|Chronologically listed items for 2006 on this page in descending order - for items before 2006 go to INDIA 2003-2005:
The future of GM crops is not in technology, but in economics
Report of the Independent Expert Committee on Bt Brinjal
India's rice industry warns against GE trials
Haryana farmers oppose GM crops
BKU torches GM rice test field in Karnal
GM variety may spell trouble for Indian rice
BHARATIYA KISSAN UNION DESTROYS AND PREVENTS CONTAMINATION FROM A GM RICE PLOT IN HARYANA
SUPREME COURT DOES NOT LIFT SEPTEMBER 22nd STAY ON FURTHER FIELD TRIAL APPROVALS
GM regulator on panel funded by biotech majors
"ENABAVI VILLAGE GOES GM-FREE SAYS THAT FOOD SECURITY HAS NOT SUFFERED BY SHIFTING TO ORGANIC"
Pental panel questions Mahyco Bt brinjal (eggplant) process
Wilting havoc on Bt cotton in Warangal; loss estimated at over Rs 50 crores; Demand for a moratorium on Bt cultivation
Monsanto: MRTPC orders another probe
Benefit of doubt
India should take US-backed WTO attempts to thrust GM foods on us with a pinch of salt
All in a day: Six farmers commit suicide
Stop giving approvals to field trials of GM crops: SC
INDEPENDENT EXPERT COMMITTEE SET UP ON Bt BRINJAL
SC bans further approval of GM seed field trials
Court stays fresh field trials of GM crops
Court: withhold approval for genetically modified products
Supreme Court says no to GM products till further orders
On India's Despairing Farms, a Plague of Suicide
Constitution of Expert Committee on Bt Brinjal, under Dr Deepak Penthal
Bt brinjal faces consumers, scientists wrath
Crop wilting: new battle for Andhra's cotton growers
Greenpeace calls for immediate halt to GE Brinjal field trials
Protest against GE brinjal field trials
Ignore US threat, go for GM labelling
US Using WTO to Push GM Food into India
WILTING Bt COTTON
GEAC forms expert panel to study Bt brinjal effects
US opposes India’s initiative on labelling of GM foods
India May Move In On Japanese Rice Market
Field trial of Bt brinjal hangs in balance - GEAC yet to resolve issue of sheep mortality in Bt cotton fields in Andhra Pradesh
Govt sets up committee on GM food
AN URGENT APPEAL IN THE SUPREME COURT
Risks covered up
Farmer suicides hit 10-year high as aid package from Indian PM falls short
A new disease appears to be spreading for Bt cotton
GM crops: Court notice to Centre on ban plea - India becoming dumping ground: petitioner
Feedback on Bt Brinjal biosafety & beyond
SHOULD INDIA BE FED GM FOOD?
Genetically Modified Technology is No Solution to Agriculture Crisis
Vidarbha farmers' suicides, Bt cotton linked
KEEP KERALA GM FREE
GEAC wants varsities to supervise on GM crop trials
Plea to declare Orissa GM-free
Brazil GMO crackdown seen leading to $30m in cotton losses
Indian soymeal exports jump on strong demand
Seeds and protests
Uttaranchal will not allow GM crops
Bhartiya Kisan [farmers] Union to oppose GM crops in Punjab
Indian Farmers reject Bt Brinjal and other GM crops
Stop sale of BT cotton seeds
States unite to fight agri-exploitation by multi national companies
INDIA IS NOT A GUINEA PIG FOR Bt BRINJAL
Bt brinjal stirs fresh controversy
Bt Brinjal Large Scale Field Trials Consideration of application for permission by GEAC
Letter sent to AP Agriculture Minister
A Review of Bt Cotton Performance In India - It’s a blind run for Bt cotton hybrids
Field trials of Bt Brinjal unjustified,says NGO
Do We need Transgenic Brinjal in our Food Plate?
BT cotton in yet another controversy
GEAC nod for new Bt cotton hybrids cultivation in South
GM cotton belt is suicide belt
Call For Labelling Of GM Products
GEAC nod for new Bt cotton varieties, farmers cry foul
Field trial of GM crops only after GEAC approval, rules apex court
GEAC, Act immediately to protect India's biosafety
Mortality in Sheep Flocks after grazing on Bt Cotton fields, Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh
Massive civil society call to the Government of India
Protect farmers' interests
More Illnesses Linked to Bt Crops
SERIOUS EVIDENCE OF HARM FROM GMOS TO HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT SAFETY GROWS
Destitute and dying on India's farms
Frail regime, easy entry for GMOs
CIVIL SOCIETY DEMANDS ACTION AGAINST MAHYCO-MONSANTO AFTER ITS INDICTMENT FOR MONOPOLY PRACTICES
Maharashtra Bt cotton farmers earn 68% lower incomes, says YUVA
Bt Cotton - No Respite for Andhra Pradesh Farmers
People's Initiative to defend country's food security - Movement for patent-free villages to be launched
GM Crops in India - Is the Government's Policy Stance Justified?
DEMAND TO MAKE PUBLIC THE INDO-US AGRICULTURE DEAL
Indo-US agreement: a serious ‘threat’ to agriculture sector
Yediyurappa supports agitation against Seed Bill
Revised menu - India looks to open agriculture to US corporates
CSA presents evidence of biosafety violations in GM food crop trials again
Monsanto forced to cut Bt cotton seed prices
INDIA PAYS IN AGRICULTURE FOR NUCLEAR DEAL WITH US: OPENS DOORS TO GM CROPS AND FOODS
Meeting Bush? Farming off the menu, says NGO
Monsanto's Bt cotton has failed in India
High Court issues notice to Chief Secretary on farmers' suicides issue
“GM crop trials shrouded in secrecy”
Bt cotton seeds in eye Of political storm
INDIA: BT cotton seeds cause allergy: NGO
Farmer bodies of UPA coalition up in arms against govt
Farmers bodies oppose Indo-US research initiative
Walkout over low yield from Bt cotton by opposition in Madhya Pradesh assembly
U.S.A. GOVERNMENT AND INDUSTRY TO SIT ON INDIAN AGRICULTURAL BOARD
WHAT DOES THE INDO-US DEAL ON AGRICULTURE GIVE?
