The cotton association of the African nation of Burkina Faso announced that it’s suing Monsanto for approximately $84 million (48.3 billion CFA francs) – compensation it says is due because the U.S. company’s genetically modified cotton caused a drop in quality.
After gold, cotton is the # 2 cash crop for this poor West African nation.
Since 2009, the Inter-professional Cotton Association of Burkina Faso (AICB) began introducing Monsanto’s Bollgard II trait into Burkinabe cotton varieties as a way to increase yields and to protect against caterpillars.
The AICB groups together Burkina’s three cotton companies and the national cotton farmers union (UNPCB). This powerful group believes that this GE trait has increased the short fibers in the cotton, thus reducing its market value. Because of this, Burkina Faso began a complete phaseout of Bt cotton in February of this year.
“We went from 39.2 billion (CFA francs) in losses to 49.3 billion in just one harvest. If we continue like that we’ll just dig the hole deeper,” said Wilfried Yameogo, managing director of SOFITEX, one of the cotton companies belonging to the AICB.
Unsurprisingly, Monsanto said the Bollgard II varieties had consistently delivered increased yield potential since they were launched. The company acknowledged that recent changes regarding fiber length had been observed, but added that fiber quality is influenced by both environmental conditions and genetic background.
Yacouba Koura, vice president of the UNPCB farmers union, said growers should be able to replace the GM varieties with conventional cotton seeds for the 2016/17.
Will Monsanto sit up and take notice? Would a almost $84 million judgement be enough to hurt the company that’s helped proliferate genetically engineered seeds around the world? Perhaps, but then with other organizations and entities suing Monsanto as well, this could be another heavy stone that helps to crack things open and causes their retreat. Time will tell.