What countries are growing GM crops?

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This was my Saturday's lyrics to breakfast in sunny Bangalore: Monsanto has decided to tell the truth about something: its technology doesn't work!, reports The Hindu. I'm going to need a second cup of chai to digest this, Monsanto speaking honest!? Indian farmers and scientist have been seeing this in their Bt cotton fields for a few years: pests become resistant to Monsanto's genetically engineered toxins and thus farmers apply huge amounts of pesticides. Monsanto has always denied this, has the recent massive rejection of its Bt brinjal in India woken up its senses?

For years Monsanto has been shouting that the main - read only - benefit of Bt cotton in India (the only genetically engineered crop planted here) was the reduction in pesticide use. Well, it seems they have just admitted this is not true. Pink bollworm, a serious pest for cotton farmers in India, is now resistant to the toxin in Bt cotton. Meaning that this bug is now sort of a super-pest that farmers will have to work harder and harder to avoid.

What is Monsanto's solution to this? Maybe you have guessed it: use Monsanto's next weapon – same technology - Bt cotton 2.0. With double the amount of toxins (and almost double the price of non-Bt seeds). Hmmm? I need another cup of chai! This is looking too much like an arms-race, which due to rapid pest evolution of resistance could reach a battle of infinite proportions... followed closely by Monsanto's profits, of course. Indigestible! -my stomach shouts-, because along with Monsanto's profits from selling their special seeds I see also the struggle of debt and the threats to the livelihoods of the many farmers I've met.

Bt cotton troubles don't end here. A few weeks ago, a pro-GE scientist from the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur, Dr. Kranthi, spoke about other 'wonders' of Bt cotton. According to Dr. Kranthi, Bt cotton has increased, yes increased, the use of dangerous pesticides and now other ferocious pests, like mealybug (never seen before by Indian farmers), are destroying the harvests. Wonderful! Monsanto makes money and the farmers risk huge debts and family health from the massive use of pesticides. My breakfast is tasting very bitter this morning.

But I have also spoken to many Indian farmers that are not so desperate. Last November I spent a few weeks travelling around the cotton fields of Andhra Pradesh. In the mist of a lot of very worried Bt cotton farmers (drought, debts, mealybugs, loans at 50% interest rates, etc), I also met many more cheerful farmers -- the organic ones!

Organic farmers work with several NGOs and farmers associations to develop ways to fight pests without health risks and without money! Yes, without or with very little money. Chetna, one of these farmer associations, support farmers in Karimnagar and Adilabad (very poor areas in Andhra Pradesh) and work with them in making the whole farm, not just the crop, resistant to pests. India is so lucky too, the Neem tree, a wonder of anti-insecticide and many other medicinal properties, grows naturally in almost every farm... its fruits are free and very effective in protecting against pests. Chetna and the rests of the organisations promoting ecological cotton farming, know that the answer is not in a single bullet. The answer is biodiversity - growing a variety of different natural strains and using methods that deal with pests ecologically and with very little investment (and thus less debt for farmers) - like using the Neem tree fruits.

There is hope out there in the dry cotton fields thanks to the hard work of these organic farmers' associations and thanks to Indian biodiversity. My Indian breakfast dosa was a bit hard to swallow, but ended with a very sweet organic chutney!


Setback for Bt cotton! Pest develops resistance

In a setback for genetically engineered cotton, Monsanto, innovator of the strain, confirmed what sceptics had said might well happen, that the pests it was supposed to resist better than natural cotton would also innovate.

The company confirmed today that the pink bollworm, the damaging pest against which the genetically modified variety had been successful, had developed resistance to the protein in question, in parts of Gujarat. This has been reported to the government's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee.

In a statement issued today, Monsanto said: "Testing was conducted to assess for resistance to Cry1Ac, the Bt protein in Bollgard cotton, and pink bollworm resistance to Cry1Ac was confirmed in four districts in Gujarat -- Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagarh and Rajkot. Gujarat is one of nine states where cotton is grown. To date, no insect resistance to Cry1Ac has been confirmed outside the four districts in Gujarat."

Many who opposed the commercialisation of Bt brinjal in India [ Images ] had said insects could develop resistance to it after some years. They'd made the same predictions earlier on Bt cotton.

Monsanto said, during field monitoring of the 2009 cotton crop in Gujarat, its scientists and those of Mahyco (its sister company) detected unusual survival of the pink bollworm to first-generation, single-protein Bollgard cotton.

It said current monitoring efforts by an Indian-expert network to manage insect resistance will be expanded. "The network will continue to conduct extensive insect monitoring, encourage appropriate stewardship practices such as proper refuge planting through an intensified farmer education campaign, and explore new methods of refuge seed delivery," it said.

Adding, "resistance is natural and expected, so measures to delay resistance are important." Among the factors that may have contributed to pink bollworm resistance to the Cry1Ac protein in Gujarat are "limited refuge planting and early use of unapproved Bt cotton seed, planted prior to GEAC approval of Cry1Ac cotton, which may have had lower protein expression levels."

It said there was need for continuous research and innovation to develop new value-added technologies to stay ahead of insect resistance. "To support such innovation, government policies should encourage investment in research and development, which will result in Indian farmers having a wider choice of better and advanced technologies," it added.


This graph shows which countries are growing GM crops.


* Pest-resistant GM crops- will mean less plants being ruined because of bugs, and more food (or whatever type the plant is used for), as a result no more world hunger.
* Find cures for diseases.
* Will be able to avoid or find out ahead of time if someone has genetic diseases.
* Be able to control and maintain diseases.
* Crops will have more vitamins and taste better.
* Animal type of food products will be healthier.
* The GM plants will be environment "friendly".
* New types of products.


* Health issues.
* Cross-pollination with wild or non GM plants
* Increase dependence on industrialized countries.
* The government not labeling the products.
* Violation of natural organisms' intrinsic values
* Stress for animals.
* Potential harm to the animals.