The retreat from Monsanto Bt cotton in Burkina Faso

In 2015, some seven years after Monsanto Bt cotton was first commercially cultivated in the country at large scale, a decision was taken to return to conventional cotton.


Description

Burkina Faso is a major producer and exporter of high quality cotton.  It has gone through the experience of large scale planting Bt cotton provided by Monsanto, a GMO variety. Farmers had no much choice given the marketing structure for the cotton crop, its financing and inputs. SOFITEX (a state company) and two smaller private companies dictates what cotton farmers plant. Large scale planting of Bt cotton started in 2008, and by 2009, 128,000 ha of Bt cotton had been planted (1). Seven years later Bt cotton is being phased out after showing a marked decline in fibre quality compared to conventional Burinabé cotton. (1) In 2015 there were street demonstrations in the capital against Monsanto (5). By 2016-17 Burkina Faso, Africa's top cotton producer and the sole West African nation to venture into biotech farming, was phasing out genetically-modified cotton on quality grounds. The world's 10th largest cotton producer, with three to four million of its 19 million people dependent on the cotton, Burkina Faso said it was giving up Monsanto's GM Bt cotton because it had proved uneconomical: love price of the crop, and more expensive inputs. Burkina's Inter-professional Cotton Association, grouping the country's main producers and the national cotton farmers' union, is now targeting "100 percent conventional" production, announced Wilfried Yameogo, director of Sofitex, Burkina Faso's main cotton company. The goverment asked Monsanto to pay for the damage caused, and after some years an agreement was reached in 2017. The events in Burkina Faso have had an echo in India (Andhra Pradesh) where there are also criticisms against Monsanto Bt cotton (3), (4).

Basic Data
NameThe retreat from Monsanto Bt cotton in Burkina Faso
CountryBurkina Faso
Accuracy of LocationLOW country/state level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
GMOs
Specific CommoditiesCotton
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIn an effort to increase yields, the Inter-professional Cotton Association of Burkina (AICB) began introducing Monsanto's Bollgard II trait into Burkinabe cotton varieties beginning in 2009. Monsanto started getting juicy royalties (although the contracts between Monsanto and various Burkinabé institutions are confidential and the public cannot have access to them). The AICB, which groups together Burkina's SOFITEX and two other cotton companies, and the national cotton farmers union (UNPCB), believes the trait has increased levels of short fibers in its cotton, and reduced the ginning ratio, thus reducing its market value. USS 84 million (2) were claimed by the Burkina Faso goverment from Monsanto due to loses to cotton farmers because of lower prices of Bt cotton (shorter fibre) and more expensive inputs.

Cotton farmers together with their families are perhaps three million people. Cotton occupies 586,000 ha, it is the second export in value, after gold. It occupies 10 to 15% of arable land. Production might reach well above 700,000 tonnes in 2017 (1).

In 2017 the money dispute with Monsanto has been settled, and it is reported that farmers are against Bt cotton while "most of the senior officials from the cotton companies, INERA, the AICB" and SOFITEX believe that a return to Bt cotton in future is possible.(1).

(Monsanto was in 2017 the subject of a $66 billion takeover by Germany's Bayer AG.).
Project Area (in hectares)550,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population3,000,000
Start Date2003
End Date2017
Company Names or State EnterprisesSOFITEX from Burkina Faso
AICB, Inter-professional Association of Cotton Producers of Burkina Faso from Burkina Faso
Monsanto Corporation (Monsanto Co) from United States of America
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Burkina Faso

Ministère de l'Environnnement et du Cadre de Vie

INERA, Institute of Environment and Agricultural Research
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCOPAGEN

Terre à Vie

African Centre for Biodiversity

Third World Network

Foof First Information and Action Network (FIAN)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Participation by Burkina Faso groups in the civil society "trial" of Monsanto in The Hague, October 2016
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination
OtherIntroduced resistance, "need" for more pesticides
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Loss of livelihood
OtherLow prices of cotton (because of bad fibre quality, compared to former breeds), and more expensive inputs.
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Development of AlternativesThe government and Monsanto agreed to share the monetary loses, but Monsanto did not pay for the whole amount of the estimated liability.

A new international solidarity developed between cotton farmers and environmental organizations from Burkina Faso and Andhra Pradesh in India. Particpants from Burkina Faso were active at the Monsanto trial in The Hague in October 2016.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.For the time being, and at the time of writing (2017), Monsanto Bt cotton has been phased out in Burkina Faso.
Sources and Materials
References

Dowd-Uribe B- and Schnurr, M. 2016, Briefing: Burkina Faso's reversal on genetically modified cotton and the implications for Africa. African Affairs, 115 (458): 161-172.

D. Glover, 2010, Is Bt cotton a pro-poor technology? A review and critique of the emprirical record. Journal of Agrarian Change, 10(4): 482-509.

(1) Juan López Villar, Bt cotton in Burkina Faso. When theory does not match reality. TWN (Third World Network) and African Centre for Biodiversity, 2017, excellent report).
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Links

Le Monde, 16 Febr. 2016, a general description of the situation regarding Bt cotton in Burkina Faso, and its phasing out
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(3) The New Indian Expres, Genetically modified Bt Cotton: Africa’s Burkina Faso sets an example to follow. 17th February 2017
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(4) The Hindu (Business Line), 17 Febr. 2017, What made Burkina Faso phase out Bt cotton. KV KURMANATH
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(5) Le Monde, 23 May 2015. « Les OGM n’élimineront pas la faim, mais nous les élimineront. » Journée mondiale de résistance aux organismes génétiquement modifiés (OGM), qui devait donner lieu à quatre cent quatre manifestations dans cent quarante-neuf pays, la société civile burkinabée a elle aussi décidé d’organiser une marche à Ouagadougou pour défendre sa souveraineté alimentaire.
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(2) Reuters, 5 April 2016. Burkina Faso seeks $84 million from Monsanto over GM cotton strain.
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Reuters, 8 March 2017. Burkina Faso settles dispute with Monsanto over GM cotton, by Joe Bavier.
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Media Links

Monsanto "Trial" in The Hague, 2016. Ali Tapsoba de Goamma was in The Hague with a full delegation from Burkina Faso. He took part in the People’s Assembly session “Attack on farmers and farming” while his colleague and farmer Ousmane Tiendrebogo was a witness at the Monsanto Tribunal session “Impact on farmers and the right to food”.
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Jeune Afrique. 23 May 2015. Environ un demi-millier de personnes ont manifesté samedi à Ouagadougou contre la production des organismes génétiquement modifiés (OGM) au Burkina Faso et contre la firme agroalimentaire Monsanto qui a introduit en 2003 au Burkina Faso, le coton transgénique.
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For two years, over 500 farmers from the different cotton-growing regions in Burkina Faso documented their experience with Monsanto’s Bt cotton. This three-year farmer-led research initiative, called “Bt Cotton and Us: The Truth from our Fields,” provides an important counterbalance, as Burkina Faso was the first country in West Africa to adopt genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
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Phasing out GMO cotton in Burkina Faso | Eco-at-Africa
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Other Documents

Ousmane Tiendrébéogo, cultivateur burkinabé et secrétaire général du Syndicat national des Travailleurs de l'Agro-Pastorale (Syntap, avec qui travaille le CCFD-Terre Solidaire à travers son partenaire la Copagen du Burkina Faso). Ici, lors du Tribunal contre Monsanto à La Haye en octobre 2016. © Patrick Piro
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Last update17/08/2017
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