Monoculturing Toxin Genes 4.0 - Indian Agrarian Crisis


12 Δεκ 2012 (πριν από 4 χρόνια και 6 μήνες)

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Toxin Genes

Briefing paper on the
environmental and health
effects of Bt transgenic crops

G. V. Ramanjaneyulu

Sreedevi Lakshmi Kutty

lliance for

ustainable and




What is Bt ?



Bt toxins and Bt transgenics



How safe are
Bt toxins



Genetically modified Bt crops



Bt toxins and GE Bt plants: Are they same?



proteins from natural
sprays degrade relatively quickly in the field as a result of ultraviolet light
and lose most toxic activity within several days to two weeks after applic
ationvii. In
however, the
toxin is produced throughout the entire lifespan of the plants.



Health concerns with Bt
transgenic crops



EPA (2002)
Regulation of

Bacillus thuringiensis

) Crops



What is Bt


Bacillus Thuringiensis

a naturally occurring
gram positive, spore

soil bacterium which
has been found

to be toxic for certain insect species


resources are limited,
Bt cells undergo sporulation, synthesizing a protein crystal during spore formation. Proteins in
these crystals are called Cry (from

stal) endotoxins

and have been known for decades to
display insecticidal activity against specific insect groups.
It was
first isolated in Japan
in 1901
named in 191

was first made commercially available in 1938 in France and
in extensive

use as a bio pesticide since 1958

IFS, 1994,


It is the most important microbial pesticide being
used in the 20


toxin consists of
are classified into four


Lepidoptera specific (I).

and Diptera
specific (II), Coleoptera
specific (III), aind
specific (IV)

etween these they are extensively
used for controlling important pests in agriculture and forestry.

It is most commonly used

insects of the



and in
spray form.

The commonly accepted method of action of Bt toxin is by binding itself to
the receptors in
gut lining of the target pests
. Then the target insect dies of starvation, septicemia and bacterial
growth in its gut

(Hilbeck, 2007)

Bt sprays are the most commonly used form of pesticides,

environmental safety and
the presumed
specificity of its toxins, however many
have revealed

problems with

use on beneficial and non target insects, some these are
sps, aphid eating flies, certain caterpillars species, aquatic insects and certain birds



Bt toxins and Bt transgenics

How safe are
Bt toxins

Despite the fact that the manufacturers of Bt sprays claim it to be benign to human beings it has
not been found to be so from the health problems reported from various countries.
There have
been few studies about toxicity of Bt how
ever there are many reports of problems due to
occupational exposure

irritation to the eyes and skin

, 1994)

ew Zealand a people’s tribunal was held in 2006 post numerous problems experiences due
to the aerial spraying of Foray

48B (whose active ingredient is
Bacillus thuringiensis var kurstaki
or called delta endotoxin or Bt toxin
.) in 2002 over urban areas in Auckland to destroy painted
apple moths, a minor migrant pest of pine and apple trees

(Peoples Enquiry, 2007)

orted eye, nose, throat and respiratory irritation which coincided with the frequency of the
sprays. When natural Bt was sprayed over Vancouver and Washington State

to deal with gypsy

many people reported allergy symptoms and a few had to go to the
emergency room

(Green 1990)
. Monitoring studies done after Bt sprays have established that people carry Bt in
their tissues after being exposed to it and many of the exposed people had to be treated for
allergy and flu
like symptoms

, 1994)

tically modified B


Due to the popularity of these
pesticide properties of B

scientists tried to
produce them in the
plants by
ing genes from the bacteria
. It assumed that by doing so the
genes perform a similar function of producing the same toxin in the plant safeguarding them
against certain insect pests.

using a

gene gun
or through

grobacterium tumefaciens

as the vector for

desired genes.

The resultant plant can synthesis its own toxins to
kill the pests.

Initially plants were engineered with the Cry1Ab or Cry1Ac genes and increasingly
plants are being engineered with two or more Bt genes.

Genetic engineering is an imprecis
e, unpredictable

and irreversible
technology and the Bt plants
created using these could have many unintended effects.

The Bt toxin produced in the transgenic
is a more active form than the naturally occurring Bt toxin used in pesticides


could be more dangerous
to a larger variety of life forms.

GM crop promoters call
transgenic plants engineered with
Bt toxin and insect
resistant plants however they are
insecticide generating plants.

