Volatility

February 11, 2015

The Bt Cotton Fraud Part Three: The Global Record, and What It All Means

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From the history we explored in Parts One and Two we see how Bt cotton has aggravated the poison/debt agronomic treadmill and economic trap which enclose small farmers in hopelessness and misery, to the point that in the end their only avenues of escape are suicide or to flee the land for the terminal shantytown slums. Bt cotton has turned an agricultural crisis into a catastrophe.
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This result was no accident, nor was it unforeseen. On the contrary, it’s simply an escalation of standard “green revolution” phenomena: The replacement of food-based (or in this case textile-based) agriculture with poison- and commodity-based; the enclosure and concentration of agricultural power and profitability on an elitist basis; the forced mass expulsion of the people from the land. The fact that government, corporate, academic, and media elites touted Bt cotton to small farmers knowing it could lead only to their destruction comprises a great crime against humanity.
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Various Indian state governments and some central government officials have made half-hearted attempts to ameliorate the situation. In 2005 the government of Andhra Pradesh state banned three Monsanto-Mahyco varieties for poor performance and sought in vain to force Mahyco to compensate farmers. In 2006 the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) issued an anti-monopoly pricing order against Monsanto-Mahyco, which Mahyco has done all it can to flout. The central government in 2008 as well as the state governments of Maharashtra in 2008, Maharashtra again in 2011 and 2012, and Karnataka in 2014 undertook regional farmer bailouts in response to atrocious Bt performance and crop failures. At various times Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have banned Mahyco seeds for bad performance and fraudulent sales practices. But these ad hoc, piecemeal measures are utterly insufficient.
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Meanwhile, Monsanto’s lie machine has made lame attempts to suppress the facts. Regional crop failures, as in Karnataka in 2014, are attributed to allegedly unforeseen plagues of secondary pests. The farmers themselves are always a popular scapegoat. It’s especially perverse the way Monsanto and the Indian government encourage cash-poor small farmers to to buy the GMO product, lying all the way about the expensive inputs necessary to grow it, and then blame the farmer for not being able to provide these inputs, for example the added pesticides necessary to battle those newly insurgent secondary pests which always follow in Bt’s train. As always with technocrats and elitists in general, if the people lack the resources to get a technology to perform, that doesn’t mean the technology was wrongly deployed by the supplier, but that the people failed the technology.
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Most absurdly, the Monsanto publicists attribute the economic plight of small farmers and the suicide epidemic to “debt”. In the first place, this is tautological, since farmer debt is practically synonymous with their economic crisis. More important, this is just an attempted semantic misdirection which is substantively identical to saying: The cause of the farmer economic crisis and suicide epidemic is the commodification and poison treadmill, exacerbated by Bt cotton. This has driven them into a terminal debt crisis. In other words, the hacks themselves confess that their GMO is a main driver of the crisis, and that the is 100% the result of their commodification of Indian agriculture.
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There’s a summary of the horrific record of the Bt cotton experiment in India. This same record is borne out everywhere around the world Bt cotton has been deployed: It requires far more water, therefore farmers can never depend upon rainfall but need artificial irrigation; it uses more pesticides; it needs more synthetic fertilizer; it costs more to grow. Given the full outlay of expensive inputs, it may temporarily yield well and require less pesticide. This difference lasts only a few years. Small farmers lacking the resources to provide the accessory inputs never enjoy any benefit.
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This pattern has held everywhere, from the richest countries like the US and Australia (both suffered yield declines and subsequent reduced Bt plantings during the drought of 2013) to Latin America. Bt cotton in Argentina has a starkly differing performance record between rich plantation farmers and hardscrabble small farmers.
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The abstract of the study I just linked does such a good job of encapsulating the basic fact that I’ll quote it here.
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Drawing on a socio-technical systems perspective we compare the ways in which novel genetically modified (GM) crop artefacts, related devices and techniques, actors, practices, and institutions have been linked together, or configured, across two distinctive cotton production systems in north east Argentina, one based around large-scale farming and the other based around small-scale family farming. In the former system, new GM seeds, actors, complementary artefacts, agricultural techniques, and technical support, and modified supply markets and regulatory rules have been linked together in ways that mean agricultural biotechnologies perform well. In the latter system, the new GM artefacts were unavailable, whilst conventional seeds disappeared from input markets. Instead, linkages were formed between informal seed multipliers and dealers, copied GM seeds, of unreliable identify and poor quality, unmodified production practices, declining technical support, uncontrolled pest problems, and an absence of regulatory oversight, resulting in a poorly performing technology. In effect, working agricultural biotechnologies are different in the two farming systems; they have different characteristics and capabilities and perform in different ways.

