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GE Cotton Kills Sheep and Goats in India
by Uma Sudhir
Friday Jun 9th, 2006 5:54 PM
Genetically engineered cotton in India was found to produce an almost immediate illness to the grazing animals that ate it, resulting in the deaths of some. Could this be the same type of GE cotton that is growing in the Central Valley of California around Fresno, Merced and Los Banos?
Continuing Controversy in India over Mass Death of Sheep from Eating GE Cotton
BT cotton in yet another controversy
By Uma Sudhir

NDTV, June 1, 2006

Straight to the Source
(Hyderabad): There is yet another controversy linked to the genetically modified Bt cotton plant and this time it is the alarming reports of sheep and goat taking ill, even dying after grazing on leftover Bt cotton fields.

This is what farmers and shepherds in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh are saying.

The central government has reportedly ordered independent toxicology tests on Bt cotton leaves to ascertain the facts.

"They just became very dull and lifeless and died," said Pendala Venkatamma describing what happened to her sheep.

Earlier this year in February-March several villages in Warangal reported that sheep and goats were dying in unusually high numbers from a disease they did not recognise.

The only clue they had was that the animals grazed continuously on fields where Bt cotton had been grown.

"They were grazing on Bollguard cotton. In 4-5 days, they became dull, their stomach swelled up and they died," said Gantaiah, Shepherd.

Fact finding team

An independent fact-finding team that surveyed three random villages said animals that fed continuously on Bt cotton for up to a week became listless with erosive lesions in the mouth, nasal discharge and blackish diarrhea.

The mortality was as high as 25 per cent against the usual 5-10 per cent for this season.

"They took one or two sheep from the dead animals. Doctors conducted post-mortem but could not find viral, bacterial or fungal problem with that," said Ramprasad, scientist, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

In Warangal, about 11 hectares was on cotton this year and 20 per cent of that officially on Bt cotton.

But the unofficial figure puts that at upto 50 per cent. In January this year, following rains and some irrigation, there was fresh foliage but few bolls, so the fields were let out for grazing.

"Animals that have been grazing on non-Bt cotton also, shepherds are reporting that on such fields even if they grazed for 15 days, there was no problem reported. Whereas on Bt cotton, with 3-4 successive days of grazing, they started showing symptoms," said Kavita Kurungati, Researcher.

When contacted, Monsanto, which has released Bt cotton commercially in India, said safety studies on goats, cows, buffaloes, chicken and fish have been conducted as part of the regulatory process to get Bollgard approved.

"We conducted goat-feeding stury with Bt cotton seed and found it to be safe," said Dr Vishwanathan, Industrial Toxicology Research Center, Lucknow.

Critics point out that there was no bio safety study on Bt cotton leaves, which is consumed by cattle during open grazing.

But Monsanto says Bt protein is present in miniscule amounts in cotton leaves and a goat will have to eat over 24 tonnes of old leaves to reach the upper safe limit of 4300 mg/kg body weight of Cry 1Ac toxin present in the Bt plant.

The company says the deaths could have been due to pesticide residues.

Inquiry ordered

The state government has ordered an investigation by the animal husbandry department.

"We have immediately alerted animal husbandry dept to give us the details of villages where this has happened and what are their findings regarding this. We are certainly going to pursue this further with the research institutes genetic research institutes, which can analyse the whole thing and yes, it is a cause of concern," said Poonam Malakondaiah, Agriculture Commissioner, Andhra Pradesh.

Only a detailed scientific investigation may be able to establish whether at all there is a link between Bt cotton and the mortality in sheep and goat.

Even otherwise it would be wise to go for much more comprehensive bio safety testing not just for Bt cotton but the whole range of genetically modified food crops that may soon be part of commercial Indian agriculture.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Greenie
Monday Jun 12th, 2006 10:24 AM

Monsanto Statement Regarding BT Cotton Leaves

Friday, 12 May 2006, 4:08 pm
Press Release: Monsanto

Our attention has been drawn to some press statements issued by various groups alleging that sheep have died after consuming Bt cotton leaves.

We would like to inform you that safety studies on goats, cows, buffaloes, chicken and fish have been conducted as part of the regulatory process for the approval of Bollgard. Mahyco had conducted hundreds of field trials in India and had done extensive nutritional and bio safety studies with Bt cotton in co-operation with many national institutions.

All the data generated from the trials and studies had been submitted to the Indian Regulatory authorities prior to approval in 2002. We would also like to inform that a 90-day goat feeding study was conducted by Industrial Toxicology Research Center, Lucknow in 1998.

The treatment groups included goats fed Bt cottonseed and control groups that were fed non-Bt cottonseed. According to Dr. Vishwanathan, Scientist involved in this study, "The feed analyses showed the similarity in nutrient and toxicant compositions between Bt & non-Bt cotton seeds, feed intake, weight gain, hematologyand serum enzymes were measured for each animal during the feeding period of the study.

At the end of this study, the animals were assessed for gross pathology and histopathology. It was concluded from the result by the above analyses that Bt cottonseed is as wholesome and safe for animal feed as non-Bt cottonseed. The differences observed across 48 goats in gross pathology and histo-pathology was attributed to any cottonseed feeding treatments, and was typical for goat feeding on cottonseed."

India has a well-developed regulatory regime for genetically improved plants and Bollgard is undoubtedly the most extensively studied cotton seed in India and abroad today. The rigorous scientific studies conducted in India and abroad demonstrate that Bollgard and its products are safe for the environment, human beings, animals and agriculture. It has been conclusively established that Bt cotton is equivalent to conventional cotton in composition and agronomic performance and has no adverse effects on non-target organisms and the environment in general.

It would be appropriate for those who have genuine concerns about crop biotechnology to bolster their case with the weight of scientific evidence and debate, rather than seek to divert attention from a failed cause by making unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations.