The Indian documentary film maker Pavitra Chalam delivered a hard-hitting report on GMOs in India at the Convergence Festival in Dublin two weeks ago.
The full text of the talk (together with its multiple references) has beenmade available with permission via Ireland's excellent Planorganic website -www.planorganic.com.
Planorganic's editor, the redoubtable and multi-talented Jim O'Connor, notesthat Pavitra exposes a "catalogue of horrors". It's a catalogue that includes the industry's "doctored reports" and the "financial ruin ofgrowers". http://www.planorganic.com/news&comment.htm
The second item below contains Devinder Sharma's reflections on how smalland marginal farmers in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh, in tandem withthe State's many landless labourers, have given their devastating electoralverdict on the anti-poor "economic reforms" there, which included theintroduction of GM crops. These plans, known as the Vision 2020 programme,have been heavily backed by the World Bank together with the UK Government'sDepartment for International Development (DfID).
In September 2002, DfID was exposed as running a GBP13.4m programme tocreate a new generation of GM animals, crops and drugs throughout the ThirdWorld. The previously unpublicised programme had financed research in morethan 24 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe into at least 80GM projects. DfID was accused by Dr Sue Mayer of having "deceived" thepublic about the scale of the programme.
The controversial GBP65m DFID aid programme to support Vision 2020 in AndhraPradesh - a programme which critics allege will help push 20 millionsubsistence farmers off their land - was assessed by a citizens' jury with'scenario workshops' (or 'prajapeertu'), conducted by social scientistsamong poor farmers and landless labourers in Andhra Pradesh. Their verdictwas a unanimous rejection of the Vision 2020 programme.
Andhra Pradesh's farmers and labourers appear to have now delivered thatverdict once again, sweeping AP's Chief Minister away in a tidal wave of discontent.
For more on DfID, the prajapeertu etc.http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=175
1.Pavitra Chalam's talk at the Convergence Festival in Dublin
2.AP debacle : Angry farmers give their verdict
1.Pavitra Chalam's talk at the Convergence Festival in Dublin
[well worth reading online for all the embedded links to source material]
INDIA is the third largest producer of cotton after China and the U.S. TheMaharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Ltd Mahyco is one of the largest and mosttrusted seed companies in India. In 1998,after 8 years of negotiation,Monsanto became a 50% shareholder in the company and received approval toconduct countrywide field trials. The data compiled was never made public.
On the 26th of March 2002 the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee ofIndia, gave the conditional clearance to Monsanto and Mahyco for commercialplanting of the genetically engineered Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt.) cottonin four states of southern and central India.
In June 2002, about 55,000 cotton farmers decided to grow Bt cotton, whichwas developed by inserting a gene of bacteria into the plant’s genome toenable it to resist bollworm, a major pest for cotton.
In the first few months the farmers were delighted with the crop since itgrew fast and looked healthy. Most satisfying was that the leaves were notbeing eaten by worms.
Unfortunately, in the fourth month, the Bt cotton stopped growing andproducing new buds while the existing cotton bolls did not get any bigger.The crop then wilted and dried up at the peak bolling stage. This wasaccompanied by leaf-drooping and shedding. There was also bursting ofimmature bolls and heavy infestation of bollworm. In the state of AndhraPradesh 79% of the crop was lost. In Madhya Pradesh 100% of the crop waslost. In Maharastra, the Bt crop has failed across 30,000 hec. In Gujarat,it was completely destroyed by the bollworm.
Subsequently, about 200 farmers committed suicide.
The Bt. cotton failure has cost the farming industry a total loss of Rs.1128 million or twenty million euro in 105000 acres across the country inone cropping season. The law states that any company that provides poorquality seeds, the performance of which does not match the claims made bythe company, is to be held liable for the failure of the variety. Despitethis Monsanto has refused to acknowledge the failure or provide anycompensation to the farmers.
Monsanto claimed that the crop would be completely pest resistant. Resultshave clearly shown that the BT cotton crop was devastated by pest attacks.When the BT toxin in the crop proved ineffective in 90 days the farmers usedpesticides bought from Monsanto. The spraying of these expensive pesticideshad an adverse affect on the crop. Theplants developed the leaf curl virus and the root rot disease and weredestroyed. Monsanto took no responsibility.
