The real cost of credit constraints: Evidence from micro-finance

In December 2010, the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh passed a law that severely restricted the operations of micro-finance institutions and brought the micro-finance industry to an abrupt halt. We measure the impact of micro-credit withdrawal in this unique natural experiment and find that average household expenditure dropped by 19 percent relative to a control group after the ban. The largest decrease was observed in expenditure on food. There is some evidence of higher volatility in consumption after the ban. All households were affected and not just the borrower households, which may suggest general equilibrium effects.

http://www.igidr.ac.in/pdf/publication/WP-2013-013.pdf

 

EPW latest issue: Papers on Bt cotton

A response to Herring and Rao
Glenn Davis Stone Discussion, Economic and Political Weekly | August 17, 2013
Reconstructing Facts in Bt Cotton – Why Scepticism Fails
Ronald J Herring, Economic and Political Weekly | August 17, 2013
The case that the “triumph narrative” of Bt cotton in India comes mainly from economists, the biotech industry and their academic allies is a difficult one to sustain when dozens of studies show the positive effects of insect resistance in Bt cotton. Yields are driven by numerous factors, and there will be variance – field-to-field, season-to-season. Despite this, Bt cotton has been agro-economically successful because of the lower cost of production per unit and thus higher net returns – facts that are consistent with the near universal adoption of Bt technology by farmers.
Bt Cotton Yields and Performance – Data and Methodological Issues
N. Chandrasekhara Rao, Economic and Political Weekly | August 17, 2013
This article rebuts the argument that shortcomings in Bt cotton studies and divergence between yield gains and extent of adoption of Bt hybrids make it impossible to conclusively say anything about the impact of genetically modifi ed seeds. Further, it points out that there have been numerous studies that have controlled for selection and cultivation bias, and concluded that Bt cotton has had statistically significant positive yield effects.

 

 

Hematotoxicity of Bacillus thuringiensis as Spore-crystal Strains Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2Aa in Swiss Albino Mice

The biosafety data submitted by Mahyco on bt cotton also carried similar results…the animal morbidity in AP, Maharashtra after feeding on bt cotton leaves also had similar symptoms….unfortunately indian scientific system never researched upon this.
http://gmoevidence.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/JHTD-1-104.pdf

In conclusion, results showed that the Bt spore-crystals   genetically modified to express individually Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2A can cause some hematological risks to vertebrates, increasing their toxic effects with long-term exposure. Taking into account the increased risk of human and animal  exposures to significant levels of these toxins, especially through diet,our results suggest that further studies are required to clarify the mechanism involved in the hematotoxicity found in mice, and to establish the toxicological risks to non-target organisms,especially mammals, before concluding that these microbiological control agents are safe for mammals

Weedkillers tied to depression in farmers

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/sns-rt-us-weedkillers-20130726,0,4595601.story

Kerry Grens Reuters2:34 p.m. CDT, July 26, 2013

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Farmers who used weedkillers were more than twice as likely to be treated for depression than farmers who didn’t use the chemicals in a new study from France.

Whether the weedkillers are causing depression “is not clear,” said Marc Weisskopf, the study’s lead author and an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. “But (the result) suggests we should not be ignoring herbicides just because they’re targeting plants.”

Earlier research on depression and pesticides has focused on insecticides, particularly organophosphates, which are known to be toxic to nerve cells, said Weisskopf.

Monocrotophos, the insecticide that killed 23 school children in India this month, is an organophosphate, for example.

The use of pesticides has also been linked to Parkinson’s disease among farmers (see Reuters Health story of May 28, 2013 here:).

As part of a study on Parkinson’s disease, Weisskopf and his colleagues assessed the risks for depression with exposure to any kind of pesticide by surveying 567 French farmers about their use of fungicides, insecticides and herbicides.

The team conducted home visits to get a detailed assessment of chemical exposures, including going over bills for pesticide purchases, looking through farming calendars and inspecting old pesticide containers.

They also asked the farmers whether they had ever been treated for depression.

Weisskopf’s group reports in the American Journal of Epidemiology that 83 farmers, about 15 percent, said they had been treated for depression. Forty-seven of them had never used pesticides, while 36 had.

