GM Cotton Crop a Failure in India

B. McPherson
Don't blame Monsanto if the poor Indian farmer is mislead and loses his farm to the money lenders.


This year’s cotton crop in India is a dismal failure. Since India embraced GM cotton, that with the Bt gene inserted into it, the crops have been disappointing. Now with more states reporting in, it appears that the harvest this year is down by 40%.

This year a blue ribbon panel in India urged the government to exercise restraint in allowing and encouraging farmers to plant GM crops.  Currently over 90% of the cotton planted in India has been genetically altered.

Bt cotton carries a gene from a bacterium that kills insects. While it should negate the need for heavy use of pesticides, they are still needed. The Bt characteristic is non-selective for pests and will kill other insects that eat the plant pollen. The pesticides are more expensive than the old, the fertilizer demands are greater, more water is needed and the seeds are way more expensive as well. Now the farmers are finding that while the boll worm is better controlled, aphids have moved into the vacant niche.

According to TamilNadu Agricultural University, cotton is the most important crop grown in India. It is a unequivocal booster of the Bt transgenic cotton. It also muddies the water for readers by referring to genetically altered(genetically engineered) organisms as hybrids, which they are not. They are chimeras.

When such prestigious establishments crow about the GM cotton, how can a poorly educated farmer but believe? And believe they did. Since Bt cotton was allowed in 2002 they have learned the truth about the chimera cotton. The promise of an environmentally friendly crop has dissipated in the harsh  reality of poor crops and failing land. The yields of cotton have increased according to the Coalitionfor a GM Free India, but that increase started before Monsanto’s creation was introduced. The recorded yield between 2001 and 2005 increased 70% but since then has only improved by 2% according to the Coalition. In 2005 only 6% of the cotton was GM, now 90% is.

These high tech crops don’t come cheap. Last year seed, pesticides and fertilizers all increased in price. Farmers who choose GM must buy new seed each year from the tech company who also sets the price. Many farmers have borrowed against the promise of good harvests. The past three years have been bad and now with the harvest down 40% again many farmers will lose their land to the money lenders.

There is already an epidemic of suicides among Indian farmers who have believed the seed salesmen and their illusions of heavy yields with little loss. The rate of suicide is expected to increase by 15% this year. Thousands are expected to die of pesticide poisoning, leaving behind destitute families.

Don’t let slick salesmen muddy the water around what GM plants are. They are not hybrids. Hybrids are crosses of the same species of plant. For example a cross between tall peas and short peas gives you a hybrid. All the peas resulting from the cross have only pea genes.

GM plants have foreign or alien genes inserted into their makeup. This would not happen in nature. Whether it is a bacterial gene (Bt) or a gene from a superweed that resists Roundup, the resulting plants are chimeras, little monsters made up of two or more species.

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