Haryana, Punjab may cut Bt cotton sowing

Haryana, Punjab may cut Bt cotton sowing
The move comes after a joint action panel recommended use of traditional varieties as they were immune to pest attacks
Komal Amit Gera  |  Chandigarh February 18, 2016 Last Updated at 22:35 IST
Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock
Farmer suicides in Punjab and Haryana in the aftermath of extensive damage to the crop in 2015-16 due to pest attack has led to a swing in official opinion against genetically modified (Bt) seeds.

A Joint Action Committee was appointed by the two state governments on the causes and to suggest remedies for white fly infestation. Its report says the native variety (arboreum) is immune to cotton leaf curl viral disease and comparatively tolerant to white fly and other sucking insect pests. Hence, its cultivation should be promoted in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan.

Punjab and Haryana provide 15 per cent of the nation’s cotton output.

Highly placed sources in the Haryana government say an effort is on to assess the availability of traditional variety seeds with the universities, the Central Institute of Cotton Research and private seed producers. “We expect to replace 15-20 per cent of the area under seed with the traditional one this year (rabi 2016-17) and in the next few years to take it to 50 per cent. Co-existence of Bt and non-Bt crop would curtail the chance of spread of epidemics like white fly, as the two crops are resistant to different kinds of diseases. Monoculture in agriculture is one of the cause of widespread diseases in plants. Presently, 95 per cent of the cotton grown in Punjab and Haryana is the Bt variety and this triggered the quick spread of disease.”

The peak season of cotton picking is over, though it lasts till the end of March. Cotton arrivals in Punjab have fallen 60 per cent this year from the corresponding period in the year before. The dent is lesser in Haryana and is estimated to be about 35 per cent less but some farmers had lost the entire crop. Punjab is yet to take a decision on the remedy. The state had to pay Rs 800 crore in compensation to the affected farmers.

Haryana, Punjab may cut Bt cotton sowing

Said a source in Punjab’s agriculture department: “We would like to cultivate desi (native) cotton in at least 10 per cent of the total area and are trying to educate farmers. We don’t have the seed stock to support this much area but will try to organise seed from neighbouring states.”

There is a big problem of spurious seeds and pesticides in Punjab and that is also considered an important reason for outbreak of the disease at an epidemic scale. One result is that only about 60 of Punjab’s 400-odd cotton ginning factories are operational. The state government has plans to take charge of the distribution of seeds through own agencies. Growing two rows of sorghum or bajra millet or maize as a barrier crop around cotton fields is also being recommended to help contain the spread of white fly.

The Union ministry of agriculture, in its second estimate for crop year 2015-16, pegged cotton production at 30.9 million bales (a able is 170 kg), scaling it down from 33.51 mn bales in the first advance estimate.

The states of Punjab and Haryana lost a large part of the crop due to pest attack (white fly) and arrivals in Punjab this year have been at least 60% lesser than the last year.

Area ( in lakh hectares) Production (in lakh bales of
170 kg each
Yield (kg/hectare)
Year Punjab Haryana Punjab Haryana Punjab Haryana
2012-13 4.8 6.14 21 26 743.75 719.87
2013-14 4.46 5.36 21 23 800.45 761.19
2014-15 4.2 6.48 12 20.5 485.71 537.8
2015-16 (P) 4.5 5.76 6 14 320 480


(P) Average estimated projections
Source: State Agriculture Departments and Cotton Advisory board

Lettuce Produces More Greenhouse Gas Emissions Than Bacon Does

A vegetarian diet does not necessarily have a low impact on the environment

 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/lettuce-produces-more-greenhouse-gas-emissions-than-bacon-does/

Bacon lovers of the world, rejoice! Or at the least take solace that your beloved pork belly may be better for the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than the lettuce that accompanies it on the classic BLT.

This is according to a new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University who found that if Americans were to switch their diets to fall in line with the Agriculture Department’s 2010 dietary recommendations, it would result in a 38 percent increase in energy use, 10 percent bump in water use and a 6 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The reason for this is because on a per-calorie basis, many fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood—the foods the USDA pushes in the guidelines over sugary processed food and fats—are relatively resource-intensive, the study finds. Lettuce, for example, produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions than bacon.

“You cannot just jump and assume that any vegetarian diet is going to have a low impact on the environment,” said Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decision sciences and engineering and public policy and one of the authors of the study. “There are many that do, but not all. You can’t treat all fruits and veggies as good for the environment.”

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of life-cycle assessments quantifying the water, energy use and emissions for more than 100 foods. They found fruits have the largest water and energy footprint per calorie. Meat and seafood have the highest greenhouse gas emissions per calorie.