AP farmers hit by failed Bt cotton crop
Farmers to move consumer court over Bt cotton
The Federation of Consumer Organisations of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry hail action against Monsanto
Andhra to pursue farmers' compensation with Mahyco
Most farmers who committed suicide were Bt cotton growers
Impact of field trials on GM-mustard sought by court - Indo-Asian News Service, December 16 2006
(IANS) New Delhi, Dec 15 - The Supreme Court Friday asked a committee to examine the impact of field trials being conducted by Delhi University on a genetically modified mustard variety following expert opinion that such trials were toxic and harmful.
On Sep 22, the apex court had restrained the committee - Genetic Engineering Approval Committee - - from giving fresh approvals to genetically modified products, particularly for commercial purposes. Subsequently, Delhi University was allowed to carry out field trials of DMH-11 Mustard for research.
On Friday, a three-Judge bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice R.V. Raveendran asked the GEAC to examine the matter after counsel Prashant Bhushan opposed continuance of the field trials saying that the release of genetically modified organism/seeds even for research would have the potential of causing major health hazards once they were released into the environment. Bhushan produced opinions given by three eminent professors saying the field trials on GM-Mustard would result in release of toxic elements in the environment. They said that even at low levels the release of these organisms could prove toxic to the environment and the main areas required fuller study prior to the exposure of millions of people and millions of animals to the toxins.
Counsel for Delhi University said that the university had modified its research and no harm would be caused to the environment due to the field trials. The bench therefore directed the GEAC to give its opinion before proceeding further in the matter and adjourned the proceedings to January 2007.
Genetic panel to examine Delhi University field trials - Legal Correspondent - The Hindu, Dec 16 2006 (front page)
Court order on expert opinion that the exercise involving genetically modified crop is a health hazard
*GEAC approval not obtained for test; opinion sought
*Release of toxic elements hazardous, says petitioner
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to examine the impact of ongoing Delhi University field trials on genetically modified DMH-11 mustard variety in the light of expert opinion that such exercises are toxic and harmful.
The Court, which restrained field trials of genetically modified products with commercial implications, later permitted the University to sow seeds of the newly developed DMH-11 for academic research. On September 22, the Court, acting on a petition from Aruna Rodrigues and three others, had restrained the GEAC from according fresh approvals for genetically modified products, particularly for commercial purposes. The public interest litigation had sought a ban on release of genetically modified organism/seeds having the potential of causing major public health hazards.
On Friday a Bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justices C.K. Thakker and R.V. Raveendran directed the GEAC to examine the matter after it was brought to the Court's notice that GEAC approval was not obtained for this field trial. It asked the GEAC to give its opinion by the first week of January and directed that the case be listed for January.
Petitioner's counsel Prashant Bhushan said genetically modified organism/seeds would pose major health hazards once they were released into the environment even for research. He cited opinions given by three eminent professors that the field trials on GM-Mustard would result in release of toxic elements that, even at low levels, could prove harmful to the environment. The main areas (relating to field trials) required a fuller study before exposing millions of people and millions of animals to the toxins.
Appearing for the University, senior counsel P.P. Rao said it had modified its research and no harm would be caused to the environment by the field trials.
SC concerned over risks of open field trials of GM seeds - Times of India, 16 December 2006
NEW DELHI: Supreme Court on Friday shared the public concern over the largescale ongoing field trials of genetically modified (GM) seeds in India and their potential to corrupt traditional crops like rice, cotton, brinjal, tomato, cauliflower, wheat and okra. However, it was cautious not to accede to petitioner Aruna Rodrigues' plea for a total ban on field trials till the statutory Genetic Engineering Advisory Committee (GEAC) gave the green signal to the outcome of laboratory safety tests on the GM seeds.
The issue on debate before a Bench comprising Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal and Justices C K Thakker and R V Raveendran was the field trials of GM mustard seed - DMH-11 - being carried out by Delhi University. The court, while allowing continuance of the trial, had warned the university that it could be asked to uproot the plants if they were found to be ecologically dangerous.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Prashant Bhushan, questioned the credentials of the independent members appointed by the government to the GEAC and alleged that one of them was a partner to the commercial interests of a multinational GM seed firm. This allegation soon turned into a finger-pointing exercise, with Additional Solicitor General Amarendra Saran questioning the credentials of the experts suggested by the petitioner for inclusion in GEAC. Not getting drawn into the seemingly unending trading of accusations, the Bench took note of the petitioner's argument that DMH-11 seed contained genetic use restriction technology (GURT) and asked GEAC to submit a report on the safety aspect of the field trials being carried out by Delhi University.
