Bt - Cotton In India: The Technology Wins as the Controversy Wanes
- T.M. Manjunath, Ph.D.
Bt-cotton developed by Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company) containing the Bollgard Bt gene, cry 1Ac, licensed from Monsanto, was approved by Govt of India for commercial cultivation in March 2002. This approval was preceded by a large number of laboratory studies and about 500 field trials carried out during 1996 - 2001 to demonstrate the safety and benefits of Bt-cotton as per regulatory requirements.
The area planted with Bt-cotton in 2002, the first year of introduction, was 29,415 ha (72,685 acres). It increased to 86,240 ha in 2003 and to 530,800 ha in 2004. A nationwide survey carried out in 2003 indicated that the Bt-cotton growers in India were able to obtain , on an average, a yield increase by about 29% due to effective control of bollworms, a reduction in chemical sprays by 60% and an increase in net profit by 78% as compared to their non-Bt counterparts. The indications are that the demand for Bt-cotton will grow significantly in the coming years. Realizing its potential, 19 other seed companies have already joined Mahyco-Monsanto as their sub-licensees for Bt-cotton. The details of the development of Bt-cotton, safety studies, field performance, opposition it faced, problem of illegal Bt-cotton and the prospects of this technology in India are outlined in this article.
Cotton is an important cash crop in India and plays a significant role in the national economy. As an industrial crop, it supports millions of people through cultivation, processing and trade and contributes Rs.360 billion (US$8 billion) to the export income. The area occupied by cotton in recent years fluctuated between 8 to 9 million hectares (1 hectare = 2.471 acres) in India.
While India has the largest area under cotton in the world (representing 20 to 25% of the global area), it ranks only third in terms of production after China and USA. Several factors are responsible for such low yields of which losses due to insect pests are the most important. More than 160 species of insects have been reported to attack cotton at various stages of its growth as defoliators, tissue borers and sap-suckers, causing losses up to 60%. Among them, bollworms (tissue borers) are the most destructive, requiring major efforts to save the crop from them. The contribution of Bt-cotton in bollworm control is described below.
The cotton bollworm complex in India includes the 'old world bollworm' or 'false American bollworm' - Helicoverpa armigera; pink bollworm - Pectinophora gossypiella; spotted bollworm -Earias vittella and spiny bollworm - Earias insulana . All these belong to the insect order
Lepidoptera. The tobacco caterpillar - Spodoptera litura, also a lepidopteron, is a sporadic pest on cotton. Although predominantly a defoliator, it can also damage cotton bolls and squares when there is a severe outbreak.
Among the bollworms, H. armigera is the most dominant and difficult to control chiefly due to its widespread insecticide resistance, multivoltine and prolific pattern of breeding and high polyphagy. It is a highly destructive and wasteful feeder in the sense that a single larva can damage many squares and bolls. H. armigera has a wide distribution, but is limited to the old world i.e., Europe, Asia, Russia, Africa, Australasia and the Pacific Islands. This species does not occur in the Americas. The species found in the Americas are Helicoverpa zea and Heliothis virescens, popularly called 'bollworm' and 'tobacco budworm,' respectively. Hence, reference to H. armigera as 'American bollworm' is misleading. To avoid any confusion, it is better to call H. armigera as 'old world bollworm' or 'false American bollworm.'
Chemical insecticides are used extensively on cotton crop for control of insect pests, especially bollworms. The number of sprays per crop season may vary from 5 to 20 or more. It is estimated that insecticides worth about Rs.30 billion (US $ 660 million) are used annually in Indian agriculture of which about Rs.16 billion are spent for the control of cotton pests and of this Rs.12 billion against bollworms alone. In terms of volume, about 54% of the total insecticides used in Indian agriculture are sprayed on cotton crop. This indicates the economic importance of bollworms in general and H. armigera in particular.
Despite such huge efforts, bollworm control has not been generally satisfactory mainly because a pest like H. armigera has developed resistance to most of the currently recommended insecticides. Nevertheless, farmers continue to use insecticides repeatedly as they have no option except to 'Spray' or 'Pray.' This had frustrated the farmers, scientists and policy makers alike. Bt-cotton came at a time when they were desperately looking for an alternative and dependable control measure.
