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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 43, October 12, 2013

Losing Freedom to the Corporate Hawks

Monday 14 October 2013, by Suranjita Ray

The government campaigns for the future prospects of Bt cotton1 to boost India’s economy as it is the second largest exporter of cotton. The recent statement in the Lok Sabha on the success story of Bt cotton and call for a ‘sensitive approach’ to Genetically Modified (GM) crops by Sharad Pawar, the Union Minister of Agriculture, has once again raised suspicion about the intents of the UPA II Government. Despite the Reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Agriculture and the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) to the Supreme Court on the need for further research to continue releasing GM crops into the environment, or consuming them as food, and the warnings by the scientists, activists and public across the world for rigorous analysis on its effects, the government has gone ahead with its positive campaign.

Promoting Bt cotton (the only commercially cultivated GM crop in India) is a matter of serious concern as the technology of GM crops “have both serious scientific unknowns and lack a clear social benefit—at least for now”. (Heinemann, 2013: 10). While findings of several researches and field studies expose the myth, manufactured by lobbies of the corporate sector, about the merits of GM crops, these findings have also been challenged as incomplete due to lack of data and variations in the methodology. Since there are many crops in the GM pipeline seeking approval, the growing concerns by scientists and activists on the need for rigorous research and development of agricultural biotechnology is critical. Protests across the country2 against the adverse impact of the technology in our food and farming have raised important issues.

Widespread protests by farmers and activists against the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), an apex body to regulate Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which had approved the farming of Bt brinjal (the first GM food crop) without considering its toxicity content and safety for human health and environment, led to its ban in 2010 (the decision of Jairam Ramesh, the then Union Environment Minister).3 Both the PSC and TEC have recommended a precautionary measure on the GM crops as the deficiencies in the government’s regulatory and safety systems need to be addressed.

Therefore, the introduction of the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill on April 23, 2013 (now under review in the PSC on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests), despite the worldwide ongoing debate about GM seeds/crops, has added further controversies. The proposed Bill is contentious as it is a facilitator of GMOs. It proposes an autonomous and statutory agency to regulate the research, transport, import, manufacture and use of organisms and products of “modern biotechnology”. The Bill has no concerns to consider the needs and welfare of the people at large. (Greenpeace India) It disempowers the States and concentrates the powers in the BRAI for the introduction and regulation of GM seeds/crops. The PSC has also recommended that the BRAI Bill should be reviewed so that there is no conflict of interest as the promotion of biotech and regulation cannot be under one body. (Basudeb Acharia, Chairman, PSC on Agriculture, in Parsai, 2012)

While there are studies which argue that growing Bt cotton has neither reduced the cost of production nor increased yield on a sustainable basis, studies also find that the “isolated impact” of Bt’s effects on cotton yields will not result in correct findings as there are multiple variables that effect agricultural yields besides the attack of pests.

Therefore only longitudinal research and rigorous analysis can find whether growing Bt cotton has brought benefits to the farmers or has served the interest of the corporate sector. The ongoing debate is significant as it deconstructs some of the campaigns for its success and underscores the need for further research.

Exposing Contrived Myths

The argument of Glenn Davis Stone that “pro-GM facts” are created/ generated and authenticated by overlapping interests is counter-argued by Herring Ronald and others. The latter critique Stone’s argument about the “triumph narrative” of Bt cotton in India which “flows mainly from economists and the biotech industry (and its academic allies)” in “industry-journal authentication systems” (peer-reviewed journals) and “serves the interests of their constituent parties”. (Stone, 2012: 62; Herring, 2013: 63) While Stone argues that research across several continents is done by and for “the biotech industry (and its academic interlocutors)” as there is a “cosy alliance between GM manufacturers and ostensibly independent researchers” (Stone, 2012: 69), Herring maintains that researches, which find merits in GM crops, are funded by its promoters. (Herring, 2013: 63-64) He argues that “Bt produces one trait” and “it affects only biotic stress from one class of insects” whereas yields are “driven by numerous traits” and the variant nature of agriculture is reflected in “field-to-ûeld, season-to-season” data. (Herring, 2013: 64) Therefore finding the yield effect based on a single trait of insect resistance is an incomplete research/study. In fact, Herring and Rao suggest that longitudinal analysis, using data from the same farmers in the same fields pre-Bt and post-Bt (Herring and Rao 2012: 46-48), is an important method to find the impact of Bt, taking into account the multiple traits that interact and effect yields.

