How Safe Is Bt Cotton For Livestock?
ARE REGULATORS FOR REGULATING OR FOR POPULARISING GM CROPS?
Centre refuses to divulge details of GM field trials
India to divulge information on toxicity of GM foods
GMOS: INTERIM APPLICATION BY PETITIONERS
GM body flouting law: Plan panel
OVER 6.5 MILLION FARMERS FROM EVERY STATE IN INDIA, 'PRAY' TO INDIA'S SUPREME COURT
India's farming crisis
Greenpeace activist denied access to data on safety tests of GM crops
Calls for Bt cotton seed ban in AP
Bt cotton allegedly causes cattle deaths in AP
1,727 villages in Orissa declared GM free
Animal Husbandry department wants Bt cotton seed sales stopped
Greenpeace takes RCGM to info panel
GM crops cause 'breakdown' in Indian farming systems
84 more villages of UP pledge to remain free of genetically modified crops
BT cotton cultivation unlikely this summer
EU Ag Chief Sees Increased Indian Rice Imports
Bt Cotton & Livestock effects
Genetically modified food set to be labelled in India before import
PMK opposes use of genetically modified seeds
Thanal campaign against GM food
Bt cotton spells doom for cattle?
Keep Basmati rice areas free from GM crop trials: commerce ministry
State Pulse: Tamil Nadu: Need for seed - After its Bt Cotton fails in Tamil Nadu district, Mahyco faces flak from the state government
India : Bt cotton to be investigated for toxicity
Bt cotton has failed in Vidarbha
Bt leaves bad for animals
Is growing Bt. cotton merely a fad?
64 villages of UP pledge to remain free of genetically modified crops
The Deccan Development Society
Plea to halt cultivation of Bt hybrids
Goats-Sheep Mortality after grazing on Bt Cotton this season too
Farmers discard Bt GM Variety
The ongoing Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court on Genetically Modified Organisms
Use of Bt cotton leads to de-skilling
Mahyco compensates Bt cotton cultivators
Cotton farmers to get compensation
Five Maharashtra farmers commit suicide
Bt cotton crop fails in Tamil Nadu
THE Bt COTTON TRAGEDY THAT STRUCK DHARMAPURI
PETITION: Say "No" To India's Crops Being Genetically Engineered
Is India's Record Cotton Production Attributable To Bt Cotton?
Centre to reveal ill-effects of Bt cotton to public - Ashok B Sharma - Financial Express, August 2 2007
Allerginicity: The Supreme Court bench issued notices for making public the protocol for detecting contamination in field trials of GM crops
New Delhi, August 1 The Centre has agreed to place the toxicity and allergenicity data relating to Bt cotton in the public domain. Additional solicitor-general Amarender Saran told the Supreme Court in the course of hearings on a petition filed by Aruna Rodrigues and others calling for a moratorium on GM crops on Wednesday that the government was willing to share bulky data related to toxicity and allergenicity of Bt cotton and that he would also hand over a soft copy to all the petitioners. The data would be placed on the website hosted by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).
The bench consisting of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, justice CK Ravindran and justice Dalbir Bhandari acting on a fresh application filed by Aruna Rodrigues issued notices to the government for making public the protocol for detecting 0.01% genetic contamination in the field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops.
Rodrigues' counsel Prashant Bhushan said, "We had filed an application before the apex court not to allow field trials of GM crops until biosafety committees are set up in states concerned. We have also asked for the removal of CD Mayee as the co-chairperson of GEAC as he is on the board of a global biotech promoter agency - ISAAA. Mayee's holding such dual posts amounts to conflicts of interests. The court has accepted our application and has sent notices to the government."
The petitioner's application had also sought a direction to the government to provide a comprehensive list of the 24 varieties and hybrids that were approved between May 1-September 22, last year under nine listed crops, namely Bt Cotton, transgenic okra, tomato cauliflower, brinjal, rice, castor, groundnut and potato.
ASSOCHAM report on Bt cotton incredulous - APCDD ridicules survey report - The Hindu, July 31 2007
HYDERABAD: AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity (APCDD), representing civil society groups against genetically modified crops, has challenged the recent Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM)'s survey report on Bt cotton farming and termed it "incredulous." At a press conference here on Monday, P.V. Satheesh, convenor of the APCDD, said the survey was part of a huge campaign launched by the genetic engineering industry to bamboozle public opinion. The seed major, Monsanto has produced 29 short films to counter the APCDD's film, "A disaster in search of success: Bt cotton in global south", he added.
"For Monsanto and the ASSOCHAM, foreign direct investment is far more important than the lives of the farmers lost in the pursuit of Bt cotton that left a trail of Bt-infected toxicity in the soils and plants leading to livestock morbidity." Releasing the findings of the APCDD's own survey, he said the Bt cotton farmers earned just nine per cent more, a paltry difference of Rs. 380 per acre between Bt and non-Bt and not "additional income of Rs. 7039 crore as claimed by ASSOCHAM." Similarly cultivating Bt cotton was more expensive as farmers have to spend more on pest control than others.
The raising of Bt cotton has brought to the fore diseases like "root rot", not seen by cotton farmers before, he said. The survey also found that genetically engineered seed industry was deliberately closing all non-Bt options to farmers, forcing them to go in for Bt cotton. The APCDD wanted the Government to promulgate a law to ensure production and distribution of non-Bt seed up to 50 per cent of their trade volume and to ask National Institute of Nutrition to investigate death of cattle after grazing in areas where Bt cotton was grown.
Court issues notice to the Union of India
As many of you are aware, there was a Supreme Court Hearing on the GMOs PIL by Aruna Rodrigues and others this morning. The petitioners had put in an Interim Application with evidence pointing out that
* even basic institutions mandated under the EPA 1989 Rules like State Biotechnology Coordination Committees (SBCC) are missing in many states or are non-functional since the time of constitution in a few others, even as open air field trials are happening across the country for nearly a decade now.
* that the GEAC is stepping out of the May 8th 2007 Supreme Court orders in terms of considering newer "events"/GM crops than were allowed during May - September 2006 whereas the SC orders of May 8th specify otherwise
* that the additional biosafety conditionalities imposed by the Court in terms of designating scientists for each trial, contamination testing for every trial etc., are routine, quite possible to be taken up and that the regulators should demonstrate that such safeguards are well in place, in compliance with the May 8th Orders (so far, there is a demonstrated absence of any such compliance)
* that the contamination testing should happen in an open scientific manner with correct sampling and statistically valid samples to ensure zero contamination and for that to happen, the protocols have to be announced in the public domain including bonafide reference materials, laboratories where such testing would take place etc.
* that environmental, toxicity and allergenicity data related to all 9 crops being field tested should be put up in public domain ....
In today's hearing, the Court issued notice to the Union of India [ie the central government] to respond to this interim application of the petitioners and also directed the respondent to put up allergenicity and toxicity data on their website. This is for your information. For more information, contact Ms Aruna Rodrigues, Petitioner, on 098-263-96033.
Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 12-13-445, Street # 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad 500 017
www.csa-india.org; www.indiagminfo.org Phone: +91-9393001550
GMOs Supreme Court PIL - GM FOOD FIELD TRIALS BY THE GEAC
THE G OF I IS SUBJECTING INDIANS TO THE RISKIEST & FASTEST EXPERIMENT ANYWHERE WITH REGARD TO GM FOODS AND ANIMAL FEED
"GM Crops have been proved to be toxic and cannot feed the world. It is also important to understand very clearly, that it is the parental lines used to make GM crops that deliver crop traits including higher 'yield'. The claims of the biotech GE industry about the safety of GM crops & higher yields per se, are flagrantly dishonest and are meant for the ingestion of politicians and policy-makers to provide the ammunition they need to promote GM Crops with farmers and the public. Scientists know that GM crops by threatening biodiversity kill the golden goose that nourishes its genetic manipulations" (Petitioners).
The Supreme Court of India has stated that there must be "NO" contamination from field trials of 8 food crops and Bt cotton and has imposed the most stringent conditions of isolation distances, accountability and most critically a validated, Event-based Protocol to test for contamination of the environment and farmers? fields to a LOD (Limit of Detection) of at least 0.01%. These protocols must be announced before the commencement of any field trial. The 9 GM crops are: BT COTTON, TRANSGENIC OKRA, CAULIFLOWER, BRINJAL, RICE, CASTOR, GROUNDNUT, TOMATO AND POTATO.
It is not surprising that the GEAC has taken a light view of these stipulations in their last 78th meeting on the 22nd June 2007, given their pro GM bias. Petitioners have therefore strenuously guarded the Court's bio-safety safeguards in their latest Court Submission to insist that scrutiny and rigour for the letter and spirit of the ORDER are enforced. The safeguards and regulatory provisions must be demonstrated to be in place before the commencement of any field trial.
Contamination is an absolute and irreversible threat and there can be no tolerance for any slippages by the Regulator. The Court's attention has been drawn to the fact that India is the Centre of Origin for rice and brinjal among other plants. The contamination of Mexican maize landraces (Mexico is the centre of origin for maize) exposes the magnitude of the problem of GM contamination in India. Peru, recognising the extremely serious implications of contamination has banned transgenic potato for which it is a centre of diversity, along with other native crops. Speaking of the contamination of US long grain rice, US Rice Federation Vice-President said: "The traits are in the system, you cannot guarantee statistically that you'll ever get rid of them".
These facts emphasise the added grave dangers to India from field trials of rice and brinjal. Far from taking a page from Peru, the GEAC on the contrary, demonstrates recklessness in approving field trials in Chhattisgarh which is in the corridor of the centre of origin of rice, and in the rice bowls of Kerala and West Bengal and brinjal in Orissa which has over 200 varieties of brinjal. In its 75th meeting in March 2007, the GEAC, at the instance of the basmati rice exporters and the Ministry of Commerce, decided not to allow field trials of GM rice in the basmati growing areas of the country, because of the threat of contamination. The lack of logic and consistency in not applying like for like in similar situations is unscientific and dangerous.
GM Crops Are Not Regulated In India: The evidence that even after 6 years into GM crops, the Regulator has failed to comply with the most basic norms governing the release of GMOs is overwhelming. State Governments are supposed to approve field trials. They are not even informed; nor the farmers, in whose fields transgenic crops are planted. Now, the evidence that Mahyco pays for inspection of field trials by State Governments (Rs 45,000/ given to the BCKV (State Agr. Commission) in West Bengal, which was returned) demonstrates a serious irregularity that seeks to undermine the issue of probity in public life and promote bias. This clearly is in the knowledge of the Regulator as the amounts were paid by cheque
The ISAAA, the GEAC and the MoEF Are Openly Allied: The MoEF openly promotes GMOs. The Workshop on Agricultural Biotechnology was held on the 7th June 2007. The event was supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forest under the GEF-World Bank biosafety capacity building project; jointly organised by The Chandigarh Press Club, the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology, Ministry of Environment and Forest and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). The ISAAA is the industry-backed vehicle for promoting GM crops. The 78th Meeting of the GEAC faithfully echoes the views of the ISAAA about the implausibility of a protocol for testing for contamination at a Limit of Detection (LOD) of 0.01%. The fact that these views have no scientific backing is of little relevance, GIVEN THAT THE ISAAA IS EFFECTIVELY REPRESENTED WITHIN THE GEAC BY NO LESS THAN DR. MAYEE, THE CO-CHAIR WHOSE REMIT AS A DIRECTOR OF ISAAA IS TO PROMOTE GM CROPS. This is exactly the role that the GEAC, as Regulator has performed in India, violating the public trust and astoundingly, betraying the national interest and sovereign issues of food security, which critically include the necessity to protect India's genetic wealth from plunder by the biotech GE Industry and its destruction through GMO contamination. Thus, India's regulation is in effect being co-driven by the GM industry.
Petitioners have 'prayed' for bio-safety data to be put in the public domain for the scrutiny of scientists and that Dr. CD Mayee and other persons who are associated with the Biotechnology industry seeking approvals from the regulatory bodies, are removed from the GEAC.
Aruna Rodrigues Co-Petitioners: PV Satheesh; Devinder Sharma; Rajeev Baruah - Dated 25thth July, 2007
Not cottoning on - EAR TO THE GROUND - Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi - Business Standard, July 22 2007
The government seems to be oblivious to the farmers paying with their lives to learn about cotton farming in the times of open market. Ask any US expert about suicides by cotton farmers in India, and you would find his innocence touching. There is no linkage between cotton and suicides, you will be told. Cheap subsidised US cotton has nothing to do with the deaths in Vidarbha. In any case, farmers are off cotton here. In Vidarbha, farmers are turning to soya, while in Punjab, where the Bt cotton crop has been invaded by the mealy bug, paddy is being planted.
Despite US subsidies of around $5 billion to its handful of 25,000 cotton farmers, cotton prices are steadying, thanks to subsidies of another kind. More lucrative subsidies are available for growing maize in the US as the country needs the crop for ethanol. Therefore, a large number of cotton farmers there are shifting to maize. The result of all this is that cotton exports from the US are going down and the prices up. However, the rising rupee keeps India from reaping the gains.
But, in Vidarbha, neither the prices nor the prime minister's relief package have inspired hope. Growers have turned their back on cotton. There was barely 30 per cent sale of cotton seeds this time, says Vijay Jaywandhia, one of the prominent farm activists in the region. The region's farmers are turning to soya in a big way and GM-free soya cakes are likely to fetch them good prices in the European market, Jaywandhia points out. But the suicides have not stopped. About 50 were reported this month. The reason is said to be Nabard's decision to halve the credit this year in Vidarbha . Even as the Vidarbha farmers are paying with their lives to learn about cotton farming in the times of open market, Bt cotton farmers in Punjab are already staring down the brink. Bt cotton crops in at least four districts of the state have been destroyed by the mealy bug. At least 40 per cent of the crop has been razed and paddy sown instead, says Bhaskar Goswami of the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security. Farm organisations in Punjab confirm this.
The village of Badal, the birthplace of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, is one of the sites of Bt disaster. Bhatinda, Muktsar, Ferozepur and Faridkot, all cotton districts, have been equally affected. The price the Bt farmer pays goes something like this. He invests Rs 6,000 on an acre of cotton. He destroys it, as local newspapers are reporting daily, and sows paddy again at a price of Rs 6,000. Now, these are usually the lands taken on lease, after paying a rent of Rs 15,000. So, the production price goes up by Rs 6,000. With Rs 27,000 spent on an acre, he needs to sell rice at Rs 10 a kg to break even. The minimum support price is a mere Rs 600 a quintal.
The response of the central government to all this has been casual. The Union agriculture ministry has been telling the Punjab newspapers that agriculture is a state subject and it cannot do anything. But the fact remains that 135 varieties of Bt cotton have been cleared in the last three years, not by the Punjab government but by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Union environment ministry. It has to explain why seeds immune to primary bug infection were not tested for secondary pest manifestations like the mealy bug.
The losses are steep in terms of scale as 61 per cent of Punjab's cotton farmers have gone for Bt cotton this year. This is double the national average, say experts. But this concerns none. And given the combined stony gaze of the commerce, environment and agriculture ministries to the Indian farmer, why should anyone blame the US or seed companies like Monsanto and Raasi if they protect their own interests?
Indian Cotton Meadows Turn Into Killing Fields - BERNAMA, JULY 18 2007
NEW DELHI, July 18 (Bernama) -- One middle-aged Indian cotton farmer kills himself every eight hours -- either unable to overcome grinding poverty or repay his debts. Over the last 48 hours at least eight farmers committed suicide in hard-pressed Vidarbha in Maharashtra, a cotton-farming village -- now turning into one of India's killing fields as more vulnerable farmers kill themselves in this remote district. Since January this year, 506 farmers had taken their own lives despite the government's multimillion relief package to help cotton farmers, simply because aid failed to reach the target group, claim relief workers. And, since June 2005, more than 5,000 farmers pathetically killed themselves all over India, leaving their wives and children in worse financial doldrums.
The death tolls tell a poignant story of how Indian farmers succumb to free trade competition that has destroyed their revered economic lifeline - cotton farming - with cotton prices dipping in the global market while highly subsidised farmers from rich nations corner cotton trade, leaving Third World widows in grim villages. "Vidarbha was once a white gold mine. We gave the world the best soft cotton. Our cotton was liked by Europeans because it was cheap and shirts made from our cotton kept them warm," Kishore Tiwari, the president of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (Peoples' Protest Forum), a farmers lobby group, told Bernama.
With cotton prices fetching poor prices, at merely 1,700 rupees (RM154) per quintal or 100kg compared to 2,500 rupees (RM227) in 2005, farmers with paltry earnings found it impossible to cope with spiralling cost of living, even in rural areas, said Tiwari. "Cost of healthcare, education and food has gone up but farmers' earnings continue to drop. In fact, each farmer's income, according to a government survey, is negative (-400 rupees), which means economically he is not earning anything," he added. Citing a government national survey conducted last June, Tiwari said about 1.3 million farmers out of 1.72 million, from eight villages, lived in financial distress while 400,000 were in a critical stage. "It's a mass genocide here," he described, adding that some two million farmers were now in dire need of financial aid because the only cash crop they relied on had failed miserably.
Since the cotton and textile quota restriction was removed in 2004, Third World cotton planters suffer to keep their livelihood fertile - facing severe rivalry from producers like China and the highly-subsidised American farmers, who can dispose their cotton cheaply in the international market. Moreover, the majority of Indian farmers grow BT cotton (genetically- modified cotton) that requires a large amount of investment, for irrigation and fertilisers, which are not within the reach of these poor farmers. "Ninety five per cent of BT cotton are grown in non-irrigated land here, where there is no proper irrigation or water supply. So the yield is low and BT cotton farming requires a lot of money for fertilisers," said Tiwari.
In booming India, the agriculture sector remains an integral part of the economy though contributing a fifth of India's economic output. Some 600 million people rely on farming for direct or indirect source of income. Yet in a largely investment-driven Indian economy, the third largest in Asia, after Japan and China, with a projected nine per cent gross domestic product growth for 2007-2008, farmers are still squeezed for a living. There is no quick-fix to revive this ailing sector and Tiwari said only a long-term, government-backed programme could remove farmers' misery in Vidarbha, located about 1,000km from the bustling financial hub of Mumbai, capital of Maharashtra. "We want protected economy for cotton and credit facilities for farmers. Government must restore healthcare, education and create employment opportunities for the masses, and promote organic or natural farming which is cheaper than growing BT cotton," he added.
On the horizon, the Indian monsoon may continue to drench India for at least another month, perhaps bringing some respite for Vidarbha farmers. "But when the monsoon slips away the "mass genocide" will bound to continue," cautioned Tiwari.
NEW VIDARBHA SEASON - Bt-ing the farmers! - Jaideep Hardikar - India Together, 2 Jul 2007
As the fresh sowing season starts, beleaguered cotton farmers, already steeped in debt, are being forced to opt for the more-expensive Bt (genetically modified) cotton. Inputs dealers in Vidarbha say that there is hardly any non-Bt hybrid variety available in the market this year. Jaideep Hardikar reports.
2 July 2007 - Nagpur - When the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh visited Vidarbha last July, the Vidarbha farmers hoped bad days were coming to end, their destiny would change. Skeptics had warned the region's agrarian economy, which has collapsed totally, could not be resurrected with piecemeal packages. They were right. The relief is turning out to be a mere band-aid, as it indeed was meant, with policies remaining unchanged on all fronts ? credit, seeds, prices and imports, to name a few. But, as the fresh sowing season starts, worrying signs are already evident. Beleaguered cotton farmers, already steeped in debt, have little choice but to opt for the more-expensive Bt (genetically modified) cotton this season.
Inputs dealers say that there is hardly any hybrid variety available in the market this year. "We get good margins on Bt from the companies. Also, the companies haven't marketed hybrids this time around." To be frank, says one dealer, "we are not keeping non-Bt seed, for it has no future." Estimates indicate entire cotton area to be under Bt, results of which have been very discouraging for the rain-fed region. Divisional Commissioner (Amravati) Sudhir Goyal says this year would be a 100 per cent Bt year. Meaning, nearly a 100 per cent cotton area would be occupied by Bt cotton.
While cotton prices are crashing every year, a total shift to the genetic modified cotton will hike up production costs, leading to a steep risk of heavier losses, farm activists say. The central problem is that India provides no cushion to millions of farmers from the risks involved. When hybrid seeds were introduced, they wiped out desi cotton. Now Bt cotton would wipe out hybrids and farmers would be left with no choice but to buy expensive Bt seeds. The top scientists at the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) fear it is a signal for disaster, which will be accentuated many times if monsoon fails. For one, only three-per-cent cotton area in Vidarbha has protected irrigation. Two, Bt cotton is highly capital intensive. In a region where income levels of farmers have been steadily dwindling, any exposure to risk could be suicidal. The chief minister, who is advocating that farmers practice yoga and spiritualism, could do well to regulate markets and ensure fairplay by the seed companies.
After Bollguard-I (first generation Bt), Monsanto has introduced in the market Bollguard-II in more or less the same genotypes (varieties). The price of a 450-gm packet of seed is Rs.1350, several times the cost of non-Bt seeds. A package of Bollguard-I comes at Rs.750. A packet of same quantity of non-Bt will come at Rs.400-450, while the desi cottonseed, grown in very few areas, costs Rs.50 a kg. Farmers' leader Vijay Jawandhia argues, "Bt cotton has not brought about any increase in productivity. Also, it has not reduced the use of chemicals." Last year, with 60 per cent area under Bt, the production of cotton in the state could only match the average annual production - about 190 lakh quintals.