As Dougherty and Parks (1995) write
, "Organi
sms that do not perform as expected are
discounted as defective or atypical in some way, are not the subject of study, and frequently are
not reported in the literature. It is important, therefore, to recognize that most published works
represent a selecte
d subset of transgenic organisms that have been produced. These built
biases have hindered our understanding of how transgene expression impacts the endogenous
[host] gene"

In an article in the June 2011 issue of the
Journal of Biosciences
, ‘Detrimenta
l effect
of expression of Bt endotoxin Cry1Ac on
in vitro

in vivo

growth and
development of tobacco and cotton transgenics,' Delhi University scientists reported
the expression of the Cry1Ac endotoxin has detrimental effects on the
development of transgenic plants. The plants that showed appreciable CryIAc
expression were phenotypically abnormal: they were malformed. This
preferential selection is at work
while transgenic plants mature: those that express
low level of Cry1Ac have better chances of coming through compared with ones
expressing appreciable levels of the gene. The reason for the detrimental effects of
Cry1Ac on plant growth and development is
not known and understanding it would
require further investigation. However, the finding gives leads to understanding
several problems about Bt genes. Phenotypical
abnormality in plants with high levels
of CryIAc expression could be a result of

a metabol
ic aberration during the process of
gene transfer or gene itself
. In addition to physical abnormality, such metabolic
abnormality can also cause allergies and produce toxins detrimental to non
organisms like friendly insects, soil microbes, cattle
or other mammals including
humans feeding on the plants or its products. Earlier reports on toxicity to monarch
butterflies, reduced soil fertility and the controversial phenomenon of animal
morbidity/mortality could be explained if there is further resea
rch along these lines


The authors suggest that targeting of Cry1Ac into chloroplasts rather than nuclei can
lead to plants expressing higher levels of Cry1Ac and better insect resistance.
However, the finding that expression of a Bt
per se

is detrimental to plants is
significant since the toxin was earlier thought to harm only certain insects. The
findings reveal large knowledge gaps as well as actual problems associated with Bt
transgenic crops. An immediate ban needs to be imp
osed on all crops using Bt genes
till further research shows that the technology can be precise, predictable and
controllable in addition to being safe.

The first
genetically engineered Bt crop was

approved for commercial cultivation
in the US and

these crops were registered and classified as pesticides by the Environmental
Protection Agency(EPA) and therefore studied and evaluated for that and not as plants which
have been engineered with the toxin to produce them from every living cell

EPA, 2002)
. In
EPA registered the first transgenic Bt plant which it calls “Bt plant
incorporated protectant”

many years
EPA’s approach to GE plants with BT toxins has been a product based approach
thereby not taking into account the process by
which it has been created.

Substantial Equivalence: Are
Bt toxins
and GE Bt plants

the same?

In the natural Bt sprays the bacterial "pro
toxin" is in an inactived state and only becomes toxic
when processed in the gut of certain (targeted) species of inse
ct larvae. In contrast, many insect
resistant plants contain an artificial, truncated
gene and less processing is required to
generate the toxin. It is therefore less selective, and may harm non
target insects that do not
have the enzymes to process the

toxin, as well as the pests for which it is intended (Fig. 1)

Fig. 1 Differences between Bt
insecticides and GE Bt

proteins from natural
sprays degrade relatively quickly in the field as a result of ultraviolet
light and lose most toxic activity within several days to two weeks after applicationvii. In
crops, however, the
toxin is produced throughout the entire lifespan of the plants.

These transgenic plants have been subjected to only short term studies for acute toxicity by the
GM crop developers and no long term studies to measure the impact chronic toxicity have been
carried out. Another factor that is ignore is the fact that today

the level of exposure to Bt toxin of
a human being is much higher than it has been ever before (and in the active form), but there is a
significant lack of research to analyze Bt toxins as toxin or allergens in the “context and
concentration” that humans
are exposed to it

(Heinemann, 2009)

The GM crop developers claim that Bt plants are beneficial as they provide season long pest
control with the plant generates its own toxin and allows reduced use of broad spectrum
pesticides. However the assumption that

Bt crops are the same as Bt sprays is incorrect, they are
different in their composition and impact. Bt sprays persist on the surface of the plant for
sometime after a spray operation however the Bt crop actively expresses the toxin throughout
the plant’s

life. The Bt sprays contain inactive protoxins, spores and bacterial cells that have to
be activated through a complex process whereas the transgenic Bt plants contains the Bt toxin in
an activated form (Hilbeck & Schmidt, 2006).

