given adverse reports on the performance of Bt cotton, while other states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have sent mixed reports. Gujarat government has not sent any reports so far."

Speaking to FE the leader of Farmers-Industry Alliance, P Chengal Reddy said, "GEAC should have allowed commercial cultivation of these Bt cotton hybrids in Andhra Pradesh. Farmers have already booked order for 300,000 bags of Bt cotton seeds with the local dealers."

However, the GEAC, in its meeting on Tuesday, approved four new Bt cotton hybrids for commercial cultivation in south India, including Andhra Pradesh. "This has been done to again give a choice to Andhra farmers," said a GEAC member.

The four new Bt cotton hybrids allowed for commercial cultivation in south India are - MRC-6322 Bt and MRC-6918 Bt developed by Mahyco and RCH-20 Bt and RCH-368 Bt developed by Rasi Seed. The GEAC did not approve Bunny Bt and Mallika Bt seeds developed by Nuziveedu Seeds for commercial cultivation in south India. The decision on these two seeds has been deferred till next meeting after receiving DNA fingerprint reports.

For central India, GEAC approved five new Bt cotton hybrids for commercial cultivation, namely RCH-144 Bt and RCH-118 Bt developed by Rasi Seed, MRC-6301 Bt developed by Mahyco and Ankur-681 and Ankur-09 developed by Ankur Seeds. GEAC also approved about 20 large scale field trials for different types of Bt cotton in south and central India.

 


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