It is significant to note that several studies substantiate Herring’s concerns and they find that the other variables have resulted in either higher or lower yield and it is not just the Bt’s effect. The Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) suggested that the increase in cotton yields was due to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies, new insecticides and new hybrids in 2004, and not Bt cotton. “The use of irrigation facilities, bringing new lands under Bt cotton, low pest activity, well-distributed rainfall, the overwhelming shift towards hybrid cotton and introduction of pesticides with novel modes of action are important factors that helped cotton productivity, not just the introduction of the novel Bt gene.” (Kuruganti, National Convenor of the Association for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture)

A study by Farmers Forum (the magazine of the Bharat Krishik Samaj) in 2012 finds that the higher average national return per hectare of Bt cotton was mainly due to support prices which had increased in the subsequent years. The study reported that though the bollworm attacks have been reduced, and production and income have increased for some farmers, the low and erratic rainfall, unavailability of timely credit and fluctuating cotton prices make cotton farming risky and have contributed to farmers’ suicides. The study states that though Bt cotton is water-intensive and is unsuited for the rain-fed regions, 82 per cent of its cultivation is sown in drought-prone areas. While the use of toxic insecticides is reduced for a brief period, in the long run the bollworms have developed resistance to the toxin.

The Agriculture Ministry data shows that in the post-Bt cotton period there has been an increase in cost by 68 per cent. (Farmers Forum Survey 2012) The Andhra Pradesh Government that supported the production of Bt cotton had also incurred huge financial and agricultural losses. Despite admitting that Bt cotton had fared very poorly in the rain-fed regions, the Maharashtra Government promoted its cultivation in such regions and the Maharashtra State Seed Corporation (Mahabeej) was its major distributor. (Sainath, 2012)

The campaign by the promoters of Bt cotton that farmers have adopted its cultivation because of its benefits such as reduced use of insecticides, the decline of yield losses, and increased income have also been challenged. Though 90 per cent of all cotton in the market is Bt cotton, several studies find that planting of Bt cotton has been forced on the farmers as the manipulation and monopoly of Monsanto Mahyco Biotech (MMB)4 Company in the cotton market has kept the other varieties of cotton seeds out of circulation. However, Herring argues that “desi Bt” was in the fields illicitly for three years before it was discovered by the Government of India, though it needed the government’s approval to be grown. (Scoones 2006; Jayaraman 2001 cited in Herring 2013: 64) The GEAC banned the “desi Bt” of Navbharat Seeds which had engaged growers to produce hybrids containing the cry1Ac Bt transgene. In fact more than half the transgenic cotton in India came from illegal hybrids in 2004. (Jayaraman, 2004 cited in Herring 2013: 64) Stealth seeds have complicated the findings and the area under illegal biotech seeds is unrecorded. (Herring 2007; Herring and Kandlikar 2009 cited in Herring 2013)