To create a baseline of how many calories the average adult American consumes, the researchers used weight data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and calculated how many calories a person would need to consume in order to maintain that weight. The average calories per day came in at 2,390 per day, or about 200 more than recommended. The researchers tacked on an additional 1,230 calories to account for food waste.

“If what your concern is the greenhouse gas emissions or energy or water use of the entire system, I don’t think you should leave out large chunks of it,” Fischbeck said. “If you want to know how much energy is being consumed, you have to include waste and what is lost from grocery store or dining room table.”

That’s not to say all vegetables are bad. Onions, okra, carrots, broccoli and Brussels sprouts all have decent environmental footprints. Lettuce, on the other hand, is difficult to grow, harvest and transport. It requires significant amounts of water and energy to produce.

“I would eat less lettuce and more Brussels sprouts,” he added.

Some confusing comparisons
Martin Heller, a research specialist with the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan and a colleague, published a similar analysis last year. If Americans shifted to following the Agriculture Department’s dietary guidelines, they would consume less meat—good for emissions—but would drink more milk—bad for emissions, the study found (ClimateWire, May 8).

Switching to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet would result in a 33 percent decrease in emissions. Vegan diets are 53 percent more efficient.

Heller said the Carnegie Mellon paper did a good job of estimating Americans’ daily caloric intake and expanded on his work by quantifying the energy and water impacts of different foods.

But on the bacon-versus-lettuce greenhouse gas emissions showdown, Heller called the comparison “ridiculous.”

“We don’t eat lettuce for its calories,” he said, adding that is why in his food analyses he prefers to do assessments of full diets rather than food-by-food caloric comparisons.

“It’s much easier to compare diets that are different but provide a similar level of nutrition,” he said.

One limitation to all studies that aim to quantify the environmental impacts of human diets is that many of the life-cycle analyses used by researchers are conducted in other countries. In addition, they are often conducted on food commodities, not necessarily the processed products one finds in the grocery store.

The environment likes fats and sugars
To preserve both the Earth’s health and your own, Heller suggests cutting out meat. In the new analysis, beef was 3 ½ times more environmentally intensive than pork. A 2014 Chatham House report found greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector are estimated to account for 14.5 percent of the global total, more than direct emissions from the transport sector.

Fischbeck said the takeaway from the analysis is policymakers need to take a closer look at foods on an individual basis, especially as USDA prepares to release its 2015 Dietary Guidelines, expected in a matter of days. These recommendations will guide food purchasing for the federal school lunch program as well as form the basis for federal nutrition policy for the next five years.

Earlier this year, the advisory committee helping to form the recommendations released a report that included environmental impacts in its assessment for the first time (ClimateWire, March 25).

It recommended that Americans adopt a more plant-based diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. A number of environmentalists and public health experts are hoping to see the considerations included in the official guidelines.

Fischbeck said that even though it seems counterintuitive, the best diet for the environment would be terrible for a person’s health.

“If you totally forget health, which diet would have best impact on the environment?” Fischbeck asked. “You’d eat a lot more fats and sugars.”

The research was published in the journal Environment Systems and Decisions. Co-authors included Michelle Tom and Chris Hendrickson.

*Editor’s Note (12/18/15): The headline of this article was changed to clarify that the comparison between lettuce and bacon is on a “per calorie” basis.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500

Lie of the land: Only 39 of 133 GM crop field trials monitored in 6 years

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-lie-of-the-land-only-39-of-133-gm-crop-field-trials-monitored-in-6-years-2127361
The Centre has always claimed that the country has a robust regulatory mechanism
  • cropGenetically modified or genetically engineered crops are those in which genes are tweaked to get the desired characteristics by either inserting another gene or altering existing ones

Busting the claims of the Indian government and scientists that the country has a robust regulatory mechanism to test genetically modified (GM) crops, toxic loopholes are emerging. From 2008 to 2014, only 39 of the 133 GM crop field trials were properly monitored, leaving the rest for unknown risks and possible health hazards to common people.

Documents accessed by dna reveals that the GMO regulator, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), under the ministry of environment and forests, has failed to comply with the monitoring norms and practices on the confined field trials. Even in the 39 cases where the GM monitoring was done, it was not uniform.

GM crops or genetically engineered (GE) crops are those in which genes are tweaked to get the desired characteristics by either inserting another gene or altering existing ones. Once prepared in laboratories, they are tested in fields, which is called confined field trials. The field trial always has a risk of pollen-driven contamination, which is uncontrollable.

