|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Expert demands inquiry into Bt cotton cultivation
By Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | September 29, 2005 00:57 IST
The story of Bt cotton cultivation in India is getting murkier by the day and it deserves a full fledged inquiry on all aspects, said Dr Suman Sahai of 'Gene Campaign'.
In a press conference in New Delhi, Sahai told media that multinational corporations are having vested interests in the cultivation of Bt cotton and it's high time the Indian government stood up for the farmers and consumers of India.
The letters 'Bt' stand for Bacillus thuringiensis, a toxin-producing bacterium found naturally in soils. Scientists have, with the help of genetic engineering, separated toxin producing genes to produce certain seeds. Pests die when they eat Bt cotton plants.
The United States company Monsanto is enjoying monopoly over the most used variety of cotton seed Bollgard.
After a large number of suicides of debt-ridden farmers due to use of fake varieties of seed, and campaigning by non-government organisations, Andhra Pradesh has banned Monsanto Bt cotton which is distributed with help of Mahyco.
Dr Sahai said that, it is criminal on the part of the government and on the part of the regulatory authority to pretend that all is well with Bt cotton when there is so much evidence that it is not.
In the biotech industry, Bt cotton is a critical technology for the success of the marketing of genetically modified agriculture all over the world.
For India, the issue raised by Dr Sahai deserves attention because the government's monitoring is not only weak, but absolutely inadequate and inefficient, believe the experts.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee haven't been able to respond satifactorily to most arguments against the failure of Bt cotton varieties.
Dr Sahai alleged that "despite corroborated reports of failure, Monsanto has refused to pay any compensation to Indian farmers who have suffered losses and GEAC has not taken any action in this regard".
The issue deserves attention also because Dr Mangala Rai, director general of Indian Council of Agricultural Research is currently engaged in deliberations with a powerful team within the government over how to bring about a second green revolution in India with the help of US technology.
"Indo-US nuclear deal's quid pro quo is the agriculture deal signed with the US," Dr Sahai said.
Commenting on the huge economic interest and aggressive marketing of multinationals, she added, "It's obvious that America allowed us the access to nuclear technology and in return asked India to allow an access to the Indian agriculture market for American biotech companies."
Dr Sahai, in support of her argument to demand a through inquiry against Bt cotton cultivation, quoted a startling example of well-known scientist Dr Kranthi belonging to the Cotton Research Institute of Nagpur.
Dr Sahai alleges that Dr Kranthi published a paper in the scientific journal Current Science providing scientific data on how Bt cotton is not very effective in India.
Dr Sahai picked up from there and quoted him in The Hindu to prove that Bt cotton technology is faulty and doesn't protect farmers against the boll-worm.
But Dr Kranthi retaliated soon. He wrote a column in The Hindu absolving himself and his boss Dr Mangala Rai.
About his evidence in the scientific journal, Dr Kranthi says that Bt cotton "has a few inherent adequacies. That does not take away the merit of the technology".
Dr Kranthi has described Bt cotton as a brilliant technology.
The tussle between the two scientists has raised a cloud over Monsanto's future plans in India.
Dr Sahai says that farmers need to answer why Bt cotton hybrids in India were unstable and unpredictable. She says that everything should be on hold till the inquiry is made.
She said one of the causes of farmers' suicides in India was a failure of Bt cotton cultivation and cultivation of fake and illegal variety of Bt cotton. Dubious seeds are a major threat to Indian farmers.