In the 2004-05 growing season, the Gujarat State Seeds Producers’ Association data show that out of a total of 34 per cent transgenic cotton-seed packets sold nationally, less than a third were legal. (Herring, 2013: 65) In 2004 the Press Trust of India also reported that nearly 90 per cent of the cotton cultivation area in Gujarat is under an illegal variety of Bt cotton. It has been reported that some seeds were diverted by farmers who grew Bt seeds for the major seed companies in Andhra Pradesh. Though since 2006 the farmers have had the choice to buy more expensive Bt seeds (the stacked-gene Bollgard II hybrids), they adopted illegal hybrids because of its low price (as low as 30 per cent of the legal Mahyco-Monsanto hybrids). (Ibid.) Even after the prices of legal seeds dropped in 2006 and the stealth market contracted, the latter has not disappeared. (Ibid.) Therefore Bt cannot be responsible for lower yields as “the data on how much ‘Bt’ land is actually planted with authentic Bt seeds is difficult”. (Herring and Kandlikar, 2009 cited in Herring 2013: 64) Thus Stone’s argument on higher yields in the low Bt adoption period compared to that of the universal adoption of Bt technology (Stone 2012: 68), has been questioned as the annual data on the national area under Bt cotton, is systematically inaccurate. (Herring, 2013: 64) Therefore the yield rate cannot be linked to Bt alone.

Herring argues that it is income and not yield that matters to the farmers and the Bt effect in reducing pesticide costs is a big part of the difference. Though yield increases were 24 per cent, the income increased by 50 per cent for Bt cotton. (Kathage and Qaim, 2012 cited in Herring 2013: 65)

However, there are studies which show that the farmers have landed themselves in debt trap as they did not receive expected output both in terms of productivity and the market price and suffered huge losses despite borrowing money. (Bandyopadhyay: 2012: 14) The study of 365 farm households in the villages of Bhambraja and nearly 150 households in Antargaon in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra’s backward Vidarbha region by the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) also shows similar findings. “Almost all farmers with bank accounts are in critical default and 60 per cent of farmers are also in debt to private moneylenders.” (Kishor Tiwari, Chief of VJAS) Though the farmers have been lured by the prospects of low cost of production and greater profit, the small and marginal have benefited little from growing Bt cotton. Several reportings of increase in earnings and savings of farmers growing Bt cotton in the villages of Bhambraja, Antargaon, and Maregaon have been exposed by P. Sainath as fallacious.

The Chairman of the PSC on Agriculture, Basudeb Acharia, in his ‘Introduction’ to the 37th Report on “The Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops—Prospects and Effects, 2012”, presented in the Lok Sabha on August 9, 2012, states about the “serious differences of opinion among various stakeholders and controversies surrounding the cultivation of transgenic crops”. The report also mentions that the first-hand information in Maregaon held the government policies responsible for the plight of the farmers. The inception of Bt cotton increased the costs of the input resulting in farmers falling into the debt trap. Farmers had no choice but were forced to grow Bt cotton. The fall in the price of the cotton in the international market further worsened their earnings. Many farmers were forced to commit suicide as they lost self-respect. The villagers (in particular widows of farmers who committed suicide) demanded ‘the ban on Bt cotton’. They complained that in most cases the relief offered from the Prime Minister’s Relief Package comprised milch animals like Jersey and Holstein who died due to the local environmental conditions.

Reports of mounting farmers’ suicides and migration of land-owning farmers due to increasing losses and acute distress after the switchover from conventional cotton to Bt cotton in the villages of Bhambraja, Antargaon and Vidarbha, which were ‘models of MMB Bt cotton farming’, is disturbing. (Sainath, 2012) The news headline titled “Reaping Gold Through Bt Cotton” that appeared on August 28, 2011 in The Times of India to promote Bt cotton became the focus of criticism and paid news controversy. The full-page news-story-turned-ad was the word-for-word repetition of what was published three years ago in 2008. It was a manufactured story far from the reality which reiterated the success of Bt creating “increased income of cotton growers”…”growth in Bt acreage”…there were “no suicides” in the two villages Bhambraja and Antargaon …and that “the switchover to Bt cotton led to the social and economic transformation” in these two villages. The villagers of Bhambraja also rubbished the news that their village is a model for Bt cotton as reported in the news in their interaction with the team of the PSC on Agriculture.

