The Puppetmasters of Academia (or What the NY Times Left out

Gathered together in one place, for easy access, an agglomeration of writings and images relevant to the Rapeutation phenomenon.

Re: The Puppetmasters of Academia (or What the NY Times Left

Postby admin » Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:18 am

Mass Deaths in Sheep Grazing on Bt Cotton: At least 1 800 sheep reported dead from severe toxicity after grazing on Bt cotton fields in just four villages in Andhra Pradesh India
by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
3/5/06

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The Bt trail of dead sheep, ill workers and dead villagers over three years

At least 1 820 sheep were reported dead after grazing on post-harvest Bt cotton crops; the symptoms and post-mortem findings strongly suggest they died from severe toxicity. This was uncovered in a preliminary investigation conducted by civil society organisations in just four villages in the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh in India. The actual problem is likely to be much greater.

This latest report confirms the findings of an earlier fact-finding investigation, also conducted by civil society organisations, on illnesses in cotton farm workers and handlers caused by Bt cotton in another cotton-growing state, Madhya Pradesh, in India ( More illnesses linked to Bt crops , this series).

And not so long ago, we reported similar illnesses and deaths among villagers in the Philippines linked to exposure to Bt maize since 2003 ( GM ban long overdue, dozens ill and five deaths in the Philippines , SiS 29).

It cannot be mere coincidence that similar Bt toxins from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis incorporated in the genetically modified crops are involved in all these cases; but the regulators have done nothing. Things are so bad that the European Commission levelled an accusation of bias towards the biotech industry against its own food safety regulatory body ( European Food Safety Authority criticised of GMO bias , this series).

Grazing lands decline as commercial crops increase

Grazing lands in Warangal district have declined steeply as commercial crop cultivation expanded in recent years, and it has become customary for sheep and goats to be allowed to graze on crop residues after harvest.

This year, there have been several media reports of sharp increases in the deaths of sheep and goats after grazing in Bt cotton fields. There were similar reports in 2005, when complaints were lodged with the Joint Director of Agriculture by a few NGOs, but no action has resulted.

Between February and March 2006, the shepherds of Warangal district again reported high mortality in their flocks after grazing in harvested Bt cotton fields. Some shepherds reported to the animal husbandry department and requested confirmation on whether the deaths were due to grazing on Bt cotton.

Still getting no response, a fact-finding team of five members was constituted by the Andhra Pradesh Shepherds Union: two members from Anthra (NGO working on livestock issues), veterinary scientist Dr. Ramesh and a field researcher Mr. Apparoa; Mr. Jamalaiah, Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Shepherds Union; and two scientists from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture working on Bt cotton issues, Mr. S. Ramprasa and Mr. G. Rajashekar.

The team travelled through three mandals in Warangal district on 22 April 2006 and met with shepherds and farmers. The villages visited were Ippagudem in Ghanapur mandal, Valeru and Unkkucherla in Dharmasagaram mandal, and Maadpalli in Hasanparthi mandal.

Twenty-five percent of sheep dead within five to seven days

The Ippagudem village in Ghanapur mandal has 100 households belonging to the shepherd community. Forty shepherds and ten farmers attended the group meeting when the team visited. They said the deaths began after their sheep grazed on Bt cotton leaves or bolls. This year was the first time some of the shepherds and farmers cultivated Bt cotton hybrids, believing in the propaganda that they can get more yield and profit. They started grazing from the end of January to March. The deaths began within a week of continuous grazing on the Bt cotton crop residues. Mr. J. Parmesh, one of the shepherds got diarrhoea after consuming the affected sheep's meat.

The shepherds said that the sheep became dull/depressed  after 2-3 days of grazing, started coughing with nasal discharge and developed red lesions in the mouth, became bloated and suffered blackish diarrhoea, and sometimes passed red urine. Death occurred within 5-7 days of grazing. Sheep from young lambs to adults of 1.5-2 years were affected.

The shepherds took their sheep to the government veterinary hospital in Warangal for post-mortem, some shepherds also performed their own post-mortem, as is often the practice of shepherds across Andhra Pradesh. They found black patches in the intestine and enlarged bile duct and black patches on the liver. The shepherds said that the Assistant Director of Animal Health Centre in Warangal told them these deaths appeared to be due to grazing on Bt cotton fields, as she has earlier seen such cases. She prescribed some medicines for the sick sheep, but very few sheep responded, and most died.

Of the 2 601 sheep that belonged to 42 shepherds, 651 sheep died, giving an average mortality rate of 25 percent.

A shepherd in another village, Akkapalli reported that he had cultivated Bt cotton the previous year and allowed his sheep to graze, which resulted in deaths. This year, while he still cultivated Bt cotton, he did not allow them to graze on it, and his sheep did not die.

On the way to Dharmasagaram mandal, the team spoke to a shepherd Shri Kochla Malliah, who has 100 sheep, but 5 died after grazing on Bt cotton crop residues. He reported that sheep had also died in adjoining villages Molakagudam, Kunipatti and Kondaparthi

More deaths and identical symptoms in other villages

Twenty-nine shepherds participated in the meeting in Valeru village in Dharmasagaram mandel. Sheep deaths occurred during February “ March 2006. The symptoms described were identical to those reported in the previous village.

Of 2168 sheep owned by the 29 shepherds, 549 sheep died, again giving an average mortality rate of about 25 percent.

In the remaining villages, it was not possible to have a group meeting with the shepherds. But the team was informed that the sheep population is nearly 1 000 in Unkkucherla village, Dharmasagaram mandal, and 150 adult sheep and 70 lambs died within 4 days of grazing on Bt cotton fields between February and March 2006. In Maadipalli village Asanparthi mandal, there are 20 households rearing some 3 000 sheep, and nearly 400 died due to grazing on Bt-cotton fields from the second week of February through to March.

They took their animals to the Warangal veterinary hospital for post-mortem. The Assistant Director at the Animal Health Centre who conducted the post-mortem advised them to stop grazing their sheep on the Bt cotton fields, saying the deaths could be due to the Bt cotton, and prescribed some medicines for the affected sheep.

The team met with the Assistant Director who conducted the post-mortems. When questioned, she replied that while it appeared that the deaths occurred after grazing on Bt cotton fields, and could be due to the effects of Bt toxin, it was not possible to arrive at a definitive conclusion, as farmers also spray different types of insecticides and pesticides on their crops, and this factor confounds the observations. She also said there were no kits or other facilities available within the Department to enable her to arrive at a firm diagnosis that the deaths were due to Bt cotton.

When asked to see the post-mortem results/reports, she said she was not permitted to show them to the team, as permission of the Joint Director was needed. But the Joint Director was not present that day.

Demands for in-depth investigation and moratorium on Bt cotton

The team concludes that The preliminary information gathered from meeting shepherds across 3 mandals, strongly suggests that the sheep mortality was due to a toxin, and most likely Bt toxin from the foliage.  They were impressed that shepherds from villages located at 20-25 km distance from one another, reported an identical history of grazing on the Bt cotton fields continuously, identical symptoms and death within 5-7 days of grazing exclusively on Bt cotton plant residue, primarily on young leaves and pods. The post-mortem symptoms, as observed by the shepherds, suggest severe irritation of the intestines and associated organs (bile duct, liver) connected to the absorption and assimilation of food and processing of toxins. 

The team is calling for more in-depth exhaustive investigation on the impact of Bt toxin on the local Indian livestock , and a complete moratorium on Bt cotton cultivation until conclusive results show that the Bt toxin is completely harmless . Furthermore, they call for the shepherds who suffered losses to be compensated.

What is not yet clear from the report is whether all the sheep that did not fall ill or die also grazed on Bt cotton; if not, then the mortality rate is even higher than reported.

Source

Mortality in Sheep Flocks after Grazing on Bt Cotton Fields “ Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh. Report of the Preliminary Assessment April 2006, http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6494
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Re: The Puppetmasters of Academia (or What the NY Times Left

Postby admin » Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:23 am

Indian Cotton Farmers Betrayed
by Rhea Gala
2/2/06

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Rhea Gala travels to Andhra Pradesh to find out why small farmers are still planting GM Bt cotton when it has failed miserably since its introduction four years ago

I have been following the increased planting of Bt cotton across India for the last four years with disbelief. We have heard that the crop has failed very badly, and yet farmers are still queuing to plant Bt cotton, the only genetically modified (GM) crop with commercial approval in the country. In November last year, I finally decided to travel to Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh, to find out what's really going on.

Having arrived in Bangalore I hired an auto rickshaw and took the first of many hectic rides through the tumultuous city traffic to meet Divya Raghunandan of Greenpeace at their head office. She told me how things had been developing.

Monsanto's three Bt cotton hybrids, Mech-12 Bt, Mech-162 Bt and Mech-184 Bt were banned in May 2005 in Andhra Pradesh (though simultaneously approved for commercial production in other states!). This was the result of three years of poor performance and Monsanto refusing to pay compensation of Rs450m to the farmers ( India's Bt cotton fraud  SiS 26); and finally, the AP Minister of Agriculture Mr Raghuveera Reddy taking a strong stand after being pressed by civil society organisations, such as Oxfam and the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), that had been monitoring the crop.

Though seeds for the banned hybrids are still available this year; the seeds of choice for the farmers have been the legally approved RCH-2 Bt (Rasi seeds) and Bunny-Bt (Nuziveedu Seeds) with royalties of Rs1250 per packet going to Monsanto who owns the patent for the Bt gene. A plethora of cheaper unauthorised and unauthenticated Bt seed of dubious origin have also been popular; many sold openly in the market place.

Bt cotton has miraculous powers?

Divya Raghunandan of Greenpeace, Kavitha Kuruganti of the CSA, Kiran Sakkhari of the Permaculture Association of India and others, all stressed to me at different times, how inappropriate the Bt technology is for Indian farmers.

More than 85 percent of Indian farmers own less than five acres of land, 63 percent of farms are less than three acres, and many landless people will lease land to grow a crop. The average farmer is illiterate and ignorant of the implications of planting a GM crop, but lives in the hope that money borrowed to produce a cash crop will be more than repaid after a good harvest. Farmers are also desperate to avoid the spiralling cost of pesticide, and have been taken in by Bt cotton advertising and Monsanto's extravagant claims.

Monsanto claims that yield on its Bollgard Bt cotton will be up by 30 to 40 percent on conventional hybrids, and that pesticide use will be 70 percent down because Bollgard kills 90 percent of bollworms. Bollywood personalities such as Nana Patekar attribute almost miraculous powers to the product on TV. Punjab Chief Minister Amrinder Singh has personally endorsed the Bollgard brand. There were posters promoting Bt hybrids displayed on the walls of all villages I visited. Local opinion leaders such as larger landowners get seed and pesticide discounted or free, and ˜poor farmers' who extol the virtues of Bt cotton locally have turned out not to be farmers at all.

Family livelihoods depend entirely on good decisions being made; such as which seeds to plant, and a poor farmer will seek advice or take a lead from someone who she/he thinks knows best. It seems that many people at all levels of Indian society, some knowingly, have exhorted marginal farmers to purchase a product already proven to be unsound and unsuitable and that had already caused the downfall and death of many.

Bt cotton in the "Pesticide capital of the world"

Having taken the overnight train to Hyderabad from Bangalore, I travelled with Kavitha Kuruganti, development consultant, and Ram Prasad, entomologist, from the CSA to look at Bt cotton in Guntur District, known as the pesticide capital of the world . We ascertained that around 70 percent of cotton grown in the villages was Bt cotton, including many spurious cotton hybrids sold as Bt.

Kavitha explained that in the absence of government regulation, a monitoring and evaluation committee comprising civil society organisations such as the CSA had taken on the responsibility of recording events and informing the public and government of the social and environmental tragedy unfolding.

She said that farmers had been influenced by pervasive but utterly misleading advertising emanating from Monsanto and its licensees, and endorsed by celebrities, government officials, journalists, agricultural and corporate scientists, larger landowners and seed dealers who had either jumped on a media bandwagon or had vested interests in Bt cotton sales. For example, at the point of sale, when farmers are vulnerable, seed dealers will hype up the yield of a hypothetical farmer's Bt cotton because their profit is four times greater per drum than for non Bt seed.