It also asked GEAC to respond to the expert opinions cited by the petitioner, which unequivocally cautioned against use of GURT seeds in field trials. Saran contended that the green revolution which made India self-sufficient in foodgrains, was due to the genetically modified seeds and that GEAC has not allowed any GM seed for field trial which could have an adverse impact on ecology or traditional crops
Moratorium on GM crops sought - ASHOK B SHARMA - December 02, 2006 - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=147881
NEW DELHI, DEC 1: Indian rice exporters, concerned over the reported violations of biosafety norms in the field trials of Bt rice, have appealed to the Supreme Court to keep GM crops field trials in abeyance. The All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) has filed an intervention application in a writ petition filed by Aruna Rodrigues and others seeking a moratorium on genetically modified (GM) crops. The writ filed by Aruna Rodgrigues and others is in the advanced stage of hearing. The next hearing is scheduled on December 15. AIREA executive director Anil Adlakha said : “We, in our intervention application, have urged that field trials of any GM rice should be kept in abeyance, till the regulatory provisions are made stringent and transparent for implementation of biosafety norms.There are reported cases of violations of biosafety norms in Bt rice field trials. We cannot be a silent spectator as such violations are likely to contaminate other rice with GM traces as happened recently in US and China. The US rice industry has suffered heavily as American shipments were refused on account of contamination with GM rice.”
The USA Rice Federation has proposed an action plan to the government to clean up commercial rice supply from GM traces to restore consumers’ confidence. According to reports it would take about 18-month time to complete the cleaning up exercise. With the reports of GM rice slipping into the food chain and causing adverse impact on trade, the Chinese government is apprehensive of releasing its Bt rice for commercial cultivation. According to the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute, Iran has not yet released its Bt rice for commercial cultivation, though ISAAA reports to the contrary. On Nobember 16, 2006 the Rice Exporters Association of Thailand and the Vietnam Food Association have reached an agreement to keep GM rice out of cultivation.
Greenpeace has recently brought to fore contamination of its rice supply with traces of GM on account of imports. All these sequences of events have placed the Indian rice exporters in a situation of concern as reported cases of violations of biosafety norms in Bt rice field trials was brought to fore by farmers organizations.
GM paddy runs into rough weather in TN - Arun Ram - DNA INDIA, December 11 2006 - http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1068790
CHENNAI: Field trials of genetically modified (GM) rice in Tamil Nadu may be nipped in the bud. While the Centre has done virtually nothing to dispel the Frankenstein theories about the anti-GM crop groups, the state is mulling a legislation to ban such trials altogether. "The government may issue a law banning GM crop trials. We hope the Centre will support us," said Tamil Nadu agriculture minister Veerapandi Arumugam. The minister's reply came in the wake of severe concerns raised by legislators across party lines. While Congress leader, Peter Alphonse, said: "GM crops will wipe out traditional crops", PMK legislator Velmurugan, said: "GM crops are being dumped in India to harm the farming sector."
The volley of political rallies began soon after a farmer's group uprooted BT paddy in a plot in Ramanathapuram village of Coimbatore last month. Mahyco-Monsanto had taken on lease the 20-acre field to try a variety of rice that has a larger yield and resists some common paddy diseases. The group under the banner of the Tamil Nadu Farmers' Association put up notices around the plot, calling it a bio-hazard element. It alleged the company was doing field trials in the land of Rangaraju, a farmer, without informing him that the crop is genetically engineered. "Some 37 people have died and 1,500 others have been crippled in the country after consuming GM crops," said Tamil Nadu Green Movement president Jeevanandam.
The only effort to dispel fears came from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU). "Our scientists have visited the fields and have found the trials to conform to the bio-safety guidelines set by the Union government," a TNAU official said. While the commercial release of GM crops in the country is regulated by the review committee on genetic manipulation under the department of biotechnology, experts feel that there is no convincing monitoring agency for safety standards during the trials. "We can quell all doubts if we succeed in establishing an autonomous and professionally eminent National Biotechnology Authority that can assess risks and benefits in a manner which inspires public, political, professional, farmers and media confidence.
The bottom line for any biotechnology regulatory policy should be the safety of the environment, the well being of farming families, the ecological and economic sustainability of farming systems, the health and nutrition security of consumers, safeguarding of home and external trade, and the biosecurity of our nation," said agriculture scientist MS Swaminathan.
Poor regulators do not a rich country make - Central Chronicle, December 12 2006 - http://www.centralchronicle.com/20061212/1212301.htm
In this past month, farmer associations in Haryana and Tamil Nadu have located and burnt field trials for genetically modified Bt rice. In Chhattisgarh the state government has stopped similar trials happening under its nose. It is all too easy to deride these actions as the handiwork of some misinformed eco-fundamentalists or miscreants out to seek 'cheap' publicity. It can also be argued that these actions will impede scientific progress designed to find answers to malnutrition and food insecurity in the country. It can then be logically concluded that these actions give the country a 'bad' name and dissuade foreign investment. But if critics of such civil action pause and ask what is it that forces people to take such extreme steps, they will invariably find that the blame lies elsewhere. This happens because our regulatory institutions are compromised and weak. Because popular confidence in their ability to work in public interest is low. The fact also is that industry systematically undermines these processes. On being caught out, it cries foul.
Take the instance of pesticide regulations, which I know well. A few years ago, we started testing for pesticide residues in our food and water. As we detected toxins and brought it to public attention, the pesticide industry started its blame game. It first accused us of bad science. When we defended our work, the attack shifted to intimidation with a steady bombardment of legal notices (which continue till date). After this too failed, their offensive has become personal. The owner of a leading pesticide company is now circulating obscene cartoons drawn by him on me. Being a woman, they consider me easy game.
The issue for us is different. We have found to our horror that industry is hardly regulated for environmental or food safety in India. That pesticides were registered without the mandatory setting of maximum residue levels or legal limits of what would be allowed in our food. The rest of the world regulates these economic toxins using a trade-off of nutrition versus poison. In other words, it decides first on how much pesticide can be ingested over a lifetime and then carefully stipulates how much is allowed in different items of our diet. We did not even have the concept of the safety threshold in our regulations. Whatever little research is done is not available to public.
