Tag Archives: Bt cotton

British MSM fails to report escalating GM problems: ‘superworms’ & ‘superweeds’

10 Dec

Earlier this year America’s St Louis Dispatch reported on a growing sense of unease “spreading across the Great Plains about the cornstalk-sized superweeds infesting more than 100 million acres”.

Nathan Donley recalls: “For years Monsanto officials had assured farmers that weeds would never develop resistance to the company’s flagship herbicide, glyphosate, so farmers were urged to apply it liberally year after year because “dead weeds don’t produce seeds.” And apply it they did, with annual U.S. glyphosate use soaring to over 300 million pounds — an escalation that quickly accelerated the evolution of glyphosate-resistant superweeds that can grow an inch a day to heights of 10 feet and break farm equipment”.

Now major herbicide producers are offering a familiar-sounding “solution”: ‘use more’.

Four years after its release in 2002 with much fanfare, Bt cotton became susceptible to the bollworm. Today Devinder Sharma reports that India’s failing genetically modified Bt cotton crop, designed to guard against the bollworm pest, has increasingly been unable to resist it. Farmers have been forced to use deadly cocktails of pesticides to curb the insect menace. 

A reader wonders how soon the bollworm will become a ‘superworm’ resistant to pesticide ‘cocktails’.

Sharma adds: “News has come in of 50 farm workers succumbing to suspected pesticides poisoning; at least 25 lost their eyesight and another 800 admitted to various hospitals in Maharashtra. Another 6 deaths and hospitalisation of a few hundred more have been reported from Tamil Nadu’s cotton belt – Perambalur, Ariyalur and Salem.

Pink bollworm resurgence has been so severe that there are reports of farmers unable to harvest even a kilo of cotton and being forced to uproot or burn the standing crop in several parts of the country. In Maharashtra alone:

  • more than 80,000 farmers, up to Nov 30, have applied for crop compensation.
  • The bollworm has destroyed nearly 50% of the standing crop in Maharashtra, the country’s biggest cotton grower
  • and another 20% in Madhya Pradesh.
  • It has caused extensive damage in Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat.
  • Only about 100 of the 150 cotton ginning mills in Maharashtra are in operation and they are working at 50% capacity.
  • Reuters reports that cotton exports this year will be one-fifth less, coming down to 6 million bales against the earlier estimate of 7.5 million bales. 

A senior agricultural scientist once told Sharma: “In the early 1960s, only six to seven major pests were worrying the cotton farmer. The farmer today is battling against some 70 major pests on cotton.” The greater the attack of insect pests, the more is the use and abuse of potent chemicals. His advice: 

  • instead of introducing a third generation of Bollgard-III varieties, and compounding the existing crisis, the focus of agricultural research should shift to alternative methods.
  • Agricultural universities should be directed to stop any further research on GM cotton
  • and the focus shifted to use of bio-control and integrated pest management techniques that use pesticides sparingly – and as a last resort.

Sharma adds persuasively that already Burkina Faso has shown a remarkable jump of 20% in cotton productivity after phasing out Bt cotton. Turkey also has shown excellent results with IPM techniques; rejecting GM cotton, and restricting the use of chemical pesticides, Turkey has doubled its cotton yields.  

More information:

Published here: बीटी कॉटन के चक्रव्यूह से बाहर आना होगा Dainik Bhaskar. Dec 9, 2017 https://www.bhaskar.com/news/ABH-LCL-bt-cotton-has-to-come-out-of-the-maze-5765023-PHO.html – and in English by the author at Ground Reality: http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/when-dreaded-pink-boll-worm-strikes-back.html 

Integrated Pest Management for Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture in Asia and Africa

Integrated pest management of protected vegetable cultivation in Turkey






Forty-six farmers spraying Monsanto’s GM Bt cotton died after inhaling the pesticide

14 Oct

Pradip MaitraHindustan Times, reports that in Vidharba, 46 farmers growing Monsanto’s Bt cotton died after inhaling poisonous pesticide whilst spraying the crop.. As pests had become resistant to pesticides formerly used, stronger formulations were being used with little or no protection – as Devinder Sharma points out in an earlier post.  