We went to speak to seed dealers who told us that sucking pests were low on Bt, costs were high on non Bt, due to more pesticide sprayed, and predicted a higher yield for Bt. They said no problems had been reported for the Bt crop. When questioned on the poor condition of the Bt crop they said it was due to excess rain. But what we saw was quite different.

We found Bt cotton looking stunted and wilted with dry red leaves resulting from damage due to jassids, a sucking pest. These have caused 50 to 60 percent damage to Bt cotton, but much less on non-Bt cotton. We found a variety of pests including tobacco caterpillar in large numbers only on the Bt plants, and counted an average of only 15 to 20 bolls per plant on Bt cotton compared to 40 to 50 bolls on non-Bt cotton.

The popular legal Bt cotton hybrids RCH-2 Bt and Bunny-Bt were worst hit by jassids and secondary pests like Spodoptera and Sylapta ; and are expected to give very low yields as well as a new pest crisis due to Bt technology. We questioned farmers extensively about the performance of these hybrids, Kavitha acting as translator. They were eager to share details of costs such as seed, fertiliser and pesticide, and expressed an apparently stoical acceptance that while their inputs, including pesticide costs, had been very high, their yield would be very low.

One farmer, Mr T Prasanna Kumar, who had so far harvested only two quintals of Bunny-Bt (one quintal = 100 kg), had been advertised in the paper as having harvested 15 quintals! Farmers suggested a number of different options for the next season; including other Bt hybrids. As Kavitha pointed out, without a comprehensive and independent review of the facts, this situation can only get worse.

Black is white for Bt cotton

Mr G Raja Shekar of the CSA and Mr MD Amzad Ali of Sarvodaya Youth Organisation introduced me to big and small Bt farmers in the Warangal area. Raja Shekar had found from experience that only five to ten percent of the authorised Bt cotton delivers a competitive crop, while 90 percent looks very poor and is failing badly. This matched my observation that a stunted, wilted, thin and pink-tinged crop was predictably Bt, while a tall healthy, boll heavy and verdant crop almost invariably turned out to be non-Bt.

So powerful was the belief system manipulated by Monsanto's propaganda that many farmers we spoke to tended to blame the problem on external factors, like flooding, disease, or sucking pests; though some observed that the non-Bt crop had not been similarly afflicted. In some areas, unfortunately, there were few non-Bt crops to compare.

We spoke to farmer Ravinder Reddy and his brothers, who had a larger holding that was hosting a Monsanto trial for a new Bt hybrid, with Bt and non-Bt control hybrids for comparison. The trial crop was in a very poor state with diseased bolls and dry wilted leaves. The control Bt was better but not as good as the non-Bt hybrid, which was tall, green, bollful and lush. The farmer nevertheless praised the trial crop, explaining that it did not attract insects while the non-Bt healthy plants did. The Bt technology is superior,  he said, it is all a question of management; the village farmers will follow my lead.  This statement, in full view of contradictory evidence, later made more sense to me when one of the bystanders turned out to be a Monsanto representative.

Bt cotton kills thousands

On the evening of my fifth day out in the cotton fields of AP, Raja Shekar, Amzad Ali and I visited the widow of a local farmer and her two young children. The farmer, Mr Rami Reddy, had killed himself early in November when it became obvious that his Bt crop would fail and he would be unable to repay his debts. Many hundreds in AP and thousands around India have come to similar grief, as the economics of Bt cotton simply do not add up.

A landless farmer will start the growing season in debt, having borrowed Rs 6 000 per acre to rent the land and Rs1 700-1 900 per acre for approved Bt seed, totalling around Rs18 000 per acre by the end of the season, after adding pesticide and fertiliser cost. The market rate for cotton ranges from Rs1 200 to 1 700 per quintal; therefore a yield of 10.5 quintals per acre sold at the best price is needed just to break even, and before including interest on the loan of between 36 and 48 percent to local loan sharks.

Seventy percent of Indian farmers are marginal and simply cannot afford expensive Bt management practises that require high pesticide and fertiliser inputs. This year, Bt cotton yields are again the lowest compared to non-Bt cotton varieties. Non pesticide management and organic cotton are performing best this year, probably because they are less prone to pests and bred to be reliable in conditions of stress ( Return to organic cotton & avoid the Bt-cotton trap , this series).

Science finds against Bt cotton

Agricultural scientists Dr Abdul Qayum and Kiran Sakkhari conducted the first independent study on Bt cotton and released their report Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh: A three year assessment in 2005. The study involved a season-long investigation in 87 villages of the major cotton growing districts - Warangal, Nalgonda, Adilabad and Kurnool. It found against Bt cotton on all counts and was vital in getting the hybrids involved banned in AP:

It failed miserably for small farmers in terms of yield; non-Bt cotton surpassed Bt by nearly 30 percent and at 10 percent less expense

It did not significantly reduce pesticide use; over the three years, Bt farmers used Rs2 571 worth of pesticide on average while the non-Bt farmers used Rs2 766 worth of pesticide

It did not bring profit to farmers; over the three years, the non-Bt farmer earned on average 60 percent more than the Bt farmer

It did not reduce the cost of cultivation; on average, the Bt farmer had to pay 12 percent more than the non-Bt farmer

It did not result in a healthier environment; researchers found a special kind of root rot spread by Bollgard cotton infecting the soil, so that other crops would not grow.

Co-author of the study, Kiran Sakkhari, told me that farmers buy the Bt cotton because of the extreme hype. Farmers have been cheated before by being sold dud pesticide that looked like the real thing, and now they are trying to avoid pesticide altogether by using Bt. But the Bt gene is only partially effective against bollworm and ineffective against the dozens of other pests that routinely attack cotton, so pesticide use will continue to increase with Bt cotton. For example, the tobacco caterpillar ( Spodoptera litura) , which has caused havoc on the Bt cotton this year; though not on the non-Bt cotton, has done as much damage as any primary cotton pest. 

He also reiterated that Bt plants are intolerant of biotic and abiotic stress. Wilt, a physiological disorder prevalent this year, is found only on the Bt crop, and tobacco streak virus, spread by the sucking pest, thrips, is a big problem; and while the non Bt cotton recovered well from excessive rain this season, the Bt crop is a shambles.  He thinks that the Bt cotton may give a good yield in laboratory conditions; but that cannot be extrapolated to larger areas. He admits this is a most generous assessment of the situation; and that many people, including himself, think that there is something basically wrong with the parent lines or the Bt technology per se .

And the Indian Government knew all along

In spite of all the evidence of its failure, the Indian Government has given Monsanto's Bt cotton the nod all around the country. A report from the Government's Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur, showed that the government itself had been sitting on a study describing the faulty technology since 2003, while farmers had been going under.

The Bt cotton is genetically engineered to produce the Cry1Ac toxin that kills the main cotton pests in the US, the tobacco budworm ( Heliothis virescens ) and the pink bollworm ( Pectinophora gossypiella ), but is not particularly toxic to the Indian pests, cotton bollworms ( Helicoverpa zea and Helicoverpa armigera ) .

Government scientist and main author of the study, Keshav Kranthi, showed that the toxin is not always strong enough to kill pests; and is extremely variable across hybrids and between plant parts. The cotton boll, where the pest does most damage, is especially lacking in toxin strength, and the toxin also loses strength later in the growing season. Bt cotton showed up to 67-fold variability in toxin strength; being extremely unpredictable and unreliable, as testified by farmers countrywide for the past four years.

Nevertheless, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently stated: I am very happy to say that US President George Bush and I have decided to launch a second generation of India-US collaboration in agriculture. 

Scientists from the CSA fear that Monsanto's Bollgard II stacked Bt hybrid, with two Bt genes, currently undergoing field trials, and said to be ten times better  than Bollgard I, will be offered as a solution  to the current Bt problem, even though the National Government has now formally admitted that Bt cotton has failed in a number of states, including AP.

Bt crops break all biosafety rules

Kavitha Kuruganti pointed out many violations of biosafety regulations at all the test sites that we visited, as well as among the commercial plantations. Nobody is addressing the problem of gene transfer to conventional plants; and a general disregard of separation distances between the Bt and non-Bt crop makes contamination a fait acompli . Similarly, there is a general lack of enforcement of 20 percent non-Bt refugia, designed to slow the evolution of pest resistance. The several generations of bollworm that live annually on a crop can lead to 60 percent resistance in a single year.

With no regulation of GM cotton, GM produce is entering the food and feed chain as cottonseed oil and cake. This problem will continue to grow as fourteen new GM varieties of India's staple crops have been approved for field trials that began in 2005. Since my return to the UK, a Bt okra (ladies' finger) from a Mahyco (Monsanto's Indian partner) field trial was recently harvested in Guntur and sold in the local market, instead of being burned as required by law. This only came to light due to the monitoring by the civil society groups. The farmer involved did not know that the crop was transgenic and his family were eating the vegetable. The plants were seen to be in very poor state with many pests; and the person hired by Mahyco to care for and monitor the crop had no agricultural background. He was selling the crop to make extra cash. Mahyco had not informed the state government of the trial, and has since abandoned the standing crop.

Return to organic agriculture is the real solution

The Green Revolution cotton monoculture in AP has eradicated the traditional local crop varieties, depleted natural resources and created serious pest communities that require spiralling amounts of pesticide; many carcinogenic and banned in the west. This pre-existing pesticide problem, and the hype of Bt cotton advertising, seem to be the main reasons why farmers have turned to Bt cotton.

But Bt cotton has proven to be a failure. Bt technology is set to exacerbate the pesticide problem (see also Scientists confirm failures of Bt-crops , SiS 28), impacting further on biodiversity while continuing to cause suffering and suicide. Bt food crops, if and when they get approved for commercial production, will be a catastrophe for Indian agriculture and the nation as a whole.

The government needs only to promote organic production for all crops to stop this nightmare, instead of putting vested interests above the needs of the people. This betrayal over GM crops, like pesticides, poisons everything in its path, especially the farmers that feed the nation.

A return to sustainable organic methods is especially suitable for small farmers, and puts the skill and creativity of the farmers back at the centre of agriculture, where they can really regain control of their destiny. ( Return to organic cotton & avoid the Bt-cotton trap , and Poor women farmers and the crops of truth  this series).
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Re: The Puppetmasters of Academia (or What the NY Times Left

Postby admin » Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:25 am

Return to Organic Cotton & Avoid the Bt-Cotton Trap
by Rhea Gala
from Andhra Pradesh
5/1/06

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


No more debt, pesticides and suicides for Indian cotton farmers who avoid Bt-cotton and regain livelihood, health, independence and peace of mind with organic methods

The green revolution turning full circle

In the fertile regions of Andhra Pradesh (AP) ‘white gold’ monocultures of the high yielding hybrids of ‘Green Revolution’ cotton had turned the state into the pesticide capital of the world even before the advent of genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton. Now, however, the revolution is turning full circle as more and more farmers are opting for low input organic methods that are healthier and economically far more rewarding.

Non-governmental organisations such as the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Modern Architects of Rural India, the Permaculture Association of India, the Sarvodaya Youth Organisation and Oxfam are working in many villages to promote and train small and marginal farmers in non-pesticide management (NPM) of cotton leading to organic production in the third year of uptake.

This initiative comes against a historical backdrop of government support for high chemical input cotton production at national and at state level that has sent the wrong messages to farmers. GM cotton is now falsely promoted as the answer to reducing the scourge of proliferating pesticide use, and is one of many reasons farmers are succumbing to the pressure to grow GM cotton.

How AP became the ‘Pesticide Capital of the World’

Many of the cotton varieties once grown with a diversity of food crops were swept aside and lost during the 1970s and 80s when the high yielding varieties (HYVs) of the Green Revolution arrived, and the irrigation infrastructure developed. These HYVs are expensive hybrids that have to be purchased every year from seed dealers and nurtured with further expensive inputs of fertiliser and pesticide, being far more vulnerable to pests and the vagaries of the weather than the hardy local varieties that they had replaced.

Farmers initially saw the system of industrial production as timesaving and requiring far less knowledge of soils and pests; however it soon proved to be a relentless treadmill. It degraded the soil, depleted scarce water resources and proliferated cotton pests beyond the farmers’ worst nightmares, as both yield and profit progressively diminished. Pest resistance and distortion of natural predator communities necessitated galloping applications of the most toxic chemicals. Some 55 percent of all pesticides used globally are on cotton, more in AP than anywhere else in the world. GM cotton hybrids, far from being the solution to proliferating pesticide use, will actually accelerate this trend.

