GM cotton has not improved yields, but it has ruined sustainable agriculture

Wednesday, February 09, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: GM cotton, agriculture, health news

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(NaturalNews) Remember the promises made by Monsanto that genetically-modified (GM) crops would bring higher yields and a better quality of life to the world? A recent study put forth by anthropologists from Washington University (WU) in St. Louis has revealed that Bt cotton, a type of GM cotton that produces its own insecticide, is causing significant problems for sustainable farm management, while offering little to no actual increases in yield.

First introduced in India in 2002, Bt cotton has been the source of much controversy because it simply has not lived up to its promises. A recent report in the U.K. Independent, for instance, explains that at least 200,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide in the past decade because of losing everything to Bt cotton failures ( And now, further research is showing that the "frankencrops" are exacerbating other problems on farms, including the rise of damaging pests not warded off by the cotton's built-in insecticide.

"[W]e are seeing erosion of benefits (with Bt cotton) as non-target pest populations are booming," says Glenn Stone, Ph.D., professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences at WU, and author of a paper on the issue that appears in the journal World Development. "It has also brought a quickening of technological change and undecipherability, which is the real underlying problem."

Though Bt cotton appears to have brought about a slight increase in yields, based on certain statistics, Stone explains that yields were already on the rise prior to the introduction of Bt cotton. And the same problems that plagued agriculture prior to Bt cotton -- many of which were caused by other unsustainable farming practices -- have only become worse now that Bt cotton is the norm in many Indian villages.

"I would love to see Bt seeds as a real solution to these farmers' insect problems, as many have claimed, but this may be a bit naive," he writes. "Each new technology -- hybrids, then pesticide after pesticide -- brought about short-term gains but further eroded farm management."

At least with conventional cotton varieties, farmers were able to save and reuse seeds, and operate independently from the control of powerful biotechnology giants like Monsanto. Now, those who have adopted Bt cotton are stuck in Monsanto's clutches with little to no remedy.

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