Fact finding report shows failure in 18,000 hectares in Haveri and Davanagere

Belgaum, 3rd December, 2013: Farmer Union leaders and GM Free Karnataka movement today demanded that the Government of Karnataka take punitive action against Mahyco, whose Bt cotton has failed miserably once again in the state this year. This was made at a press conference in the city where a fact finding report1 was released by Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) leader Kodihalli Chandrashekhar. The fact finding team including Dr H.R Prakash, Cotton expert and Retd Deputy Director, Department of Agriculture, Govt of Karnataka and members of GM Free Karnataka, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) and KRRS in the districts of Haveri and Davanagere found that there is almost 100 percentage failure of Mahyco Bt Kanaka variety where as other Bt cotton varieties were also affected.

There are 25 different brands of Bt. cotton hybrids that are being grown in the 2 districts. Of this 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 has been loses 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 early as in 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 continued 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 overlooked these early warnings and continued to promote Bt. cotton and even organised farmer melas to supply the Mahyco variety in Haveri and Dharwad.” He demanded that Mahyco be blacklisted and criminal procedures initiated against the company for playing with the lives of farmers.

According to the fact finding report the pesticide usage in the districts of Haveri and Davanagere and generally in Karnataka hasn’t seen a reduction post the release of Bt cotton in 2002. Bt cotton which has a bacterial toxin gene in it was introduced with the promise of reduction in pesticide usage in cotton. The Bt. cotton farmers in the 2 districts had to do several sprays of pesticides like Confidor-200 SL, monocrotophos-36 SL, Acephate, Dicofol, Acetamiprid (LIFT)-20 SP, Imidacloprid-200 SL and Fipronil with very little effect. The average pesticide cost per acre in the both the districts by Bt Cotton farmers ranged from Rs. 3500 to Rs. 5000.

“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” said Manjunath Holalu, Co convenor, Coalition for GM Free Karnataka, who was part of the fact finding team. He said that this has been at the cost of lives of cotton farmers who are one of the most distressed. He further stated that “there is growing scientific evidence against GM crops2. 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.”

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 intensive farming practices involving expensive external inputs including agro chemicals. Chandrashekhar Patil of Koonabevu village of Haveri district who grew non-GM ‘Sahana’ cotton 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”.

Addressing the press conference Shivayogi Makri of Desi Krushikara Balaga demanded the government to proactively promote ecological farming using traditional seeds which have proven to be better than the Bt. hybrids, especially in rainfed regions which form the majority of cotton growing belt in the state.

Besides liability actions against Mahyco and Monsanto, who owns the Bt technology, the fact finding report has strongly recommended for the compensation of a minimum of Rs 60,000/acre for cotton farmers whose Bt cotton crop has failed and that the money be recovered from the companies like Mahyco which sold the seeds to the farmer. The report also recommended Karnataka state Government to take up a systematic programme to promote non GM cotton varieties with special focus on Open Pollinated Varieties, which could be saved and reused by farmers, as it is essential for ensuring seed sovereignty and choice of seeds. The state has also been urged to promote ecological farming which is economically, socially and ecologically sustainable in general and especially for such high risk crops like cotton.

Notes to the Editor

 

  1. The Fact finding report on Bt cotton failure in Haveri and Davanagere Districts of Karnataka is available at http://indiagminfo.org/

 

  1. The 2nd edition of the compilation of scientific reference with abstracts of adverse impacts of GM crops/food is available at http://indiagminfo.org/?p=657

 

For more information

1. Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, Leader of KRRS. mob: 9844293908

2. Manjunath Holalu, Co convenor, Coalition for GM Free Karnataka

mob: 9480330652               email: manjubaduku@gmail.com