lunes, mayo 17, 2004


Will GM crops really help developing countries? Lim Li Ching, of the London-based Institute of Science in Society, looks at some telling examples in Kenya, Indonesia and India.

"Monsanto's showcase project in Africa fails", runs the headline in the magazine, New Scientist, pronouncing the project to develop genetically modified (GM) sweet potatoes a flop. The GM sweet potatoes, modified to be resistant to the feathery mottle virus, had undergone three years of field trials. However, the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI) had to report that the GM sweet potatoes were as vulnerable to the virus as ordinary varieties, and sometimes their yield was lower.

In December 2003, the Indonesian Minister of Agriculture announced that Monsanto had pulled out of South Sulawesi. In fact, Bt cottonseeds were no longer supplied to farmers as of February that year. Monsanto said that its cotton business there was no longer economically viable. After two years of planting, Indonesia, the first Southeast Asian country to commercially approve Bt cotton, was pulling the plug on that GM crop, and switching to a locally-developed non-GM cotton variety.

The Indonesian experience is mirrored by that of many farmers in India, where three varieties of Bt cotton were commercially planted for the first time in 2002 in the central and southern parts of the country. Mahyco-Monsanto, a joint venture between an Indian seed company and Monsanto, promoted Bt cotton as environmentally safe and economically beneficial, claiming it would reduce pesticide use and cultivation costs, while resulting in increased yields.

But reports from state governments, academic researchers, NGOs and farmers' organisations indicate that, in many areas, Bt cotton performed poorly, and at times failed completely in the 2002/2003 growing season. So much so that a panel set up by the Gujarat government under the Joint Director of Agriculture (Oilseeds) said that Bt cotton "is unfit for cultivation and should be banned in the State".

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