The PSC sought a long ban on trials of GM crops in its report to Parliament after visiting Vidarbha in March 2012. The Committee reported that though initially the production of Bt cotton increased for the large farmers as the crop was pest-resistant, eventually the small and marginal farmers suffered losses because of high input costs and yield loss. Though the area under Bt cotton had increased, the bollworm had developed resistance and prices of cash crops were increasingly volatile. In Vidarbha district the Bt cotton growers were seeking safety in growing soyabean as its prices were less volatile. It also reported that the productivity had gone down in Maharashtra and import of cotton had increased. The traditional local cotton varieties were wiped out due to the cultivation of Bt cotton. Increasing indebtedness among farmers was a major cause of 7992 cases of farmers’ suicides in the region between 2006 and 2011. The statistics show that the suicide rates are highest among the growers of Bt cotton in some regions of Warangal district in Andhra Pradesh and Vidarbha district in Maharashtra. (Sainath, 2012) The field studies explain the real situation at the local level and expose the myth about the success of Bt cotton. Thus Bt cotton is a threat to the farming livelihood. (Neha Saigal, Greenpeace India) Despite several subsidies, credit schemes and loan waivers for farmers, the real needs of farmers remain unaddressed. (Dogra, 2013: 14) Instead farmers are vulnerable to the several risky technologies and uncertainties such as GM crops/seeds that are being tried for the interests of the corporate sector. (Ibid., 14, 18) Despite the warnings by scientists for further research, Sharad Pawar (during a recent visit to the flood-hit areas of Vidarbha) stated that “to fulfil food needs of the country we will have to look for alternatives including genetically-modified technology”. (The Hindu, 2013: 13) It is significant to understand that GM crops are not designed to increase yields and long-term studies show that they do not yield more. (Heinemann, 2013: 10) Countries choosing to innovate in agriculture using GM have lower productivity increases and greater dependence on chemical inputs in all crops compared to countries choosing not to use GM crops. (Ibid.)

Research to Prioritise Needs of Farmers

After visiting Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, the PSC reported that the new technology in the farming sector should be in the interest of farmers without under-mining the rights of consumers. (Basudeb Acharia in Parsai, 2012) It further stated that the new technology was inclined towards industry without the accompanying safeguards, regulation and monitoring on pricing, monopoly, seed sovereignty and biodiversity. The Department of Agriculture and Cooperation also “failed to discharge its mandated responsibility with respect to GM crops as it did not consider the cost of seed and other inputs entailed in the introduction of transgenics”. Several short-comings in the regulatory framework were reported. Despite agriculture being a State subject, there were no mandatory consultations with State governments nor was their permission required to conduct open field trials on GM crops, such as Bt cotton and brinjal. Except for Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat, the rest of the States have closed the doors for field trials. However, the GEAC had not followed all the recommended tests and protocols and had approved Bt brinjal without assessing its environmental risks. As Bt brinjal was the first GM food crop in the country, a more rigorous assessment and evaluation was needed. The Committee recommended a thorough probe into the approval of Bt brinjal as the use of antibiotic resistant-marker genes in developing GMOs and its transfer from GM crops to cells of the body or to bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract would be harmful. (Standing Committee Report Summary, PRS Legislative Research in Balani, 2012: 1)

“The death of cattle in Andhra Pradesh in 2007, that fed on Bt cotton fields also raised doubts about the crop’s safety as feed.” (Ibid.) Therefore the PSC report recommended that “all research and development activities on transgenic crops be carried out only in laboratories and that ongoing field trials in all States be discontinued”. It recommended a 10-year moratorium on all field trials of Bt transgenic food crops till further studies establish the long-term safety of GM crops. And in 2012 the MMB Company was banned as it was supplying substandard seeds of Bt cotton and was involved in black marketing. The PSC suggested that the GEAC should be constituted under an Act and must function as a statutory regulator. It proposed that biotechnology should be “introduced without compromising the safety of biodiversity, human and livestock health, and environmental protection”. It further recommended that a mandatory consultation process with the State governments to seek permission for field trials be built into the regulatory mechanism. And the government assign appropriate responsibilities to the States in the “Biosafety Law”, as recom-mended by the Committee.