Among the farmers without Parkinson’s disease, 37 who had never used herbicides and 20 who had used the weedkillers reported being treated for depression.

There was no difference in the risk of having depression among the farmers who had used fungicides or insecticides, compared to those who hadn’t used any pesticide.

But when the researchers took into account factors linked with depression, such as age and cigarette smoking, they determined that those farmers exposed to weedkillers were nearly two and a half times as likely to have had depression.

Furthermore, farmers who had greater exposure – either more hours or longer years using herbicides – also had a greater chance of having depression than farmers who had used weedkillers less.

That kind of dose-response relationship is usually thought to support a connection – in this case, between the chemicals and depression. But this type of study cannot prove cause and effect.

One possibility that wasn’t ruled out is that the exposed farmers might have had other health conditions that affected their ability to work, which in turn made them vulnerable to depression.

“The health of the farmer is critical. If they can’t work, they get depressed,” said Cheryl Beseler, a researcher at Colorado State University, who was not involved in this study.

She said the study was otherwise very well done in terms of collecting information about the farmers’ past pesticide use.

The results do not apply to the average gardener, although Weisskopf said it will be valuable to better understand herbicides’ safety in farming and non-farming settings.

“It’s very important given their widespread use around the home,” he said.

Beseler agreed.

“I think people tend to not take (the risks of pesticides) seriously when they’re gardeners,” she told Reuters Health.

Weisskopf said one explanation for his finding that insecticides and other pesticides were not tied to depression is that farmers might be aware of their potential hazards and they take greater precautions to avoid being exposed.

Another possibility is that the chemicals simply don’t cause depression.

He said that more research is needed to determine the safety of herbicides, and meanwhile it would be wise for farmers and gardeners to be just as diligent about protecting themselves as they are with other chemicals.

“If (herbicides) are considered in general safer and people take less precautions because people think they’re not as bad, then that poses a problem,” he told Reuters Health.

“This still has to be considered a relatively first, small study. There’s more work to do, but it raises concerns that need to be looked into more fully,” Weisskopf said.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1dXuiro American Journal of Epidemiology, online July 12, 2013

Pesticide Exposure and Depression Among Agricultural Workers in France

  1. Marc G. Weisskopf*,
  2. Frédéric Moisan,
  3. Christophe Tzourio,
  4. Paul J. Rathouz and
  5. Alexis Elbaz
  1. *Correspondence to Dr. Marc G. Weisskopf, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Landmark Center, 401 Park Drive, P.O. Box 15697, Boston, MA 02215 (e-mail: mweissko@hsph.harvard.edu).
  1. Abbreviations: CI, confidence interval; HR, hazard ratio; OR, odds ratio; PD, Parkinson’s disease.
  • Received January 4, 2013.
  • Accepted April 17, 2013.

Abstract

Pesticides are ubiquitous neurotoxicants, and several lines of evidence suggest that exposure may be associated with depression. Epidemiologic evidence has focused largely on organophosphate exposures, while research on other pesticides is limited. We collected detailed pesticide use history from farmers recruited in 1998–2000 in France. Among 567 farmers aged 37–78 years, 83 (14.6%) self-reported treatment or hospitalization for depression. On the basis of the reported age at the first such instance, we used adjusted Cox proportional hazards models to estimate hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals for depression (first treatment or hospitalization) by exposure to different pesticides. The hazard ratio for depression among those who used herbicides was 1.93 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.95, 3.91); there was no association with insecticides or fungicides. Compared with nonusers, those who used herbicides for <19 years and ≥19 years (median for all herbicide users, 19 years) had hazard ratios of 1.51 (95% CI: 0.62, 3.67) and 2.31 (95% CI: 1.05, 5.10), respectively. Similar results were found for total hours of use. Results were stronger when adjusted for insecticides and fungicides. There is widespread use of herbicides by the general public, although likely at lower levels than in agriculture. Thus, determining whether similar associations are seen at lower levels of exposure should be explored.

