Vandana Shiva draws our attention to her article in the Deccan Chronicle. On one side of the debate over genetically modified organisms is scientific evidence that GMOs are not delivering on their promise, and on the other side is ideological propaganda by the genetically modified seed industry and scientists whose careers are locked into the GMO trajectory.
After two decades of commercial applications, data clearly shows that GMOs do not increase yields and do not decrease the use of agrichemicals, but have instead created super-pests and super-weeds.
It is because of these failures and the fact that GMOs are linked to patents, which translates into royalty extraction and high prices, that GMOs worsen the economic status of farmers. India has witnessed more than 2,84,694 farmer suicides in a span of 17 years, between 1995 and 2012. The worst off is Maharashtra, which has the maximum area under cultivation of genetically modified Bt cotton . . .
Farmers chose Bt cotton not because it was the best alternative but because all other alternatives were destroyed. The seed varieties were replaced. India’s Central Institute for Cotton Research has not released any public varieties after Monsanto entered the market, and most Indian seed companies are locked into licensing arrangements with Monsanto.
Nor is it true that yields have increased. Yields of cotton in the pre-GMO period reached 1,200 kg in good years. After Bt cotton was introduced the yield has stagnated at 500 kg.
As the University of Canterbury research team led by Prof. Jack Heinemann has shown, North American crop production has fallen behind that of Western Europe, despite farmers in the United States using genetically modified seeds and more pesticide. According to the team, the main point of difference between the regions is the adoption of GM seeds in North America and the use of non-GM seed in Europe. The failure to control pests has led to an increase in pesticide use.
A study published in India’s Review of Agrarian Studies also showed a higher expenditure on chemical pesticides for Bt cotton than for other varieties by small farmers. Non-target pest populations in Bt cotton fields have exploded; it is expected that this will likely counteract any decrease in pesticide use.
In China, where Bt cotton is widely planted, populations of mirid bugs — pests that previously posed only a minor problem — have increased 12-fold since 1997.
A 2008 study in the International Journal of Biotechnology (see abstract) found that any financial benefits of planting Bt cotton had been eroded by the increasing use of pesticides needed to combat non-target pests.
In the US, due mainly to the widespread use of Roundup Ready seeds, the use of 4 herbicide (a group of herbicides) increased 15% from 1994 to 2005 — an average increase of one-fourth pound per each acre planted with GM seed — according to a 2009 report published by the Organic Centre. Moreover, the rise of glyphosate (the herbicide in Roundup) resistant weeds has made it necessary to combat these weeds by employing other, often more toxic, herbicides . . . This trend is confirmed by 2010 USDA pesticide data, which shows skyrocketing glyphosate use accompanied by constant or increasing rates of use for other, more toxic, herbicides . . .
. . . Bt cotton has not given higher yields. It is not disease resistant. Diseases that never affected cotton, like aphids and jassids, have exploded. In India the bollworm, which Bt cotton was supposed to control, has become resistant and Monsanto has had to introduce Bollgard II, a higher variety of insect-resistant genetically modified cotton. All this has created debt not profits for farmers. If seed costs jump 8,000 per cent and pesticide use increases 1,300 per cent, farmers’ incomes do not increase.
Good science looks at evidence and takes feedback from the real word. Bad science that shuts its mind to evidence and becomes propaganda. Sadly, in the GMO debate, those defending GMOs have only power and propaganda on their side.
The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya (nine seeds)Trust
A direct link to 2010 USDA pesticide data was not found but there was a similar passage in the 2010 Californian report below (AI, active ingredient?).