Science in Society Archive

Lessons from Bt Cotton

I-SIS Letter to Hilary Benn, UK Secretary of State for the Environment

Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, DEFRA
4 January 2009

Dear Mr. Benn,

I am writing to you onbehalf of the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS), a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing critical and accessible scientific information to the public and to promoting accountability and sustainability in science.

As director of ISIS and a member on the Roster of Experts of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, I have been involved in monitoring scientific developments of genetic modification especially in relation to risk assessments on genetically modified organisms.

I understand that you are particularly keen to promote GM crops for developing countries, perhaps on account of the bad advice and misinformation you have received, especially on the supposed 'success' of Bt cotton in India, which I have recently heard described by invited speakers at the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee meeting.

My colleagues and I have been following the developments of Bt cotton in India since the beginning, and I was motivated to get to the bottom of the debate over the role that Bt cotton has played in exacerbating farmer suicides in India, which has raised grave concerns worldwide.

The results of my investigations are summed up in the two reports enclosed: Farmer Suicides and Bt Cotton Nightmare Unfolding in India (, and Mealy Bug Plagues Bt Cotton in India and Pakistan ( Together, these reports show that Bt cotton has indeed exacerbated farmer suicides in India by increasing their indebtedness. In addition, Bt cotton is creating an ecological disaster in secondary and new pests, resistant pests, new diseases, and above all, soils so depleted in nutrients and beneficial microorganisms that they would cease to support the growth of any crop in a decade.

I have submitted both reports to the Environment Minister of India and urged him to do his utmost to stop Bt cotton and any further GM crops in India.There are also serious health concerns over GM crops in general which more and more scientists are now acknowledging since I pointed them out in my book, Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare ( first published in 1997/8.

More importantly, there is a developing scientific consensus that organically managed non-GM agriculture and localised food systems is the way ahead for us all, developed and developing countries. It not only provides a lifeline for farmers caught in the GM trap, but also guarantees food security while mitigating climate change.

Your sincerely,

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho


Institute of Science in Society

Article first published 13/01/10

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There are 2 comments on this article so far. Add your comment above.

Beverly Callistini Comment left 16th January 2010 23:11:41
It is time the world repels those who claim no conscience in using its people as guinea pigs for Monsanto's self-serving experiments. This is all about their bottom line, in the guise of 'feeding the world'. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho writes very clearly and truthfully of the devastation left in Monsanto's wake.

Prince Pieray C. Peter Odor Comment left 14th January 2010 01:01:11
This is a very great letter. It is characteristic of the very scholarly, indefatigable and small but giant woman, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho. She continues to carry on the fight that Prof. Arpard Pusztai began in 1998 but cannot be part of for now because he is recovering after a stroke, with great energy, scholarship dedication, consistence of scholarship excellence, steadfastness, and fearlessness. I give you my hearty appreciation, approbation, admiration, and praise, and prayers for your good health, and OUR SUCCESS. It is prayed and hoped that all world governments, especially the evil government of the USA that is providing the greatest finance and political support for the anti-God and anti-Life practice of the production of death foods, would practice true democracy, human and cultural rights and freedom, including food-culture rights and freedom, by banning the production of genetically “modified” (poisoned) foods globally. The ban should stay in place except and until it is shown through independent, public, honest, and transparent safety tests, that they are safe globally 99.9999999999% for the safety test-duration of five generations of crops and three generations of human being, using rats or any other animal that has the constitution and carries out the functions that are closest to the constitution and functions of human beings for the first safety tests. Human beings should also be used for safety tests for three generations of human populations based on free volunteer of people or obligatory submission of selves for use by those who produce the G.M. foods, promote their production or consumption, or argue for their safety, production or consumption. Congratulation, and thank you much for your spirit, Dear Dr. Mae-Wan Ho. Prince Pieray Odor Lagos, Nigeria