Indeed, many poor farmers and labourers can be seen with their pesticide back-packs moving backward and forwards along the rows of cotton through a haze of spray, with no protective mask or clothing. These farmers are very aware of the problems of pesticides, and many thousands of them are killed either passively through poisoning or actively through suicide when their crops fail.

Why organic cotton farming makes sense

Mr MD Amzad Ali of Sarvodaya Youth Organisation, Mr G Raja Shekar of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad, and Mr Y Kambaram of Modern Architects of Rural India introduced me to farmers who have been practising NPM cotton production and had moved on to organic cotton production after two years. By making and applying their own natural fertiliser they were able to access a high quality premium of 200 rupees per quintal (1 quintal = 100kg) at a price of around Rs1900/q.

The NPM system was started in 1997 by MARI and attracted farmers because of microcredit available to them and the low investment needed for seed and other natural inputs such as cow dung and urine mixture and neem seed that were available locally. The farmers and NGOs organised four local cooperatives of between 100 and 500 farmers that soon became self-sufficient and able to pay their way in the local market, adding substantially to the local economy. Farmers who complete the five year programme - of two NPM years followed by three organic years - become trainers and role models for new entrants.

Tookya Niak knew farmers who planted GM Bt cotton that failed and committed suicide, and decided to try the NPM method himself. Now in his second year, he stressed that the low investment required will almost certainly lead to a profit, and that farming had become virtually free from stress as his debt was minimal.

He was confident that his variety was hardy and dependable and that he could remove most pests during the early immobile stages in their life cycle through his skill in selecting an effective deterrent. He also no longer worried about the health of his young family, and expected that his yield would rise as his soil improved and insect communities reached a natural balance. He was still expecting about seven quintals per acre on his poor red soil.

Indeed Niak had become such a beacon in his community that the village has been renamed after him and the NPM credo written on the walls in the village square to counter the pro Bt cotton posters found everywhere. His positive appraisal of the NPM method and its advantages were confirmed by all the other farmers that we questioned.

Recreating the natural balance of predators and pests

The skill of managing pests without recourse to synthetic pesticide requires knowledge of life cycle and behaviour, vigilance, an armoury of pest specific deterrents, and a healthy community of natural predators of pests. To control pests such as the spotted bollworm, American bollworm, tobacco caterpillar, pink bollworm, aphids, jassids, thrips, white fly and mites, each of which is capable of causing between 30 and 50 percent damage to a crop, natural predators are the most effective year after year.

For example trichogramma, a tiny parasitic wasp, lays its eggs in the eggs of the American bollworm that soon die; bracon, another parasitic wasp, lays its eggs in bollworm larvae. Hoverfly larvae feed on aphids; pirate bugs feed on bollworm larvae, and big eyed bugs feed on bollworm larvae and white fly. Chrysopa, a lacewing, feeds on bollworm caterpillars and sucking pests; ladybird beetles and larvae feed on aphids and deter Spodoptera. Ground beetles and dragonflies feed generally on crop pests, and robber flies, predatory wasps and red tree ants steal bollworm larvae for the young in their nests. Preying mantis and spiders are also predators of cotton pests; as are many insectivorous birds for which perches are erected throughout the crop.

Mechanical and chemical aids to pest reduction include pheromone, light, kerosene, water, and yellow and white coated grease traps that are laid within the crop as a particular pest proliferates. Castor plants are grown that capture tobacco caterpillar eggs and marigolds that capture American bollworm allow these pests to be ‘nipped in the bud’. Specific pests may be sprayed with a mixture of fermented cattle dung and urine that also add micronutrients that help wilt and other diseases. Neem seed kernel extract, chilli/ ginger/ garlic extract, a tobacco decoction and jaggari solution, made from the residue of sugar cane, are used to deter a variety of destructive insects. Unlike the use of pesticides, none of these biological/organic control methods will lead to pest resistance or harm the environment; instead, they serve to restore the ecological balance and to increase the farmers’ health, profit, knowledge and independence.

Organic farmers regain full independence

The third year of the NPM programme is the organic stage of cotton production, and is run by Oxfam. Oxfam has accessed a traditional Tamil Nadu non-hybrid variety called surabhi from the Central Institute of Cotton Research in Coimbatore. This variety has an excellent staple length and is therefore popular with buyers. It also has resistance to both pests and diseases such as bacterial leaf blight, and grows well in conditions similar to those in AP.

Moreover, the surabhi seed costs Rs130 per acre, as opposed to Rs450 per acre for hybrid cotton and Rs1600+ per acre for GM Bt cotton. It will give a standard yield of 3 to 4 quintals per acre in poor conditions, though in good conditions last year, it yielded 8 quintals per acre. More importantly, it yields viable seed that puts seed control back in the farmers’ hands, allowing them to retain and propagate the line; an unusual benefit in this age of hybrids.

So with freely available local fertilisers such as tank silt, vermicompost and green manure, and cheap natural pest control inputs, a profit from the crop is almost inevitable, giving peace of mind to the farmer, who can repay any debt to the cooperative for lending to new members.

Research backs up the case for NPM and organic cotton

A report entitled Bt cotton vs. Non Pesticidal Management of cotton: Findings of a study by the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture 2004-05 compares Bt and NPM cotton in AP. It reports conclusively that Bt cotton is more prone to pests and diseases and that beneficial insects are more prevalent on NPM cotton. It also reports that the cost of pest management of Bt cotton is 690 percent higher than in NPM farming systems and that seed cost of Bt cotton is 355 percent higher than conventional varieties (‘Organic cotton beats Bt Cotton in India’ SiS 27).

Madhavi, who works for Oxfam on this programme, told me that in Maharashtra, Karnataka and other Indian states, there is a culture of organic agriculture, and she is currently talking to local officials to promote organic production in colleges and research institutes in AP and to familiarise local farmers with this lost tradition.

The greatest triumph for organic cotton happened when the AP Minister of Agriculture Mr Raghuveera Reddy got the failed Monsanto cotton hybrids - Mech-12 Bt, Mech-162 Bt and Mech-184 Bt - banned in the state in May 2005, and is now supporting the expansion of the NPM programme since witnessing its success in the village of Punukula (‘Organic Cotton Beats Bt Cotton in India’ SiS 27).

Madhavi added that the multinational companies have corrupted seed dealers who gain a much larger profit on each drum of Bt seed sold than non-Bt seed, and although the Bt crop looks destined to fail again this year, most illiterate farmers, through wishful thinking, have believed the hype of the profiteers. They remain caught in a cycle of debt, pesticide and despair.

But the transition to organic cotton has been very successful where implemented and Oxfam is seeking to give more farmers this sustainable option and will expand its programme to other crops, including rice, in the near future. This is the opportunity that small farmers need to avoid falling into the Bt cotton trap, and return to autonomy and financial independence.
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Re: The Puppetmasters of Academia (or What the NY Times Left

Postby admin » Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:28 am

Stem Farmers’ Suicides with Organic Farming
by Sam Burcher
12/10/06

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

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Amid a rising epidemic of farmers’ suicides in India, an organic farmer appeals to the father of the Green Revolution to embrace organic agriculture. Sam Burcher

A fully referenced version of this article is posted on ISIS members’ website. Details here

UN slams India for farmer suicides

India has enough food to feed her population of one billion, yet hunger and food insecurity at household level increased at the end of the 20th century. A new UN report casts doubt on the government’s claim that poverty declined from 36 to 26 percent between 1993-2000 [1]. It criticizes the shift to cash crops that reduced the cultivation of grains, pulses and millets for household consumption. The report slams the rise of farmer suicides in India and links them to the unremitting growth of a market economy that does not benefit all Indians equally.

Impassioned plea to India’s government

Bhaskar Save is an 84-year-old farmer from Gujarat who has petitioned the Indian Government to save India’s farmers from exploitation and worse. In an open letter to Prof M.S. Swaminathan (chairperson of the National Commission on Farmers in the Ministry of Agriculture) he puts the blame squarely on his shoulders as the ‘father’ of the ‘Green Revolution’ that has destroyed India’s natural abundance, farming communities, and soil [2]. He writes: “Where there is a lack of knowledge, ignorance masquerades as science! Such is the ‘science’ you have espoused, leading our farmers astray – down the pits of misery.”

The Green Revolution defines the forty years after India’s independence in 1947 when technology was widely introduced into agriculture. Farmers came under intense pressure to provide marketable surpluses of the relatively few non-perishable cereals to feed the ever-expanding cities. Since then, India’s integration into the global economy has served transnational corporate interests championed by the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO, but not her farmers [3]. Fifteen years of market reforms guided by the international financial superstates have unleashed a second wave of agrochemicals, biotechnological seed and pesticides into the Indian countryside with devastating effect.

A silent revolution of suicide

Mumbai and Bangalore have benefited from the boom in the information technology sector that contributes an eight percent growth to India’s economy each year [4]. The two cities are now poised to take advantage of the boom in the biotech industry. The picture of “India shining” touted by an expensive government backed media campaign is considerably clouded by the rural areas being torn apart at the roots by biotechnology. The countryside is home to 70 percent of India’s population.

The second ‘Gene Revolution’ in agriculture is proving more deadly in the wake of the first. The cost of taking on the extra burden of gene biotechnology is too much to bear. Farmers unable to pay back debts incurred by the purchase of seed, pesticides, fertilizers and equipment, kill themselves at a rate of two per day. In despair some drink the chemical pesticides, while others burn, hang, or drown themselves. At a help centre set up to monitor farmer suicides in Vidarbha region in the central state of Maharashtra, black skulls mark the number of dead farmers on the map. There are 767 skulls clustered together that were pinned up in fourteen months to August 2006. India’s agricultural minister Sharad Pawar acknowledged in Parliament that a total of 100 000 farmers have committed suicide between 1993-2003 [5]. A further 16 000 farmers per year on average are said to have died since then.

“You, M.S. Swaminathan…More than any other person in our long history it is you I hold responsible for the tragic condition of our soils and our debt-burdened farmers, driven to suicide in increasing numbers every year.” Bhaskar Save writes.

The cost of cotton kills farmers

Nearly all who died farmed the once profitable cotton crop known as “King Cotton” from the days of the British Raj. Now it’s called “Killer Cotton” not just because the cost of inputs has increased, but the state also cut its guaranteed purchase price by 32 percent, and buys less of the harvest than before, leaving farmers to find other buyers who tend to pay low prices. Competition from foreign trade has intensified as reduced import duties give heavily subsidized US cotton an advantage.

The final nail in the farmers coffin is expensive genetically modified (GM) cottonseed that has proved disastrous for the small, non-irrigated plots common to most of India’s hundreds of millions of farms [6] (Indian Cotton Farmers Betrayed). Farmers encouraged by agricultural officials to increase productivity try to do so by borrowing money to buy Monsanto’s expensive cottonseed. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush agreed the Knowledge Initiative in Agricultural Research and Education in March 2006 that will ultimately bring Indian agriculture under the control of US corporations like Monsanto. Transgenic animals and poultry are also part of the deal. The Indian government’s ability to protect farmers, consumers and the environmental health from the risks of GM crops has been called into question [7] (Outsourcing Ecological and Health Risks & Reducing Scientists to Bio-coolies for Industry).

The recent Supreme Court of India’s decision to ban any further GM crop trials until further notice [8] will force the government to rethink its biotechnology strategy. Unfortunately, existing GM cotton trials are not included in the ban despite documented health hazards to humans and livestock [9, 10] (More Illnesses Linked to Bt Crops; Mass Deaths in Sheep Grazing on Bt Cotton).

Prime Minister Singh has now invested a hefty Rs 160 billion in a debt relief package to persuade farmers in the high-risk suicide areas of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharastra to continue farming [11]. The package consists of loans, interest waivers, seed replacement, minor irrigation schemes, and subsidiary incomes for farming livestock, dairying and fisheries. The investment comes too late for those farmers that have already died. Many more have already turned their backs on the perils of Bt cotton farming to regain their health and independence [12] (Message from Andhra Pradesh: Return to organic cotton & avoid the Bt cotton trap).

