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[SANET-MG] gm cotton corruption and other bad things
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GMCCHHTAL.phpISIS Press Release 21/01/05
GM Cotton: Corruption, Hype, Half-truths and Lies
Rhea Gala reports
Sources for this report are available in the ISIS members site. Full
Monsanto fined for bribery
Monsanto has just been fined $1.5m by the US Department of Justice for a
bribe of $50 000 paid to a senior Indonesian environmental official in
an unsuccessful bid to bypass the requirement for the environmental
impact statement for its Bt cotton crop.
The bribe was paid by a consultant working for the company’s Indonesian
affiliate, but was approved by a senior Monsanto official based in the
US, and disguised as consultants’ fees.
The company also admitted to paying over $700 000 in bribes in Indonesia
between 1997 and 2002, which was financed by improper accounting of its
Monsanto had withdrawn its Bt cotton by December 2003; after a scathing
report from the Indonesian government condemning the crop (see "GM
fiascos around the world", this series).
Monsanto has been exposed in this one instance. But the company is
aggressively pushing its GM crops in numerous other countries with the
same hype, half-truths and lies.
Randy Hautea, global coordinator of the International Service for the
Aquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) had to admit that
Indonesia had pulled out of the global race for transgenic crops as
"there was some disasters" that led to the government not extending
their approval for the GM cotton. When asked whether a similar situation
would happen in India with Bt cotton, Hautea refused to comment.
US based ISAAA is funded by biotech giants Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer
CropScience, Pioneer Hi-Bred etc., and describes itself as a
not-for-profit organization with a mission to "contribute to poverty
alleviation by increasing crop productivity and income generation" and
to deliver "the benefits of new agricultural biotechnologies to the poor
in developing countries."
Whom do you believe?
Conflicting accounts of the success/failure of Bt cotton have been
coming from India for several years now. Monsanto claims that Bt cotton
is great for Indian farmers, giving increased sales etc., but carefully
conducted research shows the opposite to be the case: massive crop
failures and uncontrollable pest infestations were also reported (see
"Broken promises", SiS 22). And while politicians, seeking to appear
progressive and patriotic, praised the ‘advantages’ of biotech, the
farmers have resorted to, at times, violent protest and suicide because
of losses incurred through using the GM varieties.
The Indo-Asian News Service reported that agriculture ministry sources
had claimed that the large-scale plantation of GM cotton in 2004 had
played a big role in helping India achieve a bumper crop. However,
earlier that year, India’s Financial Express reported that in spite of
claims that India was a key GM crop cultivator, the actual area planted
with GM cotton was miniscule compared with the total cotton growing
area: about 1 %.
Monsanto commissioned a marketing organization to carry out a survey
among Bt cotton growing farmers, with a single contact during the second
season of GM adoption (the first had failed very badly leaving farmers
in debt). In the same season, a detailed study carried out by Dr Abdul
Qayoom, former joint Director of Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh, and
Sakkari Kiran, involving contacts with farmers every 15 days, showed
that Monsanto’s Bt cotton had been out-performed again by non-GM cotton.
Furthermore, the Monsanto-commissioned study had claimed for Bt cotton
four times the actual reduction in pesticide use, twelve times the
actual yield, and 100 times the actual profit!
Commenting on a recent ISAAA report, PV Satheesh, convenor of the
Hyderabad based Deccan Development Society said "Bt cotton failed to
live up to expectations in the third consecutive year in different parts
of south India.
Nevertheless, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry
remarked that GM crops offer the potential for huge productive gains,
and hold a lot of promise for Indian agriculture. According to the
ISAAA, India is categorized as a "mega-biotech country" with the highest
percentage area increase under transgenic crops in the world; though
only GM cotton is commercially grown. ISAAA claims that Bt cotton can
reduce insecticide requirements by half, and make significantly greater
savings for farmers. That is most unlikely, because farmers using Bt
cotton seed are charged a ‘technology fee’ based on predicted savings on
pesticide application; and also because Bt crops do not necessarily
reduce pesticide use. Moreover, Bt cotton varieties are not always
effective against local cotton pests, which can vary from one area to
In Australia, the biotech industry and farmers are funding a group
called ‘Agrifood Awareness’ to the tune of $AUS 100 000, via a
compulsory research and development levy, with the mandate of "guiding
meaningful opinions" in GMOs. Their biotech bulletin, "GM cotton
adoption", which set the scene for the 12th Australian cotton conference
in August 2004, also gave a misleading impression of the extent of
adoption of GM cotton around the world.
Agrifood Awareness, like many official bodies and even governments,
relies heavily on figures supplied by ISAAA, though their figures on GM
adoption are often highly inflated, and ISAAA is very vague about how
these figures are generated (see "The GM bubble". SiS 22).
There are approximately 20 million cotton farmers worldwide. In 2003,
they grew 30 million hectares of cotton that produced 84 million bales
of cotton. Sixty-five tropical, sub-tropical and temperate countries
worldwide were involved, but ten countries account for 80 percent of the
total area planted with cotton (see Table 1).
Table 1. Top ten countries for most hectares of cotton planted 2001-2002.
The total area growing GM cotton in 2002 was 6.8 million hectares,
significantly more than in 2001; this increased to 7.2.million hectares
in 2003, or 21% of the 34 million hectares of cotton grown globally
according to ISAAA. By 2004 7.8 million hectares of GM cotton were being
grown by the three top growers USA, China and India (see Table 2). The
figure for India’s area of Bt Cotton grown in 2004 in table 2, at 100
000 hectares, is given by Professor Runge in a report prepared for the
Council on Biotech Information. But ISAAA estimates that in 2004 the
area under Bt cotton increased by 400%, in spite of failing over three
seasons, to 500 000 hectares.
What the Agrifood Awareness biotech bulletin failed to mention is that
only the top three cotton producing countries out of the top ten have
commercial production of GM cotton, with the USA and China accounting
for practically all of the GM cotton production in the world. And even
by 2004, none of the other ten top cotton growers had any commercial
adoption of GM varieties (Table 2).
Table 2. Adoption of GM cotton production in the top ten cotton-growing
countries in 2004
Thousand hectares GM
Level of development
Stacked, HT, Bt
Laboratory /greenhouse studies
Stacked, HT and Bt
Source columns 4-6: F Runge. The global diffusion of plant biotechnology
GM cotton adoption shows a trend towards the stacked gene varieties. In
1997, GM stacked gene cotton varieties containing both the Bt and
herbicide tolerant (HT) genes were grown for the first time in the USA.
According to the ISAAA, by 2001, the stacked gene variety accounted for
55 % of all the global commercial cotton containing the Bt gene,
compared with 45 % with the Bt gene alone.
The Agrifood Awareness biotech bulletin further stated that by 2001, up
to five million farmers grew Bt cotton, with 99 % in developing
countries, implying that GM cotton bring benefits to many small farmers.
At least 97 % of cotton farmers in developing countries farm on two
hectares or less, with farmers in north and east China growing on less
than half a hectare on average. So, the figure of 99 % of farmers
growing GM cotton in developing countries, if accurate, represents a
substantial number of farmers only in China. In the US, the biggest GM
cotton adopter in terms of area under cultivation, the number of farmers
involved is comparatively tiny.
In fact, the US, China and Argentina are the most prolific adopters of
GM cotton, having taken up 73%, 62% and 20 - 60% respectively of cotton
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