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Regarding Bt Cotton

LETTER
EPW has been India’s premier journal for comment on current affairs and research in social sciences. Regarding Bt Cotton
It succeeded Economic Weekly (1949-1965), which was launched and shepherded by Sachin Chaudhuri, who was also the founder-editor of EPW. Kavitha Kuruganti (KK), the author of “Bt Cotton and the Myth of Enhanced
As editor for thirty-five years (1969-2004) Krishna Raj Yields” (EPW, 30 May 2009) has made a
gave EPW the reputation it now enjoys. wanton attempt to depict that Bt cotton
editor and the technology it is based on do not
C Rammanohar Reddy Deputy Editor enhance yields. By deliberately ignoring
Bernard D’Mello many peer-reviewed publications attesting
web Editor subhash rai to the success of Bt cotton in India, she has
Senior Assistant Editors dubbed it as a “myth”. Perhaps, it must be
Lina Mathias aniket Alam her urban myth. While endorsing “Campaign
Bharati Bhargava against Bt Cotton” by R V Ramana Murthy
Assistant Editors Srinivasan ramani (EPW, 15 August 2009), in which he has
rama sampath kumar Editorial Staff cogently pointed many technical flaws in
Prabha Pillai KK’s analysis, I would like to point out
Editorial Assistants P S Leela some more facts:
Tanya Sethi (1) In order to express the hybrid vigour,
Editorial Consultant Gautam Navlakha all hybrids need all the essential inputs
Circulation like water, chemical pesticides and ferti-
Gauraang Pradhan Manager B S Sharma lisers to maximise the yield. This is a
Advertisement Manager well established scientific fact for over
Kamal G Fanibanda General Manager & Publisher 60 years.
K Vijayakumar (2) Neither only water nor only hybrid or
editorial epw.mumbai@gmail.com, edit@epw.in any other high quality seed will perform to
Circulation its potential unless all growth-promoting
circulation@epw.in Advertising inputs are provided. This is the basis of the
advt@epw.in, advt.epw@gmail.com green revolution all over the world.
Economic and Political Weekly 320-321, A to Z Industrial Estate (3) To discount the role of a good hybrid
Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel Mumbai 400 013 endowed with a Bt transgene in higher
Phone: (022) 4063 8282 productivity of Bt cotton is disingenuous
FAX: (022) 2493 4515 EPW Research Foundation and scientifically untenable.
EPW Research Foundation, established in 1993, conducts research on financial and macro-economic issues in India. (4) No one has ever suggested that Bt gene,
Director per se, increases yield. The gene is meant
k kanagasabapathy C 212, Akurli Industrial Estate to protect cotton against one of the most
Kandivali (East), Mumbai 400 101 Phones: (022) 2887 3038/41 | Fax: (022) 2887 3038 dreaded pest called bollworm.
epwrf@vsnl.com (5) By warding off the bollworm infesta-
Subscription Rates tion, the Bt cotton is then allowed to realise
Inland Subscription (Rs) Six One Three months year years its full potential and the differential results
Institutions – 2500 6800 Individuals 650 1250 3200 Teachers/Researchers – 900 2400 Students – 600 – in increased yield. Under field conditions, Bt cotton has increased yield when compared to non-Bt cotton by an average of
Concessional rates are restricted to students, teachers and researchers in India.To subscribe at concessional rates, please submit proof of eligibility 15-30%, which is agronomically significant.
from an institution. Remittance by money order/bank draft preferred. Please add Rs 35 to cheques drawn on banks outside Mumbai. (6) As pointed out by R V Ramana Murthy,
Overseas Subscription ($US) Air Mail Surface Mail the European Union (EU) has not taken
Institutional Rates One year One year SAARC Countries 130 115 Rest of the world 250 170 Individual Rates any cautious stand on GM crops, but some of its member states have been playing politics much against the scientific and
SAARC Countries 100 75 Rest of the world 170 125 The Department of Posts has removed the concession accorded to regulatory advice of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The EU has been
Registered Newspapers on postage outside the country. As a result the postage rate has doubled for airmail and surface mail.Therefore, we are using the precautionary principle illegiti
constrained to revise the subscription rates. Web subscription (one year) mately to stay off GM crops.
India Individuals Rs 800 Institutions Rs 2100 (7) The Indian government does care and
Foreign Individuals US $ 60 Institutions US $ 110 All remittances to Economic & Political Weekly. For online credit card payment for subscription log on to www.epw.in has a scientifically sound regulatory review system to verify the safety of GM crops.
4 august 29, 2009

