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The Times of India

August 8, 2002

ENVIRONMENTALIST DEMANDS STUDY OF BT COTTON

Prominent city based environmentalist, Ashish Kothari has written to chief ministers of Maharashtra and other cotton producing states demanding a comprehensive study of the Bt cotton seeds in view of the damaging reports emnating from China. Although the centre has given a green signal to the commercial sale of genetically modified Bt cotton, Kothari has drawn attention to a study in China showing that transgenic cotton can cause serious ecological damage and the benefits supposedly accruing from it have also been found to be unsustainable in the long run. Kothari, a founder-member of the environmental group Kalpavriksh, said that the study conducted by the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences assumes significance as corporate giants like Monsanto, manufacturers of Bt cotton in India, cite the success of the transgenic crop in China as an example while hardselling the crop.

The study has mentioned four critical points which only prove the environmental hazard likely tobe caused by Bt cotton, he said. Reported elaborately by the Chinese news agency Xinhua, the study states that there was a decline in the number of natural enemies of bollworm, the most dangerous pest of cotton, in Bt cotton fields. Moreover, the population of pests other than bollworm has also increased in Bt cotton fields, study points out. "These pests can become major problem for the cotton in coming years," he said. In fact, the Ninjang Institute study has specifically mentioned that bollworm was likely to develop resistance to Bt cotton within 8 to 10 years after planting, thereby affecting the long-term sustainability of the production process.

Lastly, the study shows that there is marked decrease in diversity of insects while there was a higher incidence of pests. "The pests are becoming dominant in the absence of variety of insects,"said Kothari. In the wake of these crucial developments, Kothari has urged the chief ministers of cotton producing states to immediately halt introduction of Bt cotton in their respective states. He has asked these states to undertake a further long-term studies on the ecological, social and economic impacts of Bt cotton, preferrably conducted in consultation with independent scientists, NGOs and farmers. Kothari has said in his letter that conventional production of cotton through organic process should be encouraged. "Enterprising farmers in different states have shown immense growth in crop yeild by using innovation in organic cotton,"he stated.

 
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