Contrary to Monsanto's claim, its GM cotton succumbed to drought and insect attack while indigenous variety thrived, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho discovered while on visit to Jakarta.
Monsanto planted 500 hectares of GM cotton within 9 districts of Sulawesi, Indonesia in open 'field trials'. This came to light when the company invited journalists to one of the sites where it claimed the GM cotton out-performed the indigenous variety planted side-by-side. Konphalindo, a public interest organ-isation dedicated to environmental protection, demanded information from the Department of Agriculture, especially the risk assessment required for approval of the field trials. That was six months ago. The Department of Agriculture provided no information on risk assessment, despite repeated requests. Konphalindo wrote a letter to the top national newspaper Kompas, which triggered investigations by its journalist.
It transpires that the GM cotton failed to out-perform the indigenous variety in all but one of the 9 districts. Worse yet, the GM cotton succumbed to drought and the brown hopper. Vivid photographs showed the browned-out GM cotton field next to the lush green field of indigenous cotton, which is resistant to both drought and the brown hopper. One of the photos appeared in Kompas (8 Feb.) under the headline, "GM cotton in Sulawesi Suspected Illegal". Hira Jhamtani, founder of Konphalindo, said, "If Monsanto hadn't boasted of their 'success', we would never have found this out. We suspect that no safety assessment had been carried out at all."
Konphalindo had halted the commercialisation of Monsanto's GM cotton last October with the help of information provided by ISIS, which drew attention to strongly worded advice against the approval of Monsanto's GM cotton given by UK Government scientists. They warned of antibiotic resistance genes that would make gonorrhoea untreatable (see "Monsanto's GM Cottons & Gonorrhoea", this issue).
News has come that the Indonesian Government Department of Agri-culture has just granted commercial approval for the GM cotton, but the Department of Environment is opposed. So a fierce fight is expected in the Indonesian Cabinet, and a lot will now depend on civil protest action.