Development of Bt-cotton (Bollgard) in India
Realizing the economic importance of cotton bollworms and the benefits Bt-cotton can offer to the growers, MAHYCO (Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company), a leading Indian seed company, took the initiative in introducing this technology into India in collaboration with Monsanto Company.
As per regulatory procedure, Mahyco sent its application to Dept of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt of India, in March 1995 seeking permission for introducing this technology. On obtaining approval, Mahyco received 100gms of Bt-cotton seeds (variety Cocker 312) containing the Bollgard Bt gene, cry 1Ac, from Monsanto, USA, in March 1996. These seeds were first tested in India under greenhouses for germination, vigour of the plants and their efficacy against the Indian cotton bollworms. These were used in the greenhouse breeding programmes and 40 elite Indian parental lines were introgressed with cry 1Ac gene by crossing with the Bt gene donor parent obtained from Monsanto. Mahyco had already developed several cotton hybrids suitable for different agro-climatic regions and these were popular with the farmers. Some of these ruling conventional hybrids were converted into Bollgard (this is the brand name of Bt-cotton developed by Monsanto) using the converted parental lines and tested for their performance and safety as described below.
Regulatory studies on safety
In India, two union ministries are involved in the regulation of GMOs – Ministry of Science & Technology and Ministry of Environment & Forests. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) functions under MoST. Two important committees, namely Institutional Bio-Safety Committee (IBSC) and Review Committee on Genetic Modification (RCGM), work under the guidance of DBT. Another major committee, namely Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), is constituted under MoEF. These committees are represented by experts drawn from various fields and organizations across the country and are responsible to ensure that proactive safety studies are carried out on GM products before they are approved for commercialization.
As per the direction and guidelines of the regulatory authorities, a number of studies were carried out to assess the safety of Bt protein expressed in Bt-cotton (Bollgard) plants with regard to its potential for allergenicity, toxicity, gene flow, cross pollination, effect on non-target beneficial organism, impact on soil microorganisms etc. These data were examined by the expert committees.
Feed-safety studies with Bt cottonseed meal were carried out with goats, buffalos, cows, rabbits, birds and fish. The results revealed that the animals fed with Bt-cotton seed meal were comparable to the control animals in various tests and showed no ill-effects. These studies were carried out by the Industrial Toxicological Research Centre, Lucknow; National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal; Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai; Central Avian Research Institute, Bareily; National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad; and Govind Vallabh Pant University for Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar.
Studies were also conducted on the effect of leachate from Bt-cotton plant on soil rhizosphere and non-rhizosphere microflora, soil collembola and earthworms. The results showed no difference between the soils where Bt and non-Bt plants had been grown. The information generated on pollen dispersal has established that airborne pollen transmission is limited to only a couple of meters and the risk of undesirable introgressive hybridization with related species is minimal. Further, Bt-cotton hybrids are tetraploid in genetic composition whereas their nearest relatives, the local 'Desi' cotton varieties, are diploid and hence genetically incompatible for hybridization. Studies conducted have also revealed that Bt-cotton had no adverse impact on biological control agents like ladybird beetles, green lacewings and parasitic hymenoptera.
Studies were also carried out to determine the levels of Bt protein expressed in different tissues (terminal leaves, squares and bolls) at different age of the crop and at different locations. The results revealed that although the expression varied between the tissues and also with the age of the plant, the amount of protein present in various tissues at any given time was adequate to bring about mortality of the early instar bollworms.
Baseline susceptibility data were also generated for a number of geographic populations of Helicoverpa armigera so that it can serve as a benchmark for monitoring resistance, if any, in future. These studies were carried out, prior to commercial cultivation of Bt cotton, by Project Directorate of Biological Control, ICAR, Bangalore.
Field trials conducted from 1998 to 2001 have clearly indicated that Bt-cotton hybrids provided effective control of the bollworm complex in all the locations and seasons. Data generated on all these aspects were submitted to DBT / RCGM for review.