Monsanto claimed that the crop would be resistant to the bollworm providedthat there was a 20 percent refuge crop of non-BT cotton planted alongsidethe BT crop. This would ensure that the bollworm would attack only theconventional crop.
In reality however the bollworm not only attacked the conventional crop butalso devastated the bt crop. A relative of the American bollworm called thepink bollworm developed with immunity to the BT toxin.
Also in these instances, the 20% refuge of conventional crop actuallyyielded a better harvest. In most cases it was only the conventional refugecrop that survived. Again Monsanto took no responsibility.
Monsanto claimed that there would be no attack from any other pests. But inreality sucking pests like Jassids, aphids and Thrips thrived on the Bt.Cotton. The sprays bought from Monsanto to control these pests were seventimes more expensive than conventional sprays even though Monsanto hadoriginally claimed that they would notbe necessary.
Monsanto claimed that the yields of the bt cotton crop would be 15 timeshigher than the average yield of conventional cotton. But nowhere in thesurviving farms did the crop exceed the average yield. A good bt cropproduced 60 cotton bolls per plant while the conventional plant produced 250to 300. The seeds cost the farmers four times morethan the conventional seeds even though they have to be bought on a yearlybasis, as they cannot reproduce. The labor costs also increased by 50%.
Following the dire publicity over the performance of its GM (Bt) cotton inIndia, and with many poor Indian farmers facing ruin, Monsanto-Mahyco cameup with findings which it provided to the Indian government showing that ithad been a great success. Greenpeace-India sent its own researchers to checkup on how the data had been compiledand, amongst much else, the researchers collected testimonies from farmerswho said that they had been advised by the company to inflate their realyield figures.
Monsanto claims that the negative publicity against them has been fabricatedby competitors. They do not believe that they owe the Indian farmers anycompensation and plan to continue with the sale of their seeds.
In studies carried out, it has been demonstrated that gm crops transfertheir genes to soil fungi and bacteria. The affected fungi and bacteria thenbehave in abnormal ways and diminish their function in breaking down organicmaterial, which makes nutrients available to plants. The soil will becomeprogressively less fertile. After a few seasons ofplanting the gm crop the soil will not be able to host any otherconventional crop. If farmers wish to switch back to conventional crops itcould take a whole season to rehabilitate the soil. The economicconsequences of which are clearly unfavorable. There is also the added costof nutrients and fertilizers necessary to regenerate the soil. However themost dangerous threat is that after many seasons it could be impossible torevert back to the planting of any conventional crop. Because by then thesoil could be completely infertile.
GM crops are genetically manipulated so that they die after one season andcannot reproduce. This is referred to as the terminator gene in the plant.It is promoted as a means of preventing transgenic contamination to othercrops. This has proved to be false. It actually spreads not only malesterility but also herbicide tolerance in other crops. Thepollen from the crops carrying the Terminator will infect the fields offarmers who either reject, or cannot afford the technology.
Any farmer whose crops are contaminated will then have to label all theirproduce as "gm contaminated". Monsanto can also sue them for the theft ofgenes.
This spread of transgenes has been found in maize landraces in remoteregions of Mexico. In Canada, 32 out of 33 commercial seed stocks have beenfound to be contaminated. Pollen remains airborne for hours. As a result,there can be no co-existence of GM and non-GM crops.
It has already been shown by studies that nearly half the caterpillars ofMonarch butterflies died when fed on pollen genetically modified with Bt(Bacillus thuringiensis). Some varieties of GM oilseed rape have been foundto destroy the ability of bees to detect flower smells. A major seed dealerin the United States has said that there isevidence that earthworms are dying from the effects of Bt corn.
Glufosinate ammonium and glyphosate, used with herbicide tolerant GM cropsthat currently account for 75% of all GM crops worldwide, are both metabolicpoisons. It is toxic to a number of beneficial insects, to larvae of clamsand oysters, Daphnia and some freshwater fish, especially the rainbow trout.Monsanto will not take responsibility for the harmful effects of thesechemicals on the afore mentioned species. Dr Arpad Pusztai’s study showedthat experimental rats fed on GM potatoes suffered damage to their internalorgans. The only study that has been carried out on human beings revealedthat gm food transfers its modified genes to bacteria in the human gut.
