Recently we circulated a report on the problems with Bt cotton in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, where large scale problems with wilt are being experienced with Bt cotton.
Now we have a new report on some of the severe problems being found in Andhra Pradesh.
EXCERPTS FROM THE NEW REPORT:
In the case of those farmers who had sown Bunny Bt Cotton, the seed did not germinate properly...
Other Bt-cotton fields are severely infested with the sucking pest complex - jassids, aphids and thrips...
...the boll size, number of bolls and cotton weight in Bt-hybrids is less compared to non-Bt Cotton hybrids
Bt Cotton is severely affected by leaf curl and reddening of leaf was found as a result of both damage by jassids and leaf curl of TSV [Tobacco Streak Virus] transmitted by thrips [the incidence of TSV on Bt Cotton has been confirmed by various agencies...]
...[very close] non-Bt cotton fields are affected by these pests and diseases to a very low degree.
The overall growth of the Bt-crop was stunted... However, other non-Bt hybrid crops in the vicinity have grown above three feet... Farmers say they can expect a good crop from non-Bt fields.
From Kavitha Kuruganti of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh
Please find [below] a report of the visit of a Fact Finding Team to Adilabad district in Andhra Pradesh where villages in four blocks of the district were visited by the Team to look into the performance of Bt Cotton here. The team included eminent agriculture scientist and Advisor to the Andhra Pradesh Government, Dr K R Chowdhary.
Report of a Fact-Finding Team's visit on performance of Bt Cotton in Adilabad district, Andhra Pradesh [26th & 27th October, 2005]
Objective: To investigate into the widespread disease and pest damage in Bt Cotton being reported by farmers in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh. This effort is part of the monitoring of Bt Cotton by the MEC [Monitoring & Evaluation Committee] set up for the purpose .
Day One [26th October, 2005] - Kuntala and Sarangapur mandals
A 6-member team consisting of Dr. K R. Choudhary (Retd Prof. of Agricultural Economics and Adviser, Government of Andhra Pradesh in various programmes related to Agriculture and Member, Farmers’ Welfare Commission set up by the Government of Andhra Pradesh); Mr. Ramprasad and Mr G. Raja Shekar (Agricultural Scientists from CSA); Mr. A.P. Rao, Agricultural Scientist cum Head of CEAD, an NGO; Mr. Vinod and Ms. Vijaya Lakshmi, Field Coordinators from CEAD, a group of Bt Cotton- and Non Bt Cotton-growing farmers along with representatives from electronic media (TV9 crew) visited the village Thurati in Kuntala mandal and village Jam in Sarangapur mandal on 26th October 2005, to look into the incidence of pest and disease problems in cotton. The visit was prompted by reports emerging from the district on the apparent failure of Bt Cotton and farmers complaining about problems including low yields from Bt Cotton.
The team had a discussion with the cotton farmers of the villages to have an understanding about the performance of Bt and Non-Bt cotton. Farmers have sown different Bt cotton hybrids sold by various companies as well as illegal/unbranded Bt Cotton hybrids. Later the team visited the Bt Cotton and Non Bt Cotton fields along with farmers to verify the claims and promises made by the companies while marketing their Bt-cotton seed to farmers regarding pest resistance, reduction of pesticide sprays and higher yields.
* This season, the rainfall has been adequate and the incidence of bollworms is negligible in the region. Thurati has good black cotton soils and falls under regular cotton growing area. In the village, many farmers have sown both Bt Cotton (mainly, RCH 2 Bt) and Non Bt-cotton (Brahma) hybrids in their fields. Bt Cotton is severely affected by leaf curl and reddening of leaf was found as a result of both damage by jassids and leaf curl of TSV [Tobacco Streak Virus] transmitted by thrips [the incidence of TSV on Bt Cotton has been confirmed by various agencies like CICR, ICRISAT and ANGRAU from Adilabad too, along with other districts in AP; as has been noted by various reports, this is an unusual phenomenon on cotton, since TSV is known to infest sunflower and groundnut, and the incidence of the phenomenon has been higher on Bt Cotton, even as per official reports]. The very adjacent non-Bt cotton fields are affected by these pests and diseases to a very low degree.