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The Colombian government fined Monsanto for the awful performance of its Bt cotton seeds. It was the same story: for small farmers Bt cotton didn’t perform well against pests, didn’t reduce pesticide use or costs, yielded poorly. Elsewhere in Asia, Chinese production, long afflicted by the secondary mirid bug, is suffering from surging bollworm resistance. Chinese problems with Bt cotton aren’t new. A 2006 Chinese/Cornell study already documented the standard pattern: Seven years of Chinese Bt cotton cultivation had seen a temporary decline in pesticide use and rise in income, then the surge of secondary pests drove farmers back to spraying as much as 20 times a year. Soon they were paying more for pesticides and making less money than non-GM conventional farmers. In Pakistan pesticide use and costs are rising steeply on account of the rampant fraud and the generally dismal performance of the seeds against pests. In Africa’s Burkino Faso, farmer success or failure with Bt cotton has been a function of farmer access to credit on rational terms and the ability of farmers to pay for expensive inputs.
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African cotton farmers, like the small farmers of India, are especially devastated by US dumping of its heavily subsidized cotton. Never forget that the same US government which touts GMOs around the world as a great bet for small farmers is ruthlessly dumping its corporate welfare crops on the heads of those same farmers like hot coals. China and the EU also subsidize cotton.
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Second to the Indian saga, the most famous Bt cotton rollout was the abortive deployment in the Makhathini Flats region of South Africa from the latter 1990s to 2005. In Makhathini, the neoliberal government undertook the same kind of propaganda campaign, promised loans and subsidies, told the same high-flying lies, though these seem to have been directed at the international community and world media at least as much as at Makhathini’s farmers. (Sure enough, the UN’s FAO bit; its 2004 State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report, which swallowed the lies whole, is a favorite citation of corporate and media hacks to this day.) Local leaders were enlisted to attest to the benefits of Bt cotton. Economically beleaguered small farmers responded by adopting the Bt technology, with the same result as in India – increased costs, crop failure, the poison treadmill, the debt trap, ending in being driven off the land. (Some were able to stick around as laborers on land they’d once stewarded.) Most survivors abandoned cotton completely. By the late 1990s over 90% of Makhathini cotton farmers had adopted Bt. By 2004 drought (lack of irrigation), pesticide costs (secondary pests and then target resistance), depressed cotton prices (US dumping), and impossible debt had caused most farmers to abandon cotton completely.
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The worldwide evidence record of the agronomic and environmental performance of Bt cotton has been the same everywhere. It has always led to failure and disaster for small farmers. That Monsanto, governments, academia, and the media continue to hype Bt cotton as appropriate for small farmers must qualify by now as history’s ultimate fraud and hoax. It “works” for no one but the destructive, parasitic elites who profit off it and use it to exert ever greater control over agriculture.
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The Makhathini Flats episode most clearly highlights the basic PR hoax aspect of Bt cotton. Bt cotton was debuted in Makhathini with such fanfare, followed by a few years of hype while performance plummeted and farmers abandoned in droves not only Bt cotton but cotton itself, so that the whole thing had fizzled out by 2005, leaving nothing behind but an ongoing lie. (The uninformed who listen only to government and the corporate media probably think Bt cotton is to this day an ongoing success in South Africa. In fact there’s practically no Bt cotton being grown, and little cotton in general.) Part of Bt’s promise as a hoax product is that it can serve as a Trojan horse for GMOs in general. Often, as in India, GM cotton is the first GMO deployed in a country. Since cotton is perceived as a non-food (but cottonseed oil is widely used in processed foods), Bt cotton tends not to be as inflammatory an issue as GMOs such as corn or soy bound to be incorporated into food, let alone direct Frankenfoods like a GM potato or salmon. GMO-leery farmers and populations have been more readily induced to accept it. So the less controversial GMO is supposed to serve as the camel’s nose in the tent. Once its commercial presence politically normalizes GMOs as such, it’ll be easier to commercialize crops indirectly and directly bound to be food. That’s the Monsanto plan. In India the plan was to commercialize Bt cotton, then use that as the precedent to deploy Bt brinjal (eggplant), GM maize and rice, and other crops. So far this plan has stalled out, in large part because Bt cotton has been such a disaster. In general this strategy hasn’t worked well for the cartel. Even in countries where GM cotton is established, the people remain suspicious of GMOs. “Golden rice” is supposed to serve the same Trojan horse purpose if the bozos trying to develop it can ever get it to work. In the meantime it remains a seemingly permanent propaganda fixture even though it doesn’t really exist in any deployable form. It’s the most pure GMO media hoax.
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In fact, the failure of Bt cotton and the great fraud it incarnates are typical of the Bt and herbicide tolerance (HT) GMOs in general. These are the only two effective types of GMOs. Both are literally poison plants. They’re engineered to produce their own endemic Bt insecticide and/or to tolerate copious slatherings of herbicide, usually Monsanto’s Roundup. The herbicide is taken into the crop itself and suffuses all its cells. Therefore GMOs add two completely new, massive, indelible presences of extreme poison in our food.
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In both cases the poison treadmill and the business strategy of planned obsolescence are fully operational. Except for a few trivial exceptions like the small and declining acreage of MON810 cultivation in Spain, no single-trait Bt maize variety has been effective for years. They’ve been replaced by stacked varieties which produce as many as six Bt toxins. Varieties which produce even more are in the pipeline, as pest resistance escalates and accelerates. Meanwhile the Roundup Ready GMO regime no longer works, as over a dozen RR superweeds rampage across North America, Brazil, and elsewhere. The only solution the system offers is to stack herbicide tolerances. Monsanto originally touted RR GMOs as rendering even more toxic poisons like 2,4-D and dicamba obsolete, while glyphosate (the main ingredient of Roundup, though not the only actively toxic ingredient) would never suffer weed resistance.
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Today Roundup Ready is in ruins, and the cartel and governments are pushing GMOs tolerant of the exact same ultra-toxic 2,4-D and dicamba which those same corporations and governments promised us would be a thing of the past if we just believed them about Roundup Ready. The results with each of these shall, of course, be exactly the same total failure, but with even worse socioeconomic, agronomic, environmental, and health destruction wrought along the way. This is why the Technical Expert Committee appointed by India’s supreme court to advise it on GMOs recommended, among several other important restrictions, that HT GMOs never be commercialized because of how badly they would aggravate the ongoing socioeconomic carnage by wiping out vast numbers of agricultural laborers. (Economically, HT crops are meant to be standard “labor-saving”, job-destroying devices. They’re also designed to save time so the farmer can expand his acreage, thus feeding the classical vicious circle of agricultural overproduction and trying to “make it up on volume”. This of course also adds to the Get Big or Get Out pressure.)
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We can see how both the Bt and the HT genres as such are in the aggregate massive frauds of the exact same character as Bt cotton. Bt cotton just provides the most clear example of how GMOs as such comprise a monumental fraud and crime.
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GMOs are worthless, wasteful, counterproductive, and destructive. They impose a severe constraint and bottleneck on all attempts to innovate and advance in agriculture, farming, and food. They are in fact intended to drive out all small and independent producers and, through attaining total corporate control of agriculture and food, impose such a strangling grip on the throat of humanity that we’ll never break free.
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GMOs must be completely abolished.