Once a new species comes to life as a result of genetic manipulation withplants, animals and humans. Who will be held accountable?
On the 2nd of January 2003 it was reported that the plan for the "protato"was presented at a conference in London by G. Padmanaban who as director ofIndia's prestigious Indian Institute of Science had signed a secret dealwith Monsanto that even his fellow scientists of the Institute knew nothingabout.
The genetically engineered potato that is now being offered as part of ananti-hunger strategy has genes from the plant amaranth.
Particularly when fed to children under the age of 13 the geneticallyengineered potato will in fact create malnutrition. It denies to childrenthe other nutrients available in grain amaranth and not available in potato.This genetically engineered potato will in fact spread iron and calciumdeficiency in children. The already malnourished children, who will be themain consumers of the protato, stand to suffer even greater deficiencies.
The cow has been made sacred in India because it is a keystone species foragro-ecosystems. And cow dung, biomass and biodiversity are the non-violentorganic alternative to genetic engineering and chemicals.
Farmer's organizations in India and in Africa are saying "no" to GMOs on thebasis of their freedom to choose to be organic. This means being free ofgenetic contamination that results from GM crops. Genetic contamination robsfarmers of their freedom to be GM free. Organic agriculture in India isincreasing farm productivity by 2 to 3 times,increasing farmers incomes, and protecting public health and theenvironment.
A major factor in agriculture is the availability of water. Bt cottonconsumes much more water than non-Bt hybrids do. The ruin faced by thefarmers is of critical interest to India, which has the world's largestacreage of cotton (25% at nine million hectares) but accounts for just alittle over 12% of the production. The BT cotton disaster decreasedproduction dramatically creating havoc in the Indian economy.
On the 7th of March 2003 India went on to reject 23,000 tonnes of GMcorn-Soya blend. This shipment was a part of the $ 100 million USgovernment's annual food aid to parts of India that suffer from chronicmalnutrition.
On the 5th of January 2004, the Indian government announced details of asix-year plan to develop new genetically engineered crops that will providebetter nutrition. Government scientists say this kind of research isurgently needed to improve the health of the developing world. The "PlantGenome Research Road-Map", as it's called, was unveiled at the IndianScience Congress.
The Indian movement against GM will continue to fight any geneticmanipulation of crops that might be proposed by the government ormultinationals. Farmers across the country have declared themselves Gm freeand have been staging protests and forming movements like Quit IndiaMonsanto and Cremate Monsanto. Activists in India believe that neitheraffluent populations nor those struggling to survive have the need for aninadequately tested technology that has the potential to cause devastationon a global scale in the years to come. We have no need for a technologythat has proved beyond doubt to be fatal to the environment.
This has been our experience in India, the question you have to askyourselves is what will happen to Ireland when the first geneticallymodified crop is planted?
My report contains information from research carried out by the followinginstitutions:
1) Research foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, India
2) Forum for biotechnology and food security, New Delhi
3) The AgBioIndia bulletin
4) Greenpeace India
For further information on the content in the report please visit thefollowing links.
Other links of interest:
Angry farmers gave the verdict
By Devinder Sharma
Mr N Chandrababu Naidu has been swept away by the tidal wave of the angryfarmers. The small and marginal farmers, in tandem with the landlesslabourers, who constitute nearly 80-90 per cent of Andhra Pradesh 80 millionpeople, have given their verdict: the industry-sponsored economic reformsare anti-poor.
The electoral debacle in Andhra Pradesh is in reality a slap on the face ofWorld Bank and the British DFID. Both these organisations have pumped inhuge finances to push in an industry-driven agriculture that has not onlyexacerbated the crisis leading to an environmental catastrophe but has alsodestroyed millions of rural livelihoods. While the Chief Minister, who tookpride in being called as Chief Executive Officer, was blindly selling primeland for a song in the heart of the capital city, Hyderabad, to theinformation and biotechnology industry, he remained oblivious to the plightof the majority population in the countryside.