Agricultural education unsustainable

Perhaps it is not surprising that farmers fall for the promise of increased productivity by buying the long list of equipment from the agribusiness salesman. According to Bhaskar Save, of the 150 agricultural universities in India that own thousands of acres of land, not one grows any significant amount of food to feed its staff and pupils. Instead the focus is on churning out hundreds of graduates each year to tell farmers what they must buy to increase productivity, not what they must do to ensure the sustainability of the land for future generations.

“Nature, unspoiled by man, is already most generous in her yield. When a grain of rice can reproduce a thousand-fold within months, where arises the need to increase its productivity?” Save asks Swaminathan.

Natural abundance in organic orchard

Save’s own orchard-farm “Kalpavruksha”, near the coastal village of Dehri close to the Gujarat-Mararashtra boarder, has become a “sacred university” specialising in natural abundance, or Annapurna [13]. Every Saturday afternoon the farm gates open to farmers, agricultural scientists, students, senior government officials, and city dwellers, who come to share Save’s philosophy and practice of natural farming: “Co-operation is the fundamental Law of Nature.”

The high yields in the organic orchard easily out-perform any farm using chemicals and this is apparent to its many visitors. Masanobu Fukuoka, the renowned Japanese natural farmer said: “I have seen many farms all over the world. This is the best. It is even better than my own farm.” The coconut trees produce an average of 400 coconuts per tree annually; some produce more than 450 coconuts, and are among India’s highest yielding trees. There is an incredible variety of fruit trees: banana, papaya, mango, lime, tamarind, pomegranate, guava, custard apple, jackfruit, date, and chikoo (similar to lychee) which produces an average of 300-350 kg of delicious fruit per tree each year.

Fruit trees are also planted on soil platforms raised by Save above the rice crop in low-lying paddy fields. Between every two adjacent platforms are trenches that act as irrigation channels in the dry season and drainage in monsoon. As the trees grow, the trenches are placed further away from the trunks to encourage the roots to spread out to optimise water efficiency. This pioneering feature of his work has greatly increased yield, and attracted attention all over the world.

Diversity essential to soil health

Diversity of plant life is the key factor on organic farms. Save simultaneously plants short life-span (alpa jeevi), medium life-span (madhya-jeevi), and long life-span (deergha-jeevi) species. The community of dense vegetation ensures that the soil’s microclimate is well moderated all year round. The groundcover provides shade on hot days, while leaf litter (mulch) cools and slightly dampens the surface of the soil. On cold nights it serves as a blanket that conserves heat gained during the day. High humidity under the canopy of mature long-life trees reduces evaporation, and minimizes the need for irrigation. The drooping leaves of plants act as a water metre to indicate falling moisture levels.

Save grows a tall, native variety of rice, Nawabi Kolam, that is rain-fed, high yielding, and needs no weeding. After harvest, he seasonally rotates several kinds of pulses, winter wheat and some vegetables on the paddy field that grow entirely on the sub-soil moisture still present from the monsoon. When they too are harvested, cattle can browse the crop residue and provide dung fertilizer to further enrich the soil for the next cycle of planting.

The polyculture model produces a year round continuity of harvests. First from the short life-span species such as the various vegetables, and then from the medium life span species such as banana, custard apple and papaya, until the long life-span species of coconut, mango and chickoo begin to bear fruit. It provides self-sufficiency for a family of ten (including grandchildren) and an average of two guests from a modest two-acre plot. Most years, a surplus of rice is gifted to relatives or friends.

Signs of hope in story of change

Bhaskar Save was not always an organic farmer. At first, he used chemical fertilisers together with dung manure for his vegetable plants and rice paddy. His rice harvest was so good that it attracted the attention of the Gujarat Fertilizer Corporation. They asked him to teach other farmers to use the chemical fertilizers for which he received 5 rupees for every bag he sold. He quickly became a “model farmer” for the new technology while earning enough to extend the acreage of his farm. Soon he realised that he was caught in a cycle of spending more money to use more chemicals to maintain productivity. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and his successor Vinoba Bhave, he adopted some of the farming methods of the Adivasi, the tribal majority of India’s rural population. From then on his costs reduced and the soil flourished. By 1959-60 he abandoned chemicals altogether.

Save has learned his major lesson: “By ruining the natural fertility of the soil, we actually create artificial ‘needs’ for more and more external inputs and unnecessary inputs for ourselves, while the results are inferior and more expensive in every way. The living soil is an organic unity, and it is this entire web of life that must be protected and nurtured”

Water and food security depends on soil

Save has updated a traditional intercrop system specifically for growing cotton in low rainfall areas (see fig 1). The six integrated crops are harvested in stages during a 365-day cycle: two types of millet, three kinds of edible pulse legumes, and cotton. Every other row of legume crops provides nitrogen to the soil. Weeds that attract predators that feed on crop damaging species are welcome. So are worms that aerate and provide compost, and nutrient rich soil microrganisms. All are the natural keepers of soil health. As this system needs no irrigation, it is crucial that chemicals are not added as they diminish the soils capacity to absorb moisture.

Image
fig 1

For millennia organic farming was practiced in India without any marked decline in soil fertility. In areas where polyculture is replaced by monocrops such as sugarcane and basmati rice the soil is ruined by the excessive use of water irrigation.

Thick crusts of salt (salinisation) progressively form on the waterlogged land where roots rot. Supplying huge amounts of water for refined sugar that requires 2 to 3 tonnes of water per kilo has encouraged extensive dams and river linking schemes by industry. These short-term solutions displace people and wreak devastating ecological consequences.

In contrast, organic farming practice is light on irrigation. The best yields come from soil that is just damp. Porous soil under Save’s organic orchard of mixed local crops acts like a sponge, soaking up the huge quantities of monsoon rains that percolates down to the ground water table. Restoring a minimum of 30 percent of mixed indigenous trees and forests to India within the next 20 years could prevent the impending threat of water scarcity. Storing water underground in natural reservoirs is the way forward to ensure food and water security.

As Save points out, “More than 80% of India’s water consumption is for irrigation, with the largest share hogged by chemically cultivated cash crops. Most of India’s people practising only rain-fed farming continue to use the same amount of ground water per person as they did generations ago.”

A real revolution for India’s farmers

Bhaskar Save’s method of mixed short to long life span intercrops on plots as small as two acres proves that it is possible to regenerate even barren wastelands in less than ten years. This is the revolution that India’s small farmers need as transnational corporations threaten to impose a new kind of serfdom with patented biotech crops. Save’s sixty years experience shatters the illusion that farmers can boost productivity and profits by increasing inputs of agrochemicals and engineered seeds. S.M. Swaminathan must embrace organic farming models that can revive the fortunes of Indian farmers and negate the need for costly debt relief packages when coordinating the new Agricultural Policy.
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Re: The Puppetmasters of Academia (or What the NY Times Left

Postby admin » Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:31 am

India’s Bt Cotton Fraud
by Rhea Gala
3/5/05

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Monsanto rides roughshod over Indian cotton farmers leaving a wake of false claims and doctored information, despite being fined for bribery in Indonesia

The sources for this article are posted on ISIS members’ website. Details here

As the battle for control over cotton farming in India intensifies, Monsanto’s tactics to extend approval for its Bollgard Bt cotton call to mind those for which it was recently fined US$1.5m for bribery and corruption in Indonesia.

In advance of a deadline for a decision on licence renewal in March 2005, Greenpeace and the Sarvodaya Youth Organization released two versions of a report on Bt cotton prepared by the Joint Director of Agriculture of Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh (AP). The data in the original report, commissioned under a memorandum of understanding between the AP government and Monsanto-Mahyco, revealed a comprehensive failure of Bt cotton in AP. The second visibly tampered-with version exaggerated the yields, thereby substantially reducing Monsanto’s compensation to farmers. State agricultural committees have consistently demanded compensation to be paid to farmers for losses at a rate of Rs.20 000 (US$458.5) per acre, but Monsanto has refused to pay up so far.

Greenpeace campaigner Divya Raghunandan said, "We are disappointed by the government’s decision to expand the region under Bt cotton, while the need was to stop where it was already grown…The fact that data has been so clearly manipulated in this case, raises serious doubts about the authenticity of any data that the Genetic Engineering Advisory Committee (GEAC) would use to review Bt cotton."

Market research: wishful thinking, or science?

Monsanto commissioned a study using a market research agency for the 2004 season, which claimed that Bt cotton yield was up by 58% on a country wide basis, resulting in a 60% increase in farmers’ incomes; and that in Andhra Pradesh, a 46% yield increase and a 65% reduction in pesticide costs gave a 42% increase in income to farmers.

A notorious piece of research by Martin Qaim (University of Bonn) and David Zilberman (University of California, Berkeley) was published in Science, claiming outstanding (80%!) yield increases from Monsanto’s GM cotton; and projected the results as relevant to farmers throughout the developing world. The paper drew a storm of protest, as it derived all its data from Monsanto and its findings were completely at odds with the reports coming from Indian farmers. Dr Devinder Sharma, a food policy expert, called Qaim and Zilberman’s paper a "scientific fairytale".

Agricultural scientists Dr Abdul Qayum and Kiran Sakkhari conducted an independent study on Bt cotton on a season-long basis for three years in 87 villages of the major cotton growing districts of AP - Warangal, Nalgonda, Adilabad and Kurnool - and found against Bt cotton on all counts:

• Bollgard failed miserably for small farmers in terms of yields; non-Bt cotton surpassed Bt in yield by nearly 30% with 10% less expense
• Bollgard did not significantly reduce pesticide use; over the three years, Bt farmers spent Rs. 2571 on pesticides on average, while the non-Bt farmers spent Rs.2766
• Bollgard did not bring profit to farmers; over the three years, the non-Bt farmers earned on average 60% more than Bt farmers
• Bollgard did not reduce the cost of cultivation; on an average, the Bt farmers had incurred 12% more costs than non-Bt farmers
• Bollgard did not result in a healthier environment; researchers found a special kind of root rot spread by Bollgard cotton, infecting the soil so that other crops would not grow.

Another report entitled, The story of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh: Erratic processes and results, published by the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), documents the dubious events of three years of commercial Bt cotton cultivation in AP.

It researched the economics as well as the incidence of pests and diseases, and beneficial organisms in Bt cotton and non-pesticidal management (NPM) cotton fields. It established that the cost of pest management of Bt cotton was 690% higher than in NPM farming systems. Moreover seed cost of Bt cotton was 355% higher than conventional varieties.

These findings are documented by the women of the Deccan Development Society’s Community Media Trust, who have made a film called "Bt Cotton in Warangal: A three year fraud" Their previous film "Why are Warangal Farmers Angry with Bt Cotton" made in 2003, has been translated into French, Spanish, Thai and German and English; and is making waves around the world in national and international film festivals.

BBC’s recently broadcast Bitter Harvest series looks at the plight of farmers in India through issues such as seed-saving, patents, farmer suicides, depopulation of rural areas, subsidies, free trade and the debt trap. http://www.bbc.co.uk/asiannetwork/featu ... akhi.shtml

The corporate take-over of farming, the green revolution and biotechnology are constant points of reference, with detail on how the public system in the Punjab is used to promote Monsanto’s seeds, and how Monsanto makes use of religion in its advertising to farmers in order to project its seeds as miraculous.

Never mind the facts

The GEAC approved six new varieties of Monsanto-derived Bt cotton seed for commercial use in the fertile northern states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana, and eight new varieties have approval for large-scale trials in these states. This greatly extends the area given to GM cotton - which had previously been restricted to six central and southern states - in spite of the overwhelming evidence of harm caused to farmers’ livelihoods by the GM varieties.

Dr Vandana Shiva of Navdanya and Dr Krishan Bir Choudhary of Bharat Krishak Samaj, together with representatives of other NGOs, met the Prime Minister to demand the withdrawal of Bt cotton. Dr Devinder Sharma, called it "a scientific fraud" to impose Bt cotton on farmers.

The CSA and Gene Campaign complained to the GEAC about its pretence of inviting consultation with civil society. NGOs were invited, with one days notice, to voice their concerns; but their promised 10-minute slot was cut to 5 minutes and there was no discussion. A GEAC member refused to reveal her name on the grounds that it was confidential.

In a joint letter to GEAC chairman Suresh Chandra, CSA executive director Dr GV Ramanjaneyulu and Gene Campaign director Dr Suman Sahai alleged that the evidence of Bt cotton failure which they provided were not included in the minutes of the meeting. The minutes contained responses of seed companies on some questions raised by the GEAC.