State government reports and statistics too suggest that Bt cotton has not brought about any rise in productivity or decline in pesticide use. In 2005, Maharashtra's Agriculture Commissioner wrote in his note to the central government and later the National Commission of Farmers about the poor performance of Bt in the state. Also, Maharashtra government has in four years paid to farmers about Rs.400 crore in compensation due to the failure of Bt cotton in Vidarbha and other parts. Suman Sahai, Convenor of Gene Campaign, New Delhi, says: "The only long term feasible and sustainable approach to controlling pests in cotton would be not the Bt gene but a long term integrated pest management approach."
An estimate suggests that over 30 lakh packets of Bt cottonseeds would be sold this season, enough to cover well over ten lakh hectare farms in the region. That's more than a double-fold rise in the acreage over last year, officials point out. A disaster of unmanageable proportions is on the cards if there is any fluctuation in monsoon, fears Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti. So far, rains haven't betrayed the farmers, but as the entire Vidarbha reels under inclement weather, some areas are staring at first sowing being washed away. Already, the farm suicides in 2007 are nearing 500. Tiwari laments that a cotton farmer commits suicide every six hours in Vidarbha, and the rate has been picking up alarmingly, pooh-poohing the government claims that the suicides in Vidarbha have declined due to the implementation of special relief packages.
Interestingly, the Maharashtra Agriculture Minister, Balasaheb Thorat, recently admitted that Bt had failed in Vidarbha and cautioned farmers not to sow it. "We will introduce new crop patterns for every district in the entire state," Thorat said after a Kharif review meeting in Nagpur earlier in May. "We want Vidarbha farmers to shift to soybean," the minister proposed, "because the prices are good and cultivation is cheaper." But it's too late, and the damage is done. Also, farm activists point out the government-run Mahabeej seeds corporation is itself marketing Bt cottonseeds to inputs dealers, while the minister advises caution. There is a lot of double-speak on the part of the government, charges Tiwari.
Yet, what's concerning activists is the permission granted to nearly 53 new genotypes of Bt cotton by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). As many as 35 of those varieties would be introduced in the central India. Over 60 Bt varieties are already in the market here and few more are on the anvil. But there's hardly any study on the performance of new genotypes in Vidarbha. "We don't yet know whether these varieties will suit the agro-climatic and soil conditions; moreover releasing the second generation Bt (Bollguard II) for a wide spread commercial use is surely disastrous," says a senior CICR scientist, speaking under condition of anonymity. He also warns that it is only a matter of time before the widespread emergence of resistance in bollworms. "It has already happened in Gujarat, where bollworms have developed resistance to Bt."
Peasants' confusion is only being compounded by the introduction of new varieties this season. As companies compete for greater market share, they are promoting their brands fiercely and relentlessly, and farmers are being exposed to greater risks.
Jaideep Hardikar is a Nagpur based journalist. He won a 2005 scholarship to research the agrarian crisis in Vidarbha from the Prem Bhatia Memorial Trust, New Delhi. He has also been a recipient of several national media fellowships and was the winner of the 2003 Sanskriti award from Sanskriti Foundation, New Delhi.
GM-free status sought for State To prevent influx of genetically modified crops Special Correspondent - The Hindu, 13 July 2007 - http://www.hindu.com/2007/07/13/stories/2007071357250400.htm
*Demand in the wake of permission given to Monsanto
*Issue taken up with Union Agriculture Minister
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran has written to the Union Minister of Agriculture Sharad Pawar opposing experimental cultivation of genetically modified crops in Kerala. The Minister urged the Centre to declare Kerala as a GM-free State and prevent the influx of genetically modified crops. Mr. Ratnakaran wrote to Mr. Pawar in the light of permission granted to a private agency under the control of Monsanto Corporation to try genetically modified rice in some paddy fields in Palakkad district. Kerala is rich in biodiversity and 50 per cent of its geographical area is part of the Western Ghats which is a global biodiversity hotspot. Cultivation of genetically modified crops in this area will be detrimental to the ecosystem, the Minister said.
The Agriculture Minister said that the Government would organise a workshop soon to create awareness of the effects of the entry of imperialist forces in the food sector.
Loud no to Bt Brinjal - BHUBANESWAR - Orissa Government Decides To Prevent Entry Of The GM Crop, TI0706-28 - Rajaram Satapathy I TNN
Bhubaneswar: The Orissa government will not allow Bt Brinjal inside the state because it fears that the genetically modified crop may endanger the bio-safety of native farm products. "We are not for any genetically modified (GM) crop, let alone Bt Brinjal. There is no credible scientific study to stand by the GM crops. Nor are there reports from any where in the country about farmers welcoming it," agriculture minister Surendra Nath Nayak said. "On the contrary, public protests against GM crops are galore," he added. Nayak made known the government stand in the backdrop of public protests against the reported move of the Centre for field trial of Bt Brinjal in the coastal Kendrapada, Cuttack, Bhubaneswar and Puri.
Reports said Bt Brinjal figures on the agenda of the genetic en-gineering approval committee (GEAC) under the Union ministry of environment and forests and intense lobbying has been going on for allowing field trial of it in several states, including Orissa. Orissa, a few years back permitted Bt Cotton, now grown mostly in four tribal districts. "We allowed Bt Cotton because it was not a food item and would bring bigger gains to farmers. But reports are not very encouraging. Farmers caught in input, output and marketing riddles do not seem happy. We are closely watching the situation," the minister said.
Speculation is rife that the state government may not be able to put a rider on field trial of Bt Brinjal or for that matter any GM crop. Brinjals are said to have originated from India. Orissa alone has 226 known varieties of brinjals. There is no dearth of brinjals as a vegetable in the state and in and around Bhubaneswar scores of varieties of brinjals are grown.
It is feared that Bt Brinjal would contaminate the native varieties, beside causing genetic pollution to the estimated 700 varieties of paddy and the more than 7,000 species of flora in the state. The minister maintained that the government would "surely intervene" as it involved the future of farmers and the state's rich biodiversity. He said instead, the state government is encouraging "organic farming", particularly in veg-etable cultivation. "The use of fertiliser and chemical pesticide in vegetables is the root cause of many diseases. To counter this, the government has made budgetary provisions this year to give subsidy for popularising vermiculture in villages," the minister said.
Comment from Aruna Rodrigues, the chief-petitioner in the Public Interest Litigation before India's Supreme Court:
The GEAC [India's key regulatory body for GM field trials] has stated that they will allow field trials of GM food crops once a validated protocol for contamination at a LOD (Level of Detection) of 0.01 per cent is submitted by the Applicants and approved. The fact is that this condition is pure illusion, a GEAC distortion of the Supreme Court ORDER of the 8th May 2007. The S. Court on the 8th May did not lift its Order of the 22nd September 2006; and therefore it continues to bar fresh approvals of all field trials including Bt cotton.
No matter the guise under which the GEAC is acting, even so, it is a positive thing that the GEAC has taken note of the legal notice sent to them by Petitioners' counsel, Prashant Bhushan, which warned that we would be forced to file for 'contempt of Court' if it carried out its agenda.
Contamination through field trials is a fact; so also the consequent threat to biodiversity and human and animal health. There is tangible relief therefore, that we have been able to stop these GM food crop field trials.
GEAC PUTS STRINGENT CONDITIONS - Govt says no to GM crops - From Kalyan Ray, DH News Service, New Delhi:
India may have to wait for years to witness the entry of a genetically modified food crop in the market as the centre has come out with an approval condition that the experts are saying is "impossible" to meet. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) on Friday has asked the agro-biotech companies to submit "validated protocol for detection of 0.01 per cent level contamination" before clearing multi-location research trials of genetically modified rice, okra, maize and brinjal, official sources said. This means unless the crop developers are able to find out how would they spot presence of trace amount of bt protein (0.01 per cent) which may have been leaked to other non-target plants, the centre will not approve multi-location trials, which is a must before commercial release.
"But such a stringent contamination detection level is unheard of anywhere in the world. The technology simply does not exist," Bhagirath Choudhary, the India representative of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) told Deccan Herald.
The best standard is from the European Union which stipulates a detection level of 0.9 per cent. The Japanese standard is five per cent while the USA does not have any detection level standards. Arguing that contamination should not be an issue till large scale trial, Mr Choudhary said such a step might also ruin the research in the green house as 0.01 per cent contamination is a common occurrence there. The technology to detect such low level of contamination simply doesn't exist.
Even as the research was going on for quite some time, the anti-GM activists including have protested time and again on any governmental plan for allowing their commercialisation. The GEAC did not approve six transgenic bt rice hybrids, three GM bt okra hybrids and bt brinjal being developed at places like University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad. Round up ready corn hybrids that can survive a particular insecticide, yield guard corns with higher productivity and flex cotton hybrids that produces better quality yarns were also not approved by the committee.
Interestingly, the committee has approved import of soybean oil obtained from round-up ready Soybean by the Solvent Extractors' Association of India.
Large scale field trials of new varieties of bt cotton expressing new genes did not get approval as the bio-safety studies are inadequate. This includes cotton hybrids expressing Cry1C gene, sources said.
GEAC denies nod for multi location trials of GM food crops - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, June 23 2007
NEW DELHI, JUN 22: The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has not approved multi-locational research trials (MLRT) of genetically modified (GM) food crops. The field trials of GM crops, which was on the agenda for Friday's discussion included six Bt rice hybrids, three Bt okra hybrids, two GM corn crops, eight Bt eggplant hybrids. The committee had asked seed companies concerned to submit validated protocol for detection of 0.01% level of genetic contamination, subject to which the field trials of GM food crops would be considered. The GEAC, however, approved the procedure for import of soyoil extracted from Roundup Ready Soybeans as proposed by Solvent Extractors' Association of India .
The GEAC, in its 78th meeting on Friday, approved MLRT of several Bt cotton hybrids expressing genes and events which were earlier approved. It also approved strip trials of Bt cotton hybrids expressing genes and events approved earlier. GEAC allowed experimental seed production of Bt cotton hybrids in different parts of the country. Permission to conduct MLRT of Bt cotton expressing approved gene/ events have been approved. This includes BG I cotton hybrids, BG II cotton hybrid, cry1Ac gene, 3 intra-hirsutum hybrids, 2 inter-specific hybrids, 3 inter-specific hybrids, 5 Bt cotton hybrids, Bollgard cotton hybrids has been given. The MLRT will be done in central and south zones at various locations. The committee has also approved the proposal for strip trials of Bt cotton expressing approved gene/events. This will cover 35 Bt cotton hybrids, 115 transgenic Bt cotton hybrids, 29 intra-specific Bt cotton hybrids and others will be included. Experimental seed production of Bt cotton expressing approved gene/events has also been given approval. The Large Scale Field Trials of Bt cotton expressing new gene/events did not get approval because they did not complete full bio-safety studies. This include cotton hybrids expressing Cry1C gene and seed production of cotton hybrids
GM crops will not be allowed in Kerala declares Kerala Agriculture Minister. Environmental and Farmers Organisations hail decision.
Press Release - 23rd June 2007, Trivandrum
Environmental organisations and Farmers Organisations in Kerala today hailed the Kerala Government and welcomed the declaration of the Kerala Agriculture Minister Sri Mullakara Rathnakaran not to allow Genetically Modified Crops in the State.
"No GM crop trials and cultivation will be allowed in Kerala" the Agriculture Minister stated in the 9.30 pm News Hour discussions in the Malayala Manorama channel yesterday. He detailed the reasons for this decision, stating that farmers in Vidharbha and Andhra Pradesh were led to suicide by the planting of Bt-Cotton and that he will not allow anything like that to happen in Kerala. He was responding to the issue of the 78th Genetic Engineering Approval Committee's agenda for approving field trials of six hybrids of Bt-rice in Palakkad region. "Kerala is a State with rich agro-biodiversity and the government see it as its top priority to protect it" he said. According to the Minister, farmers from other states like Tamilnadu are resisting the entry of GM crops. "Here the Government and the Agriculture department will take up the issue along with farmers not to allow genetically modified crops in to the field ", he said.
Earlier in the day, the Kerala Assembly heard the official statement of the Government on the issue. The Kerala Law Minister Sri M Vijaykumar, speaking for the Chief Minister, responded to submissions by Sri M P Shreyams Kumar, MLA. He stated that "Kerala Agriculture Department has not given permission to the company Mahyco to conduct field trails of GM crops in the State. The Supreme Court has also not allowed any fresh approvals of field trials. Moreover, the M.S. Swaminathan task force on biotechnology has clearly pointed out that the agro-biodiversity rich regions like Western Ghats should be kept free from GM crops. The State Biodiversity Board also recommends in its Strategy and Action Plan to avoid experiments of GM crops in such biodiversity rich areas". The Minister also pointed out that such experiments can only be conducted under the supervision of the Bio safety Committee of the Kerala Agriculture University upon following their Bio safety Code. The permission of the State and the Panchayath where the trials are to be conducted is mandatory before approval is given.
While appreciating the decision of the Agriculture Minister, Thanal along with Desiya Karshaka Samithi and Ecological Protection Forum Palakkad and other environmental and farmers organisations across the State, pointed out that a farming in Kerala can be made sustainable only by supporting local initiatives in Organic and ecological farming, reviving high yielding and resistant, locally specific traditional seeds and practices and local production of organic manure and ecological pest control methods. This will reduce cost of production while giving good nutritional and economic value to the final produce. Research support that is being siphoned off for biotechnology and other frontier sciences is not going to help feed the State, they said, and so more support must be sought from the Centre for locally specific agriculture revival initiatives.
For more information contact
S Usha, Thanal Ph : (0)9447022775 - Sridhar R, Ph : (0)9995358205
Thanal, H-3 Jawahar Nagar, Kawdiar, Thiruvananthapuram - 695003, Kerala, India.
Ph : +91-471-2727150, 5543001
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org - website : www.thanal.org
Protect Bt cotton from leaf spots, warn PAU scientists - Express News Service, June 21 2007
Ludhiana, June 21: Leaf spots on cotton due to different fungal and bacterial pathogens have gained significance with the cultivation of Bt cotton, say PAU plant pathologists Dr HS Rewal and Dr Chander Mohan. According to them, last year, high incidence of pathogen-alternaria blight was reported in many fields in Bathinda, Mansa and Faridkot districts. Because of the attack of different fungal and bacterial pathogens, the cotton leaves develop pale green leaf spots with irregular margins. These spots enlarge, turn brown and are recognized easily due to the presence of concentric zones. Severe infection causes shedding of leaves specially where soil is light in texture.
The disease is more serious on plants having low vigour, or those which are raised in fields having low potash. According to the scientists, another type of leaf spot is also gaining importance. The pathogen attacks both leaves as well as the bolls. Circular to semi-circular brown coloured spots with broad violet margins appear on leaves, bracts as well as bolls. Later, small dark dot like structures are formed inside these spots. The fungus is seed borne and also survives on dead leaves. The disease is favoured by high humidity and rains. Dense growth in Bt cotton is favourable for the development of this pathogens.
As per these scientists, bacterial leaf blight, also known as angular leaf spot, is characterized by black arm and boll rot, depending upon the portion of the plant affected. The disease appears on leaves in the form of minute, water soaked, angular spots which later on turn brown. The disease extends up to the veins and veinlets, which also turn black.
Spots on bolls appear as round water soaked areas which later turn dark brown or black, and are slightly depressed. Spotted bolls may fail to open and lint may be discoloured with a yellow stain. Before boll rot is evident, dark irregularly shaped spots are observed on bracts surrounding the lower portion of bolls. Under severe disease conditions, defoliation takes place. The bacterium survives in seed as well as plant debris.
The scientists have highlighted that seed treatment before sowing is the best remedy against the leaf spot.
Mortality of livestock linked to Bt cotton yet again - The Siasat Daily, June 21 2007
Hyderabd, June 22: Notwithstanding the stout denials by Monsanto-Mahyco, the Animal Husbandry Department has again confirmed that the mortality of livestock that grazed on harvested fields of Bt cotton was indeed observed in February and March this year too, especially in Warangal and Adilabad. The confirmation is contained in a letter sent by the Director of Animal Husbandry Department to the Chairperson of Genetic Engineering Approval Committee on May 9.
The Director specially asked the GEAC to take into consideration the opinion of sheep growers and arrange for bio-safety studies on applied aspects like continuous grazing of animals on harvested or intact Bt cotton plants and the quantitative analysis of Bt protein in different stages even after harvesting. In the letter, the Director recalled that last year when similar reports came in, the department had undertaken investigation and analysis of plant samples like leaves, boll, seed and other portions for presence of possible toxins and their ill effects in animals.
These tests were conducted in national and State institutions like Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory, Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, Jhansi, Western Regional Disease Diagnositc Laboratory, Pune, and Department of Agriculture Biotechnology of Acharya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University. The results showed that the death of sheep could be due to high content of nitrates/nitrites and residues of hydro cyanide (HCN) and organophosphates. The same kind of mortality of livestock was observed this year too causing economic loss to farmers. The samples this time were sent to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izzatnagar, in addition to other institutions. However the results showed that samples were negative for these compounds.
As a precautionary measure the department asked its staff to create awareness among shepherds and to advise them to not to graze their animals in harvested Bt cotton fields till definite cause was established. Kavita Kuruganti, consultant to Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, told The Hindu that the letter had confirmed through official channels not only the toxicity phenomenon but that previous bio-safety studies on Bt cotton had left out important applied aspects of village-level practices.
PANCHAYATS ACROSS THE COUNTRY WRITE IN TO GEAC - PRESS RELEASE
GEAC also asked to abide by new orders and conditions related to field trials
New Delhi, June 21, 2007: More than 80 Panchayats from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal had written to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) seeking clarifications related to the new condition for GM crop field trials in the country which requires crop developers to get prior permission from the concerned panchayat. The panchayats wanted GEAC to provide them information on what are the potential risks associated with GE crops and their open air field trials in addition to asking the regulator what accountability mechanisms exist in case of violations. These letters were sent to the GEAC on the eve of its 78th meeting tomorrow, where the apex regulatory body is considering approvals to scores of field trials, including GM food crops. Earlier, in its December 13th 2006 meeting, GEAC had decided that applicants for GM food crop trials have to obtain prior permission from concerned panchayats.
Meanwhile, many members of the Coalition for GM Free India also wrote in to the GEAC yesterday, reminding them about new orders and conditions related to GM crop field trials. They reminded the GEAC that the Supreme Court in its May 8th 2007 orders had not vacated the September 2006 orders which imposed a stoppage on any further approvals. They also pointed out that in the January 2007 meeting of the GEAC, the regulators have noted that the state level and district level committees meant to oversee trials, as per the Environment Protection Act [EPA], are not in place as things had not changed since then.
The Coalition members accused the GEAC of not discussing important issues like impacts of Bt Cotton on livestock, as pointed out by the animal husbandry department of Andhra Pradesh, in its haste to approve more and more GM crops. They questioned the GEAC about the action taken (or lack of it) to fix liability on the concerned companies under the EPA penal clauses for violations pointed out by Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh government, reports of which were shared with the GEAC.
GEAC's inability to monitor open air field trials that it approves (based on DBT's approvals) has been documented again and again and in fact admitted by the GEAC itself in its meeting minutes. In majority of cases, the regulatory body itself is not informed of where the trials are happening in the country. State governments like Chattisgarh, which have inquired into the matter last year, have documented several violations and yet, no action has been taken by the GEAC on the matter. It is well known that across the world GE contamination scandals which led to serious economic losses for farmers have mostly arisen from lax field trials.
For more information, contact:
1. Sri Kultar Singh, Sarpanch, Sandhwan village, Faridkot dist, Punjab: 092-164-00457
2. Sri Krishnan Kutty, Perumatti Panchayat, Palakkad dist, Kerala: 094-470-12369
3. Sri Yudhvir Singh, Bharatiya Kissan Union (BKU): 098-681-46405
4. Sri Devinder Sharma, Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security: 098-113-01857
Letter from Coalition for GM Free India members to GEAC:
June 20, 2007
Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC)
Ministry of Environment & Forests
Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex
Lodhi Road, New Delhi 110 003.
Fax: 011- 24363967
Dear Sri Parsheera
Sub: Consideration of proposals for GM crop field trials-78th GEAC meeting-22/6/2007
We have taken note of the Agenda points put up for the 78th GEAC meeting to be held on 22nd June 2007. There are many open air field trials being considered for various food crops like brinjal, rice, maize, potato, bhindi etc. as well as new events of GM cotton. In this connection, we would like to remind the GEAC:
That the Supreme Court's orders of May 8th 2007 have not vacated the orders of September 2006 and that is something that the petitioners have already communicated to the MoEF through their
That it is a dangerous practice to take up open air field trials without assessing the biosafety of a GMO, especially given the now-official confirmations related to various violations during field trials and the confirmation of the lack of monitoring capabilities of the regulators. Further, some of the applications are for large scale field trials, without having cleared biosafety assessments.
That the GEAC has still not fixed any liability for the violations pointed out by Chattisgarh government as well as now being pointed out by the Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal governments.
That in the January 2007 meeting of the GEAC, you have noted that state level and district level committees are not in place to oversee field trials [Agenda 1.0 (a) (i)] and that this should be done
That in the January 2007 meeting again, it was also decided that full details of the crops, sites, coordinator of the field trial etc. should be submitted before approval is accorded by the GEAC/RCGM
That in the December 2006 GEAC meeting, it was decided that applicants have to obtain prior permission of the concerned panchayats before approval is accorded
That the Supreme Court orders of May 2007 also lay down the need for a validated, event-specific protocol (at an LoD of at least 0.01%) to be submitted by the approved institution
That the Court also ordered that the name of a Scientist and other details about who will be responsible for all aspects related to the trial should be submitted to the GEAC.
WE would also like to remind GEAC that in its last meeting, as a response to the report received from the Director-Animal Husbandry, Government of Andhra Pradesh, the GEAC asked some experts to look at the report and give their views in the next meeting, which is the one on June 22nd. However, the listed agenda
has no mention of this and we request the GEAC to include it immediately into the agenda.
