Feeding livestock waste from Bt cotton crops is an ill-advised way to eradicate the bollworm pest, but the Pakistan government has told farmers to do it anyway. This, despite warnings from organizations that Bt cotton could harm the animals.
Animals fed Bt cotton waste are in danger of aflatoxin fungus and Bt toxic acute poisoning. Both can build up in the animals’ systems.
In 2006-7 in Andhra Pradesh, India, shepherds reported serious illness and deaths in sheep grazed on Bt cotton fields, but no proper investigations were conducted. There were some who claimed that the effects were caused by the chemicals used to grow all cotton, and not specifically Bt cotton created by biotech engineers. But these claims remain uncorroborated through transparent, scientific research.
Anecdotal evidence of the Bt cotton’s injurious effects was offered by one veterinarian, Dr. Sagari R. Ramdas, who had observed shepherds grazing animals in fields with chemically treated cotton for over 12 years with no problems. However, a report by K. R. Kranthi, director of the Central Institute for Cotton Research in Nagpur cited various “feeding studies” with Bt cotton material that “did not show any toxicity symptoms that could lead towards extreme toxicity symptoms or mortality.”
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All of these appear to be unpublished and non-peer-reviewed studies and no details of funding sources were provided. We can assume these were financed by the industry wanting to protect its interest in Bt cotton.
Why make this assumption? In addition to ‘no toxicity symptoms’ being reported, the authors of the studies also failed to mention the lambs who fed on GM-cottonseed had increased organ weights. They did no histopathological examination of the animals’ organs, yet said that the increased organ weights were of no concern, and did not damage the animals’ health.
These studies offered by the industry were also short term. Considering that there was a rapid and acute onset of symptoms, this might seem scientifically redemptive, but long-term experiments give much more information and insight into the cause of the lamb’s ill health.
Furthermore, the Centre of Excellence for Bovine Genetics (CEBG), an independent organization of the Pakistan Army near Okara, said that aflatoxin had made cattle feed bitter and harmed their reproductive systems, especially that of bulls, lowering sperm count.
The military farm said that aflatoxin contamination in milk for human consumption was 10 to 50 times higher than the permitted level of 2 milligrams (or 200 parts per billion).
Considering how horrendous the results of eating Bt cotton can be on these animals, and further, on human beings who might consume them, there is no excuse for not conducting more extensive experiments that include histopathological data.
Dr. Ramdas pointed out:
“All the feeding trials experiments presented by Monsanto, involved feeding Bt-cotton seed meal or crushed cotton seed to buffalos, goats, fish, chicken, cows and none of the trials involved feeding fresh plant material (stem, leaves, pod, seed etc).
None of the trials involved grazing sheep/cattle on standing harvested plant material continuously. The field mortalities of animals had occurred after grazing on standing plant material. Hence the above studies were invalid as far as fresh materials.”