Monday, December 19, 2011

Bt cotton complaints

Complaints against Bt cotton grow
By Suhail Yusuf (Pakistan)
December 19, 2011

TOBA TEK SINGH - Farmers have complained that cottonseed cakes available in the market are harming their cattle as their animals are suffering from diseases, specially lack of appetite, and decline in milk production, premature deliveries and sudden deaths due to unknown cause.

A progressive farmer, Arshad Warraich, of Chak 328-JB said the taste of milk, yogurt, lassi, butter and desi ghee had also been affected as a result and the bitterness was found in them.

Agriculture department deputy district officer Khalid Mahmood said that nearly 90 per cent of the cotton sown in the district was of BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) type and cotton ginning factories supplied most of cottonseed cakes produced from its seed (banola).

He claimed that farmers had left old types of cotton varieties and turned to the most profit-earning crop.

Earlier, the per acre yield of cotton crop was 30 to 40 maund and with the use of BT cotton the per acre yield has increased between 50 and 60 maund.

Cottonseed cake sellers said that farmers lodged complaints with them that their animals were facing varied types of diseases due to cottonseed cakes.

They said farmers tried to get seedcakes prepared from mustard, canola or rapeseed but their production was very limited.

An agricultural scientist Dr Javed Iqbal said the BT cotton had been invented with such genes in it which had insecticidal action against both types of bollworms (American and spotted) attacks, but at the same time it had the potential to cause toxic impact on animals.

He said the BT cotton could resist against only two types of insects `American and spotted bollworms`, but other types of sucking pests were still needed to be controlled through the use of pesticides.

It is a matter of worry that after the use of BT cottonseed oil, its toxicity is also harming humans who may have been suffering from various diseases due to its use.

A group of growers said the skin-related itching was also possibly caused by the use of BT cottonseed cakes to animals and by the use of their milk and milk products and ghee and oil to humans.

Some ghee and cooking oil sellers claimed that factories across the country were using more than 70 per cent BT cottonseed for producing cooking oil and ghee.

Some women from rural area this correspondent talked to said they had been experiencing for two years less quantity of fat on boiled milk while the milk production of each buffalo had reduced to almost half than previous years when the BTcotton was not sown in the area.

Milk sellers said customers also complained to them about less fat on boiled milk, blaming them that substandard milk was being supplied to them.

Peasant women workers network chairperson Rafia Salomi revealed that there was a surge in skin problems among the peasant women picking BT cotton lint.

Human rights activist Ashfaq Fateh demanded of the government to form a committee of scientists to analyze if the use of BT cottonseed, its cakes and oil had any harmful effects for animals and humans.

Grain market commission agents disclosed that there was much more money in cultivation of the BT cotton, but it was causing a decline in sowing of wheat, and if the situation continued Pakistan would have to import sufficient quantity of wheat.

They said the BT cotton was sown in February and March and it took at least 270 days (nine months) to harvest it, and when the sowing season of wheat approached from Nov 15 to Dec 15, its fields were already occupied by the standing BT cotton.

They said that old varieties of cotton took only six months and farmers were free to use the same land for sowing of wheat which took only 180 days for its harvesting.

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