It is failure of Bt technology, opines expert panel

December 25, 2015 05:31 pm | Updated November 16, 2021 04:04 pm IST - RAICHUR

An independent fact-finding team of cotton experts that examined Bt cotton fields destroyed by pink bollworm in Raichur district on Thursday strongly held that >the crop destruction was not due to adulteration of seeds, but due to the failure of Bt technology itself. Addressing media in Raichur on Friday, Dr. H.R. Prakash, Agronomist and Rtd Additional Director, Department of Agriculture, Mr. Manjunath Holalu, Forestry and Environmentalist, P. Srinivas Vasu, ActionAid representative, Venkatesh Patel, a progressive activist and other team members opined that the Bt cotton, despite been cultivated as per the instructions and guidelines of seed producers and Agricultural Universities, was destroyed by pink bollworm pest.

Failure of Bt technology:

“It is clearly not the issue of seed adulteration, but that of failure of Bt technology itself. As many opponents of Bt technology had warned much earlier, the pests gradually developed resistance to Bt toxin produced by the Bt crop and destroyed the crop. The outbreaks of white fly menace in North Karnataka and Andhra1996, mirid bugs in Haveri and surrounding areas in 2013 and pink bollworm now in Raichur have clearly refuted the claims Bt cotton seed producers claims on pest-resistance,” Mr. Manjunath Holalu said.

He warned that the next outbreak of pest in Bt cotton could be American bollworm which would be more dangerous as it, unlike pink bollworm that destroys only cotton crop, destroys other crops along with cotton.

When asked whether pink bollworm fell under Bt cotton seed producers’ pest-resistance claim-purview, Mr. Holalu showed the instruction manual supplied with Bt cotton seed packet and said that it did.

“The Bt cotton producers, in the instruction manual, assured protection from pink bollworm by clearly saying that ‘it [Bt cotton] controls not only American, Spotted and Pink bollworms, but also highly effective against Spodoptera and Semi-loopers’. Contrary to their claims, it is the pink bollworm that devastated cotton Bt cotton fields in Raichur district,” he said.

Mr. Holalu strongly demanded the government to amend Seed Act 1966 so as to incorporate provisions that would deal with genetic purity of genetically modified seeds. “The existing Seed Act of 1966 has provisions to deal with issues related to germination and physical purity. But, there is nothing that regulates the genetic purity. Only amending the Act, we can handle issues such as crop destruction due to pest attack that we see in Raichur district now,” he said.

UAS-R report criticised:

Dr. H.R. Prakash, who led the team, said that the study report released by the University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur, was incomplete and incomprehensive. “As per the UAS-R report, the estimated destruction of Bt cotton by pink bollworm is around 40-50 percent in rain-fed areas and 60-70 percent in irrigated areas. We however found that over 80 percent of crop, both in rain-fed and irrigated areas, cultivated around 1.5 lakh acres in Raichur district was destroyed, incurring a loss of over Rs. 300 crores,” he said and demanded the University to send its team once again to the fields for proper study.

He also demanded the government to constitute expert teams and conduct a comprehensive field studies to estimate to amount of loss and take proper actions to safeguard the interests of farmers.

“Bt cotton seed producers, whose pest resistance claims turned out to be a hoax, must be held responsible for crop loss. Government should ensure that the seed producers would pay compensation to affected farmers,” Venkatesh Patel, a team member, demanded.

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