We also demand that the GEAC discuss the report of the Chattisgarh government's inquiry committee on the violations documented in the field trials there and fix liability under EPA penal clauses.
Finally, we demand that the GEAC discuss and share information to its members and the general public on what happened to the Show Cause notices sent to various crop developers who have failed to comply with the conditional approvals given in 2006.
As the apex regulatory body created to protect the interests of Indian farmers and consumers and for protecting the environment, we expect the GEAC to address all the above points in its upcoming meeting.
(Member Organisation, Coalition for GM Free India)
Bt cotton can kill farm animals, Andhra Govt cautions farmers - Chetan Chauhan - The Hindustan Times
New Delhi - June 17 2007
The Andhra Pradesh government has advised farmers not to allow animals to graze on Bt cotton fields after four institutes reported the presence of toxins in them. Goats and sheep grazing on post-harvest Bt cotton fields were found dead in Warangal and Adilabad districts in 2006 and in the first two months of 2007. The Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory, the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, the Western Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and the department of agriculture, NG Ranga Agriculture University found the presence of nitrates and nitrites, and residues of organophosphates in Bt cotton plants. Dr L Mohan, director, Andhra Pradesh animal husbandry department, said: "The deaths have resulted in huge economic losses for farmers."
Andhra Pradesh, which had earlier moved the Monopolistic and Restrictive Trade Practices tribunal against the high price of Bt seeds, said no bio-safety studies of Bt cotton seeds had yet been conducted. MK Sharma, managing director, Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech India Ltd, makers of the genetically modified Bt cotton, said: "Bt cotton is being grown in nine states, and no such complaint has come except from a few villages in Andhra. We conducted safety studies before the trials and all Bt seeds were found to be safe."
The Andhra government has informed the union ministry of environment and forests about its findings. The ministry has ordered a probe.
'IMPORTING AGRICULTURAL PRODUCE IS LIKE IMPORTING A LOSS' - Tehelka, 9 June 2007
Chairperson of the Planning Commission's Task Force on Agro-biodiversity and Genetically Engineered Organisms and founder of Gene Campaign, Suman Sahai has been advocating for farmers' rights and against the dangers of genetically-modified (GM) crops for more than a decade. One of India's foremost agro-economists, Sahai feels the country should avoid buying expensive GM seeds from global monopolistic corporations when it has the resources to develop indigenous technology. What is required, she told Harsha Baruah and Swati Mongia, is to develop a methodology to solve problems at an affordable cost and increased agricultural research
*Our farmers are in crisis. Do you think it is time we overhaul the current agricultural model?
The current agricultural model is disastrous. The current agricultural research system is a disaster - so is the current level of agricultural scientists, and the way they are required to perform is abysmal. I cannot emphasise strongly enough how terrible the state of our agricultural research system is. And if India is facing one crisis today, it is the crisis of Bharat. You cannot go on weeping that agriculture is 1.4 percent - you need a 4-percent growth to break-even. And nothing is being done about it.SEZs are coming up on agricultural land. Why are they not being set up in urban areas? Why is DDA land not being taken for SEZs?And ultimately, you have to make a fundamental decision - is the progress and development of this country going to happen via 98 percent of India or 2 percent of Bharat?
*But things have started happening, right? Biotech is the latest buzzword
The problem is that it has come very quickly into commercial application. Today, biotechnology has become a very sought-after post, and young people are going in for training offered by lots of private scholarships. But where is the infrastructure? Eventually, we are producing a whole bunch of young people who think they have biotech degrees but are clueless. We talk of Bt Cotton - why is there not a single public sector institution in this country that has come up with an Indian variety? When American farmers wanted Bt Cotton, Monsanto developed it for them. Now it wants to expand its market, so it's come here. But do Indian farmers want Bt Cotton?
*But the counter to this is that our farmers are cynical about adopting such technologies
Wrong. Farmers are never cynical. Farmers are always open and receptive to trying out new technologies and that is part of the problem with importing new technology. Nobody's taught the farmers; nobody's carried out any training programmes or orientation processes, there are no troubleshooting centres where the farmer can go when he is in trouble. There have been reports that in many areas Bt Cotton has failed both in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. This incidentally has been in the state government reports, which have been kept under wraps for long. Why has a review not been done? Today, without any review and analysis, you go and approve 62 varieties of Bt Cotton.
*So you would not encourage farmers to go for Bt Cotton?
No. The way it is being done, it's not worth it. Essentially, the Bt approach to pest-management is in any case a very short-term approach. There's a fundamental thing to understand - no pest remains where it was as it develops resistance. Bt Cotton is also very expensive - Rs 1,850 a pack. A domestic pack comes for Rs 300.
*Are you suggesting that these technologies are meant for Western countries that have the right infrastructure
And also subsidies that can offset the technology costs. There are 25,000 cotton farmers in the US -whether they plant the Bt seed or not, they are going to get a huge package. So, new technology can only be brought into agrarian countries like India. Monsanto wouldn't be bothered about whether the farmers succeed or not. They want to sell seeds and make a profit.
*What dangers do you see from Bt seeds?
To health, to the environment - Bt is after all a toxic gene - a poison-producing gene that you take out from a bacterium. The bacterium has genes like this in order to repel its attackers. You take out this poison-producing gene from the bacteria, and you put it into a bottle - which you are going to put into rice, tomato, potato, brinjal - everything in India is going the Bt way. So human and animal health face a very big danger. The other thing is environment. I totally oppose GM crops. India is the birthplace of rice. No rice is found in forests. If you have foreign genes in genetically-engineered rice, the genes, through pollen, will move into the natural gene pool of rice. This is scary, as it can really spoil your native gene pool. All countries that are centres of origin, like Mexico, for instance, have a ban on GM crops. China has a ban on soya bean, Peru on potato. India is a very strange country - the home of the largest-eaten staple food in the world is experimenting with GM rice.
*What about farmers deaths. How would you handle it?
Nobody gives a damn. Nothing translates on to the ground. What is the pm's scheme when 60 percent of the farmers in Vidharba have mortgaged their land and will not get it back? And in this area you're promoting Bt cotton. Repay their loans - statements will not create solutions. I think the greatest shame for India in the last 60 years is farmer suicides. We as a nation need to hang our heads in shame if even one farmer kills himself, and hundreds have. Yet nothing has changed. Rural credit has been identified as one of the most devastating reasons. Where is the support for the farmer?
*But sometimes stocks are also returned because there is no demand
That's not true. Huge bales of cotton are lying outside Nagpur, because the government has decided to import Chinese cotton. People import cotton because the cotton commission works on an import-export basis. Importing agricultural produce is importing a loss, because you're importing somebody else's product, not your farmers'. In 60 years we've had no agricultural policy - how can Bharat prosper?
*Would you then say that there is no merit in this talk of a second Green Revolution?
I don't want to use the term Second Green Revolution because corporations are using this term for genetic engineering. The Green Revolution is viewed as a very positive development by the political leadership in this country. It used technology which made India self-reliant and stopped forever our dependence on imports. So the association with the Green Revolution is extremely positive. You won't meet any politician in the country who wouldn't think that it was an instrument which saved political humiliation. Ad gurus have understood the positive association with the Green Revolution and are trying to capitalise on it. The two technologies are like chalk and cheese. The Green Revolution was publicly owned. Research was done in public sector institutions, seeds were owned by the farmer and nobody had any control. There were no intellectual property rights, no patents - nothing. The so-called Second Green Revolution is an entirely privately-owned technology. Every single thing belongs to roughly six corporations. The seed, technology and genes are patented.
Govt withhelds GM food info - Prachi Bhuchar - NDTV, May 13 2007 (New Delhi)
Earlier this week the Supreme Court gave the go ahead to the Centre to conduct field trials of some [already approved] Genetically Modified (GM) crops. The court also directed the Centre to give details about the toxicity levels of these crops. But last month, in response to a Right to Information application, the government had refused to share these details.
We should know what we eat. That was the premise on which an environmental group filed a petition under the Right to Information Act last month, asking for specific data on field trials of genetically modified food crops, including their toxicity and allergicity levels. The Information Commission directed the department of biotechnology to provide this information within 10 days but when the response from the government came it was far from satisfactory. ''Multi-location field trials are okay but bio-safety information cannot be disclosed,'' the government said in a reply. The reason had more to do with addressing commercial interests than safeguarding public health. Surprisingly, though it has approved their multi-location field trials, the government said the data on rice, bhindi and mustard was yet to be evaluated. This answer, experts say, is less convincing and more confusing.
''It is ridiculous that the government does not want to provide information on something that affects our health. We asked them a straightforward question and they did not want to give an answer,'' said Geneticist Dr Suman Sahai. But the health ministry feels stricter norms should be in place before GM foods can be consumed. ''I have expressed my concern to the ministry of environment and the science and tech ministry as well. Before they give a go ahead for field trials they have to ensure there is more information available, otherwise there is a serious health concern,'' said Union Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss.
Absence of proper mechanism
Some of the other concerns are that is no mechanism in place for GM food labeling and consumers are in dark about what they are eating. Even the farmers are clueless about bio-safety hazards during field trials and people who regulate field trials are also on committees that give approval to firms to enter India. In most countries field trials of GM crops have been on the decline since 2003. Also, there's evidence that genetic engineering have dangerous consequences. In India, both farmers and scientists have always stopped short of greeting trials of GM food crops. While farmers say it would damage other crops, scientists feel its still is a potential health and environmental hazard.
''Nowhere in the world has GM foods led to food security. Once we introduce GM organisms into the environment there is no control. There is crossing over onto other organisms. Companies have been accused of taking bribes [presumably a reference to their bribing of officials] in other countries. How can the government deal with such companies,'' said Dr Pushpa Bhargava, Scientist. But biotechnologists at the genetic engineering approval committee, which gives these trials the go-ahead, say safety norms have never been compromised. Does India need GM food at all? Experts say with Asia being the next big market for biotech firms, it is here that the future of these foods will be decided, especially since it is a growing nation where food security remains a constant concern.
AIADMK Protests in Coimbatore - Protest criticizes DMK for not banning GM seeds - Headed by Muthuswamy, AIADMK MLAs and farmers participate
Coimbatore, May 5th 2007: Prominent AIADMK [All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam] leaders protested here against the DMK government's inaction and demanded an immediate ban on GM seeds. Led by Mr Muthuswamy, Secretary, AIADMK, Members of Legislative Assembly [MLAs], party workers and farmers participated in a protest rally here today. The District President of AIADMK Mr Veluswamy, MLA, presided. Ms Jayalalithaa, party chief of AIADMK will soon be explaining why GM crops should be banned, said Mr Muthuswamy. Our traditional cropping patterns and people's health will be affected adversely by the Central government introducing GM crops, he charged.
Impacts on soil health:
Bt Rice seed is expected to affect the environment, soil fertility and other life forms adversely; apart from this, these seeds make our food poisonous. That this seed increases rice productivity is a blatant lie. A scientist from Scotland had studied the impacts of GM food and found that it has potential adverse effects on human health.
Agricultural produce from these crops will be rejected in export markets.
No use in developed countries:
People in developed countries are also not using GM crops and in the interest of public health, the government has to immediately ban GM seeds in India. Since Tamil Nadu government has not taken any measures towards this, despite being part of the Coalition at the Centre, this meeting has been organized against the Tamil Nadu's inaction in the matter, said Ms Jayalalithaa. The participants included: S Muthuswamy, District Secretaries: S M Veluswamy (MLA), Pollachi Jayaraman, (MLA), Tirupur Sivasamy, Damodaran, Ex-Minister in the AIADMK government etc.
[Translation of major portions of a news item in Tamil in "Makkal Kural" daily (People's Voice), 5th May 2007]
Ban on trials of GM crops to continue - Nitin Sethi - THE TIMES OF INDIA, 12 May 2007
NEW DELHI: The GM industry has nothing to cheer about. SC [Supreme Court] has not vacated its order on fresh field trials of genetically modified crops. The apex court has only allowed ongoing and earlier approved trials to continue, while not vacating the ban that it had imposed in an interim order of September 22 2006, banning any fresh field trials of GM crops. The court, in its order, said, "The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) shall take sufficient precautions to see that these (ongoing and already approved) trials are not causing any contamination to the cultivation in the neighbouring fields." In order to pin down responsibility in case of any mishap, the court said: "In all trials that are being conducted, the name of the scientist and other details of who will be responsible for all aspects of the trials should be reported to GEAC and there should be regular supervision by them."
The court, in fact, tightening the leash on the government, has also ordered that the government release data on any tests of toxicity and allergenicity that may have been conducted on the four species of Bt Cotton already approved by the government. The precedent setting order has elated the green groups as they have been constantly asking for such data to be put out in the public domain.
Meanwhile, the lawyer for the petitioners in the case, Prashant Bhushan, has sent a legal notice to the environment ministry for the ?misinterpretation? of the SC order by minister of state for environment and forests, Namo Narain Meena. In a speech, the MoS was quoted as saying, "The stay on Genetic Engineering Approval Committee has been vacated today (May 9) during judicial hearing."
Aruna Rodrigues: We still don't have the ORDER [from the Court] and may not have it till Monday; in which case it is important to give out the Order as we heard it along with the interpretation of that Order because what is being carried across the Country in the press is a host of contradictions and claims largely based on GEAC [India's GM regulator] press briefings. Only the GM case was heard by the Supreme Court on the 8 May before the Chief Justice and two other Justices -- so it was a full day affair. This is the ORDER (as we heard it)
(a) 4 Bt cotton varieties which have already been approved (includes Bolgard II). The main point is that no NEW varieties of cotton will be allowed.
(b) Field trials that were approved between May and Sept. 2006 may continue. These pertain to a specifed list of vegetables and oilgrains. NO OTHERS.
They are subject to 3 conditions:
(a) Isolation distances will be increased to 200m around the test field
(b) A lead scientist will be named who will assume full responsibity for the field trial in all its aspects, most importantly for contamination
(c) The GEAC will specify a validated test protocol for contamination with a LOD (level of detection) of 0.01%.
(d) Toxicity & Allergenicty data for all GMOs that are released.
1. While there has been a relaxation in principle of the ORDER of the 22nd December, in point of fact the restricitions that the GEAC are bound up in, place the most severe conditions on them and open up a whole arena of action for farmers and civil society groups. If the Union of India and its Regulator, do not comply, they will face contempt of Court. It will be virtully impossible for them to carry out field trials given our small landholdings, with isolation distances of 200m.
2. It is also important to remember that the GEAC has still not complied with the ORDER of the Court of the 15th Feb which asked the Regulator to provide details about "what would be the biological implications of these tests". Thus, they must provide toxicity and allergenicity data under the still outstanding ORDER as well. Civil society will certainly ask for this to be put in the public domain i.e. the GEAC website, starting with Bt Brinjal and Bt cotton events.
3. The test protocol for contamination has to be announced before the commencement of the release of the GMO, whether cotton or anything else. This means genetic sequences of the GMOs must be disclosed. Civil society has only one objective, NO contamination is acceptable. Nor will we be bound by less than state-of-the-art testing facilities to test for contamination at the lowest possible level -- traceability levels. International labs will therefore be deployed by civil society for back up tests to ascertain whether farmers' fields and food have been contaminated.
Below are some of the issues that will be coming up before the Indian Supreme Court in the latest round of the Public Interest Litigation brought by Aruna Rodrigues and her co-petitioners.
The failure of Indian regulators to comply either with the order of the Supreme Court or that of Central Information Commission (CIC) to make public the data generated by tests carried out on GM crops, has helped to exemplify the critical issue of whether GMOs are being released without adequate testing and/or without key biosafety data being analysed.
The petitioners will be drawing attention to:
(a) Toxicity and allergenicity: the fact that there are major gaps internationally in safety testing.
In India GMOs are, it now seems clear, being released without safety testing data, at least as regards the vital aspect of toxicity and allergenicity. Evidence of this exists for okra, mustard and rice.
India's regulators have refused to provide the relevant information for Bt brinjal and will be penalised accordingly. It is only a question of time before they will have to comply, but their refusal to date raises the question of what they have to hide.
(b) Conflict of interest: exemplified by CD Mayee, co-chair of India's apex GM regulatory body - the GEAC - and at the same time a director of the biotech industry funded and directed ISAAA which is active - with Mayee's active involvement - in promoting GM in India.
(c) Safety Testing Protocols - the gaps, the fraud and the complexities given that the uncertainties of GM are inhererent in the technology (unintended effects).
The petitioners will be drawing attention to the views on safety testing of international experts like Arpad Pusztai, David Schubert and Gilles Eric Seralini.
This is from the last page of the affidavit.
Says Schubert, "Secondary modifications could be assayed by monitoring of the introduced gene product by mass spectroscopy; changes in gene expression could be assayed by DNA chips; and metabolically active molecules could be measured biochemically". The problem says Schubert is, of course, that, "unless we know exactly what to look for, we are likely to miss the relevant changes. However, even extensive animal testing might not detect the consequences of deficiencies in beneficial plant products. GM food is not a safe option, given our current lack of understanding of the consequences of recombinant technology".
The above evidence highlights the laxness that prevails internationally, and in India in current health safety testing in the absence of specified protocols and the degree of rigour and transparency that is required to ensure that safety testing is undertaken according to the evolving best science and practices, which alone will ensure that the public are not guinea pigs in the experiment with GM crops. Other ecological and biosafety aspects, farming economics, farmer rights and development present other complexities and will require much more work to determine their impacts. The warnings of Schubert, Pusztai and Seralini among a host of other scientists must be heeded. In the light of this data, the Regulator's non-compliance with the Order of this Hon'ble Court of 15th February 2007 is extremely serious and represents a less than transparent response which must be corrected. The Order states: "The Union of India will file a report within six weeks stating therein as to what would be the implications of the biological results of these tests". Therefore, to comply with this Order, the first requirement is for all bio-safety data for every crop that has been field tested and for Bt cotton which has been commercialised, to be published on the Ministry's website for scrutiny by independent experts. Data for allergenicity and toxicity are a particular requirement. The absence of any data will be taken to mean that the required tests have not been conducted. In the meanwhile, it is also required that: the Hon'ble Court may direct the respondents to immediately:
(a) provide a comprehensive list of field trials of GMOs that have been conducted during 2005-2007 with their locations, and with their genetic sequences;
(b) institute a comprehensive and systematic plan in the public domain and with the involvement of civil society for comprehensive, nationwide testing for contamination of farmers' fields and food from Bt cotton and from field trials of various crops;
(c) in the meanwhile, to institute an autonomous panel of Independent scientific and credible experts mandated to protect India's biodiversity, as Ombudsman, to oversee GM biosafety and GM policy; and
(d) that environmental releases of GMOs will not be permitted till each GMO to be released is cleared by such a panel as above, of independent scientific and credible experts, having first been subjected to a comprehensive, rigorous biosafety test protocol in the public domain as prayed for in the WP and that GM imports are subjected to the same oversight with mandatory labelling of any imports so cleared.
Letter from P.V. Satheesh, Director of the Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity to the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh
Dear Mr Chief Minister
A news of extraordinary significance that you will address the World Agricultural Forum is buried somewhere in Page 5. For us, the civil society activists working with the poor and their agriculture, this is an exciting news. This is significant not only for the fact that you as the head of a great agrarian state will be addressing this Global Farm Forum but also for the location where this forum is being held. Mr Chief Minister, you are surely aware that St Louis is the headquarters of Monsanto Corporation, a corporation that has handed down despair, destruction and death to cotton farmers in Andhra Pradesh through its hyped up sales pitch for Bt Cotton. Small farmers who trusted the propaganda blitz of Monsanto and planted Bt cotton, had all their hopes dashed to the ground, as it started performing disastrously year after year.
When you are addressing the Forum Mr Chief Minister, please share the following results of the sustained independent scientific study that the AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity [APCID] has been carrying out since last five years in the cotton growing areas of the state. They point to an unqualified failure of Bt cotton in AP
In terms of economics:
*To cultivate, Bt cotton cost 17% more than the non Bt cotton
*NPM [non-pesticidal management] farmers, who used neither Bt nor any pesticides on their farms, spent 23% less than Bt farmers.
*In terms of yield, Bt cotton?s advantage was a paltry 6%.
*The net return for Bt farmers was 35% less than NPM farmers
*Reduction in pest management costs, which is the USP [Unique Selling Point] of the Bt industry was another myth. Actually Bt farmers spent 3% more on pest management costs over non-Bt farmers. In fact Bt farmers spent 100% more than NPM farmers to protect their cotton against pests.
*Thus the Bt industry's claim that it has the answer for the pest problem was the biggest lie.
Mr Chief Minister, while disclosing this miserable economics of Bt cotton, please do not forget to tell the World Agricultural Forum that the greatest danger being posed by the Bt cotton to Indian farmers is the never-seen-before diseases that it is spreading on the cotton fields.
*Root Rot disease, which had never affected cotton plants in their century old history has struck Bt cotton plants.
*Tobacco Streak Virus, a new virus infestation, never seen before, has struck Bt cotton in AP and using it as a vector has spread to other cotton fields.
*Bacterial Leaf Blight hit Bt cotton viciously and was more intense on it than non Bt fields
*All these forced farmers to uproot Bt plants from their own fields to detoxify the soil in hundreds of hectares in Nalgonda District.
Mr Chief Minister, you must speak about all this in St Louis. Because that is the Forum which will be used by the Genetic Engineering industry to blow their own trumpets and say how brilliant has been their performance. Already inspired research funded by the GE industry has started saying how great has been the performance of Bt cotton in India. Unless the other side of the picture is brought out, this mega hype will blind people to reality and make them think that Bt cotton has been a God Sent for Indian farmers.