Concerns with stability
of B


Health concerns with Bt transgenic crops

Already Bt sprays are known to generate allergic reactions in human beings. In addition now Bt

toxins are being engineered into plants and human beings are exposed to it through. According
to Jack Heinnemann, there are two reasons to examine the effect of engineered Bt genes as (1)
there is change in the interface between engineered Cry genes and o
ther bacteria and (2) there
has been increased exposure of human beings to Bt

(Heinnemann, 2009)

DNA traces in animal tissues

A survey of recent scientific literature by test biotech revealed that numerous instances and
studies have established that DNA
fragments from GE plants are being found in animal tissues,
for example in milk, muscles and organs. With mice it has been known for years that transgenic
DNA do not decompose in the stomach and could be found in other
organs. The

DNA traces were
d in animals ranging from goats to pigs to fishes and this is contrary to the belief held by
many scientists and EFSA that recombinant DNA could not be detected in animals (

Bt cotton and animal morbidity

Since 2005 there have been reports of illness, and i
n some cases death of cattle whi
ch foraged on

leaves and bolls from the
standing crops by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and
ANTHRA reported from Andhra Pradesh

(CSA, 2006)
ANTHRA ‘s stud
y o


matter has
shown that usually the third day after consumption of Bt cotton foliage/cake etc the animals
show signs of nasal discharge, cough, respiratory distress and sometimes bloody urine. In
cows fed on Bt cotton seed cake had lower mi
lk yield

(Ramdas, 2010)

In a letter to
GEAC, the Director, Department of Animal Husbandry, Government of Andhra Pradesh in 2007
wrote that ‘animal deaths were observed after feeding on Bt cotton in February
March, 200
and 2007 and in discussions with c
rop developers and scientists it was felt that the biosafety
tests done were inadequate to establish the safety of Bt cotton to animals (Department of Animal
Husbandry, 2007).

Mice fed with transgenic corn with
Cry1Ac protoxin

showed “systemic and mucosal
” responses
similar to those generated by the Cholera toxin. The study further demonstrated that Cry1Ac
protoxin binds to the surface of the mouse’s small intestine (

, 2000)

Another study
done on mice
by the same scientists demonstrated that
protoxin is


immunogen able to induce a specific immune response in the mucosal tissue, which has
not been observed in response to most other proteins”
Padron, 2000

GM corn and Organ Dam

A study published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences demonstrates the toxicity of
three genetically modified corn varieties (MON
810, MON863 and NK603) from
three corn varieties are engineered for tolerance to herbicide Roundup. MON 810 and MON 863
also had stacked Bt genes for insect resistance.
In their analysis researchers from Criigen could
clearly link consumption of this corn to organ damage in mamm
als. Organs from the kidney to
liver and many others were observed to be effected. Dr.Seralini said that their conclusions
differed from that of Monsanto as they have gone beyond the 90 day studies that Monsanto has
done, which is hardly sufficient to dete
ct effects of chronic toxicity and also explored “sex
differentiated health effects on mammals”

(de Vendomois


Persistence of Bt toxins

One of the argument scientists and industry has put forth is the Bt toxins are active only in
alkaline medi
um at

study conducted in

Canada, by doctors in the University of

, with pregnant and non pregnant women who are exposed to Bt toxin
Cry1Ab through genetically engineered food. Bt toxin was detected in

93 % of
od samples and 80% of the fetal blood samples

and in 69% of the blood samples of the non
pregnant women. According to the conclusions of the study the Bt toxin appears to cross from
the placenta to the

, 2011

Environmental Effects


on non target organisms
One of the advantages cited by
scientists about Bt is that it
is benign toward non target organisms.
However many studies have questioned this assumption
and numerous instances of the toxic effect of the transgenic Bt plant on
non target organisms
have been found.

One of the earliest reported studies on the impact of genetically engineered Bt plants was that of
Monarch butterfly deaths due to feeding on leaves dusted with Bt corn pollen. Since then
esearch has established that

honey bees,
a major pollinator and
one of the most beneficial
organisms, are negatively affected by foraging on Bt plants which carry the Cry1Ab
The bees exposed to the transgenic Bt plants demonstrated disturbed
development and

and their
feeding behavior was also effected, thereby creating the possibility of
impacting their foraging efficiency (Ramirez
et al
, 2007).

