Approval For Commercialisation of Bt Cotton

Saturday, March 30, 2002

Press Statement

The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:

                                On Approval For Commercialisation of Bt Cotton

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has recently approved the commercialisation of Bt Cotton, whose technology is being propagated by the US based Seed Multinational, Monsanto. While the Indian government has given its green signal to Monsanto, the wisdom of using the Bt cotton seed is still being questioned by many scientists. The technology of genetic modification is still too unpredictable to warrant widespread replication, given the irreversible nature of the technology. Past experience shows that it is still difficult to predict the course of such organisms accurately.

Curiously, while India rushes in to allow genetically modified crops, trials of genetically engineered organisms (GEO) have been banned or restricted in countries of the European Union, Japan, Brazil and many other countries. England has been particularly harsh in not allowing GM crops and even Monsanto’s staff canteen in England is not allowed to use GM foods!

In addition to persisting doubts about the technology of genetically modified plant varieties, there are other larger issues which the introduction of Bt Cotton would raise. Such technologies promote monoculture by precluding the use of different varieties of crops in the same area. Such cropping techniques are especially vulnerable to extensive damage by pests and sudden climatic changes like drought. We have seen this happen in past years in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, leading to a spate of suicides by farmers, whose crops had been so ravaged. Exotic varieties like the Bt Cotton are particularly prone to such disasters, as unlike local varieties they’ve not developed resistance to local pests.

For India, the biggest danger in allowing commercial use of GM crops is related to the fact that the technology for GM crops will be controlled by Multinational corporations like Monsanto. This is in stark contrast to the introduction of the "Green Revolution" technologies of the seventies in India, where the research was conducted in public funded institutions and was availaible in public domain. The US has consistently argued for liberal laws regarding trials on genetically altered varieties and at the same time is pushing for strong patent protection for seeds, plant varieties, and genetically modified plants, animals and micro-organisms. The developed countries, led by the US are promoting life form patenting in order to wrest control over the remaining biological resources of the globe. Control over GM technologies by multinational corporations are part of this effort to wrest control over agricultural production all over the world. Companies like Monsanto are the cutting edge of the drive by the United States to wrest control of global food production — and hunger.

In the light of this, the Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) demands that the approval be withheld till an informed public debate on all the ramifications and proper safeguards to protect Indian agriculture and farmers are put in place.