Mar 6, 2010

By accepting Bt cotton's susceptibility to pests, Monsanto befools India.

This was surely an interesting week. There was hardly a day when we didn't see remarkable efforts -- across the spectrum -- to take the people for a simple ride. This makes me wonder why have we become so dumb/stupid that we can't even see through the real design.

As a nation, it isn't difficult to befool Indians. We are often ditched by the godmen, by the financial companies, by politicians, by the academicians, by the economists, by agricultural scientists, by the media, and now by the corporate world. I think there is some problem with our genetic makeup. Probably we have a gene for stupidity and it is more often than not in a dominant position.

The week began with the Delhi police finally nabbing a tainted godman who allegedly ran a sex racket. Nothing surprising you will say, it has been happening in the past. Yet millions follow such godmen. To befool the people, all you need to do is to convey through your cronies the simple message that you are capabale of conducting miracles. The business of godmen thrives on miracles.

No sooner, the godman went into the inner pages of the daily newspapers, we had the Prime Minister appearing on the front page. Nothing unusual again. But this time he came to defend his government on the unprecedented price rise. In simple words, he was trying to find an excuse for his own failure in curbing the prices. Admitting the government's failure in controlling food prices, and promising to do something urgently (which he has been saying for over a year now), he actually listed three reasons -- global recession, drought in 2009 and the rise in international commodity prices -- and sought to give an impression that checking them was beyond the control of the government.

Prime Minister is completely wrong. Yet he knows that he can take the country for a ride. And he has done it.

The week also saw the Indian Express getting into an active mode to promote the hazardous GM technology. The newspaper, which claims to usher in journalism of courage, has surely shown some courage in turning its pages into a pamphlet for the GM industry. Ironically, this happens in a week when Parliament began discussing the recent dirty phenomenon of 'paid news'. I don't know whether there is a connection here, but the Indian Express probably thinks its readers are all fools.

And finally, the weekend brought in the biggest blockbuster. We have the crop biotech giant -- Monsanto -- telling us that its own genetically modified cotton, the single-gene Bollgard, has become resistant to the dreaded cotton pest Pink Bollworm. News reports somehow give an impression that Monsanto has been at pains to accept its failure. Most of the media reports quotes activists saying this had to happen sooner than later.

My phone has not stopped ringing since morning. People are calling to congratulate me. I have got tired of telling them to see through the design. Monsanto is not that foolish. Why should they be accepting something that has not been scientifically validated? No where in the world have they allowed research to be conducted on pest resistance from Bt cotton, why should they openly acknowledge that in India, and that too without any tests?

Knowing that we are a nation of fools, they have actually worked out a remarkable marketing strategy. By acknowledging that Bt cotton has outlived its utility, they have sent the right signal to those who needed it. Monsanto has advised farmers to go for its second generation Bt cotton. Farmers would now be spurning Bt cotton, and going in for their latest GM cotton variety, which carries two genes, and is therefore more potent against Pink Bollworm. This variety is popularly called Bollgard-II.

Any size of media campaigns wouldn't have yielded them the desired results. Instead of spending millions on advertisements, Monsanto has done it through smart media management. You will now see farmers making a beeline for Bollgard-II. Monsanto will now see its cash registers ringing.

Don't you think we live in a fool's paradise?


witan said...

Even in the 1990s, when Monsanto was trying hard to sell Bt-cotton to India, there were reports that bollworm in some parts of USA had developed resistance to Bt. IOW, Monsanto was trying to sell us a defunct product. If I remember right, the price asked was $4,000,000. Monsanto almost succeeded, but the Indian negotiator told it to get lost, we can develop the technology ourselves. The negotiator had the full support of his boss and the government. Things have changed now, haven't they?

Anonymous said...

In their press release, Monsanto says that already 65 per cent of cotton farmers in Gujarat already use Bollgard-II, introduced in 2006. At the scale of India, where would that percentage stand?
They mention in the last para that they are working on a three protein Bt technology. According to you is this product likely to be introduced soon, and if so, could they be preparing the ground for the launch of that product instead?

Surender Dalal said...

Cotton Yarn said...

I like this article very much. thanks for sharing with us....