Impact on Water bodies

and aquatic life


study published in the journal “Proceedings
of the National Academy of Science Researchers has established that the insecticide in Bt corn
polluting rivers and water bodies in the US. They have found that the insecticide from the Bt
corn has leeched into
many streams and rivers studied. Researchers as yet do not yet know what
impact this has on the aquatic biology of the water bodies”
Marshall, 2007)

A study by Bohn et al to check the effect of transgenic Bt maize with Cry1Ab endotoxin on
a magna , a crustacean arthropod( commonly used as model organism for ecotoxicology
testing) found that when these are fed with ground Bt maize leaves they showed reduced fitness,
higher mortality, reduced egg production in females and a lower number of fe
males reaching
maturity (Bohn et al, 2008). This demonstrates that in addition to affecting non target terrestrial
life forms Bt toxins can affect aquatic systems,


non target organisms,
which receive run off material from BT fields.
A s
tudy in

concluded that in Midwestern
United States where Bt Corn with Cry1Ab toxin is widely planted corn plant parts

headwater streams and are consumed by non target stream insects causing reduced growth and
increased mortality (Rosi
et all, 2007)

Effect on soil


The effect of the large amount of active Bt toxins generated by
the transgenic plants and their impacts on the soil systems show that the soil in which Bt cotton
grew has lower average soil respiration rate

(an important index to asses biological activity of
the soil), lower level of activity by a section of soil microbes and
a negative effect on availability
of mineral nitrogen in the soils

(Sarkar et al, 2008).

es with two
transgenic BT corn

lines (Bt
11 & Bt 176)

expressing Cry1Ab protein
demonstrated that they have a significant impact on arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, an
important component determining soil fertility, plant nutrition and .
AM fungi are

an important
non target soil organism due to

its significant role in sustainable agriculture. Both the Bt
resulted in decreased root colonization activity by the AM fungi (Turrini, A et al, 2008).

Bt Crops and Resistant Development

Weather the weapons are pesticides sprayed on to the crops or genetic protection built into the
plant, the pest usually adapts to the new conditions sooner or later and the protection becomes
ineffective. Transgenic Bt cotton plants contain genes for Bt to
xins derived from the soil
Bacillus thuringiensis
. These toxins kill the caterpillar stage of bollworms;
(Cotton bollworm) and
Pectinophora gossypiella
(Pink bollworm). Although no
instance of bollworm resistance to Bt cotton

in the field has yet been reported, bollworms are
known to be able to develop genetic resistance to Bt toxins as per the reports from researches in
USA, Australia and India. To prevent or delay the emergence of insect resistance to Bt crops, the
logy industry and the Environmental Protection Agency developed a Insect Resistant
Management (IRM) strategy as a component of seed contracts biotechnology companies sign
with farmers.

Due to the threat of development of resistance within target species du
e to the constant
exposure to the active form of the toxin, EPA has mandated that transgenic plants Insect
Resistance Management plan which involves with Bt be grown with refugia of non transgenic
plants. This has been mandated with the expectation that in
sects which have developed
resistance to the Bt toxin will breed with those which have not developed resistance and thereby
dilute the toxicity. However in the Indian context it has been found that farmers are rarely
adhering to the refugia strategy.

The c
ompany suggested IRM strategy during release of Bt cotton in US operates on a high dose
and refuge strategy.


The high
dose component of the IRM strategy dictates that the dose of the toxin would
several folds than sufficient to kill all target insect pest

It assumed that at this level no insect will escape the poison there leaving no room for the
question of resistance insects surviving. However the toxin expression in the plants depends on
environment and can vary from plant to plant, between diffe
rent parts of the plant and within
the same plant part over time.


The second component of the IRM strategy is the use of refuges of non
Bt crops.


which aims at

creating a barrier for mating between resistant insects which survive on
the Bt crops.

Among the insects feeding on bt cotton susceptible ones die and only resistant
ones survive. They mate among themselves and increase their numbers. Hence, a refuge
strategy where certain area is marked for non
Bt crop which is managed without using
icides is suggested.