India approves Bt-cotton - the first agribiotech product
Based on the recommendation of RCGM, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), in its 32nd meeting held in New Delhi on 26th March 2002, approved Mahyco's Bt-cotton for commercial cultivation, pronouncing it to be safe and beneficial. This is a landmark decision as Bt-cotton happens to be the first-ever agricultural biotech product to receive official approval and with it India made its long awaited entry into commercial agricultural biotechnology. This approval has specified three Bt hybrids, namely Mech 12, Mech 162 and Mech 184 which had undergone all the trials and it was initially granted for three years. The approval also stipulated certain other conditions and one of them was that every Bt-cotton field shall be fully surrounded by a 'refuge' crop comprising the same non-Bt-cotton hybrids and the size of the refuge shall be at least five rows of non-Bt or 20% of the total sown area whichever is greater. The idea of 'refuge' is to serve as a strategy to produce Bt sensitive insects thereby helping to prevent or delay the development of resistance by bollworms to the in planta produced Bt protein. Besides, 'refuge' can act as a 'pollen sink' area to some extent.
The chronology of events that led to the development and approval of Bt-cotton in India are summarized below.
Chronology of Development and Approval of Bt-Cotton in India
1995: Mahyco applied to DBT (Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India) for permission to import a small stock of Bollgard (Bt cotton) seeds from Monsanto Company, USA.
DBT gave permission.
1996: A nucleus stock of 100 gms of cotton seeds of the variety Cocker 312 containing the Bollgard Bt gene, cry 1Ac, was received by Mahyco from Monsanto, USA.
Initiated crossing with the Indian cotton breeding lines to introgress cry 1Ac gene.
40 elite Indian parental lines were converted for Bt trait.
1996-1998: Risk-Assessment Studies conducted using Bt-cotton seeds from converted Indian lines.
- Pollen escape studies
- Aggressiveness and persistence studies
- Biochemical analysis
- Toxicological studies on ruminants (goats)
- Allergenicity study on rabbits
1998 – 1999: Multi-location field trials at 40 locations in 9 states to assess agronomic benefits and safety. Data submitted to RCGM (Review Committee for Genetic Modification), Ministry of Science & Technology, Govt. of India.
1999 – 2000: Field trials repeated at 10 locations in 6 states. Data submitted to RCGM.
July 2000 – Based on the recommendation of RCGM, the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Approval Committee), Ministry of Environment & Forests, Govt. of India, gave approval for Mahyco to conduct large scale field trials in 85 ha and also undertake seed production in 150 ha.
Kharif 2001 – Large scale field trials covering 100 ha. Field trials were also conducted by All India Coordinated Cotton Improvement Project of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
2002: On 26 March 2002, GEAC approved Mahyco's three Bt-cotton hybrids, viz. MECH 12, MECH 162 and MECH 184, for commercial cultivation in India. This approval was initially valid for three years and also stipulated a few conditions. This is a landmark decision as Bt-cotton is the first-ever transgenic crop to receive such a regulatory approval in India.
In the year 2002, the first year of approval, three Bt-cotton hybrids, Mech 12, Mech 162 and Mech 184, were commercially planted on about 29,415 ha (72,685 acres) in six states - Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. The area increased to 86,240 ha in 2003 and to 530,800 ha in 2004. The results demonstrated the following benefits from Bt-cotton:
* Good control of bollworm species (false American bollworm, pink bollworm, spotted bollworm, spiny bollworm) in all locations and seasons
* Significantly higher boll retention and more yield than the control or non-Bt cotton crop
* Reduction in chemical sprays for bollworm control
* Substantial increase in net income to farmers
* No adverse impact on non-target organisms and the adjacent non-Bt cotton or other crops
During the growing season of Kharif 2003, commercial performance trends of Bt-cotton were tracked by Mahyco for approximately 3,000 farmers covering most cotton growing states in central and south India. Data were taken for all three released Bollgard hybrids, namely Mech 12, Mech 162 and Mech 184. The largest sample was taken in the state of Maharashtra due to greater availability of resources. From a total sample size of 1,700 Maharashtra farmers, trends for relative economic gain in favour of Bollgard hybrids ranged from Rs.15,854 to 20,196 (av. Rs.18,325) per hectare among the three hybrids.