This commonsense regulation of modern toxins requires credible scientific institutions that work in public interest. But institutions designed to monitor pesticide residues in India have been increasingly compromised because of their forced alliances with industry. The pesticide industry provides money for research and trials, sponsors its conferences, and it also gives jobs. Like it or not, it has become the benefactor in this private-public partnership. This market formula creates conflicts of interest when research has to be credible and, more importantly, publicly acceptable. In any case, all the data for registration of a new molecule is provided by the company that has discovered the chemical. When it has spent millions of dollars in developing the molecule, it has an obvious interest in its release. Regulation of pesticide residues requires state of the art public research: laboratories, inspectors and scientists. When registering a new pesticide in India, we never stop to check if we have the wherewithal to monitor its use, and if whether new equipment (and hence more money) is required. We never consider a mandatory cess on each new registration to pay for its management.
The case of genetically modified (gm) organisms is similar. Some people are ideologically opposed to gm crops. But there are others - like me - who want these crops introduced, but with all precaution to ensure our safety. In other words, we want a credible and effective (kicking) public regulatory policy and framework for the use of gm products in the country. But it seems that is too much to ask. We have no real policy to decide which gm crops should be allowed. Several parts of the world fear this technology and have disallowed any food products which contain gm organisms - accidentally or intentionally. us rice exports are in deep trouble because of this. gm rice has not been permitted anywhere in the world. Should we allow it? If yes, how are we to minimise economic, ecological and health damage? Should we allow field trials in states like Chhattisgarh, which is a centre of rice diversity? And what about states like Uttar Pradesh, which produce the prized basmati rice?
If we are to allow trials, how will our regulatory system ensure compliance? For instance, all the farmers who were questioned after their field was uprooted or burnt said that they did not know what was being planted. The field was leased out to the seed company Mahyco. The information about field trials was secret, till activists got it by using the Right To Information Act. The rules require that state- and district-level monitoring committees oversee the trials. In this case, even the state governments had no clue. If we assume compliance on all these counts, how will we test that our farm produce does not contain gm traces? Do we have the laboratories, or an effective monitoring and enforcement system to tell us if our rice or brinjal is gm? If we are to have a right to choose, it requires funds and facilities for ensuring effective regulations. Can we afford all this? We have no labelling requirements even; much of the food imported into India is likely to be gm. We can't assume that we are rich and powerful enough to use modern substances, but too poor to regulate their use in the larger interest of health and the environment. That would be wrong. No, it would be criminal. And it is.
The writer is Director, Centre for Science & Environment
Exporters worried over GM rice rejection - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial, Express, November 28 2006
NEW DELHI, NOV 27: Indian rice exporters are concerned over the growing rejection of genetically modified (GM) across the world. Recently producers in major rice exporting countries - Thailand and Vietnam - signed agreement to keep GM rice out of cultivation. The All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) has woken up to the situation and have asked the government not to allow any field trials or commercial cultivation of GM rice in the country. They say that the retention of the country's image as producer of non-GM foods would largely boost the prospects of rice exports. "Country earns millions of dollars in foreign exchange due to export of rice. India's long grain aromatic rice - basmati has a premium market abroad," said RS Seshadri of Tilda Riceland - a major exporter of basmati rice.
AIREA chief Anil Adlakha has already expressed his concern over the possible contamination of long grain non-GM rice if GM rice trials were allowed to be conducted in the country. Seshadri said "We must learn lessons from the recent contamination of food chain by GM rice under field trials in the US and China. The profitability of US rice industry has declined as many countries began rejecting the US shipments of contaminated rice." He said recently on November 16 in the Rice Exporters Association of Thailand and the Vietnam Food Association signed an accord in Bangkok to keep off GM rice. This accord was signed in presence of senior officials and ministers of both the countries. He said that this is a wake up call for India too.
Top rice exporters say no to genetically engineered rice - Greenpeace International, 28 November 2006
Bangkok Thailand: Good news: the world's first and second largest exporters of rice have agreed to shun genetically engineered (GE) varieties. A recent agreement between rice traders from Thailand and Vietnam protects half the crop traded on the world market from the dangers of GE, and will put mounting pressure on other rice-producing nations to commit to a GE-free rice supply. According to our campaigner Jeremy Tager, the decision resulted from a "massive backlash against the GE industry following recent scandals." Illegal and unapproved GE rice varieties from the US and China have contaminated the global rice supply, with disastrous results for many growers, distributors, and traders.
Last week, a historic meeting between the powerful Rice Exporters Association of Thailand and the Vietnam Food Association resulted in the joint announcement of a non-GE rice production policy. More than 30 of the largest rice producers and traders in Thailand and Vietnam were present to endorse the agreement. Only days earlier in India (the worlds third largest exporter of rice), the representative body for India's rice exporters announced they too were supporting a ban on GE rice field trials because of the threat they pose to their GE-free export markets. The Indian government has yet to take action to ban field trials.
Thailand has shown the world that it can lead in rice production without GE rice. As a key agricultural producer, Thailand stands to benefit more if it stops all open-field GE crop trials and declares a GE-free policy once and for all. Rice production accounts for 11 percent of the world's arable land, or 500 million hectares, 90 percent of which is produced on Asian farms of less than one hectare.
We are eating the GE industry's experiments
Stopping field trials is important because the results of GE rice experiments don't seem to be containable: they keep turning up where they're not welcome. Even as news of the Thailand Vietnam accord was breaking, we uncovered yet another major contamination, this time in the Philippines, where rice is the staple food. Bayer's LL601 has contaminated rice products coming from the US, which are currently on sale in Manila. So far in 2006, this unapproved and illegal variety has been found in at least 24 countries. Last week contamination was announced in several countries in Africa. Bayer ended field trials of the LL601 variety in the US five years ago. The global food industry is now facing massive costs associated with GE contamination, including testing costs, product recalls, brand damage, import bans and cancelled imports and contracts. At least five multi-million dollar class-action lawsuits have been filed by about 300 US rice farmers against Bayer, as they struggle to protect their livelihoods from GE contamination.