Ever since the first issue in 1966,

However, the anti-GM lobby in India strongly contests the capacity of India’s regulatory system based on innuendoes and false and illegitimate scientific evidence.

  • (8) There is no danger of Bt toxin in Bt cotton entering the food chain as Bt toxin is biologically highly specific to only Lepidopteron insects, and does not affect the digestive systems of higher mammals and humans.
  • (9) Cotton seed oil that is extracted and refined does not contain even trace amounts of protein or nucleic acids of any kind.
  • (10) As averred by KK, RR soybean (GM) yield in the US has not come down in more than 10 years since its introduction in 1997. In any introduced crop, variation in yield is a norm; one must evaluate it objectively over several years of cultivation. By selectively quoting one publication in 2001, sweeping generalisations are not scientific and credible. This is also true of the first three Bt cotton hybrids of Mahyco-Monsanto. It was due to the pounding campaign against them by disingenuous NGOs that the government of Andhra Pradesh banned them in the state. However, farmers who know better about them are still growing them by bringing those seeds from neighbouring Maharashtra.
  • All in all, Bt cotton is a success story for eight years running and shows no signs of abandonment by farmers.

    It is actually the anti-GM campaign, based on a “political ideology”, that is the real urban myth. The anti-GM campaign has lost its credibility in the face of the success of Bt cotton in the country.

    Shanthu Shantharam

    Biologistics International, Ellicott City, MD,

    USA

    Cold-blooded Murder in Manipur

    T
    he cold-blooded murder of Chungkham Sanjit, a 27-year old Manipuri youth in broad daylight on 23 July by the Manipur Police Commandos (MPC), barely 100 metres from the state assembly building in the heart of Kiuuairamaban Bazaar, Imphal, the biggest market in Manipur, and the death of Rubina Devi in “crossfiring”

    (Continued on p 74)

    vol xliv no 35

    EPW
    Economic & Political Weekly

    LETTER

    (Continued from p 4)

    when there was no encounter, once again highlight the sordid truth about “encounter” killings in Manipur.

    The fact that the chief minister passed this off as death in encounter and that it was inevitable because this is what he was told by senior police officers also shows that a culture of impunity has come to stay in Manipur. And this drives a hole through the pretence about pre-eminence of civil administration.

    It is worth recalling that the cold-blooded murder carried out by the MPC took place in the Imphal valley, an area where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) of 1958 had been withdrawn, but even in its absence, the logic of the AFSPA prevails. They would have gotten away with this Act were it not for the fortuitous presence of a press photographer who recorded the last moments of Sanjit’s life and death. That the MPC felt confident in carrying out the killing was because impunity flows from militarisation that involves the creation of armed battalions of police, which are like the infantry formations of the army, are indemnified against prosecution because they are said to be acting in “good faith”. Also, a plethora of laws allows for the creation of a general climate wherein such encounters become routine.

    We wish, therefore, to reiterate our demand that the Indian State should abjure violence and end the climate of impunity which it has helped create through injudicious recourse to military suppression of political aspirations. Until then the culture of violence will continue to plague Manipur. We are convinced that bringing to a democratic closure the real underlying political issues, which led to the military suppression in the first place, and creating a space for dialogue and engagement is the only way to end this culture of impunity that has taken root in Manipur.

    Asish Gupta

    Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations, consisting of Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi; People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Jharkhand; PUCL, Rajasthan, and PUCL, Nagpur; Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee; Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights, Andhra Pradesh; Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, West Bengal; Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, Bombay; Peoples Commission for Human Rights, Kashmir; and Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti, Assam.

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    august 29, 2009 vol xliv no 35

    EPW
    Economic Political Weekly

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