Coalition for GM Free Karnataka

Farm activists condemn state government’s apathy towards massive Bt cotton failure – Show evidence of Mahyco intiative to sell failed seed again this year

Bangalore, 7th February, 2014: KRRS leaders leaders and activists of GM Free Karnataka movement today deplored the way in which the state government is letting go off Mahyco, whose Bt cotton variety failed miserably in the last cotton season leading to serious crisis amongst cotton farmers in the state. They also demanded the Government of Karnataka to steer clear of any plans to promote GM crops in the state.These demands were made at a press conference in the city where evidence was brought to light on the company’s efforts to sell the same failed variety of Bt cotton seeds this year as well.

A fact finding team including Dr H.R Prakash, Cotton Expert and members of GM Free Karnataka, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) and KRRS in the districts of Haveri and Davanagere had earlier found that there is almost 100 percentage failure of Mahyco Bt Kanaka variety in addition to other Bt cotton varieties also which failed.[1]

There are 25 different brands of Bt. cotton hybrids that were grown in these two districts of the state last season. Of these, Bt Kanaka variety of Mahyco, with stacked genes from Monsanto, the American Biotech giant, covers close to 50% of the sown cotton area. Bt Kanaka variety is also the worst affected from Mirid bug attack with almost the entire crop not bearing bolls. There have been losses in other Bt cotton varieties also from mirid bug and other sucking pest attacks.

The fact finding report also highlighted the fact that the agriculture department in the state failed to listen to repeated warnings from studies by Dharwad Agriculture University and Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur. These reports as back as 2007 had talked about the increasing incidence of sucking pests and especially mirid bugs in Bt. cotton in central Karnataka. The CICR study had also pointed to MRC 7351 (Bt Kanaka) being highly susceptible to Mirid Bug.

Speaking at the press conference Shri. Kodihalli Chandrashekar, Leader of KRRS, said that “it is criminal that Mahyco continues to do aggressive marketing of its Bt cotton varieties knowing very well that the variety is susceptible to pests. It is equally tragic that the state agriculture department is a wilful partner in this game of entrapping farmers. It has come to our knowledge that the state agriculture department has negotiated a very low compensation of Rs 4000/acre and that too is being paid from the public money thereby letting the company go scot free”. He reminded the government that farmers are both annadatas as well as those who voted the government to power and they will not stand this insult to injury.

It is also noteworthy here that the fact finding team found that those farmers who grew desi cotton varieties under organic practices were not affected by the Mirid bug and other sucking pests. Data on number of bolls, height of the plant, number of harvested bolls and number of squares from each field collected showed that desi varieties like Sahana cultivated under organic practice fared much better than Bt. cotton varieties cultivated using all kinds of intensive practices involving agro-chemicals. Chandrashekhar Patil of Koonabevu village of Haveri district who grew non GM Sahana cotton growers proudly said that, “Inspite of pest attacks I could get a good harvest of cotton. Moreover by practicing completely organic way of farming I saved money by not using external inputs like Pesticides, fertilizers and seeds”.

Giving the evidence on Mahyco’s offers to the seed dealers to sell the failed Bt kanaka this season as well, Manjunath Holalu, Co convenor, Coalition for GM Free Karnataka said “Bt cotton has turned out to be one of the biggest frauds that seed Industry has pulled off in our country with the able support of our policy makers and some public sector scientists”. He demanded that Mahyco be blacklisted and criminal procedures initiated against the company for playing with the lives of farmers.

Addressing the press conference, veteran freedom fighter and Gandhian Sri H.S Doraiswamy said that it is high time that our governments realise that GM crops through which Multinational Corporations like Monsanto are taking control over our food and farming are one of the greatest threats to our nation’s soverignity. He said that “After gaining total control over cotton seeds they are now aiming to get control over our food crops and that needs to be stopped at any cost”.

Speakers also released a compilation of more than 400 abstracts of peer reviewed scientific papers [2] that highlights various adverse impacts from GM crops, and stated that “there is growing scientific evidence against GM crops. It is now proven to be bad for the farmer, the consumer, our environment and our country. The only beneficiaries seem to be companies like Monsanto who earn crores of rupees as royalty for their proprietary genes in GM crops like Bt cotton.” They urged the governments both at the state and centre to heed to voices of science and society and ensure that our food, farms and enviornment are safe from risky GM crops.

The speakers urged the government to immediately disburse an adequate compensation which covers the cost of cultivation and expected revenue for the cotton farmers whose Bt cotton failed and that the money be recovered from Mahyco which sold the seeds to the farmer. They also demanded that deterrent liability charges be pressed on Mahyco and Monsanto, who owns the Bt technology. The state has also been urged not to permit any open releases of GM crops including for field trials and to promote ecological farming which is economically, socially and ecologically sustainable in general and especially for such high risk crops like cotton.