The TEC Report, released on June 30, 2013, also finds gaps in the regulatory system and rejected the proposal to release GM crops as it could have negative impact on the non-GM crops. It finds that in several cases the reporting of data, method of analysis, and statistical tests have been incomplete. (Rajalakshmi 2013) The GEAC has failed to take note of numerous research publications and the warnings against the damage the GM crops can cause. Therefore the conclusions accepted by the regulatory body have raised doubts. There is a need for a deeper understanding of the risk assessment. The long-term effects of GM crops on environment are yet to be assessed and the risk assessment should be considered on a case-by-case basis (Ibid.) The TEC Report imposed four conditions to be considered ‘meaningfully’ to allow trials of GM crops for commercial release. These include setting up a secretariat of experts to fix gaps in the bio-safety protocol, the new bio-technology regulatory to be under the Ministry of either Environment or Health instead of the Ministry of Science and Technology, identification of specific sites for conducting field tests, and mandatory civil society participation as part of the risk management strategy. (Chauhan, 2013) Only after these conditions were met, the trials should be allowed on the land owned by the GM crop application and not on the leased land which has been the practice.

The Committee also found that the Herbicide Tolerant (HT) crops will have an adverse impact over time on sustainable agriculture, rural livelihoods and environment and are completely unsuitable in the Indian context. Though the science needed to establish their safety exists and is affordable, it must be applied dispassionately and transparently. (Heinemann, 2013: 10) There-fore the ban on GM crops’ field trials should continue and keeping in view the recommendations of the PSC and TEC, further research should establish whether the new biotechnology will protect the needs and rights of the farmers and common citizens and not privilege the interests of the corporate world.

Though the representatives from the Association of Biotechnology-led enterprises support the BRAI Bill as it will administer all bio-technology-related activities in India from fixing prices for genetically engineered seeds to having hold on export and import of transgenic foodstuff, dictating safety standards for the research, cultivation, production and consumption of GM crops, petitions from Greenpeace India and protests across the States demand withdrawal of the BRAI Bill as in its current form it gives multinational biotech giants like Monsanto a free hand to control our food and farming. The current Bill reduces the role of the State governments to a recommendatory capacity in the form of the State Biotechnology Regulatory Advisory Committee, set up under Section 35 of the Bill. The Bill does not give any powers to the State governments to reject the introduction of any GMOs, including experimental releases through field trials. (Greenpeace India) The objections raised against the BRAI are the proposed single window clearance systems that will fast-track dubious applications, provision of non-disclosure of the confidential information to the Authority, and lack of provision for any say from the State governments.5 It does not talk about the long-term independent assessments; on the contrary, it lowers the bar by letting non-accredited laboratories to take biosafety measures as given under Section 41. (Sharma and Saigal, 2013: 3) The Bill has “no risk management mechanisms”. Thus the mandate of the Bill, which promotes the use of modern biotechnology, instead of biosafety protection, is facing protests. (Ibid., 1, 4) Despite the risks of modern biotechnology to health and environment, the Bill promotes, instead of regulating, these. 

It is pertinent to understand that Indian agriculture has been going through a series of crisis since the 1990s. The plausible responsible factors for this are poor infrastructure, increased cultivation cost, inadequate institutional credit, decline in production, imperfect market condition, indebtedness, increasing alienation of land and landlessness. (See also Ray 2012) Almost 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment in sectors like seed helped double the indebtedness of the peasantry, and further spurred the worst ever recorded wave of suicides in Punjab, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The government’s policies, encouraging farmers to switch to cash crops in place of traditional food crops, have resulted in an extraordinary increase in farm input costs, while market forces determine the price of the cash crop. This has resulted in the collapse of farm incomes and increasing food insecurity as the farmers no longer produce the foodgrains they can fall back on.

