1. Editorial: To Bt, or not to Bt?

Editorial: To Bt, or not to Bt?

Cutting Bt seed prices will hit future R&D activity

By: | Published: September 7, 2015 12:24 AM

Prime minister Narendra Modi may be a great proponent of GM crops like Bt cotton—not surprising since this was the secret behind Gujarat’s annual 10%-farm growth for a decade—but his party’s government in Maharashtra seems to be intent on finishing off Bt. Not only has the Maharashtra government unilaterally decided to cut the prices of Bt cotton seeds by R100 per packet this season—each packet has 450 grammes of Bt ‘traited’ seed and 120 grammes of
‘untraited’ seed or ‘refugia’—according to Marathi daily Sakal, the state’s agriculture minister has said seed prices will be reduced by another R500 next year. The reduction in prices has, not surprisingly, been justified under the pretext of helping farmers, but in the long run, it will end up hurting them. Thanks to the use of Bt, cotton yields in the country have risen around 1.8 times since 2002 when the first variant was introduced by Monsanto. As a result, with a lot more profits for farmers, 95% of India’s cotton acreage is based on Bt today. Apart from the fact that farmers were not forced to use Bt, but moved to it due to the much larger profits since less money had to be spent in fighting the Bollgard worm which eats up the crop, it is worth keeping in mind that the royalty Monsanto gets—Rs 163 per bag—does not add up to even 1% of the cost of cultivation; in which case, what has been done is not even going to benefit the farmer in any meaningful manner, it is just a PR stunt to show the government is taking action.

What the reduction of the price, and the threat of further reduction does, however, is to ensure that licensees of Monsanto—and that includes several state government seed corporations as well—will no longer be able to pay the royalty, putting Monsanto’s entire revenue model in jeopardy. Indeed, Telangana has also issued an order that, while keeping the seed prices unchanged at Rs 930 for one type of Bt pack—the ones that use redgram seeds as ‘refugia’ cost are to cost Rs 862—dramatically lowers the royalty that Monsanto can charge. For Bollgard-II, royalty rates have been slashed from Rs 163 earlier to Rs 50. And, while Monsanto has signed licensing agreements with firms at the higher royalty, the government order says ‘the prices of components stated above shall have prevailing effect over the agreements, if any, among the participants of production, technology providers and seed suppliers … any non-compliance entails with consequences of penal actions as per the Act’.

If Bollgard-II was the last seed that Monsanto was developing, unfair as they are, the Maharashtra/Telangana actions wouldn’t have mattered as much. But, as in the case of antibiotics, the effect of Monsanto’s protein-enhancement wears off over a period of time. Which is why, the firm is in the process of getting regulatory approvals for a combination of Bollgard-II with its Roundup Ready Flex herbicide, and even a Bollgard-III. Indeed, with its $1.7 billion global R&D spending each year, Monsanto’s research budget exceeds that of the Indian government. Surely, with the need for more R&D in seeds—drought-resistant, flood-resistant, salinity-resistant, and a whole lot more—you would think the government would want to get more firms like Monsanto to work on India-specific solutions. Cutting their technology fees and jeopardising relationships with licensees is certainly not the way to go about doing this. If that is so, perhaps the prime minister could at least talk to chief ministers of states where his party is in power?

  1. Mark Donners
    Sep 7, 2015 at 12:07 am
    GMO and its ociated lethal pesticides and herbicides are dangerous poisons. Eating genetically modified corn (GM corn) and consuming trace levels of Monsanto's Roundup chemical fertilizer caused rats to develop horrifying tumors, widespread organ damage, and premature death. rats exposed to even the smallest amounts, "developed mammary tumors and severe liver and kidney damage as early as four months in males, and seven months for females." The animals on the GM diet suffered mammary tumors, as well as severe liver and kidney damage. Everywhere GMO is being grown, food allergies, disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others have been skyrocketing in the human potions. There has been a drastic decline of crop-pollinating insects all over the world, and this means a catastrophe for the future of the world's food supply. Wild pollinators like bumblebees, butterflies, and beetles are basically disappearing. GMO industrial agricultural practices are causing this insect genocide. Pollinating insects in general, which include a wide range of insects and other animals, are simply vanishing from their normal habitats and foraging areas. That lower diversity and lower abundance of wild insects means less fruits and destruction of the diversity of plants and their fruits worldwide. GMOs cross pollinate and their seeds can travel. It is impossible to fully clean up our contaminated gene pool. Self-propagating GMO pollution will outlast the effects of global warming and nuclear waste. The potential impact is huge, threatening the health of future generations. GMO contamination has also caused economic losses for organic and non-GMO farmers who often struggle to keep their crops pure. GMOs increase herbicide use. Most GM crops are engineered to be "herbicide tolerant"―surviving deadly weed killers. Monsanto, for example, sells Roundup Ready crops, designed to survive applications of their Roundup herbicide. Between 1996 and 2008, US farmers spra an extra 383 million pounds of herbicide on GMOs. Overuse of Roundup results in "superweeds," resistant to the herbicide. This is causing farmers to use even more toxic herbicides every year. Not only does this create environmental harm, GM foods contain higher residues of toxic herbicides. Roundup, for example, is linked with sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects, and cancer. GM crops and their ociated herbicides can harm birds, insects, amphibians, marine ecosystems, and soil organisms. They reduce bio-diversity, pollute water resources, and are unsustainable. For example, GM crops are eliminating habitat for monarch butterflies, whose potions are down 50% in the US. Roundup herbicide has been shown to cause birth defects in amphibians, embryonic deaths and endocrine disruptions, and organ damage in animals even at very low doses. GM canola has been found growing wild in North Dakota and California, threatening to p on its herbicide tolerant genes on to weeds. By mixing genes from totally unrelated species, genetic engineering unleashes a host of unpredictable side effects. Moreover, irrespective of the type of genes that are inserted, the very process of creating a GM plant can result in mive collateral damage that produces new toxins, allergens, carcinogens, and nutritional deficiencies. GMOs do NOT increase yields, and work against feeding a hungry world. Whereas sustainable non-GMO agricultural methods used in developing countries have conclusively resulted in yield increases of 79% and higher, GMOs do not, on average, increase yields at all. This was evident in the Union of Concerned Scientists' 2009 report Failure to Yield―the definitive study to date on GM crops and yield. The toxins ociated with GMO should never be tolerated. NEONICOTINOID PESTICIDE neurotoxins are absolutely the main factor causing the collapse of bee and pollinator potions along with other lethal chemicals, Agent Orange herbicides, glysophate, etc. When these poisons are banned as they were in Europe the bee potions start to recover. GMO neonicotinoids, roundup etc. MUST BE BANNED OUTRIGHT and all the farmers along with USDA, Biotech and chemical companies told to cease and desist from what they are doing. An even scarier prospect: the "BT" version of GMO soybeans and corn, (basically pesticides engineered directly into the plant ) The "BT toxin" gene is put into the DNA of the corn in order for it to manufacture its own toxins that kill pests. The BT gene originated from a soil bacteria that also infiltrates the microflora (friendly digestive bacteria) in your gut. The Bt gene converts the microflora in your intestine into toxin-manufacturing machines. So, to be clear, eating GMO corn products can cause your gut (which is primarily responsible for keeping you healthy) to turn into a breeding ground for tiny little pesticide factories inside your body, actively creating toxins which are designed to kill living things. These toxins are found in the blood and are readily transferred across the placenta to developing babies in the womb.
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