Most of the deaths were reported from Yavatmal, a major cotton-growing district that has often been in the news for farmers’ suicides.

More than 500 others have inhaled the poisonous spray and fallen sick, and are admitted in various hospitals. A few have already lost their vision, hearing or speech. More may die during treatment. As the death toll continues to rise, the chief minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered an inquiry under a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the matter.

The Quality Control of the state’s agriculture department on Wednesday raided 12 different godowns of pesticide companies and sealed those stocked to prevent further sales, seizing pesticides worth Rs 14.31-crore from Akola in western Vidarbha.

The Maharashtra State Agriculture Mission chairman Kishore Tiwari demanded a ban on chemical farming and encourage organic farming in the region. Tiwari, who is camping in Yavatmal after the incident, dubbed the entire episode as “genocide” and demanded to book the concerned multi-national manufacturers and concerned department, in this regard.

Tiwari has appealed to the state government to stop the use of harmful products to put an end to farmer fatalities and give compensation of Rs 5-lakh to the victims’ families. He alleges that the deaths are due to the vested interests of the regulatory officials in the agriculture department and administration’s negligence.





“Data clearly shows that GMOs do not increase yields and do not decrease the use of agrichemicals”

10 Oct


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.

vandana shivaIt 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?). pesticide use california 2010

Maharashtra bans Monsanto partner’s sale and distribution of GM Bt cotton seeds

12 Jul

Thanks to Theresa, whose lead was followed up, a full account was found in the Times of India.

MahycoThough this information was reported a year ago many – like me – will have missed it. For those we report that Bt cotton seeds sold by Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco), a partner of US multinational Monsanto, were banned because they were of ‘inferior quality’.

The company’s licence was cancelled after widespread complaints accusing the company of supplying inferior quality seeds which aggravated the agrarian crises in rural Maharashtra and spurred suicides among farmers. Following the ban, there were reports of raids being carried out on some stockists in eastern Maharashtra.

Certain Bt cotton variants are suspected of toxicity, damaging public health and environment, and agriculture activists have been demanding a complete ban on Bt technology in India.

ISAAA ‘spin’ – proclaiming the success of GM crops – is discredited

25 Feb

gmfree cymru logoDr Brian John (GM-free Cymru) comments on an emailed reference to a Financial Times report of what some commentators call the ‘annual ISAAA spinfest’: “never take anything from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) seriously”.

ISAAA Biotech header

As another had commented: “I don’t think we can even accept the figures — ISAAA has this intriguing habit of adding up “trait acres” — which means that for a quadruple-stacked variety the acres are counted four times……….. “  Dr John continued:

“Naturally, some of the media who are inclined to support GMOs will make the most of whatever is fed to them by Clive James founder and chair”.


India and China: 2006-2013

China people's daily logoA report in China’s People’s Daily recorded that China had ‘brought in’ some 5 million farmers to cultivate Bt cotton. The genetically modified cotton was projected as a ‘silver bullet’ for the Chinese small cotton producers.

The public had been “repeatedly bombarded by industry drones of how successful the introduction has been for the farmers” and by now, considering all the promises of increasing ‘productivity’, this success should have led to reports of China’s emergence as the foremost global supplier of cotton.

mirid bug

mirid bug

However, there were reports of a study conducted by Cornell University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences which showed that after seven years of introduction Chinese farmers lost money as they had to use 20 times more pesticides sprays to control pests:

“The study — the first to look at the longer-term economic impact of Bt cotton — found that by year three, farmers in the survey who had planted Bt cotton cut pesticide use by more than 70 percent and had earnings 36 percent higher than farmers planting conventional cotton. By 2004, however, they had to spray just as much as conventional farmers, which resulted in a net average income of 8 percent less than conventional cotton farmers because Bt seed is triple the cost of conventional seed.”