You must also tell the Forum Mr Chief Minister, how the surveys conducted by your own government unambiguously proved that farmers growing Monsanto?s Bt cotton had lost heavily. As a consequence your government ordered Monsanto to pay compensation. You must also tell the world through the Forum that when the arrogant Monsanto flouted your government's orders, you asked them to pack up and get out of AP. This is very significant because a number of weaker nations do not know how to deal with corporate power and arrogance.
It is another matter [and we leave it to your conscience to tell this Forum or not], how President Bush came calling on you and probably twisted your arms behind the scenes and forced your government to readmit Monsanto even if on the ruse of reduced prices. Because the survival of Monsanto and Genetic Engineering is a part of the US foreign policy in the same manner as their aggression in Iraq. They pursue both with a satanic passion and achieve the same result: death of hundreds of thousands of powerless people. If possible, Mr Chief Minister, please make this comparison and tell the world how US politics is so closely intertwined with its desire to control the food and seed industry to maintain its global hegemony.
The reduced price is itself another important story. That your government forced Monsanto to sell its Bt cotton seeds at 40% of its original prices illustrates how profit hungry corporations bleed poor farmers to death by charging unpardonable prices, criminally oblivious to the tragic consequences of their string of lies and hype coupled with back breaking prices of their products. This is important because the Monsantos of the world justify their existence by telling their own countrymen that their biotechnology is meeting the needs of the poor. Right now this is the debate in the UN's Solutions Exchange forum and you won't believe the outright lies and half truths served on this forum on behalf of Bt cotton.
Finally, Mr Chief Minister tell the world through the Forum how your government has taken up Non Pesticidal Management [NPM] of pests as a major plank of your agricultural policy. How this is pursued through one of largest anti poverty programme in the world called VELUGU which is a women-focused initiative. And how brilliantly this programme combines the gendered vision of agriculture where all life forms are seen with deep respect. In this manner, by bringing together the poor, the women and NPM, how your government has been able to redefine agriculture and dispel the myths of genetic engineering as the answer for small farming. This is an important statement to make, Mr Chief Minister. Because in the World Agricultural Forum, you will probably be the only courageous politician who will be able to tell the truth and call the naked US emperor that he is not wearing any clothes at all. You will be shocked to know that US is trying to bring a law which says that Genetically Engineered seeds are organic!! Talk about an Orwellian world!
We wish you the best, Mr Chief Minister and hope that you will keep truth and the interests of millions of the small and marginal farmers of AP above the interests of big farmers and agro chemical industry who will surely try to twist your arm. Please tell all the truths from AP. This is very important for the world to listen.
P V Satheesh
How Safe Is Bt Cotton For Livestock? - By Kavitha Kuruganti - CounterCurrents.org, 1 May 2007
Not many seem to be aware that a serious controversy is dogging GM crop cultivation in India after repeated reports emerged about livestock getting killed or falling sick after grazing on Bt Cotton fields. The limelight is once again on two important aspects related to GM crops - their safety and their regulation.
As the area of Bt Cotton kept increasing year after year within the Cotton extent in various states, right from 2004-05, there have been reports of goats and sheep taking ill and dying after grazing on these fields. It has to be noted that open-grazing of animals on cotton fields, after the cotton is harvested and before the stalks are removed, is a traditional practice in many parts of the country. Further, given the shrinking grazing lands in villages, open grazing on residual crop plants is unavoidable. No experiences of cotton plants being toxic to animals are present hitherto. It is also important to note that such practices don't exist elsewhere, especially in the developed world from where we seem to import our biosafety assessment protocols. The regulators here obviously did not foresee a situation of open grazing given that they are cut off from the reality of rural India. No studies have been done to this day to test toxicity in conditions that simulate real life open-grazing situation of farmers/shepherds of the country.
In 2006, civil society organizations like the Andhra Pradesh Goatherds & Shepherds Union, Anthra (an organization consisting of veterinary scientists, working on livestock issues) and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (consisting of agriculture scientists working on ecological alternatives in agriculture) pointed out an unusual phenomenon on a widespread scale, of animals falling sick and dying after grazing on residual Bt Cotton fields. Interestingly enough, the fact finding visits of these groups happened after eleven shepherds from eleven different blocks of Warangal district brought their animals to the Animal Diseases Diagnostic Laboratory [ADDL] in Warangal town for postmortem analysis as they found that their animals were dying of unusual symptoms. There was a mix of nervous, respiratory and digestive symptoms observed. Amongst other observations, the concerned veterinary surgeon wrote "Poisoning fed on Bt Cotton", as tentative diagnosis in her postmortem register. It was quite by chance that a representative of the Shepherds Union saw the postmortem register of February and March 2006 and in the month of April, a fact finding visit was commissioned by these three organizations.
The initial response to these reports was ridicule. The reports in 2005 in the local media were completely ignored. How can Bt toxin kill mammals, was the usual argument - it only works on lepidopteran pests with an alkaline medium in the intestines, it was argued. It could be pesticide residues that were causing the toxicity, said others. The shepherds must be making up the reports in a bid to claim insurance, speculated yet others. It seemed as though complete negation of the phenomenon is the only response possible from the regulators and the biotech industry. There was no scientific temper exhibited with regard to wanting to investigate the reports further nor was there a sense of responsibility on the part of the regulators to put speculation at rest, to act in the interest of farmers and shepherds. After all, it was the very livelihoods of poor people at stake here with each death setting the farmer back substantially on the economic front.
Unfortunately, one small team that went to the affected villages on behalf of the animal husbandry department of Andhra Pradesh could not come back with much evidence. The few Bt Cotton plant samples that they analysed tested positive for nitrates and nitrites. Nitrate content was found to be more than 2% [strong positive] and symptoms matching nitrate poisoning.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC], the apex regulatory body for GM crops in the country whose mandate is to assess the biosafety of every product that it allows for release into the environment, did not pursue the matter beyond discussing it in a couple of meetings, that too under pressure from civil society groups. The Department of Biotechnology [DBT], a strong advocate of GM crops, was instructed by the GEAC to take up a systematic foliar material feeding toxicity study. The DBT found many excuses for not doing so! Other than prescribing such foliar toxicity studies for future biosafety assessment, the GEAC ordered no such studies by the Bt Cotton companies nor did it keep other issues in abeyance until some transparent, scientific, independent and systematic investigations were completed. It was business as usual for the regulators and the industry.
In January 2007, the first reports of animals getting affected started emerging again and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture sent a preliminary assessment report to the GEAC, DBT, animal husbandry and agriculture department officials. In February, in Adilabad district, after coming across the hitherto-unknown phenomenon of animals getting affected after grazing on Bt Cotton fields, the animal husbandry department pro-actively put out an advisory to farmers asking them not to graze their animals on Bt Cotton plants. The department officials here are convinced of the toxicity of the Bt Cotton plant but are waiting for laboratory analyses to understand what the exact toxin at work here is.
What is amazing to hear however is that no protocols have been put in place in the past one year in case such a phenomenon erupts again! The initial samples that have been sent from Adilabad by the department veterinarians have reportedly been rejected since they were not fit for analysis. A special team was then sent to Adilabad for collecting samples and investigations are on to understand the presence of toxins, if any, in these samples. Initial analysis shows that the samples have tested positive for HCN. The investigations will obviously not be conclusive and comprehensive until it is understood wherefrom such nitrogen-compounds are accumulating on Bt Cotton plants. Is it because of the genetic engineering process itself which is known to result in unpredictable effects? Is it related to higher application of nitrogenous fertilizers that farmers are being asked to use on Bt Cotton? Is it a combination of the Bt Cotton plant's interaction with its environment that is resulting in the toxicity and which was never captured in the field trials because such trials are done mostly for agronomic assessment? Aren't there some indications of such a phenomenon in the sub-chronic toxicity test on goats in the case of Bt Brinjal that the crop developer submitted to the GEAC, when statistically significant changes were found in haemotological and clinical parameters - why did not the GEAC ask for the raw data on this?
Farmers whose animals are affected are reporting that because of low pest incidence this year, they have not used much pesticides and in any case, the last time pesticides have been used on the crop, it was in the month of October - if it is pesticide residues that are indeed causing the toxicity, it is important to ask insecticide regulators in the country why they are registering such toxic pesticides in the country which leave such lethal impacts even after four months!
Meanwhile, the GM regulators of the country are guilty of not having paid attention to an unusual phenomenon that farmers are convinced is connected to Bt Cotton [the regulators like listening only to 'experts' sold to corporate science] and for not investigating it systematically. They are also guilty of not keeping farming livelihoods as the central point of their regulation. At least now, there should be transparent, scientific, independent and long term studies to understand this phenomenon now officially recognized by the animal husbandry department officials of Andhra Pradesh. Until such studies show conclusively that the causes of this phenomenon lie elsewhere, no further GM crop development and releases should be allowed in the country.
[Kavitha Kuruganti is with Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad]
ARE REGULATORS FOR REGULATING OR FOR POPULARISING GM CROPS? - Press Release, May 1 2007
Hyderabad/Bathinda, May 1, 2007: Reacting to media reports on several GM regulators in the country themselves claiming huge benefits from GM crops, that too in the name of "trainings on biosafety", Kheti Virasat Mission and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture questioned the role of regulators of GE crops in the country. Are they meant to take objective, scientific and pro-people assessment of the impacts of GE or are they meant to popularize GM crops as though the verdict is already out, the civil society organisations asked. The two groups which are part of the Coalition for GM-Free India also questioned the role of World Bank in such 'biosafety capacity-building' projects, one of which is being implemented by the Ministry of Environment & Forests through the Global Environment Facility.
"It is not clear on what basis are such claims of benefits being made such as pesticide reduction or farmers shifting away from water-guzzling crops like rice (linked to Bt Cotton adoption!) when we know very well that monitoring of GMOs right from field trials stage is almost completely absent/unscientific in this country", said Ms Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, based in Hyderabad. She said that given the absence of monitoring (absence of political will as well as capabilities) it had fallen upon civil society groups to take up careful monitoring of the GM experience so far in the country.
"Hundreds of farmers are reporting health problems like skin allergies but the government chooses not to assess such impacts and therefore will always claim that there is no authentic report. A report from Madhya Pradesh by a team of doctors has been submitted to GEAC on this issue - as a member of GEAC how can Dr Ananda Kumar claim that there is no such report from any part of the cotton belt. They said the same thing with impacts on livestock after open grazing on Bt Cotton fields. Today, the animal husbandry department of Andhra Pradesh state government itself is advising farmers not to graze their animals on Bt Cotton fields suspecting some yet-to-be-identified toxin in the GM plant", she added.
Umendra Dutt of Kheti Virasat Mission, Punjab further pointed out, "Mr Balachandran, Joint Secretary, MoEF (who claimed yesterday in Chandigarh that Bt Cotton resulted in the focus shifting away from water guzzling crops like rice) is the same person who admitted recently in an international context that India faces a major constraint due to the lack of capacity to effectively implement the Biosafety Protocol.  It is surprising that without setting up effective systems or without actually building capacities related to biosafety assessment and without justifying the source of his claims, he can get so enthusiastic about GM crops", he said. "If adoption is equal to something being 'biosafe', pesticides should also be encouraged by the regulators", he argued.
"It seems that most regulators who are supposed to be independent, scientific and pro-people in their assessment of this particular agricultural technology have already concluded in favour of the technology rather than to take a precautionary approach towards it! We have earlier heard about the Co-Chairperson of Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [the apex regulatory authority] also being on the Board of industry-funded bodies like ISAAA. They do not deserve to be sitting in regulatory posts in such a case. Public funds collected from tax-payers are being spent on popularizing the technology and creating more markets for the companies in the name of 'trainings on biosafety', including with the help of the World Bank. The World Bank should stop such funding", said Kavitha Kuruganti.
For more information, contact:
1.Umendra Dutt, Kheti Virasat Mission at email@example.com
2.Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at firstname.lastname@example.org
Centre refuses to divulge details of GM field trials - Nitin Sethi - The Times of India, 23 April 2007
NEW DELHI: In an era of transparency, the government has been less than candid on issues of public health. It has, despite an SC [Supreme Court] order, avoided explicitly mentioning the "implications and biological results" of field trials of genetically modified crops. In fact, it has questioned the competence of the court to decide matters of 'science and technology'. The ministry of environment, in its affidavit filed as a reply to the SC order, has divulged the complete list of 144 applications it has approved for testing since 2006, including ones of crops meant for human consumption like okra, rice, cauliflower, groundnut, tomato and potato. The admission that trials for food crops were cleared and the government, despite the court order, did not explain the impacts of such trials has the green brigade up in arms. Ironically, the government, instead of explaining the possible public health and environmental impacts of such trials, has merely detailed the process it is following and the trials it is using for testing these food crops, the very process under review in the court. "When the court asked for implications and biological results of the tests of GM crops, the government could have explained the possible biological and environmental impacts of such trials and their results and not just a list of what is being tested and how," said Aruna Rodriguez, one of the petitioners.
CIC orders govt to divulge toxicity of GM foods - Manoj Mitta - The Times of India, 14 April 2007
NEW DELHI: If a genetically modified (GM) food causes allergies or contains toxins, can the government refuse to disclose such bio-safety information on the grounds that it involves "commercial confidence" or "trade secrets" and that it will compromise the "competitive position" of the bio-tech company concerned? Central Information Commission (CIC) said no on Thursday and ordered the department of biotechnology to disclose toxicity and allergenicity data on transgenic food crops that are being field-tested across the country. In a far-reaching interface between RTI and environmental protection, the head of CIC, Wajahat Habibullah, directed the government to make public within 10 working days all the relevant data on genetically engineered brinjal, okra, mustard and rice which have been approved for multi-location trials.
The order came on an appeal filed by a Greenpeace activist, Divya Raghunandan, against government's refusal to disclose the data saying it was covered by Section 8 (1)(d) of RTI Act which exempts from disclosure "information, including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party". While arguing for the disclosure of the toxicity and allergenicity data, Raghunandan cited a recent rat-feeding study in Europe by three French scientists who, despite the efforts of bio-tech major Monsanto to keep the matter under wraps, established that a genetically modified maize brought out by that company was not a safe food. Raghunandan also drew attention to an alarming admission made by the government in response to her RTI application. Although it has approved their multi-location field trials, the government said that the data on rice, okra and mustard was "under development" and "yet to be evaluated" by it. Such laxity in regulation, she said, could lead to genetic contamination in the areas where field trials were being held even before the toxicity and allergenicity data had been analysed.
Given the obvious public interest in the health risk assessment of genetically modified foods, CIC observed that the government should be, under Section 4 of the RTI Act, proactively putting out all the relevant data without waiting for applications for their disclosure. But CIC declined Raghunandan's plea for making public the minutes of the meetings of the Review Committee on Genetic Modification (RCGM), which approved the various proposals of multi-location field trials of genetically modified food crops. Since RCGM's minutes mention details of the proposals made by each of the bio-tech companies, Habibullah chose to leave it to the government to take a call on whether those confidential documents could be made public.
Info body gives bio-tech dept a RTI power-punch - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, April 14 2007
NEW DELHI, APR 13: In a verdict which may have a far-reaching consequence in the future, the Central Information Commission (CIC) on Friday directed the department of bio-technology (DBT) to make public the data generated from the tests carried out on transgenic crops by agro-biotech companies. Chief commissioner Wajahat Habibullah delivered this right to information (RTI) power-punch, in response to an petition filed by Greenpeace India, after the review committee on genetic modification (RCGM) under DBT consistently refused to part with this closely guarded secret for over a year.
Striking down the DBT's contention that the data falls under Section 8.1.(d), Habibullah pointed out that the request of the applicant for toxicity and allergenicity tests on genetically modified (GM) rice, mustard, okra and brinjal cannot be refused under the RTI Act. Any further grounds for non-disclosure are invalid even if the data in reference are in the process of development. The information was also directed to be disclosed under section 4. (1). (d) of the RTI Act, which states "provide reasons for its administrative or quasi judicial decisions to affected persons.
Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan who pleaded before the CIC on behalf of Greenpeace India said, "The Commission's order is significant as past experience shows that RCGM has not used the right kind of protocols for bio-safety testing". In February, last year, Greenpeace India had requested the RCGM to make public the toxicity and allergenicity data for four GM crops alongwith the minutes of the meeting. "Our victory today is in keeping with the spirit of the RTI, and has only strengthened the RTI as a tool to building a participatory democracy, " Divya Raghunandan of Greenpeace India.
GMOS: INTERIM APPLICATION BY PETITIONERS - PRESS RELEASE
Why does the Union of India and its Regulator the GEAC & DBT, continue to ignore reports for the third consecutive year, of a suspected link with genetically engineered Bt cotton of TOXIC effects on sheep, goats, buffaloes and human beings?
What does it have to hide when it refuses to divulge 'toxicity and allergenicity' data for rice, brinjal, okra and mustard under the RTI requested by Greenpeace, citing support of the industry position of 'Confidential Business Information' (CBI), overriding the priority that must be given to public health?
The fact is that Bt crops are not judged safe by the world's leading scientists and the genetically engineered Bt toxin has a concentration 1000 times greater (than Non-GM Bt spray).
It is not entirely sane to submit India's farmlands and environment to experimentation with GM crops, when there has been no comprehensive safety testing in India or any other country. The Government's Regulator for all intents and purposes, functions as an extension of the crop developer, 'oriented' to facilitating the Industry objectives of the commercialisation of a vast array GM crops of every conceivable vegetable, oilseed and grain, not being undertaken in any other country, to the detriment of India's national interest and the sovereign issue of the protection of her biodiversity. The frivolous measures that pass for safety testing of GM crops in India represent a National emergency and it must be assumed that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet have been misled by the Regulator about the true impacts of GM crops.
The Contamination of India's Biodiversity by genetically engineered crops will have the gravest impacts of many magnitudes, and will be in PERPETUITY.
India is one of 17 centres of MEGADIVERSITY in the world. This means that many plants have their centre of origin in India, exist in the wild and have been domesticated from wild species over a long period of 10,000 years of cultivation by our farmers. This is why India needs to exercise particular caution with GM crops. The threat to her biodiversity from contamination by GM crops is so serious that it requires along with Climate Change, the most urgent attention from Parliament, the Judiciary and Civil Society. Field trials of rice in Chattisgarh in 2006, which is located in the corridor that forms the Centre of Origin of rice, perhaps typify as nothing else, the blatant support of the GE Industry by the Government and the mortgage of India?s sovereign interests.
Toxicity: When poisonous or toxic effects of Bt cotton reported in India are mirrored by similar experiences from other parts of the world growing Bt crops including Bt cotton, then the Union of India and its Regulator by doing less than nothing, stand indicted of criminal negligence and an unconscionable offence against the people of India. It also puts the spotlight on them of a mindset that is mired in a deep and pervasive 'conflict of interest' as the only possible explanation for their inability to see and hear the evidence against GM crops and the need for the most stringent precautionary measures.
GM crops have not been tested for toxicity and there are no formal guidelines in place to test a new food's potential to cause an allergy. Prof. David Schubert of the prestigious Salk Institute in the US has stated in his affidavit before the Supreme Court and peer-reviewed publication:
"The only reasonable solution is to require that ALL GM plant products destined for human consumption be tested for LONG-TERM TOXICITY AND CARCINOGENICITY before being brought to market. These safety criteria must be met for many chemicals and all drugs, and the magnitude of harm caused by a widely consumed toxic food could well be much greater than that from any single drug. However, even extensive animal testing might NOT detect the consequences of deficiencies in beneficial plant products. GM FOOD IS NOT A SAFE OPTION, GIVEN OUR CURRENT LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF RECOMBINANT TECHNOLOGY".
New Interim 'Prayers' Required of the Supreme Court by the Petitioners
Genetic contamination occurs through several ways, including accidental mixing of crops and seeds. Even the most stringent safeguards cannot stop it because 'genetic' contamination is a biological certainty. It must be recognised that the GEAC has exposed India to certain genetic contamination through the vast numbers of field trials it has allowed each year, about 1500 and the commercialisation of Bt cotton. Even Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT), has been approved for field trials, Delhi University?s GM mustard being one of them. GURTs are banned in India and internationally under the Convention of Biodiversity (CBD) to which India is a signatory. It has furthermore, embarked on its GM experiment without putting in place adequate testing facilities and other bio-safety safeguards. Rigorous methodology is necessary for testing for contamination where the objective is zero tolerance of GM presence. The GEAC has in fact turned a Nelsons eye to the fact of contamination and the constitutional mandate of the bio-safety of India. The Petitioners have therefore stated that it is necessary:
§ To ascertain the full extent of contamination that has occurred as a result of GM field trials, through major nationwide testing for contamination of farmlands surrounding field trial sites and also food. The testing protocols must be in the public domain. This is a critical contingent measure in order to action clean-up operations as appropriate, in order to secure India's agriculture and her seed stock against GM contamination. A comprehensive test protocol for contamination is also required to safeguard our domestic and export markets. Exporters and food companies must be given the ability to independently test food at the Crop Developer's and the Government's expense, so they can supply the quality of food that people around the world demand, which is NON-GM. This choice must be retained by India
§ For the GEAC to provide a full listing of field trials that have been conducted during 2005-7 along with their genetic sequences so that ?probes? can be developed to allow any exporter and other stake holders to carry out independent tests of crops, farmlands and food.
Aruna Rodrigues with co-petitioners: PV Satheesh, Devinder Sharma, Rajeev Baruah - Dated: 10th April, 2007
GM body flouting law: Plan panel - Nitin Sethi - The Times of India, 8 April 2007
NEW DELHI: The genetic engineering approval committee or GEAC [India's apex GM regulatory body], is flagrantly disregarding the law, says a Planning Commission taskforce report submitted recently as a precursor to the 11th Five-Year Plan. The report has questioned the safety levels being used to regulate GM technology in India. This is the second scathing report from a Planning Commission taskforce, which has created quite a stir by raking up serious concerns about the functioning of the environment ministry. The ministry, irked at the report, has written back to the Plan panel saying that it had not been consulted during the writing of the report. However, the authors of the report rebutted the accusations by presenting evidence that the ministry had chosen not to present its data before the taskforce even when directly asked to.