Rice has been part of our staple diet around the world for over 10,000 years, it is cultivated in 113 countries - in China alone there are 75,000 varieties. Studies of the potential ecological risks of GE rice show that there is a high risk of 'transgene escape' (gene flow) from GE rice to non-GE rice varieties. Research also shows that GE rice out-crossing may threaten wild rice varieties.
Importers are banning it too
The world's largest rice processing company, Ebro Puleva, has stopped all imports of rice from the US and is expected to bring legal action against Bayer as well. Ebro Puleva controls 30 percent of the EU rice market. This move is only one of dozens by traders, millers, exporters, producers and retailers to protect themselves and their customers from unwanted GE foods.
Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.
Agreement on non-GE policy - APINYA WIPATAYOTIN - Bangkok Post, 28 November 2006
An agreement between Thai and Vietnamese rice exporters to maintain non-genetically engineered produce will enable Thailand to gain more access to the European Union market, Wanlop Pichpongsa, a member of the Thai Exporters Association, said yesterday. The association and the Vietnam Food Association last week agreed in principle to announce non-GE crops during a meeting in Bangkok. The agreement will be made official in March next year. Mr Wanlop said the agreement would present a big opportunity for Thai and Vietnamese rice exporters, who would enjoy better access to the EU market after the EU imposed a ban on rice imports from the United States, after GM strains were found in a rice shipment from the US last month. ''We should not waste this opportunity because the EU is seeking new sources of rice to replace the US,'' Mr Wanlop said.
Currently, Thailand's export of jasmine rice to the EU totalled about 250,000 tonnes a year, compared to 300,000 tonnes by the US to the same market. Thailand is the world's biggest rice exporter with 8.2 million tonnes a year, followed by Vietnam with 4.7 million tonnes. India and the US ranked third and fourth with 4.3 and three million tonnes, respectively. Meanwhile, Patwajee Srisuwan, an anti-GE campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, welcomed the private sector's initiative. ''This is a victory for farmers in the region. However, the threat of GE rice adulteration still looms large and it is necessary that the agreement be expanded to cover other Asian countries,'' she said.
In another development, the Administrative Court yesterday agreed to hear the case of GM papaya leakage to farms in Khon Kaen province.
GM FIELD TRIALS FACE THE IRE OF CHATTISGARH STATE GOVERNMENT NOW
State Government not informed about Bt Rice trial, close to the world's richest rice germplasm collection; trial conditions violated yet again
Raipur, November 24, 2006: After the Uttar Pradesh government, it is now the turn of the Chattisgarh state government to order an inquiry into a Bt Rice trial close to the state capital of Raipur. State officials have expressed their displeasure at the fact that they have not been informed about the trial even though conditions imposed on the company prescribe that it should inform the local panchayat, the concerned authorities in the district and state administration about the full details of the trial. For the first time in the controversial history of GM crop development in India, a state Minister had to rush to the trial spot to undertake damage control exercises as the local media and activists started reporting violations.
Yesterday, the state agriculture minister Mr Nankiram Kawar visited the Bt Rice trial plot in the field of a farmer called Jagdishlal Arora in Purara village close to Raipur city (a village that has been annexed into the city) after receiving reports from media and activists that trial has been conducted without information to state authorities and worse, that crop remains have been allowed to lie around including some grain without being destroyed as per biosafety guidelines. He ordered the immediate destruction of the remaining crop in the field by burning. Investigations reveal that destruction is still underway.
What is very important to note is that this trial has happened at a distance of only around one kilometer from the world's richest collection of rice germplasm available with the Indira Gandhi Krishi Vidyalaya, the state agriculture university.
"This is suicidal - allowing GM rice trials so close to our rich collection of rice diversity, most of which has been evolved by indigenous communities over centuries. How do the government and the company propose to make themselves liable in case of contamination - are the Environment Protection Act's liability clauses anywhere close to protecting such valuable legacy? We have been constantly pointing out that GM crop experimentation especially in the case of rice is against the Cartagena biosafety framework to which India is a signatory, given that India is a Centre of Origin and diversity for rice. It is shocking to see such short-sightedness in our regulators while it is very unsurprising to see that the company involved only has its own profits as its main concern and nothing else", said Jacob Nelllithanam of Richharia Campaign, Chattisgarh.
Dr Ilina Sen of Chattisgarh Jaiv Suraksha Manch added, "The selection of the farmer for the trial is questionable. Further, the team that went to visit the trial at the behest of the DBT has found that the Bt Okra plot next to the Bt Rice plot has already been harvested and that the Bt Rice plot was in mid-harvest. The team admitted that given this situation, they were unable to ascertain the safety and efficacy of the technology. The Mahyco officials contacted said that since our questions cover biosafety and statutory aspects, it is best to approach the regulatory authorities for details. Clearly, all is not well with the way these trials are happening".
This field trial of Bt Rice followed the routine pattern of violations found in most trials happening around India the local Councillor Ms Vinod Bhaghel had no information about the trial nor did the district authorities in the agriculture department. Officials spoken to were complaining about the fact that some of the officials were told about the trial only towards the end of the season, that too when the Department of Biotechnology in the Government of India asked them to be part of A monitoring team to visit the plot.
