Concerns on GM crops learning from Bt cotton Ramanjaneyulu Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Decisions on GM crops• Environmental Risk Assessment: The process of Genetic transformation is imprecise hence needs a relevant risk assessment frame work based on the ecological and socio-economic conditions of adoption.• Relevance of technology: India being a country of small farmers and small farms, the relevance of the technology should be assessed in the conditions and against the available best technologies.• Transparent and Accountable Regulatory system: The processes adopted by the regulatory system should be transparent and accountable for the decisions being taken in assessing the potential risks.• Socio-Economic Impact: The socio-economic impact of any technology should be assessed in specific context. This impact assessment should also include the impacts of seed prices and the IPRs involved.
GE is imprecise“Cut & Paste” - Insertion of alien genes for creating specific traitsOne gene = one trait expression?Gene regulation within genome not fully understood or replicableTransgene insertion – the process & the transgene – changes & associated risksTransgene location - can’t be directed and is unstableUnexpected and unintended traits - Coding for proteins of unknown functions discovered
GE Science: Unintended consequencesAlterations to the toxicity or nutritional value of a cultivar – allergens, toxins, vitamins, anti-oxidants etc. (food safety)Changes that have ecological implications – BIODIVERSITY, increased outcrossing, effects on beneficial insects, soil organisms, pest resurgence, new diseases etc.Changes that have implications for food security – stress intolerance & crop failures
Learning from experiencesBT COTTON IN INDIA2002 to 2012
Soil Health Farmers in AP, Karnataka, Punjab reporting yield decrease in crop grown after Bt cotton Several complaints Recent paper from IARI Sarkar. et.al, 2008 Transgenic Bt -Cotton Affects Enzyme Activity and Nutrient Availability in a Sub-Tropical Inceptisol J. Agronomy & Crop Science (2008) ISSN 0931-2250 • similar studies from Australia and China • Susceptibility to drought and heavy rains • Planning commission report on Vidharba says ‘Bt cotton not suitable for rainfed areas’
Life of Bt crops: Resistant development • Bt technology works similar to pesticides • Toxin present all through the life of the plant hence resistance development is faster • Government conditionality on maintaining ‘refuge crop’- responsibility of the company • Monsanto already declared that Pink bollworm developed resistance.
Animal morbidity Sheep, goat and cattle morbidity reported from AP, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana after feeding on bt cotton Miscarriages reported from Gujarat 2007: Animal Husbandry Department of AP asks farmers not to graze animals on Bt Cotton – “as yet unidentified toxin” causing morbidity AP government writes to centre not to permit the Bt cotton till proven safe GEAC was asked to take up a study they no followup Biosafety data on Bt brinjal shows possible problems Sheep/Goats/Cattle reported to have • Anorexia, nasal discharge, cold, cough, • respiratory distress (in some cases) • Occasionally red urine • No Fever
Animal Husbandry Dept.’s Advisory Media Announcement It has come to our notice that in several blocks of the district, animals are falling sick after grazing on Bt Cotton fields. After harvesting cotton completely from the fields, there is a long tradition in the district of grazing animals in those cotton fields. However, because Bt Cotton is being grown in large tracts and because of a yet-unidentified toxic material in these plants, it has come to our notice that animals which are grazing on these fields are exhibiting symptoms like shivers, convulsions, running nose, bloat, bloody diarrhea etc., and are dying. Therefore, we appeal to farmers not to graze their animals on Bt Cotton fields. We request farmer brethren to please do approach the nearest veterinary doctor and get treatment, if any animal has grazed on such fields accidentally. Sd/- M Venkataswamy Joint Director Animal Husbandry Dept Adilabad.
Dept of Agri Biotechnology, ANGRAU to VBRI – 10/7/06
Dept of Agri Biotechnology, ANGRAU to VBRI – 10/7/06
Letter to GEAC from AH Dept Director, AP Govt. on 9/5/2007
Human health Skin allergies reported by farmers and agriculture workers while working in cotton fields during boll burst stage 2005: JSA – Bt Cotton in India – human allergies [Ashish Gupta, Ashish Mandloi & Amulya Nidhi, 2005: “An Investigation report on Impact of Bt Cotton on farmers’ health”] 2007: Dr Manvir Gupta’s pilot study in Punjab
Ecological Balance disturbed: increasing pests and diseases New diseases Sucking pests
Studies on Resistance management• Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) had imposed refugia conditions (http://envfor.nic.in/divisions/csurv/btcotton/bgnote.pdf). But, the conditions were put without any basis. For example the refuge strategy should be developed only after considering – the recessive/dominance factor of resistance – the initial frequency of the resistant allele and – the mating behavior of the insect moth. In addition differential plans based on whether refuge crop is sprayed or unsprayed were never mentioned.• Fakruddin et al (2002) of Dept. of Biotchnology, UAS, Dharwad and Dept. of Entomology, Collage of Agriculture, Raichur revealed the resistance of H.armigera to Cry1Ac toxin in 11 distinct geographic populations representing the entire South Indian Cotton Ecosystem.• Kranthi et.al, (2005) reported that the quantitative levels of Cry1Ac and the seasonal decline in expression differed significantly among the eight commercial Bollgard hybrids tested.• Ranjith et.al (2010) has established that the bollworm, the major cotton pest in India is not only thriving on both the single gene Bt cotton( Cry1Ac) and the double gene Bt cotton (Cry1Ac & Cry2Ab). The authors said that it has been demonstrated that the bollworms not only survive after feeding on Bt cotton plants, they are able to complete their lifecycle and reproduce and create the next generation of resistant pests.