The report rips through the functioning of the GEAC. "The failure of the GEAC to control the situation even many years down the line does not inspire confidence in its capabilities. The fact that it authorised commercial cultivation of Monsanto's Bt cotton even when there was no state or district level committee to oversee and monitor its release and cultivation did stir several controversies," says the taskforce. The report hit out at the capability of the committee, stating that "at present, members of the GEAC are not qualified to understand the process of bio-safety assessment, environment assessment or environmental impact assessment, which are central to their functioning."
GMOs: FARMERS IMPLEAD IN THE GM PIL - PRESS RELEASE
OVER 6.5 MILLION FARMERS FROM EVERY STATE IN INDIA, 'PRAY' TO INDIA'S SUPREME COURT TO BE IMPLEADED IN THE GM PIL. IN AN UNPRECEDENTED & HUGE REACTION TO THE UNION OF INDIA'S CONTINUING DRIVE TO FORCE GM CROPS ON AN UNAWARE FARMING COMMUNITY AND AN UNAWARE POPULATION, FARMERS SAY:
"NO GM CROPS"; "NO" TO THE ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY OF IRREVESIBLE CONTAMINATION OF THEIR FIELDS AND SEED STOCK IF GM CROPS ARE NOT BANNED.
Contamination from GM Crops Including Field Trials Risk Farmlands & India's Bio-diversity in Perpetuity
Contamination, even the risk of contamination, from GM crops has been long denied by the GE Industry as a figment of the imagination of those opposing GM crops. However, it is a biological FACT and the physical evidence of genetic contamination being reported from all over the world is now incontrovertible and conclusive. The recent GM rice contamination of US long-grain rice is so serious that the damage to the US rice industry is valued in billions of $s with countries moving to ban US rice imports and American farmers being stopped from planting rice in the current season. The GM contamination of rice in the US is spiralling out of control despite the best attempts of farmers, millers, exporters and the Regulator to contain it and clean-up. Thus, the strategy of GM crop developers in the US and other parts of the world has now changed to demanding that they be allowed to contaminate Non GM crops! Regulation is being 'bent' to allow contamination. And the reasons are:
*That testing techniques are not sensitive enough to detect contamination at zero detection levels so some contamination is therefore inevitable and should be accepted as reasonable, even of organic certified crops! Thereafter, contamination of all crops by GM will be so pervasive that we will be faced with a 'fait accompli' everywhere, particularly in India and the developing world, that it will be futile to oppose it. 'NATURAL' SEEDS WILL BE VIRTUALLY EXTINCT. This is quite simply the objective of the Biotech GE industry led by Monsanto.
The question that must be asked is; why is the Union of India with its Regulator the GEAC and DBT aiding and abetting such an objective? This is the mystery because, the astonishing fact is, that the Union of India and its Regulator are complicit in allowing the contamination of India's farmlands, food and the environment, as they continue to actively promote and approve GM crops and field trials of every conceivable oilseed, grain and vegetable, not undertaken in any other country in the world. GM crops continue to be largely untested by regulators that rely on the crop developer?s assurance of their safety. Leading International scientists warn of the serious hazards connected with GM crops; that they are unsafe for human and animal health and for the environment. Toxicity and allergenicity tests are conspicuous by their absence in every country, not just India. When the Regulator was requested by GreenPeace for such data under the RTI for brinjal and okra, it was refused on grounds of CBI (Confidential Business Information). Thus, it is now quite clear that the Union of India and its Regulator consider the protection of Monsanto and the rest of the industry as having priority over public health and India's sovereign interests of food security and her bio-safety.
Genetically engineered crops because of the certainty of genetic contamination therefore also preclude or negate farmer rights to grow Non-GM crops, and indigenous people's community rights. Without the required prohibitions and remedies in place, farmers are faced with multiple threats arising from the adverse and irreversible impact of GMOs on them. They therefore require the following action to be taken immediately (amongst other measures):
i.No GM Crops to be Grown in India.
ii.A Full List of Field Trials and their Locations during 2005-7
It is also required that DNA sequences of the genes in field trials are put in the public domain to allow probes to be easily developed to perform independent PCR tests to detect whether these experimental genes have contaminated farmlands and/or made it into food. GE crop developers may not be allowed to hide behind bogus claims of CBI (confidential business information), as the GEAC have repeatedly cited, putting public health and the environment in jeopardy.
iii.Deterrent & Precautionary Measures
§Any farmer that suspects his fields have been contaminated will have the right to ask for tests to be conducted on his crop and land. Detection levels for GM contamination are being constantly refined and state-of-the-art labs are currently able to detect traceability levels of genetic contamination of less than 0.01%. It is stressed that farmers require zero tolerance for genetic contamination. The Regulator will not be exempt from responsibility if contamination occurs, the rules for which must be addressed.
§Testing for genetic contamination, which will be required periodically, or as required by stakeholders for quality assurance regarding the genetic purity of their crop. These are required to be done at the crop developers' expense and will be carried out in a time-bound way within the stipulated period of time, non compliance of which will attract penalties as laid down.
§Compensation for genetic contamination will be penal to be worked out according to the well grounded and established legal principle of Tort and will also entail criminal liability individually and collectively.
iv.The Institution of an Ombudsman
Given the track record of the Government and its Regulator and anti-farmer stance in promoting GM crops, it is clear that we have a thoroughly compromised Government. Therefore, in order to engender a commitment to objectivity, it is required that the many issues outlined above, most critically the environmental defence of India, must be overseen by an independent and autonomous Body, free of bureaucrats in its management, with the active involvement of civil society in the election and execution of its mandate. Such an 'Ombudsman' must carry the critical Constitutional mandate of the 'Protection of India?s Biodiversity'. It therefore becomes necessary that its authority is underpinned by an Act of Parliament by which it will be instituted.
Dr. KrishanBir Chaudhary: Petitioner No 1 - Executive Chairman Bharat Krishak Samaj
With Co-Petitioners: Arun K Shrivastava (New Delhi) and Mrs. Begari Samamamma (Andhra Pradesh)
9th April 2007
India's farming crisis - Krishan Bir Chaudhary - New Agriculturalist, March 2007 - http://www.new-ag.info/07/02/perspective.php
Krishan Bir Chaudhary is executive chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj, India's largest farmer organisation. He is a farmer and leader, known for his anti-GM and anti-globalisation views, and for speaking out about the losses incurred by local farmers in the light of agricultural globalisation and liberalisation. The distress of farmers in India can be traced back to the introduction of technology-led, capital intensive farming in the heyday of the Green Revolution. With the advent of 'economic liberalisation' and the globalisation of trade, this distress has been aggravated. Unfair rules of the multilateral global trading regime have depressed global and domestic prices, and denied Indian farmers adequate remunerative prices. The poor farmer is squeezed between high input costs and low returns. Credit obtained from formal or informal banking systems is unable to bail him out of this precarious situation. Caught in a vicious debt trap, many farmers have resorted to suicide.
BT cotton and the debt trap
Misled and misguided, the changeover to Bt cotton proved to be a total failure, causing severe losses for our cotton growers. The enormous loss and the resultant debt trap forced thousands of cotton growers to commit suicide. Bt cotton proved to be a total fiasco. Thousands and thousands of farmers have already committed suicide, and there seems to be no end to this tragic situation. Trends in suicide remain unabated even now, especially among cotton growers. Significantly, farmer suicide is reported mainly from the high-tech agriculture belts, such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Punjab. All these states have embraced capital intensive and 'cutting edge' technology in the name of boosting production. In areas where traditional agricultural practices and organic farming are prevalent, such as Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, suicide is unheard of.
The ripple effect
As far as agriculture is concerned, it is alarming that India is moving towards a point of no return. From being a self-reliant nation of food surplus, the country is becoming a net importer of food. In this context, policies to promote contract and corporate farming, the use of genetically modified seeds such as Bt cotton, and genetic synthesis in aquaculture and industrial poultry farming, threaten to undermine food security and the livelihoods of poor farmers. There are authenticated reports that alarmingly high numbers of cattle have died from grazing on Bt cotton residues in fodder. And, the Government of India's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), under the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, is baffled at the news of sheep mortality, on account of grazing in the Bt cotton fields in Warangal district in Andhra Pradesh. The GEAC has already admitted that toxicity studies on Bt cotton leaves have not yet been conducted, and although it has now asked the department of biotechnology to conduct studies, the lukewarm attitude of GEAC to ascertain the level of Bt toxin responsible for killing livestock is highly questionable.
Whose trade organisation?
The production of transgenes through genetic manipulation is bad science, unethical, and totally against the natural order that is responsible for the evolution and sustainability of life. It is fraught with the danger of genetic pollution and contamination, the destruction of ecosystems, environmental degradation and DNA deviations. The regimes of the WTO promote technology-driven, high-cost farming, and encourage the corporate monopolisation of the sector. This mainly serves to promote the interests of agri-business multinationals at the expense of small and marginal farmers in developing countries. With the interests of agri-business pre-eminent, all efforts to reduce agricultural subsidies in developed countries are being stonewalled.
The link with trade liberalisation
The impact of liberalisation on agriculture is best illustrated by India's experience in the oil seed sector. The liberalisation of heavily subsidised edible oil imports led to the decline in oil seed prices in India, financially ruining oil seed growers in the country. This totally negated previous efforts to make India almost self sufficient in the oil seed sector by 1998. Now, almost 50 per cent of edible oil is imported, resulting in annual spending of $1,800 million in foreign exchange. Inept, amateurish and mediocre handling of our priorities is to blame for this ugly situation. The Government is playing a faulty game of cash crops over food crops, and promotion of corporate farming at the cost of traditional agro-rural systems, especially in the dry and arid zones of the country. Such policies will further add to displacement and migration to urban areas. Blind trade liberalisation and a market driven economy will throw the country into a cobweb of trans-national corporations. Importing oil seed is only the tip of the iceberg; it is a prelude to the beginning of the end of Indian agro-systems and their ultimate take-over by multinational corporations.
Distorting, or not distorting...
Heavy subsidies given to the farming sector in developing countries are basically responsible for dismantling India's agro-system, making it economically unrewarding. Some 'trade experts' and negotiators in the developed world try to justify their misdeeds by putting subsidies into categories: "trade-distorting" and "non trade-distorting." But all subsidies are distorting, and India needs to be emphatic about their removal in developed countries, where commitments to reduce subsidies have not been fulfilled. Instead, subsidies have been increasing, making it more difficult for developing countries to compete in the world market.
The World Bank and the IMF have become instruments in pressurising developing countries to open up their markets. The core motive of the WTO is to promote the interest of agri-business and multinationals at the expense of small, marginal and family farms across the world. It is imperative that developing countries are given the option to apply quantitative restrictions on imports, whenever needed, to protect the livelihoods of poor farmers and agricultural workers. India should not tolerate the obstinate and irrational attitude of developed countries, which caused the collapse of WTO negotiations. Government should remain determined in all future negotiations to focus primarily on the interests of small and marginal farmers. Agriculture is not only for trade; it is a way of life.
Greenpeace activist denied access to data on safety tests of GM crops - Meena Menon - The Hindu, April 4 2007
Reason: disclosure can harm crop developing company
*Appellate authority's decision "questionable"
*Procedure was "not transparent"
MUMBAI: The Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 has not helped Greenpeace activist Divya Raghunandan. Her demand for information about safety tests of genetically modified (GM) crops was rejected on the ground that disclosure could harm the competitive position of the third party - the company which developed the crops.
In February 2006, Ms. Raghunandan applied to the Department of Biotechnology for information on a list of field trial locations (villages and districts) for brinjal, okra, mustard and rice. These trials drew widespread protests from farmers and consumers last year. In several places, rice trials were destroyed and exporters were particularly alarmed at transgenic rice being tested in basmati growing areas. Ms. Raghunandan also sought toxicity, allergenicity and other relevant data on transgenic brinjal, rice, mustard and okra and minutes of the meetings of the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM), which is under the Department of Biotechnology, held between February 2005 and 2006. On March 29, 2006, she received a reply with information on field trial locations but she was denied information on the second demand. On her appeal on April 19, 2006, the appellate authority of the department said the information officer was being requested to provide the toxicity and allergenicity data for brinjal not later than June 15, 2006 as the third party had to be informed. As for rice, okra and mustard, she was told that the data was yet to be evaluated and therefore could not be made public. The RCGM minutes might contain information related to trade secrets and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues and if put in the public domain, it would be prejudicial to the interest of the applicants, the appellate authority said. However, information not pertaining to this could be culled out if specific requests were made to the information officer.
Ms. Raghunandan, whose final appeal will be heard on April 5, told The Hindu that though information about the toxicity, allergenicity and other relevant biosafety data on brinjal was to be provided before June 15, 2006, this had not happened. She said the RCGM did not require the submission of any information by the applicant under confidential clauses. Therefore, the appellate authority's decision to withhold information till June 15 for disclosing to the third party the intention to make this information public was questionable. Information to her was refused under Section 8.1.d RTI Act, which relates to "information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of the third party." In her second appeal, she submitted that none of this information, sought under RTI Act, could be used for harming the third party's competitive position. Citing the latest studies that refer to the toxicity of GM foods, Ms. Raghunandan said the whole procedure was not transparent. There was no reason to withhold data on toxicity and biosafety tests of transgenic crops as they were all critical and of public interest, specially as genetic engineering was a technology which had not yet been proved safe for human consumption.
While GEAC maintains that field trials were conducted with all regulatory norms in place and that biosafety tests were under way, Greenpeace and farmers' organisations are pointing out serious violations.
Calls for Bt cotton seed ban in AP - Uma Sudhir - NDTV, April 1 2007 (Hyderabad)
The government of Andhra Pradesh has called for a ban on Bt cotton seeds after the death of cattle grazing on leftover Bt cotton fields. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committed has said the problem requires scientific investigation. It has sent a fact-finding team to the affected areas. Cattle deaths have been reported in the districts of Adilabad, Khammam and Warangal districts.
"We have given this message that not just goat and sheep, even cattle are also affected with this poison, so better not to graze," says Dr Laxmi Rajam, Additional Director of the Animal Husbandry Department. "We will also write to the commissioner of agriculture to give clear instructions not to sell Bt cotton seeds in the coming season".
Shepherds from 12 districts protested in Hyderabad blaming the government of inaction despite the loss of livelihood for the third consecutive year. "After grazing on non-Bt fields, there is no problem. Only after grazing on Bt leaves, sheep and goat are dying," the secretary of Shepherds and Goatherds Union said. "It is not just us who are saying that. Even the animal husbandry department and veterinary doctors have said that in their primary reports".
The department had issued an advisory to shepherds and goatherds to avoid Bt cotton fields but that did not reach people. Urimekala Kotaiah in Khamman lost 10 of his 50 sheep in two weeks. "The government is allowing the sale of these seeds, so only if they ban the seeds, this problem can be solved because our sheep necessarily graze in open fields," Kotaiah said.
Reacting to the reports, Mahyco Monsanto Biotech quotes the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, which has said Bt cotton was released for commercial cultivation after evaluation of bio safety data, which includes feeding studies. The state agriculture department has initiated an independent study.
Bt cotton allegedly causes cattle deaths in AP - Uma Sudhir - NDTV, March 26 2007
(Hyderabad): Genetically modified Bt cotton in the midst of yet another controversy. And this time it could be the beginning of a head on collision between the animal husbandry and agriculture ministry in Andhra Pradesh. The animal husbandry department in Andhra Pradesh is going to ask the agriculture ministry to stop the sale of genetically modified Bt cottonseeds in the new season. This follows reports from several districts that sheep, goat and even cattle grazing on leftover Bt cotton fields have taken ill and even died. "We have given this message that not just goat and sheep, even cattle are also affected with this poison, so better not to graze. We will also write to the commissioner, agriculture to give clear instructions not to sell Bt cotton seeds in the coming season," said Dr Laxmi Rajam, Additional Director, Animal Husbandry, Andhra Pradesh.
Shepherds and goatherds from 12 districts protested in Hyderabad on Monday to demand immediate action on the unusual deaths that are now being reported for the third consecutive year. "After grazing on non-Bt fields, there is no problem. Only after grazing on Bt leaves, sheep and goat are dying," said P Jamalaiah, Secretary, AP Shepherds and Goatherds Union. "It is not just us who are saying that. Even the animal husbandry department and veterinary doctors have said that in their primary reports," he added.
The department had earlier this year issued an advisory to shepherds and goatherds to avoid Bt cotton fields but that did not reach people like Urimekala Kotaiah in Khammam who lost 10 of his 50 sheep just two weeks ago. "The government is allowing the sale of these seeds, so only if they ban the seeds, this problem can be solved because our sheep necessarily graze in open fields," said U Kotaiah, Shepherd. The agriculture department has initiated an independent study following the reports of animal mortality. However, it may not be easy at all for the government to stop the sale of Bt cottonseeds even if it decides to, as a precautionary measure.
1,727 villages in Orissa declared GM free - Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security - Press Release, New Delhi, Mar 26 2007
Seven hundred newly elected representatives of Panchayats in Orissa and the Governing Body members of Orissa Nari Samaj - a confederation of 53 block-level tribal women's organizations - resolved to protect nature, promote biodiversity, and also took an oath NOT to cultivate Genetically Modified (GM) crops. The elected representatives declared 1,727 villages falling under 130 Panchayats in 12 districts as GM Free villages. These villages are in the districts of Koraput, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Nawarangpur, Kalahandi, Bargarh, Bolangir, Deogarh, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur, Sundargarh, Mayurbhanj in Orissa. This brings the total number of villages in the country, which have decided to remain GM free, close to 1,900. These GM Free villages are located in Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
The oath in Orissa was taken at a conference organized by the Team for Human Resource Education and Action for Development (THREAD) on "Model Panchayats in Orissa£ at Siddharth village, Khurda, near Bhubaneshwar on Mar 20. The State Election Commissioner, Shri Sanjib Chandra Hota was the chief guest at the conference and the Regional Coordinator of Institute for Social Studies Mr. K.K Pattnaik delivered the keynote address.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr G.John, Executive Director of 'Team for Human Resource Education and Action for Development' (THREAD) informed that the Panchayat leaders have also sent memorandums to the Prime Minister of India and the state Chief Minister stating clearly that they will not cooperate with any activities of either the National Biodiversity Authority or the State Biodiversity Board unless control over local biodiversity and related knowledge is passed on to the communities. Demanding protection of local knowledge against piracy, they insisted that people's access to natural resources should be given priority over commercial trade.
The leaders expressed hope that their action will be emulated by other villages, which will force Orissa to turn into a GM-free state. They resolved to work towards community control over biodiversity, to preserve and protect biodiversity for the sake of food sovereignty. These leaders have already launched a movement against GM seeds in the tribal belt.
Orissa Nari Samaj had continuously been opposed to the entry of GM crop seeds since 2005. Decrying the seed company?s agenda to lay siege to poor farmer?s livelihood, it had earlier sent thousands of letters from 2,500 villages in 53 blocks to the Chief Minister and the Chairman of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) against the large scale field trials of Bt Brinjal. In its endeavour to make the people of the state aware of the hazards of GM crops as well as the advantages of organic food, THREAD has so far printed and distributed about 40,000 posters throughout the state stating the same.
Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security, G-3F, DDA Flats, Munirka, New Delhi -110 067, Tel: 9811301857; 9811191335
Animal Husbandry department wants Bt cotton seed sales stopped
As more reports of animal deaths and illness connected to Bt Cotton are pouring in from Khammam district now, today the Andhra Pradesh Goatherds' & Shepherds' Union organised a day-long dharna at Indira Park in Hyderabad where delegates from more than 14 districts of the state congregated. The Union members were pressing for some long-standing demands related to the welfare of shepherds and goatherds in the state including the following related to Bt Cotton:
1. That the government investigate immediately and state conclusively that there is no danger to animals from Bt Cotton/GM crop open grazing. That the conclusions from the investigations so far into Bt Cotton and animal deaths be put out.
2. That until the Animal Husbandry department puts out conclusive findings, no further sale of Bt Cotton seeds be allowed by the agriculture department.
3. That farmers and shepherds who have lost their animals be compensated.
The dharna was presided over by Mr Devinder, President of the Union and by Mr P Jamalaiah, Secretary of the Union. Later, a delegation of the Union went and met the Additional Director (Health) in the Animal Husbandry Department, Mr LakshmiRajam. Other senior officials of the department also took part in the meeting in Mr Lakshmi Rajam's chambers.
Mr Lakshmi Rajam admitted that the deaths and illnesses were not related to any known diseases or causes and shared that samples sent from the districts so far could not be analysed because they were not sent in proper condition. Fresh samples were brought recently by a special representative of the department from Adilabad and these have been sent for investigation. He also assured the delegation that the animal husbandry department realises the gravity of the situation and the fact that livelihoods of shepherds and farmers are at stake here - he announced that the Animal Husbandry department would write to the agriculture department in the next couple of days to stop sales of Bt Cotton seeds until investigations into sheep/goat/bullock deaths after grazing on Bt Cotton are completed. A special research project has been sanctioned to, and commenced recently in the Pharmacology dept. of the Veterinary University under the guidance of Dr Gopal Reddy, he informed.
For more information, contact Mr Jamalaiah of AP Goatherds' & Shepherds' Union at (0)98-490-32569.