Speaking on the phone with Kavitha Kuruganti of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Mr Prabhat Tridatta, senior official in the state agriculture department said that the state government has not given permission to the trial and that after collecting detailed information, they will write to the Government of India about their concerns. He also admitted that regulatory institutions laid down under the Environment Protection Act have not been set up in the state of Chattisgarh.
For more information, contact:
1 Mr Jacob Nellithanam, Richharia Campaign, at email@example.com or (0) 9425560950
2 Dr Ilina Sen, Chattisgarh Jaiv Suraksha Manch, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0771-2424669
For your information, Phone number of the Secretary, Agriculture, Government of Chattisgarh, Mr Pankaj Dwivedi: 0771-2221209/5080209; Deputy Secretary-Agriculture Mr Prabhat Kridatta - 0771-4080933
Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 12-13-445, Street # 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad 500 017 - Phone: +91-9393001550
Protecting rice - Suman Sahai - Times of India, 18 November 2006
Farmers belonging to the Bharatiya Kissan Union have set fire to the trial plots of a Bt rice variety belonging to Mahyco that was being field-tested in Karnal. It turns out that the trials were being conducted in violation of biosafety standards. Farmers on whose fields the trials were being conducted had no idea what was planted, nor did they understand the implications of genetically-engineered rice containing the toxin gene from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis. Apart from the safety issue of eating genetically-engineered foods containing poison genes, there are other aspects that are particularly relevant to GE rice and India.
India is an exporter of both Basmati and non-Basmati rice and has significant trade interests in this crop. If Indian rice were to be contaminated with genetically-engineered Bt rice, which is certain to happen, traders would lose their traditional rice markets in the European Union, Africa and the Middle East. All these regions have declared their opposition to genetically-engineered foods. That is the reason why rice exporters have appealed to government to halt further trials of GE rice. India shouldn't take the risk of cultivating GE rice not just from the trade point of view but also because it is a major centre of origin for rice.
Mexico, which is the centre of origin and diversity for corn, has imposed a ban on not just the cultivation of GE corn, but also research in GE corn. Mexico has taken this position in order to safeguard the natural gene pool of corn, another major staple food of the world. India is one of the centres where rice originated. This means that the greatest number of rice and related genes are found in India. Centres of origin are considered high-risk areas for GE crops because if foreign genes contained in the GE variety were to move into the natural gene pool, the results could be potentially catastrophic.
Scientists promoting agbiotech argue that rice is a self-pollinating crop and will not accept outside pollen and genes. This is not true since cross-pollination is known to occur in rice and there are several studies that show that the extent of cross-pollination, depending on humidity and wind speed, can in fact be significantly high. Studies conducted in China and Latin America have shown that gene flow between GE rice and other rice happens at rates that are high enough to cause concern about gene transfers.
One of the growing concerns about the impact of genetic engineering is gene-silencing. Experiments show that the introduction of foreign genes can cause gene-silencing in the plant that is receiving the foreign gene. This means certain genes in the plant will become silent (non-functional) and not produce what they normally should. Gene-silencing could have very grave implications if it were to spread to the natural gene pool by careless scientists.
Maintaining genetic diversity is crucial for the long-term survival of any crop. When a crop variety somewhere becomes vulnerable either due to the onslaught of a disease or the soil becoming waterlogged or alkaline, scientists need to breed another variety of the crop for that region. They do this by searching for suitable genes in related varieties and the natural gene pool. If GE rice were to contaminate the native gene pool of rice and introduce harmful features like gene-silencing or change the normal functions of other genes, it would have terrible implications for food security of the rice-eating regions of the world.
Although genetically-engineered crops and foods are being pushed into the market, there is little investment in their regulation and monitoring. Apart from that, not enough is understood about what happens when foreign genes are abruptly pushed into the genetic material of plants and animals. That is the reason why the biosafety process places such a premium on the precautionary principle. Essentially this says that when faced with uncertainty, it is better to be cautious and not proceed with genetic engineering.
It is not clear what advantages can come about from GE rice but it is apparent what damage can be wrought by it. The most judicious course for India is to stay away from GE rice and protect the genetic integrity of this food crop for future generations.
The writer is convenor, Gene Campaign.
Farmers' association declares war on GE crops - Special Correspondent - The Hindu, November 16 2006
"These crops will endanger food security, poison the environment"
*Trials are being conducted clandestinely
*Companies such as Monsanto-Mahyco have poor bio-safety records
*Firms testing such crops are mandated to destroy them after trials, but the practice is never followed
CHENNAI: Representatives of the Tamil Nadu Velan Kappu Kuzhu said on Wednesday they would not allow genetically engineered crops to be tested or cultivated anywhere in Tamil Nadu.
"We are ready to face any consequence in our fight against these crops, which endanger food security and poison the environment. If need be, we will confiscate GE seeds from shops that sell them and destroy them," K. Chellamuthu, chairman, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, told reporters.
Last week, members of the Kuzhu, an umbrella organisation of farmers, consumer organisations and environmental groups, staged a protest by uprooting GE paddy from a trial field at Alandurai near Ramanathapuram in Coimbatore.
Appeal to Chief Minister
"The trials are being conducted clandestinely by multinational companies such as Monsanto that is selling GE seeds through Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Limited. We are losing our traditional crop strains by the invasion of the MNC crops. We will try to create awareness of the threat posed by these crops and will appeal to Chief Minister M. Karuninidhi to make Tamil Nadu a GE-free State,'' Mr. Chellamuthu said.
Farmers want GE trials stopped - Statesman News Service, November 15 2006
CHENNAI, Nov. 15: After destroying (Genetically Engineered) GE crop experimentally planted in a 25 cent land at Alandurai in Ramanadhapuram village in Coimbatore district in a surprise move last week, the Tamil Nadu Velan Kappu Kuzhu (Tamil Nadu Agriculture Protection Group), a collective of farmers association, consumer groups and environmental organisations, have declared war on all field trials across the state and have given a call to the Indian government to bring a ban on all such experiments.
