Not just Bt
Apropos of the editorial “To Bt, or not to Bt?” (September 7, FE) GM technology is a very controversial subject and the success of Bt cotton in Gujarat is largely due to the fact that farmers had the benefits of more than 100,000 newly constructed checkdams apart from the highly fertile soils that were under groundnut cultivation for several years before cotton was taken up. On the other hand, Bt cotton failed in Vidarbha as the area suffers from two key natural disadvantages: Soils are shallow and rains are erratic, making farming a risky business. Cotton, considered a hardy crop, is among the few that can survive these conditions. What has largely not been reported is the fact that none of the vast majority of Bt hybrids would have been able to sustain that onslaught of leaf hopper infestation without seed treated with imidacloprid. Gaucho, as it was known commercially, has been used in India since 2000 and was known to have contributed to at least 25% to 30% yield enhancement in the conventional hybrids, long before Bt cotton was introduced in the country. Therefore, it is probable that the new pesticides, new hybrids, new micro-irrigation systems, new areas, and Bt-cotton together may have been effectively contributing to the enhanced rate of production and productivity. The role of Bt cotton in effectively protecting the crop from bollworms cannot be underestimated, but need not be over-hyped either. Insects have shown an uncanny knack to develop resistance over time to any technology that we device, including highly poisonous chemicals, and, therefore, we should be always watchful. Resistance is a natural phenomenon and expected. Fearing resistance, we cannot give up any useful technology on hand.
MM Gurbaxani, Bengaluru
The real medical emergency
This refers to the edit, “Doctors proscribed” (September 5, FE). There is one more angle to the battery of tests prescribed by doctors. Apart from their questionable necessity, what about the manipulation of results? Test results may be manipulated to further fleece patients, who are usually not medically literate enough to recognise fake test results. In case of unnecessary surgeries, too, this is the root cause. In India, hospitals are reluctant to give patients their medical papers,which are patients’ property, and there is no culture of seeking second opinion. In the UK, there is the Data Protection Act,under which a patient can demand medical records from the hospitals. India also needs a law on this subject. Hospitals must give patients their records so that these can be checked by other doctors to see if the tests/surgeries are really necessary.
Deendayal M Lulla, Mumbai