The decision to extend the period of approval for Monsanto’s failed Bt cotton hybrids, Mech-12 Bt, Mech-162 Bt and Mech-184 Bt, which expires this season, was deferred again by the GEAC in April until the next meeting on May 11. One Bt variety was approved for commercial cultivation in the 2005 season in central India, and three more transgenic cotton varieties, including a VIP cotton from Syngenta, were approved for large-scale field trials in northern India.

These approvals, in the face of both grass-roots and scientific evidence of huge losses to farmers using Monsanto’s Bt seeds, are reminiscent of those in Indonesia, which came to an end with a change in government. Monsanto was exposed and fined $1.5m for bribery and corruption in the United States ("Corruption, half-truths and lies", SiS 25). The case of the tampered-with report on GM cotton remains unanswered here.

The AP Coalition demanded that the AP government immediately take steps to prevent the sale of Bollgard seeds for the present season, which is already going on. It also demanded that the government order a judicial enquiry into the official agencies’ suppression or manipulation of the evidence to favour the Mahyco-Monsanto corporation.

Farmers, scientists and researchers from around the world meeting in Hyderabad as part of the Global Week of Action, narrated first-hand encounters with Bt cotton and GM crops. A statement from the Deccan Development Society (DDS) said: "Having shared our encounters with genetic engineering from our countries, we are stronger in our conviction that the use of transgenic crops has unleashed new hazards onto our farms and into our lives. The profit-driven ‘life’ science industry is more life destroying than life giving."
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Re: The Puppetmasters of Academia (or What the NY Times Left

Postby admin » Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:37 am

Organic Cotton Beats Bt Cotton in India: Organic cotton is incomparably superior to genetically modified Bt cotton
by Rhea Gala
5/8/05

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Sources for this report are available in the ISIS members site. Full details here

Organic cotton is more environmentally friendly, better for the health of the community and for the local economy than GM cotton, according to a study by the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh [1]. The GM Bt cotton was compared with cotton grown without pesticide, or under non-pesticide management (NPM).

The study looked at the incidence of various pests and diseases as well as the beneficial organisms in the Bt and NPM cotton fields. It also looked at the economics of pest management for both systems.

The study, designed and supervised by entomologist Dr SMA Ali, extension scientist GV Ramanjaneyulu, and development activist Ms Kavitha Kuruganti, involved end-of-season interviews with cotton growing farmers in Warangal and Medak districts.

A total of 121 NPM cotton farmers farming on 193 acres and using no synthetic pesticide were compared with 117 Bt cotton farmers using proprietary pesticides and farming 151 acres. The Bt cotton varieties grown were Mech 12 (88 farmers), Mech 184 (1 farmer), and RCH 2 (31 farmers; a few farmers grew more than one of these varieties on different plots, hence the sum of farmers is more than 117).

These Bt varieties all carried Monsanto's cry1Ac gene and display low genetic diversity; providing early pest resistance [2]. NPM cotton farmers grew many varieties including Brahma, Maruthi, Dasera, Gemini, Sumo, Tulasi, Bhagya, Durga, Kranthi.

Ten villages in two districts took part in the Bt cotton survey, and 12 villages from two districts took part in the NPM survey.

Bt cotton more prone to pests and diseases

Overall, the NPM farmers reported a lower incidence of medium to high infestations and higher incidence of low or no infestations for four traditional cotton pests.

Surprisingly, 32.5% of Bt cotton farmers reported a high incidence of American bollworm, an important pest that the Bt cotton is designed to control; while only 4.1% of NPM farmers reported a high incidence of this pest. This single statistic questions the value of the Bt approach to pest control. It also corroborates the high incidence of bollworm reported by farmers growing Bt cotton in AP [3]. In contrast, the efficacy of natural predators and/or natural pesticides to control American bollworm in particular, and the other bollworms in general, is remarkable (see Table 1).

A majority of NPM farmers reported low incidence of spotted bollworm (76.9% against 65.8% of Bt growers), American bollworm (76.1% against 17.1% of Bt growers), and Tobacco Caterpillar (76.8% against 64.1% of Bt growers). Six NPM farmers reported an absence of spotted bollworm compared to two Bt farmers .

A majority of NPM farmers reported a medium incidence of pink bollworm, as did their Bt counterparts (47.1% against 57.3%), but greater numbers of NPM farmers also reported a low incidence of this pest compared to Bt farmers (31.4% against 24.8%).

Image
Table 1. Incidence of Bollworm complex on Bt and NPM cotton.
Figure in parentheses is a percentage of respondents

In the case of sucking pests, the majority of NPM farmers also reported a low incidence, with several reporting no infestation of whitefly, aphids and mites. Again, natural predators and pesticides can be seen to be more effective at controlling sucking pests than Bt cotton. Many Bt farmers reported a high incidence of jassids, whitefly and aphids, but Bt toxins are known to be ineffective against sucking pests [4], therefore, farmers necessarily use additional pesticides specific to these pests (see Table 2).

Image
Table 2. Incidence of sucking pests on Bt and NPM cotton.
Figure in parentheses is a percentage of respondents

Wilt, a common disease of cotton was reported absent by only 17 of the Bt cotton farmers during the season (14.5%), while 50 NPM farmers reported no wilt problems (41.3%). The degree of wilt ranged from 30% - 70% for Bt cotton, but was only 10 – 15% for the NPM cotton varieties. While wilt causes a decrease in cotton yield, the traditional cotton varieties have far greater genetic diversity than the Bt cotton, giving greater security against losses from this disease .

Beneficial insects prevail on NPM cotton

These findings reflect the fears of many environmentalists that the Bt cotton endotoxin destroys many beneficial insects [5], and that has a knock-on effect on the birds and small mammals that are the natural predators of these insects. Table 3 shows 85 (70.2%) of NPM farmers finding a high incidence of beneficial insects on their crop, with 97 (82.9%) of Bt cotton respondents finding only a low incidence and 13 (11.2%) Bt farmers found no beneficial insects at all on their crop.

Image
Table 3. Incidence of beneficial insects on Bt and NPM cotton.
Figure in parentheses is a percentage of respondents

The main strategy of NPM farmers' pest control on their crops is through beneficial insects that are, by definition, predators of cotton pests; they also use natural organic pesticides. In contrast, Bt farmers report a low incidence of pest predators due to the toxicity of the Bt varieties and associated pesticides, necessitating a vicious cycle of control by these synthetic pesticides.

Economics of pest management shows Bt cotton extortionate

Purchase of Bt cotton seed, genetically modified with the cry1Ac gene from soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensi s, includes a technology fee, and costs farmers Rs 1600 per acre, compared to NPM farmers who buy their seed at Rs 450 per acre. This makes Bt cotton seed 355% more expensive than the traditional varieties [1].

In addition, pest management costs were greater for Bt farmers who had to use pesticides such as Monocrotophos, Confidor, Tracer, Avaunt, Endosulfan, acephate, demethoate, imidacloprid, quinalphos, chlorpyriphos, cypermethrin etc . to manage a variety of pests including bollworms for which Bt toxin is supposed to be specific [1].

On average, Bt crops were sprayed 3.5 times, with two farmers reporting that they did not spray at all, and others spraying as many as seven times. The NPM farmers used no synthetic pesticides at all, but used natural pesticides such as Neem seed kernel extract, trichoderma and panchakavya [1].

Bt cotton pest management cost on average Rs 2632 per acre, whereas NPM cotton pest management cost on average Rs 382 per acre, making pesticide costs 690% more expensive to the Bt cotton farmers [1].

Yields and incomes were not included in this study as cotton picking was still going on at the time of data collection, but Bt cotton yield and quality has been well documented as lower than traditional varieties [6], in spite of claims to the contrary. Yet the study clearly proves that restoring the ecological balance in the cotton fields, by removing both the GM endotoxins and the synthetic chemicals, will bring both short and long term benefits to farmers and the environment.

The study punctured the following myths in the current pest management paradigm [1]:

• Pests can be controlled only by killing them with pesticide; whereas prevention is better than cure
• All insects in the fields are pests; whereas they include natural predators that kill pests
• No relationship exists between monoculture and pest incidence; whereas a reduced genetic base over large areas results in unobstructed proliferation of the pest especially as in India where non-Bt cotton refuges are not used [2]
• Chemical fertilizers and pest incidence are unrelated; whereas chemical fertilizers increase plant vulnerability to the pest due to increased ‘succulence'.
• Pest resistance is a genotypic rather than an environmental issue; whereas environmental management of pests will give farmers more control over their crops than the use of patented seed derived from manipulating genes
• Pest resistance management is about using newer and newer generation pesticides; whereas NPM systems cut costs to farmers and the environment leading to greater independence of farmers and a healthier, more biodiverse environment
• Prevention of pest/disease means spraying even when the pest is absent; whereas pest management is not about schedules or routine but the needs of the actual situation
• Benefits of synthetic pesticides outweigh the risks; whereas suicides [7] in the Indian cotton belts show that the economics of pesticide use do not add up, even before other adverse effects are taken into account, such as increased crop water consumption [8]

The story of Punukula: it's not rocket science

Punukula, a small village in Andhra Pradesh, with a population of about 860, has rediscovered the art and science of sustainable cotton cultivation by using NPM systems. But this small revolution in India's cotton belt has been ignored by agricultural scientists, perhaps because it is an appropriate technology that does not lend itself to exploitation by outsiders, and because it does not have the ‘glamour' of ‘cutting edge technology'. Nevertheless, it so impressed the AP agriculture minister, who witnessed the transformation for himself, that it has been replicated in 400 surrounding villages [7].

A few farmers from a local non-governmental organization began in 1999 (before the arrival of GM cotton in India), to experiment with non-pesticidal management practices on their cotton crop, and persuaded 20 local farmers to try it [7].

The environment, previously contaminated by a vicious cycle of pesticide application began to improve, and the pest burden reduced. By 2004, the environmental and economic impact was such that the entire village was using NPM that had restored natural pest control systems, and they therefore had no reason to adopt GM cotton when it became available [7].

In the early 1960s, only six or seven major pests worried the cotton farmer, but costly inputs prescribed by agribusiness and agricultural research has created a spiral of pollution, debt and death that has also resulted in the farmer fighting 70 major pests on cotton today. Although average yields for farmers in Punukula are greater than for Bt cotton farmers, most mainstream agricultural scientists, and politicians prefer to support GM technology and agribusiness [7].

If Punukula had adopted GM Bt cotton, the village would have paid Rs 600 000 in additional seed price for the 500 acres under cultivation (Rs1 200/acre technology fee), before addressing the extra cost of pesticide application. The farmers would have remained caught in the spiral of debt as victims of the ‘cutting edge technology' that draws millions of rupees from the small rural economy into the pockets of powerful multi-nationals every year [7].

Farmers stop spraying chemical pesticides, yields go up!

Farmers in India are not alone. In two years, 2000 poor rice farmers in Bangladesh reduced insecticide use by 99 %.

Gary John, senior scientist at the International Rice Research Institute in Manila, said “To my surprise when people stopped spraying, yields didn't drop, and this was across 600 fields in two districts over four seasons. I'm convinced that the vast majority of insecticides that rice farmers use are a complete waste of time and money”. In the Philippines, similarly, a decline in insecticide use has been accompanied by an increase in productivity leading to great savings for farmers [9].

This comes as a revelation only after land and water have been poisoned, the environment degraded, and, according to WHO figures, 20 000 people have died from pesticide poisoning worldwide annually. And because science has viewed all things traditional as backward and substandard the collective wisdom of generations of farmers has been largely lost [9]; and at the same time agricultural scientists are still promoting useless and harmful technologies like genetic modification [10].

But while ordinary farmers are getting wise to GM propaganda and hard sell around the world, an Indian government study has found serious faults with its GM Bt cotton under commercial production. The government has been sitting on this study for two years. It describes a multitude of problems already expressed by farmers but previously denied by its own scientists and politicians [11]. Meanwhile organic farming successes are being more widely reported, for example, Paul Desmarais, Director of the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre in Zambia writes “We have successfully grown organic cotton for two years now at Kasisi.