The association has come in for strong support from Greenpeace which is supporting them in Tamil Nadu while taking the initiative in other parts of India. The group declared that the government has failed to learn its lessons from the failed BT cotton experiments in Vidharbha in Maharastra and in Andhra Pradesh where farmers committed suicide, and said that further inaction will prove disastrous for human lives.
The activists in a surprise move on 10 November shocked the State when they entered a 10 acre paddy field where Baccilus thuringiensis (BT) rice was planted amid normal local crop plantation (done to prevent transfer through pollination) and uprooted and destroyed the GE rice crop in protest. Those who participated in the demonstration belonged to various movements in Tamil Nadu, including the Tamil Nadu Green Movement, Tamil Nadu Organic Farming Movement, Tamil Nadu Farmers Union of the CPI, Pasumai Thayagam of the PMK and the Farmers Toilers Party. The 10-acre plot belonged to a farmer Rangadurai, who was ignorant of such a trial taking place. The land was taken on lease by a private seed company called Mahyco for the trials. The activists alleged that Mahyco was just a front of the US based Monsanto, one of the MNCs involved in research and field trial of GE crops.
Mr Nammazhvar, veteran organic agriculture scientist, slammed the contention that MNCs were sinking crores to "wipe out hunger". "Farmers are knowledgeable of the technology needed to save their crops from pests as well as to increase crop production. Before 1950 no farmer used pesticide. Scientists in the name of Green Revolution have only harmed farming and consequently human interests itself in the last 50 years, a fact acknowledge by scientist M S Swaminathan himself, who spearheaded the project," he told reporters in Chennai on Wednesday. He also called a lie the contention of the scientist that this was a necessary project in the interest of humanity. "The GE crop farming which kills bio-diversity would concentrate crop control in MNCs hands and will make farmers dependent upon companies for the seeds," Mr Nammazhwar, who has been in the forefront of the movement, said.
Mr Chellamuthu of the Farmers Toilers Party, who was among those against whom the company has filed a case for the 10 November destruction, said he would not be cowed down by any action against the movement activists. He said he would work towards creating awareness among the public and will also meet the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Mr M Karunanidhi, demanding a ban on GE crops in the state.
Stating that there was a cyclic ignorance that the scientific community was exploiting, Mr Selvam, an organic farmer from Erode district, said: "IAS officers do not know science and scientists tell lies and the politician belives that the scientists are telling the truth." In the land leased for field trial, which in itself is a violation as it must be done in glass houses and not in the open, the IAS officer, the activists allege, conceals the fact that the trial is for GE crops. The trial is termed as one done for rice loaded with "proteins", whereas the protein here is a toxin.
Greenpeace activist Ms Divya Raghunandan pointed out that the Planning Commission during one of its deliberations on the 11th plan had even invited Monsanto officials to take part. The Indian government is also attempting to perpetuate a double standard by framing a draft on biotechnology policy which envisages a certification of all crops meant for exports that they are not genetically engineered. "It reflects the flawed vision of the government of India which proposes one standard for food consumption of Indians and another for foreign nations," she said. GE crops are banned in most developed nations, she added.
Farmers body opposes GE seeds - Chennai Online, 15 November 2006
Chennai, Nov 15: Justifying its recent action of destroying genetically engineered (GE) plants near Coimbatore, the Tamil Nadu Velaan Kaappu Kuzhu (Tamil Nadu Agriculture Protection Group) today said it would oppose use of GE and genetically modified (GM) seeds in the state "GM and GE are detrimental to sustainable agriculture, food security, environment and harmful to people. We will prevent GM and GE seeds from being used in the state", Dr V Duraimanickam, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association (TFA) general secretary and state Farmers and Toilers Party president P Chellamuthu told a press conference here.
On November 10, over 200 farmers, under the banner of the Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, destroyed rice plants in a GE rice field trial at Ramanathapuram village, about 20 km from Coimbatore.
Releasing a report on 'Future of rice' (being released internationally by Greenpeace and farmers movements), agricultural scientist Dr P Nammalwar said an estimated 1.4 lakh varieties of rice in over 100 countries had been developed keeping in mind area and climate specific conditions. "There are rice varieties that grow in deep water, rice being grown through irrigated water and rice that can resist drought conditions. This biodiversity can be destroyed by GM and GE seeds," he observed. He said rice had been grown in India for the last 15,000 years and wheat, for the last 20,000 years. Breaking this pattern and introducing GM and GE varieties could lead to "erosion of our rich biodiversity", he added.
BJP against use of genetically engineered crops - Ganesan threatens to launch agitation in State - Special Correspondent
The Hindu, November 14 2006 - http://www.hindu.com/2006/11/14/stories/2006111415650700.htm
CHENNAI: The Bharatiya Janata Party is opposed to using Tamil Nadu a "testing ground" for genetically engineered (GE) crops, L. Ganesan, president of its State unit, said here on Monday. Referring to an incident last week at a village near Coimbatore, where farmer-activists uprooted GE paddy crop on a trial field, Mr. Ganesan told reporters that it was for the Government to clarify doubts and allay apprehensions of the farmers on the implications of the use of such crops. The country had seen opposition to the adoption of genetically modified cotton crop. Mr. Ganesan threatened to lead an agitation to fill the jails if the Government went ahead with launching such crops.
On the State Government's assurance that farm lands would not be acquired for special economic zones (SEZs), Mr. Ganesan wondered from where the Government would get land for the SEZs when it had not provided two acres of waste land each to agricultural workers.