The success of this strategy depends on the fact that resistance to Bt has been found to be a
recessive trait. That means that Bt

will still be effective against an insect that carries both a Bt

resistant gene and a Bt
susceptible gene because the susceptible gene dominates. Refuges allow
susceptible insects to proliferate without selection pressure from Bt toxins. The susceptib
insects are then available to mate with resistant insects that may emerge from the Bt field. This
slows the spread of the recessive gene and lowers the chance that succeeding offspring carrying
two Bt resistant genes will proliferate.

However in practic
e this seems to have been not working.

Resistance Management by the High
dose/ Refuge
the Global Experience:

The EPA and most industrial companies clearly pursue the high dose/refuge approach. A 4
5 %
refuge without insecticide use or about 20
25 % with in
secticide spraying were demanded by
the EPA for the cotton and corn varieties (See EPA website The high dose
concept combined with refuge provisions in the USA is not accepted as a best practice by some
Entomologists (Ferro 1993, Mc Ga
Whalon 1992, Shelton et al.1993, Melon & Rissler
1998). Gould et al (1997) predicted a 10 year period without resistance problems concerning
Heliothes virescens
and only a 3 year period for the bollworm complex (
Pectinophora gossypiella

pink bo
Helicoverpa zea
cotton bollworm or
Helicoverpa sp
.) taking into account a
portion of 4% refuge without insecticide use in cotton. These predictions have been based on
monitoring the frequency of resistance alleles in the USA. Although computer simulations and
population genetic theory, laboratory and gre
en house tests support this high dose/ refuge
concept, there are serious reasons not to rely on it. The models, simulations or green house tests
do not take into account a wide range of environmental irregularities. Temporary, very high pest
pressure due t
o regional climate differences, the occurrence of dominant resistance alleles in
some populations, long range flights of resistant genotypes or varying expression levels due to
different promoters, silencing or plant age can undermine the concept in nature

The concept is valid when 99% of the individuals (by transgenic varieties) and 100% of the
resistant heterozygotes are killed. Therefore, the toxin expression must be uniform in time and
space. The more target insects that are included in the control Bt

transgenic variety the more
difficult are the assumptions for the refuges to meet. The refuges should be as large as they need
to be in order to prevent feeding instars from moving to non
Bt plants and small enough to make
many individuals mate in the ref
uge (Mallet &Porter 1992, Tabashnik 1994, Gould &


Studies on Resistance to Bt in India:

Resistant insects

Resistant insects



A study by Fakruddin et al (2002) of Dept. of Biotchnology, UAS, Dharwad and Dept. of
Entomology, Collage of Agriculture, Raichur revealed the resista
nce of
to Cry1Ac
toxin in 11 distinct geographic populations representing the entire South Indian Cotton
Ecosystem. The data shows that even before the use of Cry1Ac transgenics, the level of
resistance was 8.4 fold in Nanded population followed

by 8.03, 7.70, 7.13, 6.80, respectively for
Guntur, Nalgonda, Madhira and Raichur. Notably, variability for response to Cry1Ac toxin does
exit in the target population, whether or not previously exposed to the toxin. When the Bt cotton
was permitted for c
ommercial cultivation in India, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee
(GEAC) has imposed similar restriction in terms of growing refugia
). But, the conditions were put
without any basic studies. For example the refuge strategy should be developed only after

1. the recessive/dominance factor of resistance

2. the initial frequency of the resistant allele

3. the mating

behavior of the insect moth

and differential plans based on whether refuge crop is sprayed or unsprayed was never
mentioned. GEAC has just borrowed the recommendations from the EPA without any studies
being done in India on refuge requirements. The comp
any also, while clearly mentions the
strategy in US, in India has not advised its farmers not to spray on the refuge. At all the places
farmers are seen using pesticides as regularly. The Monitoring and Evaluation Committee
reports clearly showed that ref
uge is not planted in most parts of the country. The company
argued that other non bt cotton and other crops which acts as hosts for Helicoverpa acts as
refuge and allow them to dispense with refuge requirement.

Kranthi, 2005 reported that the qua
ntitative levels of Cry1Ac and the seasonal decline in
expression differed significantly among the eight commercial Bollgard hybrids tested. The
Cry1Ac expression was found to be variable among the hybrids and also between different plant
parts. The leaves

of Bt
cotton plants were found to have the highest levels of Cry1Ac expression
followed by squares, bolls and flowers. The toxin expression in the boll
rind, square bud and
ovary of flowers was clearly inadequate to confer full protection to the fruiting
parts. Increasing
levels of Helicoverpa armigera survival were correlated with the toxin levels decreasing below
1.8 mg/g in the plant parts. Genotype
independent seasonal decline of the Cry1Ac toxin levels
was observed in all the hybrids. Cry1Ac expressio
n decreased consistently as the plant aged. The
decline in Cry1Ac was more rapid in some hybrids compared to others.