The advisory put out by the Joint Director Animal Husbandry department through the media, to farmers in Adilabad district, not to graze their animals on Bt Cotton:
It has come to our notice that in several blocks of the district, animals are falling sick after grazing on Bt Cotton fields. After harvesting cotton completely from the fields, there is a long tradition in the district of grazing animals in those cotton fields. However, because Bt Cotton is being grown in large tracts and because of a yet-unidentified toxic material in these plants, it has come to our notice that animals which are grazing on these fields are exhibiting symptoms like shivers, convulsions, running nose, bloat, bloody diarrhea etc., and are dying. Therefore, we appeal to farmers not to graze their animals on Bt Cotton fields. We request farmer brethren to please do approach the nearest veterinary doctor and get treatment, if any animal has grazed on such fields accidentally.
Sd/- M Venkataswamy, Joint Director, Animal Husbandry Dept, Adilabad.
Greenpeace takes RCGM to info panel - JOSEPH VACKAYIL - Financial Express, March 26 2007
CHENNAI, MAR 25: The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and its Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM), the agency which permits field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops, will have to change its approach to making public the biosafety assessment process and results of field trials if the Central Information Commission accepts the argument of Greenpeace. A case of Greenpeace against the refusal of the Department of Biotechnology to provide data on biosafety tests of the GM rice and other crops is coming up before the Central Information Commission, the apex body for dealing with Right to Information cases, on April 5, 2007.
Under the RTI Act, Divya Raghunandan, representative of Greenpeace, had asked for three important informations: a list of filed trial locations of GM brinjal, okara, mustard and rice approved by RCGM for multi-location trials; Toxicology and allergenicity and other relevant data on these GM crops and the minutes of the RCGM meeting between February 2005 and February 2006. DBT provided a list of field trial locations of these crops. However, it refused to offer information about the other two queries under Section 8 (1) (d) of the RTI Act citing that "information, including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party" cannot be provided. Greenpeace appealed against this order to the Central Information Commission under Section 19 of the RTI Act, 2005. The Commission has asked the Principal Information Officer of DBT to appear before it for a hearing on April 5, 2007.
RCGM is a body of scientists, doing biotechnology and genetic engineering research under the Department of Biotechnology of the ministry of science and technology. It is RCGM that apporves open air field trials of the GM crops in the country. There has been accusations by non-governmental organisations and farmers' groups that the field trials of GM crops have been poorly monitored and were not according to the letter and spirit of the law. Several cases of mixing up of the untested GM crops with non-GM have been reported. Greenpeace activists say that the need for transparency by giving details about the field trials of GM crops, especially edible crops, were very important for the livelihood security of the farmers and safety of the consumers and protection of biodiversity and ecology.
"The toxicology and allergenicity tests are the only tests done to assess the safety of GM crops for human health and environment. They are usually done by the company's own laboratories or outsourced to the private labs. These tests are done after the field trials. Thus any mishap in the field trial stage will have the risk of releasing untested and potentially harmful GM crop into the open fields and contaminating the non-GM crops. These untested crops might replicate themselves and there would be no control over their spreading and there would be no idea about the biosafety of the mixed crop. This ultimately means that through poorly-monitored or clandestine field trials untested GM crops get released without any precautions and approval. The release is irreversible. There is no known means of remediation of genetic pollution".
Greenpeace activists told FE that it was in this background that "we asked for the information from RCGM. If the Central Information Commission rules in our favour it will be the first case where the detailed data of tests would be made available for public scrutiny. The quality of the reports, method of assessment and the real harmful nature of GM crops can be be brought to the public light". Greenpeace activists say GM crops were more dangerous to the developing countries like India where subsistance agriculture is still practised. Through GM agriculture would be alinenated from the poor farmers by the multinational companies that determine the price and supply of seeds.
GM crops cause 'breakdown' in Indian farming systems - By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor - The Independent on Sunday (London), 25 March 2007
Genetically modified crops have helped cause a "complete breakdown" in farming systems in India, an authoritative new study suggests. The study threatens to deal a fatal blow to probably the most powerful argument left in the biotech industry's armoury, that it can help to bring prosperity to the Third World. Professor Glenn Davis Stone, professor of anthropology and environmental studies at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, has spent more than 40 weeks on the ground in the biotech industry's prime Developing World showcase, the Warangal district of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
The industry claims that local farmers have adopted GM cotton faster than any other agriculture technology in history. It argued at the prestigious Biovision conference in Lyon this month that the rapid spread proves that the technology is working for farmers. Professor Stone's study, published in the February issue of the journal Current Anthropology, demolishes this argument. Extensive interviews with the farmers proved that they are plumping for the GM seeds because they are new, hyped and locally fashionable, without having time to see if they produce better crops. "There is a rapidity of change that farmers just can't keep up with," he says. "They aren't able to digest new technologies as they come along." He adds that the rapid uptake "reflects the complete breakdown in the cotton cultivation system".
84 more villages of UP pledge to remain free of genetically modified crops - Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security - Press Release, March 24 2007
Gonda (Uttar Pradesh): Nearly 5,000 farmers from 84 villages spanning eight blocks of Gonda district in Uttar Pradesh have pledged NOT to cultivate genetically modified (GM) crops and instead practice organic farming. An oath to remain GM free was administered by the organizing secretary of the Deendayal Research Institute (DRI), Mr Abhay Mahajan.
It may be recalled that 2,000 farmers from 64 villages of Chitrakoot and Banda districts in Uttar Pradesh took a similar pledge on February 7, 2007. Food and trade policy analyst Mr Devinder Sharma had then administered the oath on behalf of the 'Coalition for a GM Free India', a collective of citizen groups, mass based organization and farmer unions. This brings the total number of UP villages, which have pledged to remain GM free to 148.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Mahajan emphasized on the virtues and relevance of organic farming. He asked farmers to come forward and take up sustainable farming methods, which is the only way to evade suicides and revert to healthy living. He said that DRI at Chitrakoot is showing the path to sustainable development, and has turned into a boon for the farmers in the surrounding areas.
The swearing-in event took place at a farmers fair organized at LBS Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Gopal Gram, Gonda, Uttar Pradesh on Mar 16 to draw attention to Organic farming. Scientists from the Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research (Lucknow), Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (Varanasi), State Agriculture and Horticulture Departments urged farmers to develop their own seeds and technologies suited to their local requirements.
Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security, G-3F, DDA Flats, Munirka, New Delhi-110 067 - Tel: 9811301857; 9811191335
BT cotton cultivation unlikely this summer- ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, March 15 2007
NEW DELHI, MAR14: The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) which met on Wednesday withheld any fresh approval of bt cotton for commercial cultivation in the ensuing summer season. About 11 BT cotton hybrids with CRY 1 AC gene expression, 5 BT cotton hybrids expressing stacked genes and one bt cotton hybrid expressing CRY1 AC event 1 was on the agenda for approval for commercial cultivation. All these hybrids have gone through the requisite processes of field trials. "We did not approve any new BT cotton hybrids for commercial cultivation as the matter is subjudiced in the Supreme Court," said a senior GEAC official.
The GEAC is awaiting further orders from the apex court, which in response to a PIL filed by Aruna Rodrigues and other, had directed not to accord any fresh approval for field trials of any genetically modified (GM) crop, till the pendency of the case. However, the apex court made an exception for the field trials of GM mustard. The Supreme Court is slated to hear the case again on April 16. However, in its last meeting on February 14, 2007, the GEAC had given its approval for renewal of its permission for commercial cultivation of 8 BT cotton hybrids for three years.
INTERVIEW: EU Ag Chief Sees Increased Indian Rice Imports - Dow Jones, 6 March 2007 - http://www.cattlenetwork.com/content.asp?contentid=111246
NEW DELHI (Dow Jones) -The European Union's rice imports from Asian countries such as India may increase after consignments from the U.S. were found to have traces of unauthorized genetic modification last year, European Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said Tuesday. "We have asked the U.S. to provide us with evidence that rice consignments to E.U. doesn't contain the unapproved genetic modification," Boel told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview. "(Such U.S. consignments) become more expensive and therefore the E.U. is also looking eastwards at other markets (to buy rice)." India's rice exports to Europe are mostly restricted to basmati in husked or brown form, a type of rice famous for its aroma, grain length and cooking flavor but grown only in small pockets of the Indian subcontinent, including Pakistan.
Last year the E.U. placed control requirements on rice imports from the U.S. after shipments were found to contain an unauthorized biotech strain made by Bayer CropScience, a unit of German biochemical company Bayer AG (BAY). That GM rice - Liberty Link 601 - has since been approved and is now considered "deregulated" by the USDA but the E.U. has zero tolerance for such rice. India's rice exporters smell an opportunity in this development to ship non-Basmati rice to the E.U.
"I don't exclude that possibility (of higher rice imports from India) but they have to be...not low quality," Boel said. She said the E.U. won't relax its quality controls on GM crops including rice from the U.S. as it will harm consumer interests. "We have to be stringent to maintain confidence of the European consumers that when they buy something and it is not labeled, it is not derived from the GM product. This is crystal clear," said Boel. Boel said since Basmati is unique to the Indian subcontinent there needs to be strict tests to ensure there is no contamination in its shipments to the E.U. She said discussions are ongoing with Indian authorities with regards to testing of basmati.
India undertakes quality tests on Basmati consignments before they are shipped out of the country. However, Boel said the consignments need to be tested for authenticity in the E.U. as well. "We are looking into the possibility to be able to verify the value of the quality tests in the E.U.," said Boel. Brown basmati is subject to import tariff concessions because of its unique origin in the Indian subcontinent. To a query about whether the E.U. will consider granting such concessions on non-Basmati rice and white rice as well, Boel said such requests from India could be negotiated upon as part of a proposed comprehensive trade and investment agreement with India. The E.U. and India plan to negotiate a broadbased agreement on trade and investment under which import tariff on 90% of the commodities will be reduced to zero over a period of seven years. "Of course I am sure India will defend heavily to include rice in such an agreement," said Boel.
Bt Cotton & Livestock effects: CSA meets farmers & officials in Adilabad district - Kavitha Kuruganti - Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) - March 9, 2007
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Genetically modified food set to be labelled in India before import - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - By Ashok B Sharma
NEW DELHI - The health ministry is set to amend the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955 to introduce the provision of mandatory labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods, likely to be imported or produced in the country. An expert committee set up by the ministry under the chairmanship of the additional director-general of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, Shiv Lal has recommended mandatory labelling of GM food and food ingredients, without any threshold limit. The committee has defined GM food as those composed of or containing genetically organisms obtained through modern biotechnology. Even the GM processed food would be labelled. The expert panel included representatives from the industry, Indian Council for Medical Research and farmer leader Yudhvir Singh.
The move has been initiated to fulfill the provisions of the foreign trade policy 2006, which said that all imported GM products should be labelled. If the consignment does not contain such a label and is later found to contain traces of GM material, the importer is liable for penal action under the Foreign Trade (Development & Regulation) Act, 1992. Since the formulation of the policy in 2006, the regulator, genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC), was in a fix to regulate the imports of GM soybean oil. GEAC was awaiting the guidelines being framed by the health ministry. Since the work of the health ministry was delayed, the commerce ministry deferred the implementation of foreign trade policy norms.
So far, no GM food product has been approved for consumption in the country. Bt cotton is the only non-food GM crop to be approved. GEAC is the sole regulator for production, transportation, distribution, import and export of all GM products.
© 2006: Indian Express Newspapers (Mumbai) Ltd
PMK opposes use of genetically modified seeds - Chennai online, March 2 2007
Chennai, March 02: The PMK, an ally of the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu, on Friday urged the government to ensure that Genetically Modified(GM) seeds were not used in the state and asked the farmers to resist moves to put them in use. Inaugurating an awareness yatra against GM seeds, organised by 'Pasumai Thayagam', an environment protection organisation here, PMK founder Ramadoss said "Farmers should fight against moves to make use of genetically modified seeds sold by multinational companies". He assured his full support to the campaign against the "artificial seeds" and said the nation's natural wealth should be protected. He alleged that "self-seeking" scientists, bureaucrats and politicians were promoting "such dangerous" farm inputs. Ramadoss said his party was against take over of farmers' land for any purpose, including creation of Special Economic Zones, and urged farmers also to oppose such moves. The lands of some farmers of Tamil Nadu who had used gm seeds, have been "affected", he said without giving further clarification. He appealed to the state government to provide compensation for them. State Agriculture Minister S Arumugham, in a recent address to the Assembly, had said the decision on whether to use GM seeds or not depended upon the opinion of scientists.
Thanal campaign against GM food - New India Express, March 2 2007
T'PURAM: At a time when more than 13 Asian countries are getting ready to kick off the 'Weak of Rice Action' (WORA) campaign against genetically modified food, 'Thanal,' a Thiruvananthapuram-based public interest research organisation, is all set to spearhead the campaign across India. In Kerala, the campaign will be kicked off in Palakkad on March 29 in association with the National Farmers' Protection Committee. Being the prominent rice producing district in the state, the campaign will call for the government to declare Palakkad as the 'rice heritage' of the state.
As rice production in the state meets only 15-18 percent of the demand, the campaign will also call for more support to the farmers so that they can sustain and extend rice production. Installation of an income commission intending to ensure an income for the farmers is another highlighting demand of the campaign. "Though the campaign is against genetically modified food, in Kerala it will be focussed on food security and protection of farmers. Being a consumer state both the consumers and farmers of the state should be aware of the GM food and its impact on the society and environment," said R Sreedhar, one of the coordinator of the campaign.
Apart from Kerala, Thanal is joining hands with social organisations of various rice growing states such as Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Orissa to co-ordinate and organise the week-long event. All over the participating Asian countries, WORA-2007 is a focussed activity that will feature the gathering of farmers, communities, women and other sectors of society to highlight and discuss the value of rice culture, farmers' wisdom, ecological agriculture and the threat posed by Genetically Engineered (GE) rice. One million signatures will be collected from the participating countries to protect rice against GE and GE rice as part of the campaign.
Bt cotton spells doom for cattle?
Following is a news article from The Hindu, in the Hyderabad edition today, for your information and further investigation.
So far, reports on livestock morbidity and mortality came from civil society groups including shepherd unions and the government discounted such reports consistently, other than making admissions here and there (including in the Parliament) under pressure.
For the first time, we have reports from the animal husbandry department officials from Adilabad district. If they are reporting 200 deaths so far, the actual mortality would be much higher and morbidity even higher. When will the GEAC and the DBT sit up and do a proper investigation? Is this country incapable of doing a systematic, scientific study on what is the phenomenon here by quickly constituting a team to design a sound framework for the study and then go about implementing it?
It is also learnt that the issue of livestock deaths after grazing on bt cotton came up in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly yesterday and the Animal Husbandry department responded that they have no such reports reaching them! How can that be when their own officials are recording the phenomenon in the districts and warning farmers not to graze their animals on Bt Cotton? How can that be when representatives of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and AP Goatherds' & Shepherds' Union met with senior officials in the animal husbandry department in the month of February 2007, gave them our preliminary assessment report from a couple of villages and demanded immediate action?
The phone numbers of the Director, Animal Husbandry department are 040-23316855 and 23316848. The scientist who investigated the phenomenon last year too, after the Director-AH ordered an investigation is one Dr Sudarshan Rao, Animal scientist, Veterinary Biological Research Institute [ VBRI], a public sector agency: +91-94-408-10709. It is the same institute which is supposed to have received the samples from the dept veterinarians from Adilabad this year for further investigations.
Bt cotton spells doom for cattle? - S. Harpal Singh
NOTHING TO CHEER ABOUT: Cattle grazing on the residual Bt cotton crop in Gudihatnoor mandal.
ADILABAD: Grazing on residual Bt cotton crop seems to have resulted in the death of over 200 animals in various mandals of the district in the last two months. The Animal Husbandry Department has sounded an alarm as the number of sick animals with somewhat classic poisoning symptoms has kept increasing.
It is a practice among the farming community, especially in the cotton-intensive areas, to use residual crops as fodder. As the area under Bt cotton had increased substantially this year, large tracts under the crop were available for use as fodder after harvesting ended in December-January.
Acute in many mandals
"In all the cases where animals were treated for suspected Bt cotton poisoning, the animals showed symptoms like convulsions, nasal discharge, vomiting, respiratory problems and diarrhoea," K. Shravan Kumar, veterinary assistant surgeon, said. The problem is acute in mandals like Tamsi, Bazarhatnoor, Sirpur(U), Gudihatnoor, Talamadugu and Bela. A. Vinod, veterinary assistant surgeon at Tamsi, said the problem came to their notice in January. "We are opting for symptomatic treatment so long as the `culprit' toxic substance is not identified. Timely treatment can save a few animals in our mandal," he said.
"Another bullock died in Talamadugu recently. We have sent the extracted feed material after a post-mortem on the animal and leaves, stem and other material from the suspected plants for analysis at the Veterinary Biological Research Institute in Hyderabad," Y. Sanjiv Reddy, veterinary assistant surgeon at Talamadugu, said. Having noticed similar deaths of sheep from other districts, the Animal Husbandry Directorate issued a circular this month to veterinary hospitals asking them to send relevant material for analysis. "However, it needs more than an analysis to curb the occurrence of animal deaths due to suspected poisoning," a veterinarian observed.
Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 12-13-445, Street # 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad 500 017 - Phone: +91-9393001550
Keep Basmati rice areas free from GM crop trials: commerce ministry - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, February 24 2007
NEW DELHI, FEB 23: The Union commerce ministry has decided to intervene and ask the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) not to approve field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in Basmati rice growing states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and western Uttar Pradesh. The consensus emerged at a recent meeting of stakeholders convened by the commerce ministry. The meeting among others were attended by the chairman of Agricultural and Processed Food Export Development Authority (Apeda), Sashi Sareen of Export Inspection Council of India, advisor to the department of biotechnology, KK Tripathi and representatives of the All India Rice Exporters Association (Airea). The meeting also decided to ask GEAC not to approve field trials of GM crops in all the 60 agri export zones (AEZs). Apeda has been asked to submit a detail list of 60 AEZs.
Speaking to FE, the Airea executive director, Anil Adlakha said, "We are neither against nor in favour of GM crops. Our concern is maintaining the country's export prospects. Recently when the US and Chinese rice were contaminated with GM trace, major importing countries refused rice consignments from these two countries. The US rice industry is reeling under heavy losses. We do not want such a situation to occur in India." Saying that the exporters' concern was to keep all AEZs safe from any possible contamination by GM crop field trial, Adlakha said, "We suggested a transparent and scientific procedure for such field trials and that the GM crop field trials should be conducted under a validated event-specific protocol and in a transparent manner. The trials should be conducted by a lead scientist whose details should be disclosed," he said.
State Pulse: Tamil Nadu: Need for seed - After its Bt Cotton fails in Tamil Nadu district, Mahyco faces flak from the state government
Shailesh Kumar, Central Chronicle, Feb 23 2007 - http://www.centralchronicle.com/20070223/2302303.htm
The Tamil Nadu government has brought the Bt Cotton seed issue back into focus by banning the sale of seeds from Mahyco over complaints of crop failure in Dharmapuri district. Bt Cotton varieties made by the Indian seed major had earlier been blacklisted by Andhra Pradesh after crop failures in the 2004 kharif season. In Dharmapuri, thousands of farmers are in distress. They told the district collector that their Bt Cotton crop failed due to sub-standard seeds. "Cotton crop on at least 2,500 acres (1,012 hectares) has failed and about 2,000 farmers affected. Prima facie, it seems that the seeds are responsible," says Pankaj Kumar Bansal, Dharmapuri's district magistrate.
The state government has taken serious note of the problem and ordered an enquiry. "Mahyco has been asked not to sell any seed in the state till the enquiry concludes. They should also compensate affectedd farmers," says Veerapandi S Arumugam, Tamil Nadu agriculture minister. The anti-GM lobby in the state is happy over the ban. "After the failure in Andhra Pradesh, Bt has failed yet again. Such failures of genetic engineering (GE) technology are always at the cost of poor farmers. The aggressive marketing tactics of the seed companies is the sole reason behind further spreading of Bt cotton even after repeated failures," says Rajesh Krishnan, GE campaigner, Greenpeace.
It is still not clear, however, whether the Dharmapuri crop failure can be blamed on substandard seeds. Citing one case, Surjit K Chaudhury, the Tamil Nadu agriculture secretary, says that a farmer obtained 15 quintal of cotton from an acre, netting a profit of Rs 54,000 after deducting the seed cost of Rs 6,000 per acre. The failure could also be attributed to wrong agricultural practices and inadequate support from the company. "Either you sell your seed with usage instructions or if it fails, give compensation," says Chaudhury, who is also agriculture productivity commissioner. Mahyco does not deny the crop failure in Dharmapuri. But it maintains its seeds have anything to do with it. "There is a wilting problem but it is not necessarily because of seeds. We have instructions written in the inside of each packet. For compensation, the government has formed a committee. Very soon we will decide on it," clarifies Sanjay Despande, deputy general manager, Mahyco.
Earlier, in 2006, Monsanto's licensee, Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India Limited (MMB), was charging Rs 1,250 as 'trait value' (another name for royalty) out of the prevailing rate of Rs 1,800 for 450-gramme packets. The Andhra government fixed the price of seeds at Rs 750 for 450 grammes. Whenn Monsanto refused to comply, Andhra Pradesh took the issue to the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) in January 2006. In its interim order on May 10, 2006, MRTPC asked MMB to reduce the 'trait value'. The company then moved the Supreme Court.
The final hearing on the issue in MRTPC is scheduled. Thereafter the government would decide its strategy for next hearing in Supreme Court. But, in Andhra Pradesh, there are also moves for an out of court settlement over the price of Bt Cotton seeds. "Some Indian seed companies operating in the state have approached us to press for an out of court settlement saying that they are ready to abide by the government decision. We are ready if it is in the interest of farmers, and since other states have also joined the litigation, they should also be ready for an out of court settlement," says N Raghuveera Reddy, agriculture minister, Andhra Pradesh.