We have good control of insects and there is not resistance built in the system as there is even with Bt cotton. Our yields are double the national yields. Farmers using the conventional route are barely ekeing out an existence with the price of cotton dropping and the price of inputs climbing up. We have just had the seed cotton tested for fibre length, micronair, etc. and our cotton did very well on all the scores. Let us pursue the growing of organic cotton. It is possible and it is sustainable” [12].
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Re: The Puppetmasters of Academia (or What the NY Times Left

Postby admin » Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:40 am

More Illnesses Linked to Bt Crops
by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
4/18/06

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Further evidence has emerged on the link between common transgenic proteins and serious allergic reactions while regulators turn a deaf ear and approve yet more planting.

A fully referenced version of this articles is posted on ISIS members’ website. Details here

The same transgenic proteins implicated in two different GM crops

We recently reported illnesses and deaths among villagers of south Mindanao in the Philippines that are suspected of being linked to the genetically modified ‘Bt’ maize with an insecticidal protein from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis [1] (“GM ban long overdue, five deaths and dozens ill in the Philippines”, SiS 29).

Since then, similar illnesses are reported to have occurred in Madhya Pradesh, central India, as a result of exposure to ‘Bt’ cotton genetically modified with the same or similar insecticidal protein(s).

India began commercial planting of Bt cotton in 2002/03 with 38 038 ha (0.78 percent of hybrid area), increasing to 6.4 percent and 11.65 percent respectively in 2003/4 and 2004/5. Currently, nearly 9 million ha of cotton is grown in India, 2.8 million hybrid cotton.

Madhya Pradesh is India’s fifth largest cotton producing state, with Malwa and Nimad the main cotton growing regions. The Bt cotton varieties planted were developed by Monsanto, and carry the insecticidal Cry1Ac protein (Bollgard) or both Cry1Ac and Cry1Ab proteins (Bollgard II), according to an article on the industry’s website [2].

Farmers from the Nimad region in Western Madhya Pradesh began complaining of health hazards after Bt cotton was planted. This prompted a three-member team representing a coalition of non-government organisations to carry out a preliminary survey in six villages in Nimad region between October and December 2005.

Similar symptoms

The team interviewed 23 of the farm and factory workers who fell ill after having handled Bt cotton. All had itching skin, 20 had eruptions on the body, and 13 had swollen faces. In some cases, the itching was so bad that they had to discontinue work, or take anti-allergy medicine in order to be able to work.

The survey resulted in a report which concluded [3]: “All the evidence gathered during the investigation shows that Bt has been causing skin, upper respiratory tract and eye allergy among persons exposed to cotton... The allergy is not restricted to farm labourers involved in picking cotton but has affected labourers involved in loading and unloading Bt from villages to market, those involved in its weighing, labourers working in ginning factories, people who carried out other operations in the field of Bt cotton, or farmers who stored cotton in their homes etc.”

The team consisted of Dr. Ashish Gupta of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (People’s Health Movement, India); Ashish Mandloi, a graduate of Barwani College working with Narmada Bachao Anolan (Save Narmada River Movement) and associate of the National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements; and Amulya Nidhi, a health activist working in Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh specializing in Urban and Rural community Development, and associated with Shilpi Trust and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan.

The survey covered 6 villages in the Barwani and Dhar districts of Nimad region in Madhya Pradesh, interviewing various groups of people involved in handling cotton - women picking cotton, labourers loading-unloading cotton, ginning factory workers - as well as a local doctor and an agricultural scientist.

Allergy symptoms in farm workers and other workers handling Bt cotton

The team found allergy symptoms in people in direct contact with Bt cotton on their hands, feet, face, in their eyes and nose, with some becoming “very severely ill.”

The skin was the most common site of allergy: itching, redness, eruptions and swelling. Typically, after the first 4-5 hours of exposure, most people complained of itching on the face and the hand. Soon, the itching increased and by the time they finish the day’s work, they had redness on the hands and face and swelling of the face. After continued exposure of one to two days, small white eruptions would appear, most often on the face. The symptoms began to subside after varying periods from four to five days up to five to six months, but black discolouration would show on the skin.

The people affected did not have previous history of allergies even though they were involved in picking cotton earlier.

Those who had more severe symptoms of the skin tend also to have associated allergies of eyes and respiratory tract. Eye irritation, involving itching, redness, swelling and watery eyes affected 11 of the 23 individuals; 9 had upper respiratory symptoms of watering from the nose and excessive sneezing. Three had mild symptoms, while 10 each had severe and moderate symptoms respectively.

One woman had to be removed from the fields and taken to Barwani District Hospital where she remained for 9 days.

Cotton fibre appeared to be causing the allergy. (In the case of the Bt maize in the Philippines, the pollen was suspected to be the main culprit.) The owner of the ginning factory Mr. Sunil Patidar said that symptoms like itching, redness of eyes, watering of eyes and cough were found in labourers in his factory. Most of the labourers were having problems, and the year before, it was even more prevalent. He said that was why labourers were not ready to unload the cotton-loaded truck from Maharastra.

The labourers working in different ginning factories said itching of the whole body was very common, and only when they took Tab. Avil (a common anti-allergy medicine) every day were they able to work.

Kalibai of Kothra said she has been working for 20 years picking cotton and never had any symptoms until 2004, when she suffered very bad allergy from picking Bt cotton.

Dr. Ramesh Jar of Saigaon, Ayurvedic doctor, has been practicing in Aawli, Tal Thikri in District Barwani. He said he has already received around 150 cases of allergy from two villages of Aawli and Saigaon in 2005. In 2004, he had around 100 cases. He is prescribing Dexona injection and Levocetrigen for skin and anti allergic drops for eyes.

Dr. Debashish Baner, an agricultural scientist, thinks that Bt cotton produces Bt toxin in all tissues including cotton fibres.

The team is demanding a government enquiry; but that seems to have fallen on deaf ears so far.

Bt bacteria and spores were previously linked to allergic reactions

Bt toxins come from the soil bacterium Bacilllus thuringiensis (Bt), common strains of which produce a large family of insecticide Cry proteins each targeting a different range of insect pests. Strains of Bt have been used as sprays to control insect pests in the United States for many years before transgenic Bt crops were created.

A study published in 1999 funded by the US Environment Protection Agency found that exposure to the Bt sprays “may lead to allergic skin sensitisation and induction of IgE and IgG antibodies or both” [5].

Farm workers who picked vegetables that required Bt spraying were evaluated before and after exposure to Bt spray, and one and four months afterwards. Two groups of low, and medium exposure workers not directly exposed to Bt spray, but working at different distances from the sprayed fields were also assessed. Investigations included questionnaires, nasal/mouth lavages, assessment of ventilatory function, and skin tests. To authenticate exposure to the organism present in the commercial preparation, bacteria isolated from lavage specimens were tested for Bt genes by DNA-DNA hybridisation. Blood immunoglobulin G and IgE responses to spore and vegetative Bt extracts were assayed.

Positive skin-prick tests to several spore extracts were seen chiefly in exposed workers. In particular, there was a significant increase in the number of positive skin tests to spore extracts one and four months after exposure to Bt spray. The number of positive skin test responses was also significantly greater in high- than in low- or medium-exposure group of workers. The majority of nasal lavage cultures from exposed workers was positive for the commercial Bt organism as demonstrated by specific molecular genetic probes. Specific IgE antibodies were present in more workers from the high-exposure group than from low- and medium-exposure groups. Specific IgG antibodies also occurred more frequently in the high- than in the low-exposure group.

In a previous public health survey of a large number of individuals exposed to a massive Bt pesticide spraying programme [6], some of the symptoms recorded include rash and deep swelling. One worker developed inflammation of the skin, itching, swelling and reddening of the skin with redness of the eyes. Bt was cultured from the red eyes.

In 1992, Bt was used in an Asian gypsy moth control programme, and was found to be associated with classical allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal mucosa) symptoms, exacerbations of asthma, and skin reactions among exposed individuals reporting possible health effects after the spraying operations [7]. Similar findings occurred during another Bt spraying in the spring of 1994 [8].

Allergens trigger 75 percent of asthma cases

Allergenicity is of particular concern because approximately 75 percent of asthma cases are triggered by allergens [9] and illnesses and deaths due to asthma have rocketed in recent years. Asthma deaths tripled in the United States from 1 674 in 1977 to 5 438 in 1998. The costs of asthma doubled from $6.2 billion in 1990 to $12.7 billion in 2000 [10].

Bt crops were first introduced in the United States in 1996, and have expanded substantially in acreage since, with little or no further research on the toxicity or allergenicity of the Cry proteins released in greater and greater abundance into the environment. Limited studies carried out by a research team in Cuba showed that Cry1Ac is a powerful immunogen, and when fed to mice, induced antibody responses similar to those obtained with the cholera toxin. Furthermore, Cry1Ac actively binds to the inner surface of the mouse small intestine, especially to the ‘brush border’ membranes on the cells lining the small intestine [11].

It has also been shown that all the Cry proteins in Bt crops have amino acid sequence similarities to known allergens [12-14], and are hence potential allergens.

Regulators are guilty of gross negligence

Meanwhile, the biotech industry has been aggressively promoting GM crops worldwide, especially those with Bt biopesticide and in developing countries like India and the Philippines. The latest survey carried out by the industry-funded group ISAAA claims that the global area given over to GM crops has increased from 81 million ha in 2004 to 90 million ha in 2005 [15]. Bt crops now comprise 29 percent of the total (18 percent Bt, and 11 percent stacked Bt and herbicide tolerance).

Regulators continue to approve Bt crops, despite the fact that successive surveys carried out both by scientists and by non-government organisations have demonstrated that Bt crops have failed to match the performance of local varieties [16] and farmers who bought into the aggressive propaganda have ended up in debt, and worse, suicide [17-18], so much so that an “agrarian crisis” was declared in Maharastra.

The latest evidence of serious health impacts linked to Bt crops comes in corroboration of previous findings dating back to the 1980s that should have halted the development and approval of Bt crops then.

By now, it is simply gross negligence not to impose a ban on further releases of Bt crops until they have been proven safe by a thoroughly independent enquiry.
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Re: The Puppetmasters of Academia (or What the NY Times Left

Postby admin » Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:42 am

GM Cotton Fiascos Around the World
by Rhea Gala
1/26/05

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A fully referenced version of this article is posted on ISIS members’ website. Details here

GM cotton not environmentally friendly or safe

Cotton is responsible for more than 10% of world pesticide use including some of the most hazardous, and 25% of all insecticide use. As weeds and insects become resistant, more and more pesticides are needed in a vicious circle that’s a recipe for socio-economic, health and environmental disaster. About half of the GM cotton grown in the United States is herbicide resistant, and a comprehensive analysis by Dr. Charles Benbrook, a former Executive Director of the Board on Agriculture of the US National Academy of Science, confirmed that it required more herbicide than conventional varieties.

Most GM cotton crops worldwide are engineered with Bt for resistance to insect pests and promoted by firms like Monsanto as environmentally friendly, because they need less pesticide.

Monsanto’s GM cotton ‘Bollgard’ carries the cry1Ac gene from soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, (Bt) to produce a toxin that kills some cotton pests including the boll weevil. However, Bollgard does not resist sucking pests, such as aphids, that might also damage the crop and will therefore require subsidiary spraying.

GM cotton not friendly to farmers

GM cottonseed prices include a ‘technology fee’ that can go up every year, and is calculated on supposed savings from reduced pesticide use with the Bt variety in a particular location.

All farmers growing Monsanto’s Bt cotton sign a contract, called a Technology Use Agreement that is strictly applied. It stipulates that,

• Farmers cannot save seed for replanting
• Farmers are prohibited from supplying seed to anyone else
• Farmers must pay 120 times the technology fee, plus the legal fees of Monsanto, if they violate the contract.

The Indonesian experience: A cautionary tale

Indonesia was the first country in Southeast Asia to permit commercial GM farming against the warnings of scientists and activists on the environmental and socio-economic impacts. Fortunately, permission was granted only on a year-by-year basis, and the government reviewed the impact of the failed Bt crop.

The review was scathing. This "Gene Revolution", it said, seemed to be "a modern tool for cementing farmers’ dependence on seeds and transnational agrochemical corporations appearing in developing countries in different guises." The evidence from Indonesia is that "GM crops are nothing more than a profit-motivated deployment of scientific power dedicated to sucking the blood of farmers."

