Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Trail of dead sheep

For the record, I'm not a big fan of the biotech industry yet. In my personal opinion, I feel way too many "biotech marvels" have been rushed to market in the race for Industry dominance and massive profits ...with far too little impact assessment research.

The trail of dead sheep (at least 1,820 dead) after grazing on Genetically Modified Bt Cotton in India is one example that I cite as a reason for my reservations. I could list many more, but thought you might like to know more about the dead sheep.

Picture sheep grazing on crop leftovers... and 5 to 7 days later, 25% of your herd drops dead. This isn't science fiction. It happened between February and March 2006 to the shepherds of Warangal district in India.

"The shepherds said that the sheep became 'dull/depressed' after 2-3 days of grazing, started coughing with nasal discharge and developed red lesions in the mouth, became bloated and suffered blackish diarrhoea, and sometimes passed red urine. Death occurred within 5-7 days of grazing. Sheep from young lambs to adults of 1.5-2 years were affected."

Post-mortem autopsies revealed "black patches in the intestine and enlarged bile duct and black patches on the liver."

The Ippagudem village in Ghanapur mandal (in the Warangal district) report indicated:

"Of the 2,601 sheep that belonged to 42 shepherds, 651 sheep died, giving an average mortality rate of 25.02% percent."

The sheep grazed on Bt cotton crop residues, mainly the leaves and/or bolls.

In Valeru village in Dharmasagaram mandel, the mortality rate for sheep grazing on Bt cotton crop residues was 25.32% -- with 549 dead.

In Unkkucherla village, Dharmasagaram mandal, nearly 150 adult sheep and 70 lambs, had died due to grazing of cotton fields during the months of February and March, 2006. Death occurred within 4 days of grazing the Bt crop residue in the field.

Apparently, similar reports were made in 2005 but nothing had been done about it by Agricultural and Animal Health officials.

Aside from the cross-polinization problem, of which Agricultural bodies and seed industry Giants are well-aware, there appears to be the high toxin problems associated with the plants themselves... or at least Bt Cotton.

One research team investigating the situation reported:

"The preliminary information gathered from meeting shepherds across 3 mandals, strongly suggests that the sheep mortality was due to a toxin, and most likely Bt toxin from the foliage."

The official "spin" from the Animal Health Centre where many post-mortems were conducted:

"...while it appeared that the deaths occurred after grazing on Bt cotton fields, and could be due to the effects of Bt toxin, it was not possible to arrive at a definitive conclusion, as farmers also spray different types of insecticides and pesticides on their crops, and this factor confounds the observations."

The Assistant Director also said there were no kits or other facilities available within the Department to enable her to arrive at a firm diagnosis that the deaths were due to Bt cotton.

A shepherd in another village, Akkapalli reported that he had cultivated Bt cotton the previous year and allowed his sheep to graze on crop residue, which resulted in deaths. This year, while he still cultivated Bt cotton, he did not allow them to graze on it, and his sheep did not die.

Coincidence? You decide...

Personally, I will stay away from bio-tech stocks relating to GM seed, food and/or animals.

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