Indian Farmers Not Against Biotech Crops If Advantageous
By B. Venkateswarlu Ph.D. and G. Pakki Reddy, Ph.D.
ISB News Report
01 November 1999
Monsanto's efforts to field test genetically modified (GM) crops in India
in 1998 met with resistance from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and
farmers' organizations who were critical of the company's perceived
attempts to push so called `terminator' seeds for bollgard cotton. The
issue of GM crops surfaced yet again in September, 1999 when the results
of a survey commissioned by Monsanto on the acceptability of hybrid seeds
and GM crops were published in leading newspapers.
The survey was carried out by ORG-MARG, a leading market research
organization in India. Covering 1,100 farmers from the agriculturally
important states of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab,Tamilnadu, Gujarat,
Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh, the survey focused on districts where
cotton is a dominant crop.
Farmers were interviewed on issues ranging from their preference for
hybrid seeds to the impact of biotechnology in agriculture. According to
the survey, 90% of the farmers were not opposed to the application of
biotechnology to cotton if it can provide varieties that are resistant to
pests and diseases, higher yielding, or of better quality. Sixty percent
said they prefer biotech crops due to higher yields, 20 % for higher
profitability, and 11% for pests and disease resistance. The survey
further revealed that 80% of the farmers used hybrid seeds to achieve
higher production, and they did not save seed the next year.
When asked about the impact of biotechnology on their lives, 77% said that
it had a good effect, 16% said it was both good and bad, and 5% said it
was entirely bad. Furthermore, the farmers suggested that as long as their
crop productivity and profitability could be increased through the
application of biotechnology, they did not care whether the technology
came from the public sector, the private sector, or multi-national
corporations (MNCs). However, they insisted that the seeds should be fully
tested before they are released for cultivation. The preference for
improved seeds was equally true for farmers with holdings of all
sizes-small, medium, and large. The state of Punjab topped the list of
states having the highest percentage of
farmers inclined to use the biotech seeds.
The survey included interviews with politicians, civil servants, market
personnel, environmentalists, scientists, media, NGOs, and regulatory
authorities. The regulatory authorities, politicians, and
environmentalists insisted that the biosafety of such crops should be
thoroughly investigated before the country permits their cultivation. The
scientists expressed apprehensions about the long term environmental
effects and high costs associated with genetically modified crops.
The Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangham, an organization representing farmers in
the state, responded that the survey was tailor made to suit the business
requirements of Monsanto. The secretary of Rythu Sangham attacked the
survey for not being scientifically conducted, and claimed the response
of the farmers was based on improper information provided to them by the
interviewers. He further suggested that farmers do not understand GM crop
technology and the implications of its cultivation. The Rythu Sangham
organization is not against the application of biotechnology for the
development of agriculture in the country, but opposes the purported MNC
strategy to patent India's biodiversity for seed development, and then
market the seeds at high prices to the local farmers. They also alleged
the survey was designed to
manipulate public opinion in favor of Monsanto.
It is true that Indian farmers, particularly those growing hybrid cotton,
have embraced new technology, but it is a little premature to conduct a
survey on the usefulness and impact of agricultural biotechnology in
India. Farmers have not yet grown GM crops in India, as they are waiting
for approval from the Indian Government. Though there is greater awareness
on issues like terminator seeds and GM crops in India (particularly in
some of the progressive states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamilnadu,
and Punjab) compared to many other developing countries, the issues are
still debated by only a few people and are not in realm of common farmers
as they are in western countries. The impact of GM technology can be best
assessed through a survey only after those commodities have been used for
some time as in the US and other developed countries.
The views presented here are those of the authors and are not intended to
represent the views of the organizations they serve.
1. Indian cotton farmers prefer hybrid seeds: Survey. The Economic Times,
September 7, 1999, page 18. http://www.economictimes.com
2. Indian farmers show interest on GE seeds: Monsanto survey. Eenadu
Daily) September 6, 1999, page 5.
3. Monsanto manipulates the survey on biotech seeds. AP Rythu Sangham
September 7, 1999, page 9.
B. Venkateswarlu Ph.D.
G. Pakki Reddy Ph.D.
Subj: 92% OF INDIAN FARMERS INTERVIEWED THINK BIOTECHNOLOGY IS BENEFICIAL
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2000 7:53:18 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Wendy Russell
Have the results of this study been published somewhere?
Celebrating the Amazing Year
Dr A. Wendy Russell
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Wollongong
ph (02) 4221 4916
fax (02) 4221 4135
Subj: Re: 92% OF INDIAN FARMERS INTERVIEWED THINK BIOTECHNOLOGY IS
Date: Tue, 1 Aug 2000 8:59:54 AM Eastern Daylight Time
this study excerpts is quite interesting and encouraging. Can I have
copyof the complete report?