The World Bank had backed up Naidu's brand of economic reforms. In fact, theWorld Bank had bypassed the democratic norms of governance that suggest thatevery credit that it provides has to be routed through the nationalgovernments. Much of the Bank's lending to Andhra Pradesh did not involvethe Indian government. The BJP-led Coalition at the Centre turned a blindeye to the financial faux pas simply because Mr Naidu’s TDP was a majorCoalition ally. The British DFID on the other hand pumped in millions ofpounds to support Mr Naidu’s illogical Vision 2020 programme. Despitecriticism, DFID merrily went on increasing investment in the name of ruraldevelopment raising serious questions about the validity, necessity and thereasons behind the enhanced funding.
In reality, it was all aimed at making it smoother for the industry to movein. The Vision 2020 document talked of reducing the number of farmers in thestate to 40 per cent of the population, and did not have any significantprogramme to adequately rehabilite the remaining 30 per cent of the farmingpopulation. The objective was to promote the commercial interests of theagribusiness companies (read foreign financial institutes and internationalbankers) and the IT hardware units. All benefit would have accrued to thesecompanies in the name of farmers. In fact, these two sectors, along withbiotechnology, were being heavily subsidised in the name of efficiency andinfrastructure whereas the poor farmers were being divested of the theironly source of income their meagre land holdings.
Andhra Pradesh in reality was fast turning into a BIMARU state (an euphemismfor backward states). Thousands of farmers were migrating every seasonlooking for menial jobs in the urban centres. Mofussil newspapers in theheartland of the cyberstate that’s how Mr Naidu wanted the state to becalled were full of advertisements inviting people to mortgage their goldand silver belongings. Livestock deaths and the plight of dalits and otherlandless and marginalised no longer adorned the headlines. Farmers wereasked not to produce more rice (the staple food) as the State had no placeto stock it. Farmers suicides had become so common that Mr Naidu hadactually sent team of psychiatrists to convince them against taking theirown lives.
Believe it or not, daily wage workers in Andhra Pradesh can still be hiredat a price that their counterparts in Bihar would scoff at. And yet, theignorent media despised the maverick political leader Laloo Prashad Yadavfor taking his state Bihar to economic backwardness whereas Mr Naidu wasshowered by all kinds of accolodes. Such was the extent and level of povertythat Andhra Pradesh also topped the country in the percentage of womenentering prostitution and trafficking. Mr Naidu on the other hand ignoredthe writing on the wall and went about holding web conferences with hisbureaucracy much to the chagrin of the national media, which painted him asthe poster boy for economic reforms and the techno-savvy CEO.
No wonder, the national newspapers as well as the TV channels, are nowembarrassed at the outcome of the Andhra Pradesh election results. And yet,no lessons are being learnt. Newspapers have already quoted the secretarygeneral of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry(FICCI), Mr Amit Mitra as saying "economic initiatives in the IT andservices sector should be extended to the rural areas and to such industriesas food processing and rural industry". In the days to come, more and moreindustrialists would chant the economic mantra to push forth their owncommercial interests. The industry refuses to accept that it was because ofits own over-indulgence that Mr Naidu paid a heavy price. For the industryit doesn’t matter who is in power. What matters is how its commercialinterests have to be furthered.
The tragedy is that while the farmers have delivered their verdict, thepoliticians are not willing to accept it. This is where the politicalequations have gone wrong, this is where the Indian democracy has reachedsuperficial heights. The tragedy is that the line between the ruling partyand the opposition has blurred. Both follow the same economic prescriptionsthat have no connection with the ground realities. The Congress too is bentupon pushing the economic reforms, and has the same direction for theagriculture sector that Mr Naidu falsy banked upon. The thrust on IT andbiotechnology, as well as on agribusiness industry, will therefore remainintact.
For the Andhra Pradesh farmers, while the electoral battle has beensuccessful the war against hunger, deprivation and increasing poverty isstill to be won. They will have to stand up to the economic policies of thenew government, which for reasons of political compulsions, may not besignificantly different from Mr Naidu’s. It is in this connection that thefarmers would require the help of civil society that can highlight theissues, create public opinion, and then force the policy makers to behave.It is surely a long fight. It is surely a struggle for the rights of thepoor and downtrodden that has to be faught at various levels.
The first hurdle has already been crossed. Let us prepare for the second andmost difficult stage of contest to change the economic policies in favourof the poor. After all, they too are human beings, are made up of the sameblood and flesh and have the right to survive in the inglorious and cruelworld of market economy, which shift welfare benefits to the rich and makethe poor more vulnerable.