Originally published February 22 2013
Innocent farmers being blamed for failure of Monsanto's frankencrops
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) So, if you're a farmer and your yields are consistently lower each year, it's your fault, right?
If you're using a Monsanto product, then the company would tell you yes, indeed it is your fault.
But what happens when Monsanto-designed Bt cotton in India, which is supposed to be resistant to the voracious bollworm, isn't? The company would step up and take responsibility then, of course. Right?
Wrong. In that case, it is still not Monsanto's fault. At least, that's what the company says.
That's because, according to the agri-business giant, some resistance to its creation is "natural and expected."
Here's the story.
'Genetic farming is the easiest way to cultivate crops'
A decade ago, when they first began planting Bt cotton, Indian farmers were told the Monsanto creation was supposed to boost yields in part by keeping the bollworm at bay.
"Of all the GMO controversies around the world, the saga of Bt cotton in India continues to be one of the most interesting and important," the Center for Research on Globalization said in a recent report. "In the latest chapter...cotton yields have dropped to a five-year low, setting off a fascinating round of finger pointing."
Following India's approval of Bt cotton in 2002, yields initially were up dramatically, but they have begun to fall in recent years in part because the one pest the crop was designed to repel is becoming resistant.
That's not what Indian farmers were led to believe.
"I was there when Bt cotton was being rolled out and they were told repeatedly and confidently that they wouldn't have to spray anymore," the center's Glenn Davis Stone wrote. "In fact we were all being told that 'genetic farming is the easiest way to cultivate crops. All that farmers have to do is to plant the seeds and water them regularly. The genetically modified seeds are insect resistant, so there is no need to use huge amounts of pesticides.'"
"All the farmer has to do is plant and water the seeds... and then wait around for resistance, which is natural and expected. But wait there's more: when it does appear, it's the Indian farmers' fault," he writes.
A Monsanto spokesman, as reported by the Business Standard, explained:
Among the factors that may have contributed to pink bollworm resistance to the Cry1Ac protein in Gujarat are limited refuge planting and early use of unapproved Bt cotton seed, planted prior to GEAC approval of Cry1Ac cotton, which may have had lower Bt protein expression levels.
A refuge, Stone says, "is a strip of non-Bt seeds farmers are asked to plant around their Bt fields, basically to raise bollworms that aren't resistant to Bt, so they can hopefully breed with any resistant bollworms."
Few Indian farmers do this because, he says, it involves a lot of extra work for little return. But that's not their fault, notes Stone.
"Here's an insight from 30 years of research on farming: if you're pushing a technology that is only sustainable if farmers follow practices that require extra work for no return, you are pushing an unsustainable technology," he said.
He also debunks Monsanto's claim that the farmers are at fault because they planted unapproved seeds.
"Those unapproved seeds were Navbharat-151 and they have been much written about; they were better than the approved seeds, and their Bt levels were apparently sky high. Gujarat, where they were planted, has had India's biggest rises in yields," he says.
All the while, cotton yields continue to drop because of the Monsanto's defective product, the answer; the company says, is to simply plant more of the GM seed.
The Business Standard reported that:
Continuous R&D and innovation to develop new value-added technologies is imperative to stay ahead of insect resistance. To support such innovation, Monsanto demanded government policies' support to encourage investment in R&D which will result in Indian farmers having a wider choice of better and advanced technologies translating thereby, higher yield.
"No kidding," Stone writes, "innovation from Monsanto is going to keep us ahead of the insects and guarantee higher yields," even as yields due to Monsanto's product have been dropping since the 2007-08 season.
"There you have it," he wrote. "Indian cotton farmers today are being pelted with a hailstorm of new gene technologies and seed products, their yields steadily dropping, and the way forward is clear to the Business Standard: invest in Monsanto innovation."
Increasingly, Indian farmers are saying, "No, thanks."
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