Four years later the Guardian reported: “Millions of hectares of farmland in northern China have been struck by infestations of bugs following the widespread adoption of Bt cotton, an engineered variety made by the US biotech giant, Monsanto.

Agricultural economist Devinder Sharma comments : “The magic bullet had bitten the dust in China”


Sharma continues: “In India, the corporate media kept the story alive. Every now and then I find articles detailing the promises of GM crops. More often than not these are based on wrong facts.

“As if this is not enough, GM industry ensures that it packs a few ‘participants’ in every conference/seminar organised by the civil society or farmer organisations. Recently while I was speaking at the Indian Merchant’s Chambers in Mumbai, two farmers — one from Rajasthan, and another from Warangal in Andhra Pradesh — got up to say how successful the technology has been for the farmers. Incidentally, both farmers happened to be passing through the city when they heard of the conference!”

Prof Glenn Davis Stone GMOHe recommends an excellent (and provocative) analysis by an American anthropologist, Prof Glenn Davis Stone of the University of Washington. In his blog, Stone notes that the Business Standard reports that India’s cotton yields have dropped to a 5-year low, “setting off a fascinating round of finger pointing”. In a blog post entitled: GM cotton failing in India; blame the farmers! he writes:

“If you follow GMO debates you will have heard several years of kennel barking about how these figures show a remarkable success. But as I have pointed out (in my blog and in EPW), most of the rise in productivity had nothing to with Bt cotton; in fact it happened before Bt cotton became popular. . . Check it out:

  • the biggest rises were from 2002/3 to 2004/5, when yields rose 56% from 302 to 470 kg;
  • by 2004/5, only 5.6% of India’s cotton farmers had adopted Bt.;
  • do the math: if those 5.6% of planters were really responsible for a 56% rise in yields, then they must have been harvesting 3,288 kg/hectare.”

Read the rest of the article and see Monsanto – implicitly accepting these figures -‘ducking and weaving’ – and blaming the Indian farmer . . .

Bio Spectrum: “India struggles to keep Bt cotton growth story going”

biospectrum asia logoSince then, the mainstream media report improved figures, but BioSpectrum (India & Asia), a publication by Cybermedia, ‘a torch bearer for technology business, knowledge and information’ reports:

“Maharashtra, a state in western India, has seen a drop in the yield and production of Bt cotton in the past one year, especially in the dry regions of Vidarbha, that receives low rainfall. This is despite the fact that at the time 95% of the total land sown in the state comes under Bt cotton cultivation. Also, cost of cultivation is taking a toll on farmers. Labour is scarce. The cost of cultivation for a farmer ranges between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 per acre. This excludes land rentals. Labour for picking and weeding takes 60% of the cultivation cost”.

drought afflicted land vidarbhaKeerthana Nagarajan reported on Radio Netherlands’ website: “An estimated 7300 farmers have killed themselves in drought-stricken Vidarbha since 2004 – the year that the government introduced a policy to grow Bacillus thuringiensis or BT cotton, a genetically modified variety of cotton”.

New Delhi’s NDTV reports that a group of NGOs has claimed that the government’s own data proved that BT cotton has resulted in stagnant yields, pest resistance and evolution of new pest and disease attacks, and quotes allegations that the failure of  BT cotton is the root cause of farmer suicides claiming over 10,000 lives so far in the state.

Barack Obama bt protest posterTwo years earlier there were candle-light protests on the eve of US President Barack Obama’s visit, seeking to draw his attention to the plight of agriculture sector in the region. Further evidence that – as Dr John advises – industry figures proclaiming GM successes should not be accepted at face value.

See also cases against Bayer CropScience (substandard GM seeds 2013) and Maharashtra’s 2012 cancellation of Mahyco Monsanto Biotech’s license to sell its genetically modified Bt cotton seeds.