Since the mid-sixties the focus on chemical fertilisers and pesticides for an increased production under the ‘Green Revolution’ has made the traditional wisdom and practices of farming less significant. Over the years, the government’s own research, which was promoted in the initial years, suffered as they shifted to licensing royalties from Intellectual Property and created partnerships with the private sector. (Heinemann, 2013: 10) This changed the purpose of research. It was no longer the needs of a majority of the farmers given the local conditions, but what competes in the global capital market economy. Therefore the government invests in the private corporates and Multinational Companies (MNCs) which promote GM crops and have ignored the adverse impact of transgenic crops after the field trials and assessment tests on human health and environment. Genetic Engineering (a sophisticated branch of bio-technology) helps develop GM crops and the MNCs, which patent such crops, campaign for their production. (Bandyopadhyay, 2012: 15) The field trials serve the interests of the MNCs which manipulate the supply chain as these seeds have to be produced every year from these producing companies. The use of intellectual property rights has created a dominant space for the MNCs which promote GM crops/seeds irrespective of the needs of the farmers and its impact on biodiversity. Though ‘Sustainable Development’ brought ecological sustainability and environmental protection which includes safeguarding biodiversity into the mainstream, “no studies were done on the effect of Bt on soil microbial species, or on soil nutrients or on cattle microflora”. (Ibid., 16) The farmers are forced to depend on MNCs and their subsidiary companies for seeds and pesticides as well as advice on farm technology. (Dogra, 2013: 13) Despite the merit of traditional farming techniques, farmers are forced to discard them.

The preliminary analysis by the CICR shows that bollworm are resistant to Bt toxin. While Bt cotton showed resistance to bollworm it has invited a host of other deadly pests like mealy worm. (Sainath, 2010) The pesticide consumption data of the Government of India shows an increase in pesticide use in all the major cotton-growing States (Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Karnataka) except Andhra Pradesh. The PSC Report also states that Bt cotton is not a sustainable agriculture technology as it is water-intensive and requires more input costs. Its cultivation has not only diverted land from the cultivation of food crops but has also affected many traditional varieties of cotton. (Standing Committee Report Summary, PRS Legislative Research in Balani, 2012: 1)


Promoting GM crops benefit the giant MNCs and the global capital market at the cost of farmers. Several studies find that over the years, the farmers have lost control of markets to the traders and moneylenders. The restructured agro-supply chain has left the farmers with fewer places to sell their produce as they have little bargaining power against the mega-middlemen. The latter have been co-opted by the giant multinational retailers, who dictate terms to the producers. Seven-and-a-half million people abandoned agriculture in a decade. What is worse is that the very policies designed to benefit the farmers, as claimed by the government, have driven them out. The policies of successive governments at the Centre are held responsible for the large-scale agrarian distress in the country that saw the rampant phenomena of farmers’ suicides. While it is important that India becomes a self-sustaining developer of indigenous biotech, the government should intervene to support organic farming in agriculture or else we will lose our freedom to the corporate hawks.

Therefore India cannot be a laboratory to test GM seeds/crops and this debate has been sparked off again after the completion of 10 years of Bt cotton in India. A more nuanced understanding and research of GM crops is needed. And it is pertinent that GM crops should not be pushed before examining their adverse implications on health, environment, farming and livelihood.


