India Increasingly Choosing Organic Over Failing Genetically Modified Cotton
Not long ago, genetically modified (GM) cotton was about the only kind of cotton growing in India. After spectacular failures on multiple levels, it is now being replaced by far more sustainable non-gm cotton variants.
This is a story that Monsanto and its collaborators would prefer that the public never hears about. It shows just how risky a move to GM crops can be and how they almost destroyed one of India’s major agricultural industries.
Even worse for Monsanto, it shows how farmers can crawl back from having signed up with the GMO seed and related pesticide industry and rise again.
In 2002, feeling that global success was going to be easy after many years of lucrative GM cotton sales in North America, Monsanto took its product line to India. It did so via Mahyco Monsanto (India) Ltd. The line was introduced in much the same way as all of Monsanto’s other GM products. The pitch was that the plants already had the pesticide built into them, a pesticide that was always present and would keep fighting the bugs it was designed to fight. There would be no need to apply additional pesticides (in this case), saving time and all the related additional costs. High yields were practically guaranteed.
What the farmers didn’t realize, however, was that they were virtually signing their lives away to the product (since the seeds were patented) and once they were “in,” it would be virtually impossible to opt out of the system, even if they wanted to change.
In India, where the weather is conducive to the spread of many kinds of pests, this seemed like a gift from the heavens. Monsanto pushed the product with a major advertising campaign, paid for celebrity endorsements and even hired dancers to promote it. The combination of farmers believing in this almost magical crop (based on the pitch) and Monsanto’s aggressive sales techniques was a rousing success, at least from a market-penetration standpoint. As of today, about 90% of India’s 11.8 million hectares of cotton fields are GM fields, even after the disasters that have happened between then and now.