Activists are upset that the state government that had taken up the cause of farmers is compromising with a company whose seed failures have led to farmer suicides. "This step actually shows the clout the seed companies hold," says Krishnan. Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign feels that the judicial process should continue since it will generate a lot of information, which will be available in the public domain.
India : Bt cotton to be investigated for toxicity - February 17 2007 - http://www.fibre2fashion.com/news/textile-news/newsdetails.aspx?news_id=30933
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) along with many farmers of the state believe that death of thousands of sheep last year was due to consumption of Bt cotton plant leaves. On the back of this assumption, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) has decided to investigate whether the cause of death of over 1,500 sheep in Andhra Pradesh was due to consumption of Bt cotton plant material. Deccan Development Society considered this as an important issue and had requested NIN to carry out toxic studies, P V Satheesh, Director of Deccan Development Society, informed here on Wednesday. Scientists from Asian countries were of the opinion that genetically engineered seeds were not the proper solution for pest control on the contrary organic farming should be encouraged.
Bt cotton has failed in Vidarbha: study - 'Its high input costs have increased farmers' indebtedness' - Special Correspondent - The Hindu, 16 February 2007
MUMBAI: A new study on the introduction of Bt cotton in Vidarbha reveals that it has failed in the region. Suman Sahai, Director of Gene Campaign, told journalists on Wednesday that despite specific knowledge that Bt cotton would not work in rainfed areas, the government had introduced it in Vidarbha. The result was that in an area with a history of indebtedness, the high input costs of Bt cotton had increased indebtedness. The study had shown that 70 per cent of small farmers had already lost their landholdings as collateral for loans that they could never repay. The Gene Campaign study, which will be ready in four to five weeks, consisted of a technology adoption study to look at how Bt cotton was adopted in Vidarbha. It is based on interviews with around 500 cotton farmers from Amravati and Yavatmal districts. Preliminary data shows that farmers who had adopted Bt cotton had a net lower income than non-Bt cotton farmers.
Dr. Sahai said that Bt cotton did better in irrigated areas and that it was a mistake to introduce it in an area like Vidarbha. It did not perform well in the region because inputs costs were high, including the cost of the seeds, there was an abundance of spurious seeds and the technology had been adopted without any preparation of the farmers for the complex management practices that were needed. Seed dealers, she said, encouraged farmers to buy far more fertilizer and pesticide than was needed, thereby raising their input costs. They promised farmers that they would get between 12 to 15 quintals per acre when the actual production was in the range of three to five quintals per acre. At the same time cotton prices came down with the import of Chinese cotton. The study reveals that on average, farmers who adopted Bt cotton lost Rs. 1,725 per acre. "Such economics cannot work," she said.
The study revealed that many farmers adopted Bt cotton because they believed it was a "government seed" and did not know that it was privately produced and marketed. They also accepted it because the government was actively promoting the technology. While local officials, like the Agriculture Commissioner of Amravati, were aware of the failure of Bt cotton, the state agriculture department continued to promote it. "The role of the government has been irresponsible and damaging," said Dr. Sahai. Dr. Sahai also pointed that Bt was a limited time technology. In the United States, where it has been introduced 10 years ago, it had already developed resistance. This was also happening in China. In India, she said, "we are seeing resistance earlier because of rampant proliferation of illegal seeds and the wrong techniques being used." The Bt technology was not need driven but supply driven, said Dr. Sahai.
She stressed that cotton farmers had not demanded it and that in any case, the expression of the Bt cotton gene worked for only 90 days while Indian cotton took 160 days to mature. In other words, during the crucial period when the crop needed protection from pests, it remained unprotected.
The study had also collected anecdotal evidence about other side effects of Bt cotton on plants and animals. For instance, cattle deaths had been reported in areas where they grazed in harvested Bt cotton fields, women working in cotton fields had complained of rashes, and there were reports that mango trees were not flowering. Despite such reports, the government had not conducted tests to establish whether any of this could be attributed to the introduction of Bt cotton. The impact of cotton oil, extracted from Bt cotton, on human and animal health had also not been considered. Dr. Sahai said it was essential to conduct safety tests and also put in place a regulatory system before any new technology is introduced.
Bt leaves bad for animals: Experts - Deccan Chronicle, 15 February 2007
Hyderabad, Feb. 14: Hundred of sheep and buffaloes have died after eating Bt cotton crop waste in Warangal district. Deccan Development Society (DDS), which is advocating biodiversity for sustainable agriculture, on Wednesday discussed the issue with scientists, ecologists and farmers from China, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines.
DDS director P. Stash said that more than 2,500 animals had died in recent months eating Bt cotton leaves. Shepherds of Gummadavelli village V. Yadaiah and M.Malliah said they had incurred huge losses due to the death of the animals, he said. Chinese scientist Dr Yang Song and Thailand's Alternative Agriculture Network president Day Cha also expressed the same views. They said due to Bt cotton cultivation, animals were dying and environment was getting polluted. They also felt that genetic engineering would not be an alternative to sustainable agriculture.
Is growing Bt. cotton merely a fad? Washington University scholar explores how GM crops affect ryots in developing nations
K. Venkateshwarlu - The Hindu, Feb 13 2007 - http://www.hindu.com/2007/02/13/stories/2007021314630300.htm
For all the hype over the rapid adoption of Bt cottonseed in Warangal, a key cotton growing district of Andhra Pradesh known for suicides by farmers, a new study by a scholar of Washington University has found that the acceptability was nothing more than a fad.
In his study published in the February issue of Current Anthropology, Glenn Davis Stone explores how the arrival of genetically modified crops has affected farmers in developing countries, taking Warangal, as an example.
In 2003 to 2005, the market share of Bt cottonseed rose from 12 per cent to 62 per cent in Warangal. Genetically modified to produce its own insecticide, Bt cotton has been claimed by its manufacturer, Monsanto, as the fastest-adopted agricultural technology in history.
The firm has been interpreting the rapid spread of the modified strain as the result of farmer experimentation and management skill - similar to mechanisms that scholars cite to explain the spread of hybrid corn across American farms.
But Mr. Stone's multiyear ethnography of Warangal cotton farmers shows an unexpected pattern of "localized cottonseed fads." Rather than a case of careful assessment and adoption, Warangal was plagued by a severe breakdown of the "skilling" process by which farmers normally hone their management practices, he argues.
"Warangal cotton farming offers a case study in `agricultural deskilling'," wrote Stone in the transnational journal, sponsored by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. The seed fads had virtually no environmental basis, and farmers generally lacked recognition of what was actually being planted, a striking contrast to the highly strategic seed selection processes in areas where technological change is learned and gradual. According to him, farmers' desire for novelty exacerbates the turnover of seeds in the market, and the firms frequently take seeds that have fallen out of favour, rename them, and sell them again with new marketing campaigns. Stone argues that the previously undocumented pattern of fads, in which each village lurches from seed to seed, reflects a breakdown of the process of "environmental learning," leaving farmers to rely purely on "social learning." Bt cotton was not the cause of this "deskilling," but in Warangal it has exacerbated the problem.
"On the surface, [Warangal] appears to be a dramatic case of successful adoption of an innovation," Stone explains.
64 villages of UP pledge to remain free of genetically modified crops - Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security - Press Release, 7 February 2007
At a time when genetically modified crops/foods are shrouded in controversy, 64 villages of Chitrakoot and Banda districts in Uttar Pradesh today declared themselves to be GM-free. About 2,000 farmers and farm workers gathered at village Ganivan, Chitrakoot and pledged to never cultivate genetically modified crops. Instead, they will undertake organic farming, and also prepare their own seeds and fertilizers to promote sustainable farming. This is for the first time when such a pledge has been made by farmers anywhere in the country.
Organised by the Deen Dayal Research Institute (DRI), the event marks a turning point when farmers, realizing the follies of ?modern? agriculture, have decided to go the natural way in order to reverse the devastation caused by it. The gathering was addressed by the nonagenarian Sh. Nanaji Deshmukh, chairman of DRI, food and trade policy analyst, Mr. Devinder Sharma, and the noted organic farmer from Haryana, Mr. Ramesh Dagar. Senior officers from district administration, agriculture departments and Krishi Vigyan Kendras also attended the meeting.
For further details, please contact Devinder Sharma (9811301857, email@example.com) or Bhaskar Goswami (9811191335 firstname.lastname@example.org)
Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security, G-3F, DDA Flats, Munirka, New Delhi-110 067
The Deccan Development Society - PRESS RELEASE, 03.02.2007
While last year reports of cattle mortality are still fresh, this year again Bt cotton raises its ugly head. The deleterious affect of Bt cotton on livestock starts to re-surface in Warangal district. Recently, we visited Gammadavelli village in Lingala Ghanapur mandal and Dowlatnagar village in Parvatagiri Mandal of Warangal district and interacted with the affected farmers and shepherds. In Gammadavelli village symptoms appeared more on the goats compared to sheep as goats graze on the left over branches, twigs, opened bolls (after removing the cotton) -except the main stem it feeds on almost all parts of the plant; whereas sheep prefers grasses over cotton stalks.
The following were the symptoms observed by shepherds in the Gammadavelli village of Lingala Ghanapur.
Bloating of the stomach; mucous flow from nostrils- initially mucous appears greenish white and turned to reddish colour mucous; urination also in reddish colour, pennings mixed with reddish mucous making the penning in the form of a chain as against the pellets in a healthier goats; and to some extent sneezing. All the goats and sheep were given treatment. Few goats which are still suffering looked sluggish compared to the healthier ones. The neck portion of the goats which are still suffering looks very slender and weak.
According to the farmers, when the chest and the abdomen of dead goats was cut open, the lungs looked reddish in color and became harder, as if some clotting occurred inside. They observed some black patches on the intestine, the inner contents of the small intestine should look yellowish in colour, but they were green in colour. Even the re-gurgitation process was also not good in the animals which showed the disease symptoms.
In Dowlathanagar of Parvathigiri mandal, goats showed symptoms of skin allergies. Severe hair loss on the upper side of the neck giving an allergic look was prominently observed in 10% out of the flock of 500. The severity varies in the different animals. As reported in Gammadavelli village in Lingala Ghanapur, shepherds of this village also reported bloating of the stomach, skin allergies at the neck region and on the body; sluggish movement of the animals.
In addition to the above affects on the livestock, the Bt cotton also has its toll on the laborers employed for picking the cotton from the fields. Two women who were engaged in cotton picking from Bt fields reported skin allergies on their hands and around their waist. These women reported skin allergies around their waist and on their hands.
In view of the recurring problems, the DDS demands that the government, must declare a moratorium on the cultivation of Bt hybrids until a comprehensive study is undertaken taken on the possible impact of Bt hybrids on environment, livestock and human health.
M. Abdul Qayuum, Scientist, DDS
S.Kiran, Scientist, DDS
Plea to halt cultivation of Bt hybrids - The Hindu, 4 February 2007 - http://www.hindu.com/2007/02/04/stories/2007020417070300.htm
Hyderabad: The Deccan Development Society (DDS) has asked the Government to declare a moratorium on the cultivation of Bt hybrids until a comprehensive study is undertaken on the possible impact of Bt hybrids on environment, livestock and human health.
In a statement, M. Abdul Qayuum and S. Kiran, DDS scientists, said the deleterious affects of Bt cotton on livestock have resurfaced in Warangal district. In Gammadavelli village, symptoms appeared more on the goats compared to sheep. Bloating of stomach, mucous flow from nostrils, reddish urination were some of the symptoms. Besides, some shepherds also had bloating of stomach and skin allergies in the neck region, the release said.
Goats-Sheep Mortality after grazing on Bt Cotton this season too
From: Kavitha Kuruganti - email@example.com - Date: Feb 2, 2007
Dr Ranjini Warrier - firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Cc: Ramanjaneyulu <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com
February 2, 2007
Shri Bir Singh Parsheera & Dr Ranjani Warrier, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC], Ministry of Environment & Forests, Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi.
Sub: Goats/Sheep mortality after grazing on Bt Cotton fields - 2007
We would like to bring to your immediate attention the phenomenon of sheep and goats getting affected after grazing on Bt Cotton fields this year too. We have come across such phenomenon that shepherds have reported [including mortality of some animals] from two different locations in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh in the past ten days.
We would like to refer to a letter that we had sent to GEAC, along with Anthra (an NGO working on livestock issues) on July 28th, 2006 around the time that the GEAC had stopped systematically investigating into the sheep death phenomenon and are reported to "have finally brushed aside the allegations" as per the media, in which we specifically cited from data that we had collected under Right to Information from various concerned agencies which investigated into the phenomenon.
We would also like to recall Shri Kantilal Bhuria's statement in the Parliament on 14/8/2006 wherein the AP government is supposed to have admitted to death of 132 sheep after grazing in Bt Cotton fields.
Unfortunately, no follow-up action is apparent from the concerned authorities, including the GEAC. The GEAC had instructed the DBT to conduct special studies on the matter and to this day, no such study is evident and open for scientific scrutiny which would conclusively explain what the shepherds/farmers are experiencing on the ground.
Even in the Bt Brinjal biosafety data presented by Mahyco, the goat feeding studies have shown statistically significant changes in the haemotological as well as clinical parameters (the Sub-Chronic Oral Toxicity Test on Goats for 90 days).
It has been pointed out last year that the reports poured in quite late after the actual mortality and morbidity of animals. This year we are alerting you with the very first reports that we have come across and demand an immediate investigation. Our preliminary assessment report is given below.
Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Preliminary Assessment Report from a Field Visit: Mortality in Sheep Flocks after grazing on Bt Cotton Fields - Download the report as a pdf file (64 kb)
Farmers discard Bt GM Variety - Radhakrishna Rao, INFA - Central Chronicle, Thursday February 1 2007
The sustained and no-holds-barred campaign by Indian farmers against the "backdoor and sly" move to introduce the genetically modified GM rice variety into the country, has resulted in the farmers in parts of Haryana and Tamil Nadu destroying the trial plots of GM rice. These experimental rice fields were being monitored by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) on behalf of the American agro-business outfit Monsanto.
The increasing tempo of the countrywide opposition to GM rice has derived strength from the decision of the EU countries to ban the import of American rice, fearing contamination by the GM rice strain Liberty Line (LL-601). In fact, it was the detection of few grains of GM rice in the American rice consignments that proded the EU countries to suspend the trading in American rice. Following this episode, the world's largest rice importer Ebro Puleva stopped trading in the US grown rice. In fact, there is a vehement public distrust of GM variety of food in Europe even as the USA is trying to hardsell the theory that GM food varieties are safe for human consumption.
According to a well-known agricultural scientist, "Bt (GM) rice proponent might argue that since rice is a self-pollinated crop, genetic contamination is excluded. But genes travel to related plots on their own which is called gene flow. In 1966, gene flow was discovered to be much more common than it was previously thought. The process of putting alien genes into plants and animals to favour certain traits or confer resistance is, at best, an inexact science, with unpredictable consequences. Genes don't necessarily control a single trait".
Clearly and apparently, the European countries' decision to stop importing American grown rice could be utilized by the Indian rice exporters to fill this "vital gap". The EU countries used to import about 300,000 tonnes of rice from the USA to meet a part of its annual requirement running upto 12,000,00 tonnes. And the rice of Indian and Pakistani origin imported by the EU countries used to account for around 3,00,000 tonnes. "Since Indian rice is free from the GM contamination, this gap in supply certainly open up vistas for additional market access for Indian exporters", says K.S. Money, Chairman of the New Delhi-based Agricultural Products and Processed Food Export Development Authority (APEDA).
Indian exporters of Basmati rice who have already established a presence in the EU countries hope to boost their export by expanding their portfolios to include non-basmati rice varieties. Pakistan and Thailand are the other major exporters of rice to the EU countries. And in terms of quality and price, Indian rice has certain advantages over its Asian competitors.
Meanwhile, with a view to step up rice production to meet the needs of a fast-growing population, India is laying special emphasis on increasing the area under hybrid rice cultivation. Currently, over a million hectares of land under hybrid rice in India. And this is a far cry from just 10,000 hectares in 1995. But in the neighbouring China around 15-million hectares are under hybrid rice cultivation and this constitutes 50% of the total area under rice cultivation in this most populous country in the world.
"Hybrid rice is an option that could come handy at a time when India will have to increase rice production by at least 2 million tonnes by 2011-12", says B.C. Viraktamath, Project Director of the Directorate of Rice Research in Hyderabad. Incidentally, India is the second country in the world to develop and commercialize hybrid rice. Researchers, on their part, point out that the potential in the country for raising hybrid rice varieties, is anywhere between 8 million and 15 million hectares.
In the meantime, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has signed an agreement with the Las Banos-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for collaboration in research which includes genetic enhancement of rice in terms of yield and quality. The main objective of collaboration is to apply genomics and bioinformatics to discover new and novel genes capable of pushing up the rice yield.
As it is, in India the productivity of rice has now touched 2,000 kg per hectare and the country continues to occupy second position in rice export, next only to Thailand. But then in India there is a growing realization of the need to boost rice production without bringing in ore land under cultivation.
As such, the focus is on surmounting the technological challenges in breaking the genetic yield barriers, improving input yield efficiency and developing environmentally acceptable strategies for decreasing the losses due to pest attacks and diseases. There is also a growing concern in the country over the steady control exerted by the big and powerful multinational corporations (MNCs) over the genetic resources of rice.
Navadanaya, a New Delhi-based NGO (Non-Government Organisation) has together with farmers from nine Indian States developed a register documenting over 2,000 indigenous rice varieties. According to Navadanya, the genetically modified rice strains are not only costly to cultivate but also are a poor match to the native strains in fighting pests, diseases and environmental fluctuations. Several indigenous rice strains adopted by the Indian farmers can withstand extremes of climatic conditions, survive submergence for a fortnight and even withstand salinity with a high degree of success.
According to Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) all through the last decade, global production increased at rates marginally higher than those of the population growth. Right now, China and India account for more than half of the world rice yield. As it offers food security, rice is one of the commodities that remains widely subject to Government intervention.
As rice continues to be one of the most traded commodities, under protection, it presents considerable scope for further liberalization. However, due to its importance in income generation and political stability, Governments are often reluctant to lower their control over the rice sector. There is also a concern in rice growing countries including India that the global warming could adversely affect the yield of the rice crop in the years ahead. As such, the need for devising an appropriate strategy to blunt the threat of global warming to the rice crop, is being felt acutely.
February 1, 2007 : In the ongoing Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) filed by Aruna Rodrigues, Devinder Sharma, P V Satheesh and Rajeev Baruah, the next hearing is slated for 5th February. Yesterday's hearing had to postponed because the Union of India did not file their response and requested for a day's time. This is for your information.
As you are aware, the current issues before the Court in this case, (especially after the interim orders in September 2006 where the SC halted further GM field trial approvals in the country), are related to
* conflict of interest in the regulatory regime of the country & the need for a truly independent Ombudsman mandated to protect India's health and environment and
* the Delhi University's GM Mustard trial which was permitted on conditional grounds & the need to stop ALL field trials anywhere and everywhere in the country.
Below, CSA has put together some information (collected from personal contacts and through other reports) related to some of the regulators in GEAC and RCGM. We request the media to look into these matters and investigate further. Thanks.
How can we believe that Indian GM regulation is driven by farmers' interests?
A look at some of the people involved in GM regulation in the country does not give us much hope that farmers' interests would be the foremost when the apex regulatory body, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), supported by Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM in the DBT) takes major decisions related to irreversible agricultural technologies to be used in the country.
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture tried to compile some such information for the public to understand where they have placed their trust.
1. Dr C D Mayee Co-Chair of GEAC, nominee from DBT as per the reconstitution of GEAC that took place on January 25th 2007: Dr Charudatta Mayee, as reported in a leading national daily, is also a Board member of ISAAA an international network funded by biotech majors such as Monsanto, Bayer and Dupont and whose high-profile Board Members, past and present, include Monsanto's Robert Fraley, Wally Beversdorf of Syngenta, and Gabrielle Persley, Executive Director of the AusBiotech Alliance. In addition to the Rockefeller Foundation, its financial sponsors include Monsanto (USA), Syngenta (Swiss), Dow AgroSciences (USA), Pioneer Hi-Bred (USA), Cargill (USA), Bayer CropScience (Germany), and a mysterious "Anonymous Donor" (USA), and US-AID of the State Department.
Dr C D Mayee's son, Dr Hrishikesh Mayee, is reported to have gotten married to the daughter of Mr Vijay Kashikar, a Director of Ankur Seeds on January 23 rd this year. Ankur Seeds is one of the Bt Cotton companies in India (reported to have a 300-crore turnover) which has been permitted by the GEAC to sell its genetically engineered seeds to the farmers.
2. Dr Venugopal Earlier, a CICR-Coimbatore scientist who oversaw some field trials of certain Bt Cotton hybrids while with CICR [Central Institute for Cotton Research]. Now with Rasi Seeds, which has a growing market of Bt Cotton hybrids in India.
3. Dr T V Ramanaiah, Ex-Member-Secretary, Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation [RCGM], Department of Biotechnology: The person known for the many approvals he had personally given as Member-Secretary of RCGM to the hundreds of GM crop field trials that have happened in India so far (some of the hurried approvals for the scores of trials permitted had their share of "cut & paste" mistakes too!) has quit his post in the DBT and has joined Pioneer HiBred International (a subsidiary of DuPont) as their 'Biotech Regulatory Affairs Manager' (as per a phone call to PHI). He is further named as a Spokesperson of the All India Crop Biotechnology Association (AICBA) [as confirmed by a phone call to AICBA], an industry body consisting of several companies as its members ones that have approved Bt Cotton varieties and other GE crops in the pipeline. This technocrat reported in a national business daily (Business Standard in November 2006, when violations from field trials were being reported including the fact that trials were taking place without the knowledge of trial farmers), to have said "As for informing farmers, how do you expect every farmer to be told about the various experiments that are being done?". The story goes on to quote RCGM authorities, presumably Dr Ramanaiah who is quoted extensively in the story as the RCGM voice,: "University of Hissar …. know it rather than telling hundreds of farmers about things they will not understand. ''
4. Dr Deepak Penthal: promoter of the controversial GM Mustard variety which has been permitted for trials by the Supreme Court in the ongoing Public Interest Litigation, on a conditional basis. He is also the Chairperson of a 12-member Expert Committee set up by the GEAC to look into the public feedback received on Mahyco's Bt Brinjal.