Balani, Shakshi (2012): Standing Committee Report Summary on “Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops—Prospects and Effects”, PRS Legislative Research, October 11, 2012, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.
Bandyopadhyay, D. (2012): “Beware of the Invasion” in Mainstream, 40 (14).
Chauhan, Chetan (2013): “SC Committee Says No to GM Crops for Time Being” in Hindustan Times, 22 July, on September 20, 2013.
Dogra, Bharat (2013): “Farmer’s Crisis in India and Urgency of Remedial Action” in Mainstream, Vol LI (30).
Heinemann, Jack A, (2013): “Keep the Pause Button on GM Pressed” in The Hindu September 7, p. 10.
Herring, Ronald J. (2007): “Stealth Seeds: Biosafety, Bioproperty, Biopolitics”, in Journal of Development Studies, 43(1), pp. 130-57.
Herring, Ronald J. (2013): “Reconstructing Facts In Bt Cotton Why Scepticism Fails” in Economic and Political Weekly, 48 (33) pp. 63-66.
Herring, Ronald J. and N. Chandrasekhara Rao (2012): “On the ‘Failure of Bt Cotton’: Analysing a Decade of Experience” in Economic and Political Weekly, 47 (18), pp. 45-54.
Jhakar, Ajay Vir (2013): Farmer Forum, accessed on September 19, 2013.
Kuruganti, Kavitha: “Bt Cotton, A Bitter Harvest for Farmers: Suicide and Despair in India”, cross-posted from accessed on September 15, 2013.
Ray, Suranjita (2012): Development With A Human Face: Kalahandi Revisited, Report Submitted to University Grants Commission under Post-Doctoral Fellowship Award, 2009-11.
Parsai, Gargi (2012): “Genetically Modified Food No Panacea for Food Security’ in The Hindu, August 21, accessed on September 19, 2013.
Sainath, P. (2010) “Bt Brinjal Threat to the Food Security”, accessed on September 10, 2013.
Sainath, P. (2012): “Reaping Gold Through Cotton, and Newsprint” in The Hindu, accessed on September 15, 2013.
Seigal, Neha (2013): “97% Indians Against GM Crops: Greenpeace”, accessed on September 20, 2013.
Seigal, Neha (2013): “Say No to Genetic Engineering” accessed on September 20, 2013.
Sharma, Shubhi and Neha Saigal (2013): “The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Of India (BRAI) Bill 2013: A threat to our Food and Farming”, Centre for Legislative Research and Advocacy (CLRA) and Greenpeace India, Policy Brief Series: No. 19, 2013 June-August.
Stone, Glenn Davis (2012): “Constructing Facts: Bt Cotton Narratives in India” in Economic and Political Weekly, 47 (38) pp. 63-66.
T.K. Rajalakshmi (2013): “No To GM Crops” in Frontline, September 6.
The Hindu (2013): “Pawar Inspects Flood-Hit Areas in Vidarbha”, September 17, p. 13.


1. Bt, a protein crystal from bacterium bacillus thuringiensis, effectively controls the American bollworm, a moth larva that consumes cotton bolls. Bt cotton is Genetically Modified (GM) to contain Bt toxin which is supposed to reduce the use of insecticide for bollworm control and prevent yield damage. However, the enemy facing United States (H. virescens and H. Zea) is different from that of India (American Bollworm Helicoverpa armigera).

2. Thousands of citizens and the Association for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture—a conglomerate of several civil society groups including Greenpeace India—on August 8, 2013 (eve of ‘Quit India’), joined the Members of Parliament from the Congress party, BJP, JD (U), DMK, MDMK, CPM, CPI, BJD demanding “GMOs, BRAI, and Monsanto Quit India”.

3. The National Biodiversity Authority has recently found the Monsanto Mahyco Biotech Company guilty of violating rules in procuring local brinjal varieties for development of Bt brinjal.

4. Owned by the propriety technology, the American multinational seed and biotech giant Monsanto tied up with India’s Mahyco as Monsanto Mahyco Biotech Company to develop GM seeds.

5. However, the government argues that the results from the field research will be displayed on the website and other information can be obtained through ‘Right to Information’. A Biotechnology Regulatory Appellate Tribunal will hear appeals against the decisions, orders or directions of the Authority. The Bill imposes a penalty for providing false information (imprisonment for three months and fine extending to Rs five lakhs) and conducting an unapproved field trial (imprisonment for six months to one year and a fine extending to Rs two lakhs).

Suranjita Ray teaches Political Science in Daulat Ram College, University of Delhi. She can be contacted at e-mail:

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