For all Bollgard hybrids, the average number of insecticide applications for bollworm complex was about 50% less than that required for conventional commercial hybrids. Seed cotton yield in Bollgard hybrids ranged from 19.00 to 21.7 (av.20.13) quintals (1 quintal = 100 kg) per hectare as compared to conventional hybrids where it varied from 11.00 to 13.09 (av. 12.23) quintals per hectare. Similar trends were documented in all the other states surveyed. The average net economic benefit from Bollgard hybrids over non-Bt hybrids among all states in the survey ranged from Rs.9,995 to 32,889 per hectare.
A nationwide survey carried out by ACNeilsen-ORG MARG in 2003 which included 3,063 farmers (1672 Bt farmers and 1391 conventional farmers) from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat (Tamil Nadu could not be included as the harvest was yet to be completed) clearly indicated the benefits of Bollgar cotton. It indicated that the Bt-cotton growers in India were able to obtain, on an average, a yield increase by about 29% (range 18 to 40%) due to effective control of bollworms, a reduction in chemical sprays by 60% (range 51 to 71%) and an increase in net profit by 78% (range 66 to 164%) as compared to non-Bt cotton. The net profit translates to an average of Rs.7,724 (range Rs. 5,900 to 12,696) per hectare. According to the survey, over 90% of Bollgard users and over 40% of non-users expressed the intent to purchase Bollgard seeds in the coming season. Similar trends and benefits had been reported from other countries also.
Opposition to Bt-cotton
Bt-cotton had faced opposition from a couple of organizations and a few individuals right from the beginning of its introduction and even before it could complete any regulatory studies. The issues raised were mostly speculative, complex and confusing and ranged from scientific - social, ethical - emotional, economical - egoistic, political - publicity, ignorance - arrogance, legal - illegal and reasonable - unreasonable!
A farmers' organization in Karnataka, namely Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), uprooted and burnt a few approved experimental crops in 1998 and also in 1999, wrongly accusing that Bt-cotton contained the so-called 'Terminator Technology' and the gene would escape and cause 'Gene pollution' and sterility in other plants!! They also alleged that Bt protein is harmful to humans, farm animals, other beneficial organisms and soil! Obviously they were oblivious of the real technology and the highly selective action of the concerned Bt-protein. They threatened the farmers with serious consequences if they planted Bt-cotton. They also held repeated public demonstrations against this technology.
There were also a few other critics who were busy projecting themselves as saviours of the environment and farmers. Whenever the cotton crop failed in certain areas, be it due to drought or other environmental stress, wilt or other diseases, sucking pests or any other reason, they mischievously attributed it to failure of the Bt-technology and blamed the company as well as the government. They tried to instigate the farmers to claim compensation from the company, ignoring the fact that Bt-cotton has been developed specifically to offer protection against bollworms, not against any other adverse factors. Their action and statements had received prominent coverage in the print and electronic media and created a lot of doubt and confusion in the minds of innocent farmers and public.
Incorrect knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance! It took enormous efforts on the part of Monsanto and Mahyco to mitigate such negative publicity and make people realize the true value of Bt-cotton. The role played by DBT, which stood by this technology and organized several educational seminars on biotechnology in several states in this regard, is commendable. Except for a very few scientists, the rest of the scientific community remained silent when this emerging technology was so unreasonably attacked and misinformation was spread!
The practical results obtained in India with Bt-cotton demonstrated that it is safe and beneficial and were comparable with those in other countries where it had been commercialized earlier, starting from 1996 in the USA. Several scientific publications are available in this regard. Yet, the opponents are continuing their tirade against this technology and churn out their own data. They seem to thrive on controversies and try to be in the news somehow. Protesting has become a profession! However, of late, it has little impact on the farmers as they have personally cultivated or observed Bt-cotton and realized the benefits. It is apparent that as the technology wins, the controversy wanes.
