• Original Xinhua Report, June 3, 2002
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  • China: Study says Bt Cotton Is Harmful For Environment
    The Forum For Biotechnology & Food Security issued the following press release on the World Environment Day. It has demanded an enquiry into The Department Of Biotechnology's hasty approval of Bt Cotton In India.
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    New Delhi, June 5, 2002: Following the admission by Chinese scientists that Bt cotton is damaging the environment, the Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security, an independent collective of well-known and distinguished agricultural scientists, biotechnologists, economists, farmers, and policy makers, has urged the Prime Minister to institute a high-level enquiry into the dubious role of Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of the Ministry of Science and Technology in supporting, promoting and hastily pushing the controversial genetically modified crops onto gullible Indian farmers.

    In brief
    The Government of India had on March 26, 2002, approved genetically modied Bt cotton, for commercial release in India. This decision opens the door for GM plant varieties to enter India.

    June 2002: The Chinese findings

  • Bt cotton has been highly effective in preventing bollworm attack
  • But Bt cotton is harming natural parasitic enemies of the bollworm; seen to be encouraging other pests
  • Damaging the environment

    Indian groups react

  • A New Delhi forum has demanded an enquiry into the India's clearance
  • Several groups in Karnataka request the CM to disallow Bt cotton in the state

    The controversy

  • Chinese study was done in cooperation with Greenpeace
  • Mahyco and it's partner Monsanto are disputing the results
  • The DBT, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Mahrashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco), which is collaborating with the seed multinational Monsanto, had always used the example of China to push in an untested an environmentally-risky genetically modified technology. It has now become apparent that the DBT /ICAR were in league with the multinational in pushing in a faulty technology into the country.

    Quoting a study by Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences under the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), the Chinese news agency Xinhua reports "the Bacillus thurengensis (Bt) cotton transgenic cotton, which makes up 35 per cent of China’s cotton crop, is damaging the environment. The plant harms the population of natural parasitic enemies of bollworm and seemed to encourage other pests."

    The report says the diversity index of the insect community in the Bt cotton fields is lower than conventional cotton fields, while the pest dominant concentration index is higher. Bt cotton did not resist bollworm after being planted to eight to 10 years continuously, the scientists found out.

    This shocking disclosure comes at a time when the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) under the Ministry of Environment & Forests, is under tremendous pressure from the US Department of Agriculture to accord approvals to all kinds of GM crops presently under field testing. The GEAC, which has become a ‘clearing-house’ for controversial GM technologies at the behest of the multinational seed companies, had approved Bt cotton for commercial planting along with dubious riders like 20 per cent mandatory refuge to be maintained by the farmer and to be monitored by the seed company.

    The commercial approval has therefore paved the way not only for an influx of a large number of genetically manipulated crops into the country, but also crops which do not benefit the farmers. It has also multiplied the possibility of introducing a large number of lesser-known pests and diseases by disrupting the ecological equilibrium. This is a clear pointer to the fact that such crops will only ensure further exploitation of the resource-poor farmers and pose a grave threat to the environment and human health.

    "Moreover, much of the experimentation that has been conducted by Mahyco-Monsanto for the past three years has not been on scientific lines. The mere fact that such seriously flawed statistical data was approved by the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) and the Review Committee on Genetic manipulation (RCGM), both constituted by the DBT, points a finger towards the competence of the scientists. This is a clear cut case of scientific fraud," Devinder Sharma, chair of the Forum said in a statement.

    "The research trials were sown two months late in 1999, and three months late in 2000 and yet the committees as well as the DBT found that to be in order is a clear pointer to the dubious way in which the genetically-modified crop is being pushed in the name of science and technology," Sharma said, and added "this is a fraud on the nation, and needs to be enquired by a high-level committee."

    There were several other glaring lapses. More importantly, the fact that the entire data was being kept classified, is an indication that the DBT was reluctant to make it public for fear of exposure of its wrong doings. Interestingly, the secretary of the DBT, Mrs Manju Sharma, has been openly stating for the past three years that the department would be releasing the genetically modified seeds of cotton for general commercialisation in 2001, even before the trials were being conducted. This demonstrates that the DBT was keen to bring in an untested technology to India.

    In view of the great scientific fraud that has been unearthed, and following the Chinese report, the Forum demands:

    • Immediate removal of the Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, for promoting the unjust cause of the multinational and private seed companies in the name of promoting science and technology. The mere fact that the Secretary is being given an extension after extension is indicative of the reality that prevails.
    • A high-level inquiry into the working of the Department of Biotechnology. The department is busy according permission to all kinds of genetically modified crops for testing.
    • Disbanding of the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) and the Review Committee on Genetic manipulation (RCGM). Both these committees had deliberately overlooked and manipulated the faulty data in a completely ‘unscientific’ manner.
    • Expansion of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to include environmentalists, activists and people’s representatives to make it more broad based and accountable.
    • Re-experimentation to be for TWO years considering that the data supplied by the company for two years - 1999 and 2000 - is faulty and cannot be scientifically accepted. Also, immediate need for long-term studies on environment and human and animal health risks before according any commercial approval.
    • Removal of Mahyco’s representatives from the numerous committees and boards of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the governing board of the international agricultural research centres, and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR).

    Devinder Sharma

  • Related: Karnataka CM petitioned
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