Monsanto promised Bt cotton would return 3-4 tonnes of cotton per hectare while requiring less pesticide and fertilizer than Kanesia, the local cotton variety. The seed was given to farmers with pesticide, herbicide, (including Roundup) and fertilizer as part of a credit scheme costing sixteen times more than non-Bt cotton. In fact, the average yield was 1.1 tonnes per hectare and 74% of the area planted to Bt-cotton produced less than one tonne per hectare. About 522 hectares experienced total crop failure. Despite that, the government extended approval for Bt cotton for another year; and the results were no better.

In 2001 farmers signed contracts, but in 2002 the seed price rose and the cotton price slumped. Farmers had no choice but to shoulder the debt and sell at the company’s rate; as a result, 76% of farmers who joined the credit scheme couldn’t repay their debt and many burned their cotton in protest against the government and the company (see "Broken promises", SiS 22 http://www.i-sis.org.uk/isisnews.php).

In 2003, Monsanto halted operations saying that the Indonesian Government’s decision to authorize Bt cotton production on a year-by-year basis had been a big obstacle to business investment. PT Monagro Kimia, a Monsanto subsidiary, was under investigation by the US Department of Justice and the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission on suspicion that a payment of US$ 50 000 was made to Indonesian officials in 2002.

In January 2005, Monsanto was found guilty of authorising the bribe and fined $1.5m (see "GM cotton: corruption, hype, half-truths and lies", this series).

Bt cotton in India: Lessons not learned

Bt cotton entered commercial production in India in 2002 without comprehensive assessment for detrimental effects, and despite fierce protests by farmers and public interest organizations. Only six of India’s 29 states in the south and the west of the country have had permission to plant Monsanto’s Bt cotton. Four strains of Bt seed were available with at least one Indian variant of the licensed Monsanto varieties.

A 2002 study of Bt cotton in the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh found a 35% reduction in the total yield of Bt cotton with a net loss of Rs 1295, compared to a net profit of Rs 5368 for non-Bt cotton. Bt cotton yield was 50% lower than that promised by Monsanto. Bollworm were predominant on both Bt and non-Bt crops showing that Bt cotton was ineffective against its target pest.

In 2003, there was 30% more rainfall than in 2002, and a new Bt hybrid compared favourably with the previous year; however it was still 9% less profitable than the non-Bt hybrids.

In 2004, farmers in the state of Andhra Pradesh grew Bt cotton on 10% of the cotton acreage. Half of the farmers growing Bt cotton bought licensed seed from Monsanto at 1 500 rupees per 400 gm packet, while the other half bought unauthorised hybrid Bt seed at between Rs 800 to 1 200 per packet. Non-Bt hybrid seed cost farmers about Rs 400.

Farmers found that, with fluctuating weather as in 2002, much of the crop showed signs of wilt, and although some Bt cotton recovered from severe moisture stress, the yield was very poor compared to non-Bt types; also the yield from the unlicensed Bt cotton was better than Monsanto’s seed because drought tolerant females had been chosen for crossing to produce the hybrid. Monsanto is now demanding royalties of 70% from these seed producers.

Many Bt plants were small with few bolls that were infested with bollworm and other pests, including cercospora leaf spot, so the cotton had been neither high-yielding nor resistant to bollworm as promised by Monsanto. On 12 October, hundreds of farmers in Warangal district protested on the streets where the seed and pesticide dealer shops were located and demanded compensation for their losses, staging a sit-in on the highway. A second protest took place two days later when senior officials promised to attend; a Monsanto official was subsequently kidnapped. Meanwhile there has been a bumper harvest in non-GM cotton.

Bt cotton in China

Monsanto received a permit in 1997 for commercial production of Bt cotton in China and has since shared the Bt cotton market with domestically developed varieties that have expanded quickly over the country’s cotton-growing area.

China has been held up as the success story in GM cotton, and is the key to statistics claiming benefit for small farmers from GM. However, earlier warnings of major problems have now been confirmed by a Chinese researcher who reports that the technology will not only be useless within six to seven years, but "could cause a disaster". Liu Xiaofeng, a researcher from Henan, China’s second largest cotton producing province, told Reuters that the cotton bollworm is indeed developing resistance and will not be susceptible to Bt cotton after 20-30 generations, or in six to seven years. Moreover, Bt cotton does not effectively control secondary pests such as Lygus bug.

The early warnings appeared in a study published in June 2002 based on the work of scientists at a research institute funded by China’s Environmental Protection Agency. It found that although Bt cotton was effective in bollworm control, it had adverse impacts on the parasitic natural enemies of bollworm, and was not effective in controlling many secondary pests that damaged the crop. The study also found the diversity indices of the insect community in Bt cotton fields to be lower than in conventional cotton fields, and that the cotton bollworm could develop resistance to Bt cotton.

Liu’s work has received further collaboration by another study published in October 2004, which found that Bt cotton did not reduce the total numbers of insecticide sprays because additional sprays were required against sucking pests.

Field trials in Africa

South Africa, already the sixth biggest producer of GM crops in the world, grows Bt cotton on large and small commercial scales, extolling the benefits to small farmers in spite of the serious debts incurred.

Although there is a glut of cotton in the world market and depressed prices caused by US subsidies to their own growers worth $3.7 b per annum, the US government and the world’s biggest agrochemical companies are putting pressure on West African countries to introduce Bt cotton, the ‘trojan horse’ for other GM crops waiting in the wings. In West Africa there are wild relatives of cotton that may be contaminated, but in the US, GM cotton is prohibited in Florida where wild relatives grow.

In November 2003, USAID, with the official support of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, declared that it wants to ‘GM-ize’ Africa.

Mali’s National Agricultural Research Institute has been negotiating with Monsanto and Syngenta for field trials of Bt cotton. There is a plan to convert the country’s crop to GM varieties over the next five years; local farmers and the public are unaware of this intention. West African farmers, already unable to sell enough natural cotton because of subsidies, are locked into a cycle of poverty with credit against next years harvest.

• Burkino Faso has been field-testing Bt cotton since July 2003 in collaboration with Monsanto. But Francois Traore, president of the National Union of Cotton Producers, says, "If we already have the means to reduce pesticide use, why look for things that are going to complicate life?"
• Benin has had a moratorium on GM products since March 2002, but is under constant pressure to introduce Bt cotton.
• Senegal ran an unofficial field trial of Monsanto’s Bt cotton, but efforts were abandoned after the cotton failed to perform.
• Egypt has a pro GM policy with field trials underway for Bt cotton and many other crops.
• Kenya has many research institutes pushing GM crops, and research on GM cotton is under way.
• Uganda has just published its first biosafety policy bill, which has yet to be made law by parliament, however it is expected to take up Bt cotton soon.
• Zimbabwe: The government destroyed some unsupervised field trials of Bt cotton conducted by Monsanto some years ago.

The Americas

In the US, home of Monsanto’s Bollgard first planted in 1996, there have been problems with erratic and disappointing yield, especially in Southeast Arkansas where costs were significantly higher on Bt acreage. In 2002, despite the use of supplementary pesticides, 7.5% of the Bt crop was destroyed by bollworm and 1.4% destroyed by Spodoptera and Pseudoplusia includens caterpillars. The total insecticide use has remained relatively stable due to the increasing importance of secondary pests; it is lower in dry states such as Texas, but increasing in the Mississippi delta.

Research on Bollgard cotton adopted in North Carolina, conducted between 1996-2003 by Jack Bacheler, North Carolina State University Extension entomologist found changes in insect communities, and that while damage from bollworms decreased, stink bug problems have increased.

In 2004, Bt cotton was grown in nine states and comprised more than 75% of all cotton grown. Most varieties are Roundup Ready (RR) or RR and Bt combined [1]. The proposed ‘technology fee for Bollgard II was US $99 ha in 2004, this is to be added to the seed price.

Bt cotton is also grown in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Columbia. In Columbia the vice-president of the biosafety council works for Monsanto and was thus able to both apply for and grant permission for release of a Bt crop in an area that is a centre of origin for some wild cotton species. Moreover, the pest responsible for 70% of pesticide use on cotton is the picudo, which is not targeted by Monsanto’s cotton. The small farmer will once again lose out due to this folly.

Overproduction of cotton devastating the environment and destroying poor farmers

World overproduction of cotton, a crop that degrades the environment by escalating requirement for pesticide, demand on scarce water resources and exhaustion of soil, is a subject for serious concern in its own right. Large commercial plantings - which attract subsidies in rich countries - create monoculture deserts and distort world markets. As a result, the poor producer in the south, who has traditionally grown a crop of one or two hectares, descends into a spiral of debt. The aggressive introduction of GM cotton will exacerbate all the problems of the conventional crop and, in developing countries, nullify centuries of successful local crop breeding by farmers, destroying their autonomy and control of seed, their livelihoods and cultural traditions.
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Re: The Puppetmasters of Academia (or What the NY Times Left

Postby admin » Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:44 am

Transgenic Cotton Offers No Advantage: May decrease income by up to 40 percent or more.
by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Prof. Peter Saunders
3/27/08

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

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The use of transgenic cotton does not provide increased returns to the farmer. This is the conclusion of a 4-year study reported in Agronomy Journal by researchers at the University of Georgia and the US Department of Agriculture [1].

The researchers grew a number of different cultivars of cotton at two locations in the state of Georgia. The transgenic varieties consisted of two main traits, herbicide tolerance and Bt biopesticides, alone and variously combined (stacked); they were

1. Bollgard (B), expressing the Bt toxin Cry1Ac from soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis to control the cotton bollworm

2. Bollgard II (B2) expressing two different Bt toxins, Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab, to delay the evolution of pest resistance

3. Roundup Ready (RR), tolerant to glyphosate herbicide;

4. Bollgard/Roundup Ready (BR)

5. BollgardII/Roundup Ready (B2R)

6. Liberty Link (LL), tolerant to herbicide glufosinate

Five different non-transgenic cotton cultivars were also grown. Each cultivar, whether transgenic or not, was managed to maximise profit, as consistent with practices recommended by the University of Georgia.

The results showed that “no transgenic technology system produced significantly greater returns than a non-transgenic system in any year or location.” The returns are dominated by yields, and could be reduced by 30-40 percent, as in 2004 at one of the two locations, when the non-transgenic variety produced a return of $1274.81 per ha compared with $858.73 for BR, $737.41 for B2R, and $876.14 for LL.

In some cases, the production costs for transgenic varieties (e.g. the cost of applying pesticides) were lower, but this was only enough to compensate for the higher cost of the seeds and technology fees. Choosing the right variety was important, which means that many farmers could improve their returns with more appropriate non-transgenic varieties rather than by adopting transgenic cotton. This will, however, be more difficult in future because seed companies are reducing the number of non-transgenic varieties they offer for sale.

The authors remarked that the high investment for transgenic crops before any yield is realised is a predicament for growers. That is true even in the US, and all the more so in the Third World, where farmers typically have no reserves to draw on. They must borrow to buy the seeds in the hope of paying back the loan from the proceeds of the harvest. A poor harvest or a low price can mean disaster. The authors also commented that a benefit often attributed to transgenic crops is that they allow farms to operate with fewer workers; but this is unlikely to be an advantage in the Third World where farms are small and labour costs are much less.

It is a pity that the researchers have not included organically managed cotton in their study, because it is clearly a much better option. Persistent and massive crop failures of transgenic cotton have contributed substantially to the worsening epidemic of suicides among farmers in India, where a timely return to organic cotton growing is saving lives, and turning despair into hope [2-4] (Organic Cotton Beats Bt Cotton in India, SiS 27; Message from Andra Predesh:Return to organic cotton & avoid the Bt cotton trap, SiS 29; Stem Farmers’ Suicides with Organic Farming, SiS 32).

Across the world, people are becoming aware that pesticide poisoning and devastation of the natural ecosystem are too high a price to pay for conventional cotton, and are opting, not for transgenic cotton, but for organic cotton [5] (Picking Cotton Carefully, SiS 34). World organic cotton supply has been growing at the average rate of 50 percent over the past 6 years (see Chapter 21 of Food Futures Now *Organic *Sustainable *Fossil Fuel Free [5]). It is not too late for cotton farmers in the US to get out of the transgenic cotton trap.