Illegal Bt-cotton in India
Realizing the potential of Bt-cotton in India, certain unscrupulous agencies are exploiting the situation through sales of unapproved Bt-cotton or spurious seeds. In fact, such seeds were introduced into the market while Mahyco was still carrying out the regulatory trials and waiting patiently for government approval. It was first discovered in Gujarat in 2000 (2001?) and Navbharat Seeds Pvt. Limited was identified as the offending company. Later, such illegal seeds were found in several other states also where they occupied, and continue to occupy, several thousand hectares. It has the following implications:
* Unapproved research on GMOs and commercialization is a blatant violation of bio-safety norms and is a punishable offense
* Spurious producers are not accountable for purity, performance and safety. They may spoil the credibility of the product and technology
* Can afford to sell their products at a much lower price as their investment on research is meagre
* Will affect the confidence and enthusiasm of genuine technology developers who invest a lot of time, talent and money in developing new products and getting their approval through due regulatory procedures
* Users will be misled and confused
Illegal Bt-cotton is a blatant contravention of bio-safety norms and business ethics. Although the government has shown some concern and initiated action, this serious issue needs to be curbed more urgently and more strictly with severe penalty.
Prospects for Bt-cotton
Bt-cotton was first commercialized in the USA in 1996 and subsequently in other countries like Australia (1996), Argentina (1997), China (1997), Mexico (1998), South Africa (1998), Colombia
(2002) and India (2002). As of 2003, it was cultivated in 7.2 million hectares in eight countries. Substantial increase in yield due to effective control of bollworms, considerable reduction in chemical sprays and significant increase in net profit to farmers are a common feature in all the countries. The area under Bt-cotton will increase considerably in all the countries in the coming years.
In India, bollworms are a major threat to cotton crop. Hybrid cotton crop is more severely attacked than the local varieties. The total area under cotton in India is about 9.0 m ha of which 4.8 m ha are occupied by hybrids and the rest by the varieties. In the year 2004, Bt-cotton occupied only 0.53 m ha which constituted less than 6% of the total cotton area or 11% of the hybrids. The indications are that the area will continue to increase significantly in the coming years. Realizing the potential, about 19 other seed companies in India, who have their own cotton hybrids suited for different regions, have already joined Mahyco & Monsanto as their sub-licensees for Bt-cotton. Their hybrids as well as Mahyco's new hybrids incorporated with cry1Ac are already undergoing regulatory trials. In fact, a Bt hybrid, RCH 2, developed by Rasi Seed Company has already received regulatory approval in 2004.
Mahyco is also carrying out regulatory trials with Bollgard II stacked with two Bt genes, cry 1Ac along with cry 2Ab2, also licensed from Monsanto. Bollgard II has already received commercial approval in Australia in September 2002 and in the USA in December 2002. It is superior to Bollgard in performance and host range (in addition to other bollworms, it is also effective against Spodoptera spp.) and also makes a very good product for insect resistance management (IRM).
Planting refuge is mandatory in India as in the USA, Australia and other countries as a strategy towards insect resistance management. In India, Helicoverpa armigera, by far the most predominant bollworm attacking cotton, also infests a large number of other crops like chickpea, pigeonpea, tomato, sunflower, maize and sorghum. These crops occupy substantial area and are cultivated around the cotton crop at the same time in several parts of south and central India. These crops, especially chickpea and pigeonpea, support larger populations of H. armigera than cotton, thereby serving as natural refuge and helping IRM. Further, as the area presently occupied by Bt-cotton is very small (i.e., less than 6% of the total cotton area or 11% of hybrid cotton), a huge crop of non-Bt hybrids and varieties are also available as refuge. In view of this, it appears that growing non-Bt cotton as structured refuge may not be required in India. In fact, in China, for the same reasons, structured refuge is not mandatory.
Bt-cotton is a well-researched scientific product. The facts reveal that in the last 7-8 years of its commercial cultivation in various countries, it has brought significant economic and environmental benefits and did not cause any untoward incidents related to bio-safety, environment or pest resistance. Despite, negative reports continue to be hoisted by certain individuals. While it may not be worthwhile trying to convince such blind opposition ("You can wake up a sleeping person, but cannot wake up a person who is pretending to be asleep"), efforts should be made to prevent their misleading influence on innocent farmers and other people. This will continue to be a tough challenge for biotechnology and call for greater efforts towards biotech awareness and education.