Pest resistance to B

The primary purpose, cited by the biotechnology industry, for
creating Bt crops is to reduce the use of pesticides, however Bt crops have within a short period
seen development of resistance amongst the target insect
population which

has resulted in the
enviable situation of planting toxin generating and spraying pesticides on them. Another
problem is that the disturbance of the pest ecology by these crops has resulted in the emergence
of many secondary and minor pests into major threats to the cropping s

Resistance strategy advocated by the GE promoters and the EPA has been a combination of high
dosage of toxin and refuge . However many entomologists are against this strategy as this
strategy despite good results in the labs has not been effective o
n the fields. Experiments and
studies have shown that the development time of bollworm larvae feeding on Bt cotton is take 5
6 days longer than larvae not exposed to Bt cotton and therefore despite refugia it is very likely
that two resistant bollworm moth
s would mate with each other . Even under laboratory
conditions resistance developed within 5 years and in the field with much larger populations it
will take less time that that ( Ramanjaneyalu, 2010)

Resistance to Pink Bollworm

In March 2010 Monsanto
India admitted in a press release that Bollgard1, the Bt cotton with the
single protein Cry1Ac, has developed resistance to pink bollworm(
Pectinophora gossypiella

Resistance was confirmed in four districts in Gujarat

Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagarh

They advised

farmers to adopt Bollgard II
their own Bt cotton with

stacked genes

Bollworm being specific to cotton, mono cropping of bt cotton has led to fast resistance
Monsanto blamed farmers for not adopting refug
e and spurious bt
cotton hybrids grown in Gujarat

Implications to Bt Brinjal:

Neither the company and CICR which were supposed to have
reported this every year nor the GEAC which was supposed to have reviewed the reports have
admitted this problem durin
g Bt Brinjal consultations which is clearly amounts to withholding of
information. Brinjal Fruit and Shoot borer is also a monophagus pest like Pink Bollworm. Hence
similar resistance development would be seen.

Resistance to Bollworm

A study done in Karnataka by scientists from the University of Agricultural Sciences in Raichur
and the Institute of Wood Sciences and Technology in Bangalore
2010) has
established that the bollworm the major cotton pest in India is not only

thriving on both the
single gene Bt cotton( Cry1Ac) and the double gene Bt cotton (Cry1Ac & Cry2Ab)

The authors

that it has been demonstrated that the bollworms not only survive after feeding on Bt
cotton plants, they are able to complete their lif
ecycle and reproduce and create the next
generation of resistant pests.

The double gene Bt cotton was introduced in India just four years back in 2006 while the single
gene product, which has already shown resistance to pink bollworm, was approved in 20
02. In
2008 when it was reported in a study by Bruce Tabashnik

(Tabashink, 2010)
in the US that Bt
cotton had developed resistance to bollworm (
Helicoverpa z
), officials of Mahyco Monsanto






Biotech Ltd were quick to reassure that the key target pest to cot
ton in India had a different
resistance pattern and that in addition Bollgard II was “a superior” product .

The resistance development in bollgard

also has an implication on other varieties and hybrids
being developed by public sector institutions. The first public sector variety (Bikeneri Narma bt)
and hybrid (NH
44 Bt) both with Cry1Ac were released in 2008 year and began cultivation only
this yea

If insects develops resistance to this toxin what would be the status of the farmers
who uses it?

As this technology lag between public sector and private sector always happen,
their research will not be irrelevant most of the times.

of min
or pests into major pests:

Dr. Keshav Kranthi
of Central Institute for Cotton
has said that due to the widespread adoption of Bt cotton secondary pests like mealy
bugs and whiteflies have emerged as a major problem in Bt cotton forcing farmers to
spray toxic
chemicals and pesticide usage in Bt cotton is on the rise after an initial decline


He said that
almost 90% of the Bt cotton
hybrid grown in India is

susceptible to these two pests and reported
that insecticide use in cotton increased from

Rs 640 crores in 2006 to 800 crores in 2008.