* The overall growth of the Bt-crop was stunted with limited vegetative growth and plants did not grow above 3 feet height. Bt hybrids have very few sympodial branches and the number of bolls were found to be in the range of 10-30 - all the farmers have lost hopes on their Bt crops. However, other non-Bt hybrid crops in the vicinity have grown above three feet with very few reddened leaves, with numerous sympodial branches, with plants having 45 -50 bolls and many flowers at different growth stages. Farmers say they can expect a good crop from non-Bt fields.
* A farmer Mr. Chennayya (40) who has sown Bt cotton (Rasi-2), has incurred 100% loss, as his field was found to be stunted in growth of the crop, totally reddened without any greenery. The crop has small bolls with an average of 8-10 per plant, which are not opened. He has lost hopes and decided to plough out the 90 days' old cotton crop without even a single picking and go in for some minor millets.
* It was also noticed that some farmers who have sown unbranded / illegal Bt hybrids have also been affected adversely. For instance, a farmer Mr. Bheemanna who has sown 2 acres of these Bt seeds on his land has realized about 10 bolls per plant on his crop.
* From the discussion with the farmers it is evident that the situation of other farmers was not different. Mr. Muthyam (35), who has sown both Bt and non-Bt cotton felt the craze for Bt Cotton has resulted in the obvious "punishment" for them. One young farmer Mr. Gangaram (25) expressed his grief saying "Bt thechukuni beemari thechukunnam (we bought Bt and invited the disease)," and "after having seen, this no farmer from this village would go for Bt-cotton".
* In the village Jam in Sarangapur mandal, the condition of Bt-cotton crop was found to be not much different. Farmers here have sprayed several expensive insecticides like 'Avaunt', 'Tracer', 'Pride' all against the sucking pest complex (these chemicals, mainly used on bollworm complex, were used in desperation by the farmers in addition to regular pesticides used against sucking pests). However the non-Bt cotton fields were found to be far better without much investment. The farmers say that the Bt Cotton crop fared well in the previous season; though they are not aware of the Bt technology, they have adopted it on a large scale with the hope of getting higher yields without any pesticide sprays. This season, in spite of spraying, the Bt-crops are far behind the popular non-Bt cotton hybrids like Brahma, Bunny etc.
Day Two [October 27th, 2005] Jainadh and Thalamadugu mandals
The second day the Fact Finding Team visited Bt-cotton fields in Sirsanna and Lalgad villages from Jainadh and Thalamadugu mandals, respectively. The team included two CSA Scientists, Mr. Balraju from BASIX, an NGO, Ms. Rama and Ms. Latha from Indira Kranthi Patham, Adilabad. In this area, the State government had supported Non Pesticidal Management (NPM) program under Indira Kranthi Patham project, with support from Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and this is being implemented on cotton and paddy in 5 mandals of Adilabad district. The coordination of the program is taken up by an NGO called BASIX. We visited the villages in this area to study the performance of Bt-cotton in comparison with NPM-cotton.
* Majority of Bt-cotton farmers have sown Bt Cotton, mostly RCH 2 Bt of Rasi Seeds and Bunny Bt of Nuziveedu Seeds, both sub-licensees of Bollgard of Monsanto, on around 600 acres. Of this, about 150 farmers have sown unbranded / illegal Bt-cotton sold under the name 'Om-Bt' and 'Rajarani-Bt'.
* In the case of those farmers who had sown Bunny Bt Cotton, the seed did not germinate properly. What is interesting to note is that the farmers have not been compensated by the company, even though farmers who faced germination failure on Bunny Bt in other districts like Khammam have been compensated reportedly to a tune of 1.2 crores by the company.
* Other Bt-cotton fields are severely infested with the sucking pest complex - jassids, aphids and thrips. The plants were also found to be susceptible to angular leaf spot / TSV and most of the leaves turned red.
* The pest and disease infestation was found to be much less in the adjacent non-Bt cotton fields. During this Kharif 2005, the Cotton bollworms infestation is negligible therefore, farmers hardly sprayed any chemicals against the same (either in Bt Cotton or Non-Bt Cotton). However, the sucking pests' complex was found to be very high in Bt Cotton vis-a-vis Non Bt Cotton.