Scientific outreach is a highly skilled job where science should be simplified while communicating with common people. Healthy criticism is welcome and we should always strive for improvement. Bt-cotton is a remarkable product and our farmers should be encouraged to derive maximum benefit from it like thousands of farmers in other countries.
ACNeilsen-ORG MARG. 2003. Nationwide survey underscores benefits of Bollgard cotton.
Barwale, R.B., Gadwal, R.B., Zehr, U. and Zehr, B. 2004. Prospects for Bt cotton technology in India. AgBioForum, 7 (1&2): 23-26. http://www.agbioforum.
Ghosh P K. 2001 Genetically Engineered Crops in India with Special Reference to Bt-Cotton. IPM Mitr 1: 1 – 21.
Jalali, S.K., Mohan, K.S., Singh, S.P., Manjunath, T.M. and Lalitha, Y. 2004. Baseline susceptibility of the old world bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera (Hubner) (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae) populations from India to Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ac insecticidal protein. Crop Protection, 23 (1): 53-59.
James, C. 2002. Global review of commercialized transgenic crops, 2001. Feature: Bt cotton. ISAAA Briefs No. 26, Ithaca, New York.
James, C. 2003. Global status of commercialized transgenic crops, 2003. ISAAA Briefs No. 30. Ithaca, New York.
Jayaraman, K. S. 2001. Illegal Bt-cotton in India haunts regulators. Nature Biotechnology, 19 (12): 1090.
Jayaraman, K. S. 2002. India approves GM cotton. Nature Biotechnology, 20 (5): p 415.
Manjunath, T. M. 2004. Bt-Cotton: Safety Assessment, Risk Management and Cost-Benefit Analysis, pp. 366-369. In Khadi et al. (Eds) - "International Symposium on Strategies for Sustainable Cotton Production – A Global Vision", Vol. 1, Crop Improvement, 23-25 Novermber 2004, University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, Karnataka (India), 482 pp.
Mohan, K. S. and Manjunath, T. M. 2002. Bt Cotton – India's First Transgenic Crop. J. Plant Biol., 29 (3): 225-236.
Perlak, F.J., Oppenhuizen, M., Gustafson, K., Voth, R., Sivasupramaniam, S., Heering, D., Carey, B., Ihrig, R.A. and Roberts, J.K. 2001. Development and commercial use of Bollgard cotton in the USA: Early promises versus today's reality. The Plant Journal, 27 (6): 489-501.
Prakash, C. S. 2001. The irony of illegal Bt cotton. The Hindu, 7 November 2001, Bangalore.
Purcell, J.P. and Perlak, F.J. 2004. Global impact of insect-resistant (Bt) cotton. AgBioForum, 7 (1&2): 27-30. http://www.agbioforum.org.
Ravi, K.C., Mohan, K.S., Manjunath, T.M., Head, G., Patil, B.V., Rabindra, R.J., Peter, J. and Rao, N.G.V. 2004. Relative Abundance of Helicoverpa armigera (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) on Different Host Crops in India and the Role of These Crops as Natural Refugia for Bt Cotton. Environmental Entomology Population Biology (accepted, in press).
Suman Sahai, 2003. Mahyco-Monsanto Bt cotton is a failure. Current Science, 85 (4).
Qaim, M. and Zilberman, D. 2003. Yield effects of genetically modified crops in developing counries. Science 299: 900-902.
Zehr, B.E. and Sandhu, S. 2004. Commercial performance of Bollgard cotton hybrids in India during the Kharif 2003 season and future prospects for transgenic cotton breeding and technology improvement, pp. 353-356. In Khadi et al. (Eds) - "International Symposium on Strategies for Sustainable Cotton Production – A Global Vision", Vol. 1, Crop Improvement, 23-25 Novermber 2004, University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, Karnataka (India), 482 pp.
*T. M. Manjunath, Consultant – AgriBiotech & former Director, Monsanto Research Centre, Bangalore. Present address: "SUMA", # 174 G - Block, Sahakaranagar, Bangalore 560 092 (India). Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
** Presented at the 63rd Plenary Meeting of International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) Meeting, Mumbai, 28 Nov-02 Dec, 2004. The views expressed by the author in this article are purely personal.