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Monsanto's False Advertising in India: Aggressive, Unscrupulous, & False

  • THE MARKETING OF BT COTTON IN INDIA - AGGRESSIVE, UNSCRUPULOUS AND FALSE
    By Kavitha Kruganti
    February 13, 2008

EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK (all information taken from the new report: THE MARKETING OF BT COTTON IN INDIA)

In Madhya Pradesh.

FAKE FARMERS

Posters appeared in many places in Madhya Pradesh before sowing time, featuring a person who claimed to have gained great benefits from using Bt Cotton seed. These advertisements urged other farmers to benefit similarly from the use of Bt Cotton.

Investigations revealed that this "farmer" was actually a paan dabbahwala (the owner of a little shop selling betel leaves and cigarettes) who is not even a farmer, let alone a Bt Cotton farmer!!!

FAKE CLAIMS

In the same state, other posters showed real farmers claiming very good yields from growing Bt Cotton. For instance, Ravinder Narain Patidaar of Sarangi village, Jhabua is shown in one poster as having obtained a yield of 20 quintals per acre of Bt Cotton.

In reality, Ravinder Narain, obtained only 25 quintals from all the five acres of Bt Cotton he'd sown (ie 5 rather than 20 quintals per acre!!). He is disgusted that the company is misusing the photos they took of him in this manner.

A farmer called Pyarelal Patidaar (from Jamli village) is also unhappy with the fact that his photo appears on posters which extol the virtues of Bt Cotton - "I said do not put my photo because I do not think that Bt Cotton is better than other varieties - however, they did not listen to me", he explains.

In Tamil Nadu.

MORE FAKE ADVERTISING

A farmer called S Palanisamy s/o Chellapa Gounder Agarathodai of Vellaiyur of Salem district appeared proudly displaying a tractor on a poster that suggested that he had bought it after using Bt Cotton.

We went to investigate. At the beginning of this season, Mr Palanisamy was approached by a company representative who urged the farmer to register for a contest that could take him to Mumbai. That is when the company took a picture of Mr Palanisamy in front of a tractor. However, what the poster does not reveal is that the farmer was not informed that this photo was for an advertisement for Bollgard (the Monsanto Bt cotton) or that the tractor was in fact obtained by the farmer with a private loan! The farmer says that with the yields he got from Bt Cotton, "I would not be able to buy even two tractor tyres"!

This episode inevitably appears on a poster called "TRUE STORIES OF FARMERS WHO HAVE SOWN BT COTTON"!

In Punjab..

STATE SUBSIDY AND DANCING GIRLS

The state government has helped Monsanto by running big promotionals for Bt cotton in a series of different newspapers. Meanwhile, Monsanto's Bt promotional tours around Punjabi villages have included enticing dancing girls performing to music relayed over the public address system!

In Andhra Pradesh.

EAT, DRINK AND BE FLEECED

The company launched its product in 2002 by giving a big feast for farmers in many villages.

Chinnapu Reddy reports on his experience:

"There was 95 kilos of non-vegetarian food cooked that day and there was biryani and chicken fry. On that very day, bookings for the season's seed supply were made by the dealers and the company representatives. When parties like that are thrown, farmers like me tend to think that there must be something to what they are saying and we agreed to buy the seed. The seeds have now brought farmers nearer to the gates of suicide deaths again."

Other farmers tell the same story. One farmer in Mallapuram said that after having eaten the food of the company, a farmer cannot refuse the seed ("after having eaten from their hand, can we refuse their seed?")

OTHER "FREEBIES"

In states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Monsanto is also known to have distributed free pesticides with its Bt Cotton seed!!

And in the 2005 sales season in the Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh, free bags were on offer to people who participated in village level publicity meetings.

VIRAL MARKETING: SPREADING THE WORD

There is also a wide network of informal agents placed at the village level - farmers who earn commission on sales that they bring about by promoting the Bt seed to fellow farmers.

In Maharashtra.

BOLLYWOOD BOOSTER

Many of the above practices are used to sell Bt Cotton in Maharashtra too. In addition, Nana Patekar, a Bollywood star, who has been used by the company in its prime time television advertisements and posters in several states, was engaged to address farmers meetings in several places in Maharashtra, urging them to use Bt Cotton.

MORE CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT!

Maharashtra also has other kinds of opinion-leaders promoting Bt Cotton. For instance, a religious leader called Sant Satyapal Maharaj is known to urge his followers to adopt Bt Cotton in places like Akola. It is not clear how the Sant, who is not a farmer, is vouching for the product!

To sum up..

Unabashed by what science has been disclosing about the ineffectiveness of the Bt technology, Monsanto's Indian subsidiary Monsanto-Mahyco and its sub-licensee Bt Cotton seed companies have been busy aggressively hyping GM seeds to India's poor farmers by all kinds of dubious and dishonest means.

There's a striking contrast between the lavish nature of Monsanto's brash promotional campaigns in India and its flat refusal to pay any compensation to the farmers who have suffered often terrible losses as a result of cultivating its GM seeds.

READ THE REPORT: THE MARKETING OF BT COTTON IN INDIA - AGGRESSIVE, UNSCRUPULOUS AND FALSE For copies of the new report as a pdf file, contact Kavitha Kruganti kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com

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