NGO findings on Bt cotton raise a stink

New Delhi, Nov 15 | Updated: Nov 16 2005, 05:58am hrs
Reacting strongly to the studies done by a network of local NGOs reporting failures of Bt cotton crops in parts of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, the Delhi-based Gene Campaign has called for legal action against the regulatory body for approving these crops for commercial cultivation.

The Gene Campaign convenor, Dr Suman Sahai, in a Press statement said: Legal action under the Environment Protection Act should be instituted against members of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) for criminal negligence and willful suppression of facts in the Bt cotton case, leading to grave economic losses to the farming community, resulting in several instances of farmers suicides.

Dr Sahai said a number of studies conducted by some agencies, including government departments, have reported over the last three to four years that Bt cotton had failed in many regions and farmers suffered huge losses. GEAC had so far not taken any action in this regard, she alleged.

Dr Sahai also mentioned that a study conducted by the Nagpur-based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) showed the resistance of Bt cotton crops to targeted pests reduced over a period of time. The Gene Campaign study on the first harvest of Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra in 2002-03 showed that the crop performed so poorly that 60% of the farmers could not even recover their investment.

A network of over 20 local NGOs had earlier reported that the seed companies used fraudulent means to market Bt cotton seeds this year. The marketing divisions of the seed companies concerned, however, denied that any such foul means was adopted. The NGOs also spoke of prevalence of Tobacco Streak Virus in Bt cotton in parts of Andhra Pradesh. They said the incidence of this virus was confirmed by CICR, ICRISAT and ANGRAU. Also reportedly found by the NGO network was an incidence of wilt in Bt cotton in parts of Madhya Pradesh and germination failure of Bt cotton in some pockets of Tamil Nadu.

The NGO organisation consisted of Adivasi Ekta Sangathan, AKRSP, CEAD, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Grameen Vikas Trust, Greenpeace India, Jan Saahas, Kheti Virasat Mission, Krishnadevaraya Rythu Sankshema Sangam, Krushi, MARI, Navajyothi, Pasumai Tayagam, Prasun, Rashtriya Satyagrah Dal, Sampark, Sarvodaya Youth Organisation, SECURE, VASPA and YUVA.