 

GM food harms pigs: New Research by Judy Carman

A groundbreaking new study [1] shows that pigs were harmed by the consumption of feed containing genetically modified (GM) crops.

GM-fed females had on average a 25% heavier uterus than non-GM-fed females, a possible indicator of disease that requires further investigation. Also, the level of severe inflammation in stomachs was markedly higher in pigs fed on the GM diet. The research results were striking and statistically significant.

Find a clear summary of the study here

Find the full paper here

Lead researcher Dr Judy Carman, adjunct associate professor at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia,[2] said: “Our findings are noteworthy for several reasons. First, we found these results in real on-farm conditions, not in a laboratory, but with the added benefit of strict scientific controls that are not normally present on farms.

Find all the background on this study and on Dr. Judy Carman here: www.gmojudycarman.org

“Second, we used pigs. Pigs with these health problems end up in our food supply. We eat them.

“Third, pigs have a similar digestive system to people, so we need to investigate if people are also getting digestive problems from eating GM crops.

“Fourth, we found these adverse effects when we fed the animals a mixture of crops containing three GM genes and the GM proteins that these genes produce. Yet no food regulator anywhere in the world requires a safety assessment for the possible toxic effects of mixtures. Regulators simply assume that they can’t happen.

“Our results provide clear evidence that regulators need to safety assess GM crops containing mixtures of GM genes, regardless of whether those genes occur in the one GM plant or in a mixture of GM plants eaten in the same meal, even if regulators have already assessed GM plants containing single GM genes in the mixture.”

The new study lends scientific credibility to anecdotal evidence from farmers and veterinarians, who have for some years reported reproductive and digestive problems in pigs fed on a diet containing GM soy and corn.[3]

Iowa-based farmer and crop and livestock advisor Howard Vlieger, one of the coordinators of the study, said: “For as long as GM crops have been in the feed supply, we have seen increasing digestive and reproductive problems in animals. Now it is scientifically documented.

“In my experience, farmers have found increased production costs and escalating antibiotic use when feeding GM crops. In some operations, the livestock death loss is high, and there are unexplained problems including spontaneous abortions, deformities of new-born animals, and an overall listlessness and lack of contentment in the animals.

“In some cases, animals eating GM crops are very aggressive. This is not surprising, given the scale of stomach irritation and inflammation now documented. I have seen no financial benefit to farmers who feed GM crops to their animals.”

Gill Rowlands, a farmer based in Pembrokeshire, Wales who is also a member of the campaign group GM-Free Cymru, said: “This is an animal welfare issue. Responsible farmers and consumers alike do not want animals to suffer. We call for the rapid phase-out of all GMOs from animal feed supplies.”

Claire Robinson of the campaign group GMWatch said: “Several UK supermarkets recently abandoned their GM-free animal feed policies, citing lack of availability of non-GM feed. We call on the public to visit the new citizens’ action website gmoaction.org, where they can quickly and easily send an email to the supermarkets asking them to ensure their suppliers secure certified GM-free animal feed. This will mean placing advance orders for GM-free soy from countries like Brazil.”

Study details

The research was conducted by collaborating investigators from two continents and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Organic Systems. The feeding study lasted more than five months, the normal commercial lifespan for a pig, and was conducted in the US. The pigs were slaughtered at the usual slaughter age of over 5 months, after eating the diets for their entire commercial lifespan.

168 newly-weaned pigs in a commercial piggery were fed either a typical diet incorporating GM soy and corn, or else (in the control group) an equivalent non-GM diet. The pigs were reared under identical housing and feeding conditions. They were slaughtered over 5 months later, at the usual slaughter age, after eating the diets for their entire commercial lifespan. They were then autopsied by qualified veterinarians who worked “blind” – they were not informed which pigs were fed on the GM diet and which were from the control group.

The GMO feed mix was a commonly used mix. The GM and non-GM diets contained the same amount of soy and corn, except that the GM diet contained a mixture of three GM genes and their protein products, while the control (non-GM) diet had equivalent non-GM ingredients. Of the three GM proteins in the GM diet, one made a crop resistant to being sprayed with the herbicide Roundup, while two were insecticides.