Resistance development• Resistance to Pink Bollworm: In March 2010 Monsanto India admitted in a press release that Bollgard1, the Bt cotton with the single protein Cry1Ac, has developed resistance to pink bollworm(Pectinophora gossypiella). Resistance was confirmed in four districts in Gujarat - Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagarh and Rajkot.• The resistance development in bollgard also has an implication on other varieties and hybrids being developed by public sector institutions in cotton and other crops as well using the same/similar genes.• The issues of resistance was not discussed either by the company or CICR (which is supposed to have reported on resistance every year) or GEAC (which is supposed to have reviewed the reports) during Bt Brinjal consultations; this clearly amounts to withholding of information.
Pesticide Usage, Pest Resistance, New Pests• At farmer level, pesticide usage drops in first two years but rises back to pre-Bt level• Increased use of low-volume pesticides which require a much smaller quantity per acre.• Monsanto says bollworm becomes resistant to Bollgard-I• Resistance monitoring studies done at CICR have demonstrated bollworm resistant• Emergence of secondary pests: susceptibility to sucking pests, mealy bugs, whiteflies and miscellaneous insects• Pesticide expenditure increases: From Rs 597 crore in 2002 to Rs 791 crore in 2009”.
Increase in Cotton Yield: The Full Picture700 Pre-Bt Cotton Period During Bt Cotton Period 140%600 70% Increase Only 2% Increase 554 521 524 517 120% 503500 470 472 481 90% 100% 399 84% 85% 85%400 80% 308 302 62%300 278 60% 41%200 40% 18%100 20% 6% 0% 0% 0% 1% 0 0%Data for % area under BT for 2010-11 and 2011-12 are estimatesand for 2005-06 is interpolated Yield in kgs per hectare % area under BT
Reality of Cotton Yields• Maximum yield increase happened by 2004-05 when Bt cotton was 5.67% of the total cotton area.• In the Bt cotton period, no sustained yield improvement• Dr. Keshav Kranti, Director CICR: “The main issue... is the stagnation of productivity at an average of 500 kg lint per ha for the past seven years... unaffected by the increase in area of Bt cotton from 5.6% in 2004 to 85% in 2010.”• Other factors improving the yield (ref Dr.Kranti): – Increased use of better-yielding hybrids (from 40% to 85.5%) – Expansion of irrigated area under cotton – Bringing new lands under Bt cotton – Years of better rainfall and low pest incidence
Some recent findings• In an article in the June 2011 issue of the Journal of Biosciences, ‘Detrimental effect of expression of Bt endotoxin Cry1Ac on in vitro regeneration in vivo growth and development of tobacco and cotton transgenics, Delhi University scientists reported that the expression of the Cry1Ac endotoxin has detrimental effects on the development of transgenic plants. The plants that showed appreciable CryIAc expression were phenotypically abnormal: they were malformed. This suggests preferential selection is at work while transgenic plants mature: those that express low level of Cry1Ac have better chances of coming through compared with ones expressing appreciable levels of the gene (http://www.ias.ac.in/jbiosci/jun2011/363.pdf).• A recent study (2011) from Canada published in the Journal ‘Reproductive Toxicology’ has shown that Bt proteins have survived the human digestive system and passed into the blood supply and found in the unborn babies (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21338670).
Genetic Contamination inevitable• Contamination of centres of genetic diversity. E.g. Cotton, rice, brinjal –India is centre of origin/diversity• Unsolicited gene transfer to farmers’/other varieties• Co-existence not possible: e.g organic cotton in India, LL rice in US, Maize in CIMMYT
What happened with Bt Bikeneri Narma?• IPRs related to the event never studied• The event BNLA-106 was reported to have been contaminated with Mon-531 event• 2005: this was communicated to the then Director of CICR• 4th-5th May, 2008: After commercial approval by GEAC samples were sent for testing to Awasthagen which confirmed presence of Mon- 531 in eight of the samples• 21st May, 2008: a meeting chaired by DDG (crop sciences) concluded that ‘possible presence of Mon-531 is not an issue any more because of the strong molecular evidence produced by Dr. Anand Kumar, NRCPB• 2009: MAHABEEJ reported that the BN Bt seed was not pure with respect to several traits including Cry1Ac• December 2009: Meeting chaired by DDG (CS) decides to stop production and commercial sale of BN Bt and Bt NHH-44
Monopolyzing market• Spread often is not measure of success• 11.0 mha, ranks second in the world in production and first in area• In $ 1 billion cotton seed market occupies 60 % by value• Monopolising markets: 95 % controlled by one company – Seed prices increased from Rs. 450/packet to Rs. 1800/packet. Bt Brinjal was priced at Rs. 50,000/kg – AP govt MRTP case to reduce seed royalty reduced to Rs. 100/packet – Seed companies questioned the state powers in court Public sector withdrawl – More than 100 cotton varieties/hybrids were denotified. Last three years not even 1 kg of seed is sold by any organisation across the country – Non Bt cotton seed withdrawn from market both by public and private sector
Other important issues• Relevance of technology and crop choices• Testing against the best pratices• Open air Field trials permitted before biosafety tests are done• Agronomic trails are not comparing against the best practices• Conflicts of interest and Corruption
So what we request• Relevance of a particular technology in particular crops should be assessed first before giving permission for any GM research in the country.• The biosafety testing protocols needs to be revised as suggested by Dr. Pushpa Bhargava to ensure long term safety• Ban all the GM field trails till all the systems are put in place and also allow open field trails only after the appropriate biosafety tests are done• Field trials for agronomic evaluation should be made against the best possible alternatives for the problem for which GM technology is used and after assessing the socio economic and ecological impact of the technology.• Suggest moratorium of at least 10 years on commercial release of all GM crops till all the systems are in place for independent research and regulation