Bt firms pulled up for unethical sales

New Delhi, Nov 18 | Updated: Nov 19 2005, 07:00am hrs
The National Commission on Farmers (NCF) has pulled up the seed companies for their aggressive advertisement which has resulted in several misgivings.

The commission headed by Dr MS Swaminathan observed: Genetic literacy (amongst farmers) has been generally low as most of the Bt cotton farmers grew no refugia and did not provide recommended isolation distances needed for preventing cross-pollination between Bt and non-Bt strains so as to reduce the chances for breakdown of resistance to bollworm in Bt cotton varieties.

A general misgiving prevails, may be partly due to aggressive advertisement by seed companies, that the Bt cotton needs no pesticide applications, forgetting that the Bt provides protection (often not 100%) only against bolloworms. For controlling other pests, which at times assume serious proportions, such as aphids and white fly, pesticides will need to be applied as per recommendations.

The commissions observation of aggressive advertisement by seed companies confirms the allegations made by a network of over 20 NGOs in its recent report that foul practices were adopted for selling Bt cotton seeds to farmers. The concerned seeds companies have, however, denied this allegation.

Summing up its recent consultations with farmers (on Sept 22, 2005), the commission noted that some participants reported failure of Bt cotton due to drought and multiple pest epidemics, while reported additional net profit of at least about Rs 12,000 per hectare and about 40% to 50% savings in the pesticide use and in the number of sprays.

Speaking to FE, the executive chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS), Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary said that he had submitted a detailed reports about failure of Bt cotton in India over the past three years and also reports of GM crops being derminatal to farmers in other parts of the globe. Not much of my report has been incorporated. Rather the commission in its report has mispelt my organisation as Bharatiya Kisan Sangh and Bharatiya Kisan Union at different places.

Bharat Krishak Samaj is the premier farmers organisation in the country having over 5 m members. It is an irony that the commission has no knowledge about farmers organisations, he said.

Dr Chaudhary, however, complimented the commission to incorporate his view that Syngentas efforts to patent the rice genome and other such moves should be resisted. Apart from Dr Chaudhary, Vijay Jawandhia, chairman, Shetkari Sangathan, Mahendra Singh Tikait, president, Bharatiya Kisan Union and others pointed out failure of Bt cotton in different place, while Mr P Chengal Reddy of Industry-Farmers Alliance and others openly supported propogation of transgenic technology in agriculture.