* The number of bolls on Bt-Cotton hybrids was found to be around 20 on an average with no further promising flowers and squares. Farmers feel they have no more hopes on the Bt-cotton crop.
From the discussion with farmers at village Thurati, Jam and Sirsanna, it was found that the weight of Bt cotton (kapas) is less in comparison with Non Bt cotton. In the previous season the farmers have sold their Bt cotton mixed with regular cotton to overcome this drawback.
Overall conclusions from the Fact Finding Team’s Visit:
* The awareness of farmers on how Bt cotton works (in terms of GM technology) is almost negligible. The dealers told them at the time of purchasing seed that this Bt-cotton need not be sprayed with pesticides and it yields 10-15 quintals per acre.
* Only around 50% of the farmers are aware of refugia and had sown 3-4 non-Bt rows. However, those who have sown unbranded Bt Cotton have no idea about this nor are they supplied with such refuge seed. No farmer is having knowledge about the reason behind sowing the rows non-Bt cotton seed around Bt-cotton fields as refugia. This once again brings into serious question resistance management plans and their implementation in this country.
* Most of the farmers reported that the Bunny-Bt Cotton hybrid did not germinate properly. However, they have not been compensated by the company and this shows an inconsistency in the company's response, having compensated farmers in other districts. The Fact Finding Team strongly feels that there should be pro-active steps taken by the government to put into place systems which will survey the situation on a wide scale when complaints by even a few farmers are received and to get farmers compensated. Right now, compensation seems to be possible only with intense agitations and direct action taken up by farmers.
* The vegetative growth of Bt-cotton hybrids was on par with the non-Bt hybrids. However, after reaching 60 days, with the increase in sucking pest complex the Bt-hybrids succumbed, where as non-Bt counterparts withstood the infestation to reasonable levels. The Bt Cotton crops turned red and stunted with vegetative as well as reproductive growth arrested / stopped.
* Most of the Bt-cotton fields were damaged by sucking pests (jassids, aphids and thrips - above ETL). The leaf curl disease and TSV transmitted by thrips and reddening of the crop by other sucking pests found severely only on Bt cotton. This once again confirms that the vulnerability of Bt Cotton to more incidence of sucking pests and resultant diseases is higher.
* Despite the tall claims made by dealers / companies, the farmers are forced to spray costly pesticides against sucking pests, without much benefit as the Bt Cotton hybrids are found to be highly susceptible to these pests. In the scenario of low bollworms incidence in this season, many farmers resorted to sprays only against the sucking pest complex.
* In our observation and farmers' perception, the boll size, number of bolls and cotton weight in Bt-hybrids is less compared to non-Bt Cotton hybrids. The Bt-cotton farmers met anticipate not more than 3 quintals per acre on an average, where as regular cotton growers are hopeful of above 5 quintals. The susceptibility of Bt-cotton hybrids to pests and diseases like leaf curl, angular leaf spot made the crop hopeless and farmers are planning to plough their field anticipating losses.
RECOMMENDATIONS & DEMANDS:
* The government should immediately and pro-actively put into place systems which would assess the situation of Bt Cotton vis-a-vis non-Bt Cotton in terms of pest and disease incidence, economics of investments and returns, other problems like newer diseases etc.
* Such an assessment should be done with civil society participation and the findings should be made accessible to the public
* The government should also put into place, in a pro-active manner, compensation mechanisms which would rely on simple procedures. Compensation cannot be provided only to farmers who agitate but to everyone who has incurred losses as per the assessment.
Note: The first hand information on Bt-cotton crops, with farmers' statements and observations of researchers on the crop status has been recorded by the Fact Finding Team in the farmers' fields. The information is accessible on request. The affected farmers / or their well-wishers may contact CSA for information on procedures for obtaining compensation for the crop loss.
Read the report of the Fact Finding Team's visit to Badwani:
Read THE MARKETING OF BT COTTON IN INDIA: AGGRESSIVE, UNSCRUPULOUS AND FALSE
Posted: November 8 2005