The history of Monsanto's genetically modified cotton is far from the "white gold revolution" purported by the controversial biotech corporation. Claiming lower insecticide usage and higher crop yield, Bt cotton is the poster child for Monsanto success. Or is it? Navigating away from corporate rhetoric, other sources paint a much different picture.
The Institute of Science in Society notes, "Contrary to Monsanto's claim, its GM cotton succumbed to drought and insect attack while an indigenous variety thrived." GM cotton failed to surpass the native variety in all but one of the nine district conducting field trial in Indonesia. Photographs document dried-out, brown GM cotton fields next to the vibrant green plants of indigenous cotton, which is naturally resistant to drought and brown hopper infestation.
Even more disturbing are reports of the "Suicide Belt" -- where every 30 minutes a farmer in India takes his own life, according to data collected in 2009 by the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at New York University School of Law. These suicides aren't happenstance; they are occurring at an alarming rate due to GM cotton crop failure, bankrupting already poor farmers to the point where they will swallow Monsanto pesticide to end their lives rather than face economic ruin and starvation. But these are not the only consequences of genetically modified cotton; serious health ramifications for the general public are raising the alarm in scientific circles as well.
Antibiotic superbugs encouraged by GM cotton
Dr. Mae-Wah Ho, director of the Institute for Science in Society, has been concerned about the repercussions of genetically modified cotton for over a decade. In "Hazards of GM Cotton," he warns that both genetically modified cotton crops -- Bollgard and Roundup Ready -- contain the gene AAD, which "confers resistance to the antibiotics streptomycin [used for tuberculosis] and spectinomycin [used for gonorrhea]."
Dr. Ho explained:
"The bacterium responsible for gonorrhoea, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, could acquire the [AAD] gene from GM plant materials during infection of the mouth and small and large intestine as well as the respiratory tract. N. gonorrhoeae could also get the gene indirectly from other bacteria in the internal and external environments of animals and human beings, which have taken up the gene from GM plant materials. Those other bacteria can serve as a reservoir for antibiotic resistance genes."
Scientists are especially disturbed about the implications of spectinomycin-resistant gonorrhea, since the bacterium is already resistant to penicillin and third-generation cephalosporins. If gonorrhea becomes untreatable, both men and women risk infertility and arthritis, while babies who become infected from their mothers can develop blindness.
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