12th June 2019
Brief comment on Vandana Shiva’s recent comment on Bt crops
This is what’s been reported:
“Bt crops like Bt Cotton and Bt Brinjal has a gene for producing a toxin inserted in the genome of the plant, thus producing the toxin in every cell all the time. Given that genetically modified crops cause great harm to biodiversity, the culprits must be booked” – source: http://www.millenniumpost.in/nation/monsanto-is-not-gandhi-activist-357487
- Bt is TOXIC to a particular worm. Is Vandana a worm? That will requires a DNA check. As far as humans are concerned, it is JUST ANOTHER PROTEIN.
- GM crops INCREASE biodiversity, as detailed below.
Bt and related technologies can be introduced into any variety or hybrid, just like the Intel chip can go into any laptop or PC. So if a variety or a hybrid of brinjal was not being actively used by farmers previously because of its susceptibility to stem borers, with Bt it can be revived because it may have other beneficial traits. Therefore more varieties and hybrids of brinjal can be produced, giving farmers and consumers a diversity of choice. Many traditional varieties have been actually lost due to minor adverse traits, such as their inability to fight BLB, Bacterial Sheath Blight, Tungro virus, blast or those susceptible to pests or had high lodging characterstics. Genetic engineering can breed out these weaknesses, allowing many forgotten varieties to be revived. In addition, overall ecological biodiversity is enhanced through intense farming which increases productivity and reduces the need to cut down of forests that would otherwise convert into agriculture. In this regard see Chapter III on Biodiversity. This means that biological control agents (parasitoids and predators) are also diversified and can play an enhanced role in pest control (especially sucking pests) due to drastic reduction in spraying chemical insecticides. Several scientific references are available on the role of Bt crops in promoting biocontrol and integrated pest management.
For instance, prior to Bt cotton, there were only a handful of cotton hybrids. Now, there are 1065 Bt cotton varieties provided by 65 seed companies. Due to reduced pesticide usage, there is now much greater biodiversity even of natural predators.
Farmers’ direct experience: Ravichandran Vanchinathan, a farmer of Bt cotton has reported this: “In the non Bt cotton era, I used to spray chemicals at least twice a week, including to control boll worms. The pesticide industry were monetarily rewarded by boll worms while farmers harvested frustration. These chemicals eradicated all insect predators like lady bird beetle, spiders, dragon fly, crysopa. Honeybees were also eliminated. Now I spray just twice, that too to control the sucking pest. As a result, today I see lot of honeybees humming and ladybird beetle fluttering in my field. Thus I’m satisfied that by growing Bt cotton I am able to maintain the biodiversity in my field.” And see another farmer’s perspective, here (farmer GS Mann).