Documents with dna reveals that, in 2008, only four out of 12 trials, that is 1/3 rd of trials, were monitored. The Central Compliance Committee (CCC) and monitoring-cum-evaluation committee, during their tenures, visited the sites only once while they were supposed to go at least four times during the trials. Similarly in 2009, only five out of 29 trials were monitored and only one visit of CCC was recorded.

In 2008, only four out of 12 trials were monitored by just one visit of CCC and the monitoring cum- evaluation committee. In 2009, only five out of 29 trials were monitored and one visit of CCC was recorded. The very next year, 14 out of 54 trials were monitored and only one trial has the monitoring details. The monitoring data for 2011 shows that five out of 16 trials were monitored and that too have minimal external monitoring from the regulators’ side. Even when the CCC found illegalities, no action was taken.

Incidentally, 2011 was the same year when biotech giant Monsanto’s maize trials were tested at Anand Agricultural University (AAU), Gujarat. The documents show that the CCC report was presented and a record of harvest also exists with signatures of the trial in-charge. However, there was no post-trial visit to the site by the monitoring team.

The same year, in another plot of AAU, housed at Derol, Monsanto’s herbicide-tolerant Bt Maize was planted but the sowing date is unrecorded. Only two of the four-member team visited the trial site.

In 2013, Monsanto and another transnational company, Syngenta Biosciences, were allowed to hold five field trials but only two of these were monitored, with one visit each. Interestingly, this happened despite one trial witnessing a huge protest/destruction by the public.

In 2014, three GM mustard trials of Delhi University were taken up – at two sites in Punjab and one in Delhi – during the rabi season. There are enough evidences that there were no post-harvesting fool-proof monitoring in these cases. Similarly, in Maharashtra’s Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV), Rahuri, field trials of Monsanto’s GM maize were undertaken, but there was no post-trial monitoring.

Despite these deficiencies and failures in the regulatory mechanism, the Centre has claimed in public debates as well as in the Supreme Court that everything about the regulatory system is healthy, rigorous and perfect.

Ironically, documentary evidence proves the opposite. Officials of MoEF and GEAC did not reply to dna queries.

Monitoring of GE plants is very important because they have posed high risks and cause uncontrollable contamination. This is undertaken at various stages like pre-sowing, sowing, and various stages of crop development, like harvest and post-harvest land use restriction. The monitoring agencies also have the authority to investigate contained facilities that may be used for storing regulated GE plant material.

From time to time, the GEAC has delegated the authority to monitor confined field trials to various bodies like RCGM’s Monitoring cum Evaluation Committee (MEC), SBCCs, DLCs, monitoring teams of state agricultural universities (SAUs) and Central Compliance Committee (CCC) constituted by GEAC/RCGM.

SC-appointed Technical Expert Committee says
Ban three kinds of GM crops
Herbicide-tolerant crops:
These are crops genetically modified for a chemical substance, so that when it is sprayed, it kills the entire flora around the crop, except itself. India does not need this technology.
Bt food crops: Food crops inserted with Bt genes should not be allowed as a lot of evidences show the harmful impact of Bt genes.
India is the centre of origin of various crops and has a wide diversity in those crops. So the country should not genetically modify such crops. This approach is taken by several countries, including China, as it has not permitted GM soybean since it’s the centre of origin of the crop.

2012 SERP study of beneficieries of 421 GO

While there is pressure on the government to recognise the farmer suicides and support the affected families under 421 GO, the study done by Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) in 2012 shows that the situation of the families with this meagre support it self has not made much difference in the lives of the people. This is one of the largest sample study ever done.

Download the reports.

Farmer_Suicide data

lr. to Dist. Collectors on farmers suicides (1)

Report on Farmers suicide v4

Total District Abstracts 2012 serp data

Mahaboobnagar reeling under drought

150811 Mahaboobnagar rainfall

The crisis is further aggravated by the changed cropping patterns. today Mahaboobnagar has 30% area under cotton, about 30% area under orchard crops and 15% each under paddy and hybrid maize which are water guzzling.

The district which receives on average 500 mm rainfall is increasingly seeing deficit in no. of rainy days. for example in July, Amangal dist received 25% of the monthly average rainfall only in a day and rest of the days were dry.

Government should immediately focus on

  • protecting any crop which is surviving. this needs plans for protective irrigation. any tubewells in the village should be blocked for use to grow water intensive crops like paddy and be shared with other farmers to protect the crop by paying suitable compensation
  • planning short term pulse crop like greengram or horsegram in areas where sowing have not happend or where crop has already failed.
  •  completely stopping paddy cultivation in rabi season
  • discouraging organge plantations
  • provide relief in terms fodder and water to support livestock

and as a long term measure plan for

  • shift from cotton, maize and paddy to millets, pulses and oilseeds
  • insitu water harvesting at the farm level
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