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9 Comments

  1. […] for small independent farmers to exist. Bt cotton provides one of the best case studies. . In Part Three we’ll survey Bt cotton around the world and confirm that the Indian experience, while […]

    Pingback by The Bt Cotton Fraud Part Two: Its Performance in the Field | Volatility — February 11, 2015 @ 2:03 am

  2. Here’s a study with the same findings for Bt maize in South Africa. Doesn’t work for small farmers, only for the richest, for the same reasons documented in these posts.

    http://gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2015-articles/15942-bt-maize-outperformed-by-local-non-gm-varieties-for-smallholders-in-south-africa

    Comment by Russ — February 13, 2015 @ 1:34 pm

  3. […] was the only way they could survive. As I described in my Bt cotton fraud series (parts one, two, three), farmers who heeded this government panic-mongering and relinquished their community farming role […]

    Pingback by The Indian Cotton Farmer Suicide Epidemic | Volatility — February 23, 2015 @ 4:38 am

  4. […] (And that’s not even counting the endotoxins themselves as part of the pesticide load.) So Bt cotton is the ultimate fraud among GMOs which have actually been widely deployed. Of the Indian state’s, Karnataka has […]

    Pingback by GMO News Summary, December 25th, 2015 | Volatility — December 25, 2015 @ 4:34 am

  5. […] Kenya Ltd. is pushing Bollgard II Bt cotton for Kenya. This is the same technology which has a perfect record of failure everywhere on Earth. Let’s briefly survey Bt cotton’s record just in Africa. Complete failure in South […]

    Pingback by Africa Vantage | Volatility — January 16, 2016 @ 4:00 am

  6. […] their products are worn out and cast out. Although the sector’s propaganda continues to flog the long-debunked lie that GMOs can be good for small farmers, in reality only where the land is concentrated into vast […]

    Pingback by Concentration in the Poison Sector (Dow/DuPont; Syngenta; Monsanto) | Volatility — January 19, 2016 @ 1:23 am

  7. […] apply all moral force necessary to abolish these poisons. . .*The Indian state of Karnataka is yet again having to prepare a farmer bailout after yet another Bt cotton disaster. This time the target pest, […]

    Pingback by GMO News Summary, January 29th, 2016 | Volatility — January 29, 2016 @ 9:06 am

  8. […] price control policy, along with the latest of the many Karnataka bailouts, is just the latest in the long line of central and state government bailouts, price controls, and bans on shoddy seeds. . *The […]

    Pingback by GMO News Summary, February 5th 2016 | Volatility — February 5, 2016 @ 5:18 am

  9. […] than the corporate status quo. . *Researchers in Burkina Faso are attributing this latest in the long line of Bt cotton blunders to a typical pleiotropic effect, which in the case of the pirated Bollgard II Burkinabe varieties […]

    Pingback by GMO News Summary February 12th, 2016 | Volatility — February 12, 2016 @ 8:02 am


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