References

1. Jost P, Shurley D, Culpepper S, Roberts P, Nichols R, Reeves J and Anthony S. Economic Comparison of transgenic and montransgenic cotton production systems in Georgia. Agronomy Journal 2008, 100, 42-51. (doi:10.2134/agronj2006.0259)

2. Gala R. Organic cotton beats Bt cotton. Science in Society 27, 49-50, 2005.

3. Gala R. Return to organic cotton & avoid the Bt-cotton trap. Science in Society 29, 38-39, 2006.

4. Burcher S. Stem farmers’ suicides with organic farming, Science in Society 32, 42-43+46, 2007.

5. Ho MW, Burcher S, Lim LC, et al. Food Futures Now, Organic, Sustainable, Fossil Fuel Free, ISIS TWN, London & Penang, 2008.
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Re: The Puppetmasters of Academia (or What the NY Times Left

Postby admin » Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:46 am

Scientists Confirm Failures of Bt-Crops: Ineffective against insect pests, harmful to health and biodiversity, yield drag, pest resistance.
by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
9/26/05

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A fully referenced version of this paper is posted on ISIS members’ website. Details here

Farmers were first

Scientific studies from many countries have now backed up what farmers have known for years, that Bt crops – genetically engineered with Bt toxin proteins from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis targeted at insect pests - often failed to protect against pest attacks, and have other problems as well.

Scientists in India, China and the United States found that the levels of Bt toxin produced by Bt crops vary substantially in different parts of the plant and in the course of the growing season, and are often insufficient to kill the targeted pests. This could lead to greater use of pesticides, and accelerate the evolution of pest resistance to the Bt toxin. Pest resistance to a Bt toxin has indeed arisen in the field in Australia.

The Bt toxins are a family of similar Cry proteins identified by numbers and letters. Each Cry protein differs somewhat in amino acid sequence and targets specific pests.

India

Scientists at the Central Institute of Cotton Research studied Bt cotton hybrids approved for commercial planting in India: Bollgard-MECH-12, Bollgard-MECH-162, Bollgard-MECH-184, Bollgard-RCH-2, Bollgard-RCH-20, Bollgard-RCH-134, Bollgard-RCH-138 and Bollgard-RCH-144. All the varieties were created by using Indian parent-varieties to which the crylAc gene was introduced from the Bt-cotton variety, Coker 312, ultimately derived from transformation event MON531 (Monsanto).

The researchers found that the amount of Cry1Ac protein varied across the varieties and between different plant parts. The leaves had the highest levels; whereas the levels in the boll-rind, square bud and ovary of flowers were clearly inadequate to fully protect the fruiting parts producing the cotton bolls. Increasing numbers of armyworm (Helicopverpa armigera) larvae survived as toxin levels went below 1.8 mg /g wet weight of the plant parts. Thus, a critical level of 1.9 mg/g was needed to kill all the pests. Regardless of plant varieties, the level of toxin decreased with the age of the plant, though the decrease was more rapid in some hybrids than in others. By 110 days, Cry1Ac expression decreased to less than 0.47mg/g in all hybrids.

In a separate study, scientists at the same institute tested the susceptibility of an insect pest from different regions in India to Bt toxin [2]. They took samples of larvae of the spotted bollworm, Earias vitella from 27 sites in 19 cotton-growing districts of North, Central and South India during the 2002 and 2003 cropping seasons and tested their susceptibility to Cry 1Ac toxin protein purified from E. coli strains expressing the recombinant protein. The LC50 - the concentration killing 50 percent of the larvae – of Cry1Ac ranged from 0.006 to 0.105 mg/ml. There was a 17.5 fold overall variability in susceptibility among the districts. The highest variability of 17.5 fold was recorded from districts of South India. The variability in pest susceptibility, like the variable expression of the Cry1A proteins in Bt crops, will reduce the efficacy of Bt pest control.

However, using recombinant CrylA proteins from bacteria to test for susceptibility in pests can be entirely misleading (see below).

China

A study was carried out in the Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing on two Bt cotton varieties: GK19, with a Cry1Ac/Cry1Ab fused gene, developed by the Biotechnology Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and BG1560, with a Cry1Ac gene, supplied by Monsanto [3]. The test site was in Tianmen County, Hubei Province, an intensive planting area in the middle of the Yantze River valley. The results showed that the toxin content in the Bt cotton varieties changed significantly over time, depending on the part of the plant, the growth stage and the variety. Generally, the toxin protein was expressed at high levels during the early stages of growth, declined in mid-season, and rebounded late in the season. In line with the study in India, the scientists found that the toxin content in leaf, square, petal and stamens were generally much high than those in the ovule and the boll. The researchers pointed out that such variability in toxin expression could accelerate the development of pest resistance to the toxin.

USA

Scientists at the Southern Insect Management Research Unit of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) studied both Bt maize hybrids expressing Cry1Ab (such as event MON810) and Bt cotton varieties expressing Cry1Ac (such as event MON531) [4].

They found that Cry1Ab was variable depending on location in the same leaf as well as between leaves at different stage of growth. The tips of maize leaf at the V7 stage had a higher concentration compared with the middle section of the leaf, and the middle section of the V9 leaf had the lowest concentration. Also, the green tissues richest in chlorophyll had the highest toxin levels, the yellow-green tissues with reduce chlorophyll had less, and the white-yellow tissues poorest in chlorophyll had the least. The weight of fall armyworm larvae measured at day 5 of feeding showed a decrease that was significantly correlated with the amount of toxin present in the plant material, while there was 100 percent mortality in the southwestern corn borer larvae regardless of the level of toxin in the plant tissues.
In the Bt cotton, the level of CrylAc was significantly lower in boll tips where flowers had remained attached, compared with normal boll tips. Boll tips where the flowers remained attached are often the sites at which corn earworms, Helicopverpa zea (Boddie) penetrate Bt cotton bolls. In both Bt maize and Bt cotton, tissues that had low chlorophyll content also had reduced Cry1A proteins.

The US Environment Protection Agency recommends planting a certain percent of crop area with non-Bt varieties to serve as ‘refuge’, in order to ensure that enough susceptible insects are produced to limit the evolution of resistance. An important requirement for the refuge strategy to work effectively is a high level of expression of the toxin, so heterozygous insects (those with one copy of resistance gene) will fail to survive to reproduce. Thus, any reduction from high toxin levels will compromise the refuge strategy and the effectiveness of Cry1A proteins in pest control.

Researchers at the University of Arizona Tucson and the Arizona Cotton Research and Protection Council, Phoenix had found a “surprisingly high” frequency (0.16) of the Cry1Ac resistance gene in field populations of the pink bollworm in Arizona in 1997, which did not appear to increase further as expected in 1998 or 1999 [5]. However, the tests were done with the recombinant Cry1Ac protein produced in the bacterium, Pseudomonas fluroescens, and not from the Bt cotton plant, and could be giving entirely misleading results on the evolution of resistance in the field (“No Bt resistance?” SiS20) [6].

Bt resistance in Australia

A population of the Australian cotton bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera – the most important agricultural pest in Australia as well as China, India and Africa - has developed resistance to Cry1Ac at 275-times the level that would have killed the non-resistant insect [7]. Some 70 percent of the resistant larvae were able to survive on Bt cotton expressing Cry1Ac (Ingard). The resistance is inherited as an autosomal semi-dominant trait (the heterozygote with one copy of the resistance gene is half as resistant as the homozygotes with two copies of the resistance gene).

Bt cotton varieties expressing Cry1Ac (Ingard) have been grown in Australia to control the cotton bollworm since 1996, and a new variety containing both Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab was commercially released in late 2003. Resistance monitoring in Australia and China had suggested that pest susceptibility to Cry1Ac was declining in the field. In 2001, a strain of cotton bollworm was isolated from the survivors in the New South Wales and Queensland monitoring programme that appeared to be resistant to Cry1Ac. The researchers have now confirmed the findings, and attributed the high level of resistance to a 3- to 12-fold over-expression of an enzyme, serine protease, which binds avidly to Cry1Ac toxin, preventing it from acting, and possibly, detoxifying it by breaking it down.

Canadian scientists find yield and economic disadvantage in Bt maize

Researchers at the Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, carried out a field experiment over three years to compare commercial corn hybrids with their corresponding Bt-hybrids belonging to the Monsanto and Syngenta [8]. They found that some of the Bt hybrids took 2-3 additional days to reach silking and maturity and produced a similar or up to 12 percent lower grain yields, with 3-5 percent higher grain moisture content at maturity in comparisons with their non-Bt counterparts. Higher grain moisture content increases drying cost. Bt hybrid seeds also have a $25-30 premium per ha.

The economic disadvantages are dwarfed in comparison with impacts on biodiversity and human and animal health that have been known for years, however (see below: also“Bt risks negligible” SiS 2002, 13/14).

Bt maize more woody

It has been known for some time that genetic modification is full of pitfalls, among which are many unintended effects. A paper published in 2001 [9] reported that the content of lignin (woody substances) was high by 33 to 97 percent in the Bt maize varieties tested: Bt11, Bt176 and Mon810. Now, researchers at environmental and agricultural institutes in Leipzig, Aachen and Muncheberg, Germany, and the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, have confirmed increases in lignin in two Bt maize lines, Novelis (event MON00810-6, from Monsanto) and Valmont (event SYN-EV176-9, from Syngenta), compared with their respective isogenic varieties, Nobilis and Prelude, all grown under identical conditions [10]. The increases in lignin are more modest, and are restricted to the stems of the plants: Novelis by 28 percent over Nobilis, and Valmont by 18 percent over Prelude.

Increase in lignin content will impact on the digestibility of the plant for livestock, it also decreases the rate at which the plant material break down, affecting nutrient recycling, the soil microbial community, and soil carbon balance.

Intriguingly, an earlier report has also found increased lignin in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soya, genetically modified to be tolerant to the herbicide Roundup [11], which caused the stem to split open in hot climate and crop losses of up to 40 percent.

These results suggest that genetic modification per se may be increasing lignin content, perhaps as a response to metabolic stress from the high levels of transgene expression driven by aggressive viral promoters.

Impacts on biodiversity and health

Bt toxins are known to harm beneficial/endangered insect species and soil decomposers [12]:

• Pollen from Bt-maize was lethal to the larvae of the monarch butterfly.
• Increased mortality of lacewing larvae fed on artificial diet containing Bt-maize or on corn-borer larvae that had eaten Bt-corn.
• Bt sprays used to reduce caterpillars in forests led to fewer black-throated blue warbler nests.
• A parasite of corn-borers, Macrocentris cingulum, was found to be reduced in Bt-cornfields compared with non-Bt corn fields.
• One preparation of Bt (var. tenebrionis), reported to be specific for Coleoptera, caused significant mortality in domestic bees.
• Soil-dwelling collembola, Folsomia candida, an important decomposer, suffered significant mortality from transgenic maize with Cry1Ab.
• Bt not only remains in the soil with Bt-plant debris, it is actively exuded from the plant roots where it binds to soil particles and persists for 180 days or more, so its effects on soil decomposers and other beneficial arthropods may be extensive.

Bt-toxins are actual and potential allergens for human beings. Field workers exposed to Bt spray experienced allergic skin sensitization and induction of IgE and IgG antibodies to the spray [13]. Recombinant Cry1Ac protoxin was found to be a potent mucosal immunogen, as potent as cholera toxin [14]. A Bt strain that caused severe human necrosis (tissue death) killed mice infected through the nose within 8 hours, from clinical toxic-shock syndrome [15]. Both Bt protein and Bt-potato harmed mice in feeding experiments [16]. All Bt-toxins along with many other transgenic proteins exhibit similarities to known allergens and are hence suspected allergens until proven otherwise (“Are transgenic proteins allergenic?” SiS 25) [17-19].

Recently, much publicity has been given to a report from scientists in Portugal published in the house journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, because it claimed “lack of allergenicity of transgenic maize and soya samples” [20].

A careful reading of the report reveals, however, that the researchers had no evidence that the small number of subjects they tested have ever been exposed to transgenic maize and soya. They wrote: “Bearing in mind that since 1998 all the GM products under testing were approved for commercialisation in the European Union.., we assumed that consumption of maize and soya food-derived products implied a consumption of GM soya and maize.” (emphasis added). Moreover, the tests performed were limited to skin pricks and IgE antibodies, both known to be limited in reliability [21]. Most of all, there are many allergies that do not involve IgE antibodies [22].

Nevertheless, the researchers stated, “In this study we did not obtain any differential positive results, which allows us to conclude that the transgenic products under testing seem to be safe regarding their allergenic potential.” (emphasis added).
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