Meanwhile, a closer look at the 30-member GEAC reveals more conflict of interest and questionable "independent" expertise. While their expertise may not be in doubt here, the 'independent' status alluded to is worth looking at.
Other members in the GEAC :
• Dr Akhilesh Tyagi UDSC (University of Delhi, South Campus) is shown as an Independent Expert whereas the Vice Chancellor himself is clearly a GM crop developer, walking up to the GEAC and the SC for approvals on behalf of the institution. Similarly, Prof A N Maitra, Dept. Of Chemistry, Delhi University is listed as an Independent Expert.
• Dr B M Khadi, Director of CICR is shown as an Independent Expert, when CICR is busy trying to get approvals for its GM cotton varieties from the GEAC!
• ICGEB (International Centre for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology) is a GM crop developer for GM cotton, GM Rice and GM Tobacco, as per DBT's reports in 2003 about GE crops in the pipeline (as reported by the USDA's GAIN report No. IN3125 in December 2003). The Director of ICGEB, Dr V S Chauhan is listed as an Independent Member of the GEAC!
• Dr P Anand Kumar of National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, (NRCPB), Indian Agricultural Research Institute is also listed as an Independent Expert. IARI incidentally is into developing Bt Brinjal, GM Mustard, GM Pigeonpea (2003), GM Tobacco (2003), GM Tomato (2003), GM Cauliflower (2003), GM Cabbage (2003) and GM Rice. [http://www.iari.res.in/divisions/biotechnology/ has more information on the projects that Dr Anand Kumar has handled]
Dr Rakesh Tuli of National Botanical Research Institute is also a regulator listed under "Nominees of Scientific Institutions" in the re-constituted GEAC list. Dr Tuli is also well-known for providing Bt genes to various institutions and companies for their transgenic crop development.
The GEAC itself saw many Chairpersons change over the past few years including some periods when there was no Chairperson in place. The following is the list of Chairpersons who came in and went out since 2002:
A M Gokhale, 2002, when the first Bt Cotton hybrids were allowed for commercial cultivation; his exit happened soon after rejection of possibly-Starlink-contaminated food aid consignments from the USA; Sushma Chowdhary - 2003; V K Duggal came in mid-year 2003; Meena Gupta, around November 2003, after a gap without a Chair; Bina Chotray, in 2004; Suresh Chandra, from December 2004; No Chairperson during November 2005-January 2006; Bir Singh Parsheera, from February 2006.
GEAC also does not have a set date for its meetings nor a quorum of members required for its decision-making. Given that only a small set of people seem to be appearing for the meetings for reasons and interests of their own, it is very hard to believe that decision-making in the apex regulatory body will actually ensure biosafety and the best interests of farmers and consumers in the country.
Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 12-13-445, Street # 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad 500 017 - Phone: +91-9393001550
Use of Bt cotton leads to de-skilling - January 30 2007 - http://www.fibre2fashion.com/news/textile-news/newsdetails.aspx?news_id=29812
A study by Glenn Davis Stone from Washington University puts forward the view that Bt cotton farming in Warangal has led to "agricultural deskilling". This is due to farmers generally being unaware of what they are planting and the type of environment required for Bt cotton. Farmers of Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh find that use of genetically modified Bt cotton seeds, especially against virulent pest attacks is not the appropriate solution. Repeated crop failure due to virulent pest attack increases cost of cultivation and leads to high debts. This forces farmers to commit suicide every year. During a single month in 2006 about 279 farmers committed suicide, says a report compiled by farmers' wing of Communist Party of India (Marxist). Chaotic hybrid seed market where products come and go at fast pace confuses farmers who do not know what they are using. Even seed firms rename and resell outdated seeds, observes Stone.
Mahyco compensates Bt cotton cultivators - SOURCE: Agencies, January 29 2007 - http://www.bharattextile.com/newsitems/2002867
One of the front running BT cotton dealers in India, Mahyco has compensated farmers affected by cultivation of Bt cotton during a function held in Poosaripatty near Omalur on 28th January, industry sources said. Mahyco, for the first time has distributed compensation to the tune of Rs 9.86 lakh to 88 of the 125 affected farmers of Omalur and Kadayampatty areas.
Earlier, about 125 farmers of Omalur and the adjoining Kadayampatty complained of huge loss due to the cultivation of Bt cotton seeds, supplied by Mahyco, in over a 198 acres of field. Following the complaints received, the state agriculture minister, Veerapandy S Arumugam instructed Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) scientists, several NGOs and environmental groups to conduct studies to find causes for failure of Mahyco supplied Bt cottonseeds in the region. The study revealed that variation in soil condition was the major cause for Bt seeds failure.
Keeping in vies the situation and study, the state government held negotiations with Mahyco and convinced them to compensate Rs 5000 per acre to the affected farmers. Accordingly, Arumugam distributed Rs 9.86 lakh compensation to 88 farmers of 125, while the rest of the farmers would be paid within two days. Further he advised TNAU officials and Mahyco staff to extend necessary technical and intellectual support to the farmers before they started cultivation and warned TNAU scientists and extension wing officials of stern action if they failed to allay the fears of the farmers about BT cotton seeds.
Cotton farmers to get compensation - New India Press, January 22 2007
DHARMAPURI: The district administration has initiated steps to provide compensation to the cotton farmers, who suffered crop loss, following the use of transgenic seeds. The affected cotton farmers from Morappur, Harur and Pappireddipatti Union submitted a memorandum to the district administration to take action in this regard. A district-level committee was constituted by the Collector, who ordered to analyse the reason for the loss. The concerned private organisation [Monsanto-Mahyco], which supplied the seeds to the farmers, conducted a survey and assessed the reason for the crop failure. Also, a team of experts from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University conducted a research on it. At a farmers' meeting here, Collector Pankaj Kumar Bansal said a report had been sent to the State Government seeking compensation for the farmers, who suffered crop loss. The government had already banned the private seed dealer from selling the cotton and other transgenic seeds in the district. The farmers were also advised to procure all the inputs, including seeds, from the government-authorised agencies in future. He also appealed to the farmers to inform the Agricultural Extension department, if any seed agency was found canvassing for its products.
INDIA: Govt. asks Mahyco to compensate cotton farmers - January 8 2007, Source: Agencies - http://www.bharattextile.com/newsitems/2002636
CHIDAMBARAM: The fully owned subsidiary of US biotech major Monsanto, Mahyco has been asked by the government to compensate cotton farmers for failure of Bt cotton in the current season, industry sources said here on January 07. The Bt cotton crop has failed in the major producing district of state, Dharampuri and farmers in the region has complained to the district collector and subsequently the agriculture officials. The officials following the complaints have asked the scientists at Coimbatore Agriculture University to verify the fact. The scientists conducted tests on the soil where the crops were planted and took samples of the seeds sown. After the completion of test, scientists informed that improper seeds only had caused all the problems. The Tamil Nadu agriculture minister, Veera Pandi Arumugam informed that government has advised the company to pay compensation to the affected farmers and has also ordered that Mahyco should not sell any type of seeds in Tamil nadu. The cell has been formed to safeguard the interests of farmers under the leadership of the chief minister, where experts from various sections of agriculture ministry will be in the cell, minister added.
Five Maharashtra farmers commit suicide - Indo Asian News Service, January 15 2007
Five cotton-growers in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra have committed suicide after crop failure, taking the number of such suicides to 33 since the New Year. Two of the five farmers who ended their lives Sunday hailed from Akola district while one each was from Buldana, Nagpur and Yavatmal, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) president Kishor Tiwari said here Monday. In the 72 hours preceding this tragedy, eight other farmers had ended their lives, Tiwari told IANS. The previous year's toll in Vidarbha was well over 1,000 - almost at the rate of 100 suicides a month.
The continuing suicide saga falsifies the government claim of a bumper cotton crop, Tiwari said. Total cotton procurement in Vidarbha so far, a major chunk of which was done by private traders, is 10 million quintals as against the government prediction of 35 million quintals, he pointed out. The state controlled cotton federation opened fewer procurement centres this year pushing the farmers to private traders who paid Rs.100 per quintal less to them than the federation, Tiwari said. "The stark reality of farmers' suicides bares the failure of Bt cotton (genetically modified cottonseeds) in rain-fed conditions," the VJAS leader remarked adding that the relief package from the state and the central government had benefited the cooperative banks alone, compensating them against the interest on farmers' loans that the government had waived. The plight of cotton growers can be gauged from the fact that farmers in Koljhari village in Yavatmal district took a New Year vow not to cultivate cotton any more, Tiwari said. "The government must compensate the cotton growers for their loss like it had done last year (by paying Rs.2.1 billion to 1.7 million farmers) because it had promoted the sale of Bt cottonseeds marketed by American company Monsanto", he demanded.
Bt cotton crop fails in Tamil Nadu - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, January 5 2007
CHIDAMBARAM, JAN 4: After Andhra Pradesh, it is now Tamil Nadu where the much hyped Bt cotton seeds of Mahyco has run into rough weather. The Tamil Nadu government has asked Mahyco to pay compensation to farmers for failure of Bt cotton in the state in the current season.
Bt cotton crop has failed in Dharampuri, the major producing district in the state. The farmers and the local NGO Pasumai Vakatan had complained to the district collector and subsequently to the joint director for agriculture in charge of Dharampuri, Duraisamy.
Duraisamy had on December 22, 2006 asked the scientists at Coimbatore Agriculture University to verify the fact. The scientists conducted tests on the soil where the crops were planted and took samples of the seeds sown.
Speaking over the phone the Tamil Nadu agriculture minister Veera Pandi Arumugam confirmed reports and told FE, "The authorities had informed me that improper seeds only had caused all the problems. I had talked to the chief minister immediately and I had ordered that the said company should not sell any type of seeds in Tamil nadu. We had advised the company to pay compensation to the affected farmers. So the farmers need not be worried."
The minister further added, "We have formed a cell to safeguard the interests of farmers under the leadership of the chief minister. Experts from various sections of agriculture ministry shall be in the cell. They shall watch out for the problems of farmers and keep submitting solutions for the problems. On the whole, our objective is there should not be any problem to the farmers."
THE Bt COTTON TRAGEDY THAT STRUCK DHARMAPURI [Tamil Nadu] - PASUMAI VIKATAN, 3/1/2007
"Looks like we have to pluck our nose with this cotton…."
"Like the proverbial saying --'it has bitten the goat. Then bitten the cow...finally bitten the man himself' --- Bt has taken the lives of Andhra farmers, then the Maharastra farmers and now it is threatening our lives", tremble the fear-struck Dharmapuri farmers. The reason behind is the total failure of Bt cotton planted here this year. They had petitioned to the Collector asking for action against the seed company as the crop they had raised stands as trash.
Kantha Goundanur is 10 kms from Kadathur and is on the road from Kadathur to Puttirettipatti and adjacent to the rail track. Cotton grown in this area is known as KanthaGoundanur cotton and is highly popular. KanthaGoundanur and the adjacent villages like Sivanalli, Venkatathara Alli cultivate cotton as their main crop. Till last year the crop was a money spinner; but this year, the farmers are shedding blood from their eyes….
As we entered Kanthagoundanur, the villagers had collected around us and poured out their stories. Everyone is filled with sadness and dejection. "Look at my field. Out of ten plants, eight plants do not hold the bolls. Looking for the bolls, one only got numbed eyes. You plough, make ridges, plant, irrigate and take care of the crop finally, one has to pluck his nose with this cotton only" says a farmer Manikkam.
Next was the turn of another Chakravarthy who narrated his experience in a sad and choked voice - "Lost. Lost. All are lost. We planted MRC 6918 seeds. We spent Rs.15000/= per acre. They had cheated us by giving useless and good for nothing seeds. Last Pongal I had stacked cotton in my whole house and was running short of space I stacked part of the produce outside my house. This time the investment is lost. We purchased 450gm packs of this seed. Out of this only about 10 gm of seeds has flourished well. The rest is all standing up as sticks.
"The local dealer Jayaram had supplied the seeds from Mahyco Company of Maharastra. Last year, we got more than Rs.45,000/- per acre. The dealer had interviewed us and advertised that 'the seeds are high yielding'. This year we had purchased seeds from the same dealer. The yield is not good. Now the dealer is joking with us 'May be your plants are affected by chicken-gunya'. If a solution is not arrived at before Pongal, we do not have any means to cook food in our households", says Chakravarthy.
"In our area, about 4000 acres are affected. We have decide to go to the Consumers' Court. We have sent petitions to the authorities for taking action. But we are not sure whether our authorities will take action on the Mahyco company, which is a very big company", doubts Chakravarthy.
The narration of another farmer Chokalingam raises anxiety. "With the hope that this shall give a good harvest, I have pledged even the Mangalsutra of my wife and sowed in the soil. Finally it had ended like this. Saying that the seeds are gene changed, they have changed our lives. MY daughter is waiting to be married. Those who had lent money on the hope of Cotton yield are coming down heavily and when they abuse me biting their teeth, I feel like ending my life all at once. Some time back we heard that the goats which had grazed on BT cotton had perished. We do not know whether the news is true or false. But we fear that such a plight may happen to us". We intervened and uttered a few words of comfort to him. "If there is a problem with the seeds there will be action from the government side".
Then we proceeded to meet the dealer Jayaram. When we asked about the complaints made by the the farmers, the dealer said: "We had sold the seeds for Rs. 1600/= last year and the very seeds we had sold this year for a mere Rs.600/. Farmers are saying that we had reduced the price and reduced the quality also. The actual reason for reducing the price was to spread the BT seeds to all farmers. Bt cotton is not such a loss making crop as the farmers are making out. If the same crop is planted in the soil for 10 years continuously, then it creates some changes in the soil conditions. One should use crop rotation. Leaving behind all such factors, they are talking about gene modified seeds and there is some problem in that. Farmers are coming out with reasons of their own. We have written to the company enquiring about the reason for the failure and they had promised to come and investigate".
Then we met Mr. Duraisamy, Joint Director (Agriculture), Dharmapuri District and discussed with him about the problem. He said, "As soon as the matter had come to our knowledge we had informed the Scientists at Coimbatore Agriculture University. They had come to the site on 22 nd and inspected the seeds. Also they had conducted tests on the soil where the crops were planted. To get a better picture, they had taken the seeds with them. The results will be known very soon. We can talk only after getting the results".
The Dharmapuri District Collector Mr. Pankajkumar Bansal had received a petition from slogan-shouting farmers who had collected in front of his office and assured them: "I shall definitely take suitable action." When we discussed with him he opined: "Only after the investigation report, we can ascertain whose fault it is. If the fault is that of the seed company, action shall be taken on them after getting approval from the government". He said that very firmly.
There is already a countrywide uproar about the BT type seeds. Though the problem is not very much pronounced in Tamilnadu, farmers and NGOs in the state are up in arms against Bt seedsvery agitated about it.
In this context, T.S. Prabhuraja, President of NAAM said: "The demonstration was conducted at Collector's office under my leadership. The collector had ordered for immediate report on what type of failure had occurred and how many people were affected. The officials had collected all necessary information at lightning speed. They are now waiting for the test report. We have demanded a compensation of Rs.50000/=per acre". "However mighty the concerned organizations may be, the officials have to act firmly ensuring justice to the affected farmers. ..Otherwise our struggle will be inevitable", the leader roared emotionally.
"Ban for Mahyco Seeds"
When we met the Tamilnadu Agriculture Minister Mr Veeera Pandi Arumugam and presented the plight of cotton farmers, the Minister stated: "What you are going to say had already been brought to my notice. The authorities had informed me that improper seeds only had caused all the problems. I had talked to the Chief Minister immediately and I had ordered that the said company should not sell any type of seeds in Tamilnadu. We had advised the company to pay compensation to the affected farmers. So the farmers need not be worried". The minister further added, "we have formed a cell to safeguard the interests of farmers under the leadership of the Chief Minister. Experts from various sections of agriculture ministry shall be in the cell. They shall watch out for problems of farmers and keep submitting solutions for the problems. On the whole, our objective is there should not be any problem to the farmers".
R Yoganathan, Junior Vikatan, 3/1/2007 - Translated by Mr G.Thirunavukkarasu, Tamilnadu Organic Agriculturists Movement
PETITION: Say "No" To India's Crops Being Genetically Engineered - Created by Arun Shrivastava on Jan 02, 2007
A writ petition is being heard in the Supreme Court of India seeking direction to stop all open field trials of GM crops. The issue is very serious and we need global support from people who eat Indian rice and those who are opposed to GMOs. Open field trials of GMOs will contaminate the global environment forever, destroy food sovereignty and our biodiversity.
This petition has been initiated by:
1. Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary, Executive Chairperson, Bharat Krishak Samaj - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Steve Solomon, Scientist, farmer and founder of Soil & Health Library - Email: email@example.com
3. Rodney Nelson, Independent farmer, USA - Email: Rodneygm@aol.com
4. Chris Gupta, Health and nutrition educator and inventor - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org - http://www.newmediaexplorer.org/chris/about.htm
5. Kul Bhushan Upamanyu, Member of Himalaya Policy Campaign Committee and Chairperson of Navrachna [a confederation of environmental groups working in the Himalayan region], Founder of Chipko Movement in Himachal Pradesh - Email: email@example.com
6. Vijay Jardhari, Founder of Beej Bachao Andolan ["Save the Seed Movement"] Village Nagni, Uttaranchal, India [No email]
7. Arun Shrivastava CMC, Management Consultant, Member of the Governing Council of Navrachna, Member of Himalaya Policy Campaign Committee - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org [Coordinator of this petition]
Petition: To: Dr. Man Mohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
Dear Dr. Singh,
Indian rice, vegetables and feed crops are now seriously under threat of almost certain contamination from genetically engineered seeds. This is because the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC], an inter-ministerial body charged with the responsibility of approving field trials of food and feed crops is facilitating open field trials of genetically engineered seeds of trans-national corporations. The profound truth is that:
* GM crops remain untested and present unique risks to the bio-safety of our planet. Their potential harmful impacts of many magnitudes are still not understood and will affect our lives in ways unimaginable.
* Transgenic contamination of the natural environment is a biological certainty and is not disputed. Along with Climate Change, GMOs threaten us with unprecedented global ecological crises, whose impacts will be in perpetuity.
* The stated goal of these biotech GE companies is to have monopoly control of the world's seed supply and eventually genetically modify global seed stock. To achieve this diabolical objective, India's precious biodiversity and genetic wealth is a particular target.
* Small and poor farmers are manipulated into field-testing experimental GM crops through the inducement of paltry sums of money and the trust reposed in the 'approvals' granted by the official Regulator. Our farmer's have no real comprehension of what they are being asked to grow, nor the enormity of the adverse implications for farm economics, their livelihoods, contamination, food safety and health.
Despite the evidence of serious hazards, the GEAC, the official Regulator appointed by the Government of India, has not discharged its responsibilities with due diligence. At a single meeting of its committee, it approved wholesale, and with recklessness unmatched in any other country, an astonishing array of over 150 open field trials of every conceivable variety of GM Crops. The approvals cover bulk commodities like rice, wheat and oilseeds among others as well as the full range of vegetable crops, e.g. aubergine, tomato, potato and okra, etc.
Indian rice [both Basmati and non-basmati] is exported to 92 countries. People buy Indian rice in good faith that the rice is a natural, not a genetically engineered, crop. In 2006, the GEAC has approved open field trials of six varieties of Bt rice in 10 out of 25 States in India. Farmers' associations have filed law suits against officials in charge of supervising field trials. Some, fearing contamination, have burnt fields in which GM crops were being tested. If not immediately stopped, open trials of genetically engineered rice seeds can cause havoc through cross-pollination and contamination of natural rice crops. Many rice importing countries have zero tolerance for contamination, which will seriously affect India's farmers and rice traders.
In India every intelligent farmer saves seeds and the onslaught is on farmers' rights around seeds: the right not to be contaminated and grow Non-GM crops. If contamination is not halted and the diverse traditional varieties are not protected, our seed stock will be contaminated irreversibly; farmers will be unable to keep their lands and our earth GM-free. Therefore, opposition to the merciless onslaught of the big biotech seeds companies is growing and rightly so.
Sovereign issues of biodiversity, safe food, food security and trade, are being compromised to promote the commercial interests of big biotech seeds companies.
Therefore, time is of the essence for remedial action. We request you to
1. Bring forth an Act or an Ordinance banning all open field trials of genetically engineered seeds. If you do not decisively intervene terminating all field trials, India and its neighbouring farming nations will be irreversibly contaminated and lose security of food and nutrition forever.
2. Establish an independent and autonomous Ombudsman with a mandate for the protection of India's bio-safety starting with the impacts of GMOs. If the GEAC?s reckless rush into GM foods is not checked, this process will be the fastest and riskiest experiment ever conducted, anywhere in the world, with irreversible impacts on our farmers, their crop choices, our food and health, our forests, our wilderness and our countryside. GM crops, unless stopped right now, will change the molecular structure of the world?s food in perpetuity.
Genetically engineered crops and foods truly present the gravest global threat to biodiversity and to survival. We are not against science. We are against spurious technology that is being promoted as sound science.
We, the undersigned, appeal to you, Honourable Prime Minister, to urgently take all appropriate measures to effectively stop all open field trials of all genetically engineered seeds in India. Because of the seriousness of the matter, we ask that you consider this issue with highest priority.
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