A ten year study, across 1997
2008, in China revealed that Bt cotton cultivation has resulted in a
12 fold increase in mir

bugs, formerly a minor pest in cotton, making it the major pest of Bt
cotton and inducing farmers to spray pesticides extensively. This jump in mirid bug population
is also affecting other crops in addition to reducing cotton yields as much bollworm did i
n the
pre Bt days (Wu et al, 2010).

What we have with transgenic crops is a succession of short term, sort of silver bullet
solutions…providing false hope to many people that transgenic crops are going to solve the
problems of pest control.

Exorbitant se
ed prices and loss of farmer control

Since the introduction of Bt cotton in India, on one hand we have had unabated farmer suicides
in the cotton belt

and on the other, the

royalty earned by Monsanto between 2002

2008 is Rs 1530 crores, that

too without a registered patent on the product in India

(the Bt
patent was not been valid in India till 2008)

. The situation was so bad that the Andhra Pradesh
government went to the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTP) in


Cotton lessons for Bt brinjal, Telegraph India,


Some Bt cotton pests on the rice, Live Mint,


Bt cotton :

A critical appraisal, K.R.Kranthi,
Annexure to Bt brinjal decision note, Ministry of
Environment and Forests, page 180




2006 t
o challenge the horrendous price of Rs 1800 for 450 gms of seed out of which Monsanto
was being paid a technology fees of Rs 1200

In the last 7 years since the introduction of Bt cotton conventional cotton varieties have
disappeared from the Indian seed

market and are not available for the farmers if they want to
plant it. Neither the private seed dealers nor the public sector produces or sells conventional
cotton seeds, thereby forcing farmers to buy Bt cotton, which has been engineered into hybrid
eties that have to be replaced every year.

In addition contamination of parental lines of
cotton varieties by Bt cotton has taken place. Contamination happens due to lack of isolation
distance and thereby cross fertilization, mixing up of Bt cotton and no
n Bt cotton during ginning
process etc.

Alternatives to Bt crops

Pest management through NPM
The biotechnology industry has been selling Bt

as an antidote
to pesticide usage claiming that using genetically engineered Bt crops will reduce use of
pesticides. However according to reports by

Kranti, from CICR after initial reduction
in pesticide usage in Bt cotton, there has been an up
surge in pesticide usage for Bt crops (
cotton) to deal with emergence of secondary pests. This has happened within five years of
introduction of Bt cotton in India clearly demonstrating the very short term effect of genetically
engineered Bt crop.

On the other hand organic farmers around the country have established that all crops can be
grown successfully without pesticides . In addition a large successful ongoing non pesticide
management program in Andhra Pradesh has established beyond doubt that

the BT technology
is definitely not required to reduce pesticide usage.

The Minister for Environment & Forests Mr. Jairam Ramesh, in the BT brinjal decision document,
talked about the experience of Non Pesticide Management (NPM) agriculture being practic
ed in
Andhra Pradesh, as an economically and ecologically sound way to deal with the issue of heavy
use of pesticides
He pointed out that while Bt reduced pesticide usage , NPM eliminated the
need for pesticides

The seeds of the Community Managed Sustai
nable Agriculture (CMSA) project were sown with
the work by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA)

on non pesticide management
agriculture in Andhra Pradesh, a state with very high levels of pesticide usage.

The beginning was in Punukula village in 200
1 with 200 farmers, which became pesticide free in
, without loss of yield and with good profits for farmers. Enabhavi village went another
step ahead and became completely organic. This was while the state was experiencing high
levels of farmer suic
ides due to indebtedness

. Seeing the success of this model Society for
Elimination of Rural Poverty(SERP)

, a unit of the state governments rural dept , joined hands


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SERP was set up by the rural development dept of the Andhra Pradesh state government

with CSA in 2004 to take this forward as a full fledged program across 400 acres of l
and in 12
villages involving local women’s self help groups

(Vijay Kumar T 2010)

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traditional wisdom. With integrated pest management as its pivot CMSA advocates : managing
pest populations through understanding pest behavior, improving soil health
, increasing
diversity of crop systems and using local land races , replacing chemical pesticides with physical
methods and bio pesticides and reducing ( and eventually stopping) the use of synthetic
. CMSA has been ably managed by robust co
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farmer field schools and provided institutional support for credit and value addition. Currently a
million farmers are practicing no
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