Government report reveals desperation of Indian cotton farmers

September 2012

Picture of a farmer manually weeding a cotton field in South India
Farmer manually weeding a cotton field in Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh, South India.
Picture by jankie on Flickr
Close on the heels of the publication of a German study which concluded that “Bt cotton has created large and sustainable benefits, which contribute to positive economic and social development in India” (see ANOTHER Bt SUCCESS STORY - September 2012) comes a government report which reached a very different conclusion.

Another Bt cotton success story

September 2012

Picture of agricultural labourers working in a cotton field  Andhra Pradesh, South India
Agricultural labourers working in a cotton field Andhra Pradesh, South India.
Picture by jankie on Flickr
The 'success' or 'failure' of Bt cotton, now widely grown in India, continues to be steeped in controversy.

Biotech industry trials and short-term economic studies on these GM crops with built-in insecticide describe their performance in glowing terms. However, serious doubts about the long-term impacts remain.

A new study of Bt cotton, aiming to address the “uncertainty about longer term effects”, has been published.

Fighting with DNA

September 2012
Adult stage of the Western Corn Rootworm which damages plants' ability to absorb water.
Picture from Wikimedia Commons
What better way to create resistance to a pesticide than by growing vast monocultures of plants able to suffuse themselves perpetually with the same, single chemical?

This logic didn't escape the biotech industry when it created commodity crops genetically transformed to generate 'Bt' insecticidal proteins. However, by using simplistic modelling and peddling a few glib assumptions regarding the science of evolution, it was possible to persuade regulators that Bt-resistant insects could be kept at bay.

GM quality costs

September 2012

In the 1990s as the first Roundup Ready GM soya crops were entering our food chain, Monsanto enthusiastically broadcast to the public that:
“Roundup Ready soyabeans are just like any other soyabeans in safety, nutrition, composition and the way they process into high-protein animal fed and ingredients in the food we eat, such as margarine, salad dressings and bakery products.” 
The Company website quoted “1800 evaluations” concluding RR soyabeans are the same as other commercially available varieties.

Despite the fact that glyphosate interferes with the biochemical pathways involved in the synthesis of lignin in plants, this important material was not analysed. Only the total fibre content of the GM soya was measured as part of Monsanto's thousands of tests.

Permanent built-in stress

September 2012

Rice Plants being Propagated usingTissue Culture
Rice research. Photo by IRRI images on Flickr
Cutting-edge science is revealing layer upon layer of adaptive mechanisms within the cell which can be passed on to future generations, but which don't alter the genetic code.

Research on lower animals is showing how the expression of DNA (genes and non-gene sequences) triggers a cascade of events and feed-back loops in the cell: the cascade not only alters the RNA messenger molecules and proteins, but comes back full-circle to re-formulate the DNA's own structure (but not its base sequence) and the chromosomes which carry it.

Sense in pollution

September 2012

Canola field in Western Australia. Photo credit: I [GFDL (,
CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL
(], from Wikimedia Commons
Australian farmers have had eight years to learn that GM canola (oilseed rape) isn't wanted. Most have learned the lesson well, but in Western Australia they've learned the hard way.

Once upon a time, manufacturers supplied retailers with what the end-customer wanted, and the end-user paid for the goods. The system flowed and everyone lived happily ever after.

Down-under, this supply-and-demand logic seems to have been stood on its head.

Sprayed to death by Glyphosate

September 2012

'Roundup' weed-killer for use on Roundup Ready GM crops is also registered for pre-harvest application on many other crops. The purpose of spraying with the herbicide shortly before harvest is to prevent the harvesting machinery clogging up with green material (weeds and crop leaves, especially if applied fungicides have preserved them), and to clear the ground for the next planting. Some farmers also use Roundup to try to dry down their crop and speed up the harvest time, although there's not much data supporting this tactic.

Glyphosate, the major active ingredient of Roundup, is used as a pre-harvest treatment on many food crops including wheat, soya, oats, lentils, flax, oilseed rape, beans, barley, chickpeas and potatoes.

In March this year, GM-free Scotland reported how glyphosate is increasing in our food. This is happening courtesy of GM soya, maize, oilseed rape, and sugar-beet all designed to accumulate glyphosate without damage therein.

Viptera GM corn fiasco

September 2012

Monsanto gets a lot of bad press for its GM-promoting tactics, but are the other biotech giants any better?

GM-free Scotland recently reported that Syngenta is facing criminal prosecution in Germany for with-holding evidence about one of its GM maize crops which has been linked to illness and death in cow feeding trials on both sides of the Atlantic (See DEAD COWS UNDER THE CARPET - August 2012).

At the end of last year, Syngenta was also in hot water in America after it gave away bags of its new 'Viptera' GM corn seed throughout the Midwest.