Contact:

Claire Robinson, GMWatch, UK: claire@gmwatch.org To phone within UK: 0752 753 6923. To phone outside UK: +44 752 753 6923

Dr Judy Carman, Adelaide, Australia

Email: judycarman@ozemail.com.au

Mr Howard Vlieger, Maurice, Iowa

Email: studentofthesoil@mtcnet.net

Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest

Abstract

An agroecosystem is constrained by environmental possibility and social choices, mainly in the form of government policies. To be sustainable, an agroecosystem requires production systems that are resilient to natural stressors such as disease, pests, drought, wind and salinity, and to human constructed stressors such as economic cycles and trade barriers. The world is becoming increasingly reliant on concentrated exporting agroecosystems for staple crops, and vulnerable to national and local decisions that affect resilience of these production systems. We chronicle the history of the United States staple crop agroecosystem of the Midwest region to determine whether sustainability is part of its design, or could be a likely outcome of existing policies particularly on innovation and intellectual property. Relative to other food secure and exporting countries (e.g. Western Europe), the US agroecosystem is not exceptional in yields or conservative on environmental impact. This has not been a trade-off for sustainability, as annual fluctuations in maize yield alone dwarf the loss of caloric energy from extreme historic blights. We suggest strategies for innovation that are responsive to more stakeholders and build resilience into industrialized staple crop production.

Changes in Actinomycetes community structure under the influence of Bt transgenic brinjal crop in a tropical agroecosystem

Amit Kishore SinghMajor Singh and Suresh Kumar Dubey

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BMC Microbiology 2013, 13:122 doi:10.1186/1471-2180-13-122

Published: 29 May 2013

Abstract (provisional)

Background

The global area under brinjal cultivation is expected to be 1.85 million hectare with total fruit production about 32 million metric tons (MTs). Brinjal cultivars are susceptible to a variety of stresses that significantly limit productivity. The most important biotic stress is caused by the Brinjal Fruit and shoot Borer (FSB) forcing farmers to deploy high doses of insecticides; a matter of serious health concern. Therefore, to control the adverse effect of insecticides on the environment including the soil, transgenic technology has emerged as the effective alternative. However, the reports, regarding the nature of interaction of transgenic crops with the native microbial community are inconsistent. The effect of a Bt transgenic brinjal expressing the bio-insecticidal protein (Cry1Ac) on the rhizospheric community of actinomycetes has been assessed and compared with its non-transgenic counterpart.

Results

Significant variation in the organic carbon observed between the crops (non-Bt and Bt brinjal) may be due to changes in root exudates quality and composition mediated by genetic attributes of Bt transgenic brinjal. Real time quantitative PCR indicated significant differences in the actinomycetes- specific 16S rRNA gene copy numbers between the non-Bt (5.62-27.86) x 1011 g-1 dws and Bt brinjal planted soil (5.62-24.04) x 1011 g-1 dws. Phylogenetic analysis indicated 14 and 11, actinomycetes related groups in soil with non-Bt and Bt brinjal crop, respectively. Micrococaceaea and Nocardiodaceae were the dominant groups in pre-vegetation, branching, flowering, maturation and post-harvest stage. However, Promicromonosporaceae, Streptosporangiaceae, Mycobacteriaceae, Geodermatophilaceae, Frankiaceae, Kineosporaceae, Actisymmetaceae and Streptomycetaceae were exclusively detected in a few stages in non-Bt brinjal rhizosphere soil while Nakamurellaceae, Corynebactericeae, Thermomonosporaceae and Pseudonocardiaceae in Bt brinjal counterpart.

Conclusion

Field trails envisage that cultivation of Bt transgenic brinjal had negative effect on organic carbon which might be attributed to genetic modifications in the plant. Changes in the organic carbon also affect the actinomycetes population size and diversity associated with rhizospheric soils of both the crops. Further long-term study is required by taking account the natural cultivar apart from the Bt brinjal and its near-isogenic non-Bt brinjal with particular reference to the effects induced by the Bt transgenic brinjal across different plant growth stages.

The complete article is available as a provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.