Briefing reporters about the deliberations of the BJP State executive which met at Erode on November 11 and 12, he said the party would hold protest meetings all over the State from December 7 to 13 for highlighting the problem of rising prices of essential commodities. Accusing the UPA Government at the Centre of adopting a soft approach on terrorism, he said the organisation would hold demonstrations in all "terrorism-hit areas" in the State. He would launch the programme in Madurai on November 17. This would be followed by events in places including Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli on November 18 and 19.
Former BJP national president Venkaiah Naidu would participate in one such event at Coimbatore.
Hazardous rice crop destroyed - Chennai Online (India), Nov 10 2006
Coimbatore, Nov 10: Over 200 farmers, under the banner of Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, today destroyed rice plants in a genetically engineered field trial location at Ramanathapuram village in Alandurai Taluk, about 20 km from here. The farmers, led by P Chellamuthu, TNFA chairman and Peasants and Toilers Party president, uprooted and destroyed the matured rice plants in the field which was reportedly leased out to Mahyco-Monsanto for carrying out Bt.rice field trial (bt cry 1 Ac rice). The farmers, wearing headgears with anti-GE slogan written on them, marched to the field wearing gloves and safety masks. Activists put up a banner that declared the plot to be a GE rice field trial location and also planted bio-hazard signposts along the plot and the demarcated the area with tapes.
The GE rice was planted in 20 cents plot in the middle of a two acre land, for field trial "without the knowledge" of the land owner about the nature of the trial and its hazardous nature, Chellamuthu told reporters. He demanded that the district collector, heading the district level committee for monitoring field trials of GE crops, take cognizance of this trial and "blatant violation of guidelines by the company." TNFA insisted that the crop must be destroyed by burning as required under the Environment Protection Act 1986.
Representatives from Mahyco-Monsanto were not available to verify the TNFA claims. (Agencies)
Make research on modified seeds public - By Dhananjay Mahapatra - Times of India, 9 November 2006
NEW DELHI - Supreme Court's poser on Wednesday to the Centre on an NGO's plea to make agri-multinationals a public research data on the effects - both positive and negative - of genetically modified (GM) seeds is sure to ruffle many feathers. For, while the multinationals focus on the high yield and pest-resistance qualities of the GM seeds, they rarely tell unsuspecting farmers, especially in third world countries like India, about the harmful side-effects on their long term use in traditional farming.
A Bench comprising Justices A R Lakshmanan and Tarun Chatterjee issued notice to the Centre asking it to respond to an application filed by NGO Gene Campaign, which through advocate Sanjay Parikh alleged that transparency in research data is a must for farmers to make an informed choice. Counsel said the NGO has been seeking data about trials of GM seeds before their approval for commercial cultivation, but the standard reply is that as the data sought for forms part of the intellectual property of the concerned firm, it cannot be made public. "It is shocking that information that has a bearing on public health and safety can be kept confidential under the present rules," the NGO said and alleged that this lack of transparency makes the GM seeds regulatory regime extremely weak and completely inadequate to protect public from possible health hazards.
It has requested the court to direct the concerned authorities to make public all data that is relevant to determining environment and health safety, including toxicity and allerginicity data, of a genetically engineered plan.
SC issues notice to Centre seeking moratorium on commercialization of Genetically Engineered crops - Satya Prakash - Hindustan Times, November 8 2006
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Centre on a PIL seeking a moratorium on commercialization of Genetically Engineered variety of crops until a competent regulatory structure and rules were put in place. A Bench of Justice AR Lakshmanan and Justice Altmas Kabir issued notices to the ministries of Environment & Forests, Science & Technology and Agriculture after 'Gene Campaign' counsel Sanjay Parikh mentioned its application for an urgent hearing. Parikh urged the court to direct the authorities to stop commercialization of Genetically Engineered variety of crops until the outdated 1989 regulatory regime was updated.
The NGO sought a moratorium on the ground that the 1989 rules for manufacture, use, import, export and storage of hazardous micro-organisms, genetically engineered organisms or cells did not take into account the environmental norms generally followed in other countries. It contended the moratorium was necessary for protecting environment and public health, protected under the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. On a similar PIL by environmentalist Aruna Rodrigues, the court recently restrained the government from allowing any new field trials for Genetically Modified (GM) crops. The Government has, however, sought lifting of the interim ban.
Gene Campaign, which moved the court on the issue two years ago, has also sought a direction to authorities to make public all data relevant for determining environment and health safety standards. Parikh said the latest application was moved after the authorities refused to divulge "toxicity" and "allergenicity" data generated on trans-genic crops that were yet to get approval for commercial cultivation. The NGO said the authorities refused to provide such data under the RTI Act on the ground that these were intellectual property of the companies and had a commercial value. The disclosure would adversely affect the competitive advantage of the company generating the data, it was said. The authorities had further said that data could be provided only for crops, which had already been released and that too after issuing notice to the companies producing them.
The future of GM crops is not in technology, but in economics - Sumit Bhaduri - DNA, November 5 2006
There have been over 2,000 suicides by farmers in Vidarbha over the last few years. The count is still rising, the reason almost uniformly being indebtedness. Two-thirds of these farmers mainly grew cotton and, from 2004, genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton at that. The Supreme Court's directive that the government stops any fresh approval of GM crop field trials is therefore significant. Don't we live in the much-hyped age of biotechnology where genetic manipulations are supposed to provide magical solutions to a variety of problems? Aren't GM crops necessary to increase food production substantially so that we can feed our one billion-plus population that still grows at a rather alarming rate and usher in a 'second Green Revolution'? In theory and in the long run maybe 'yes', but in practice and, as of now, 'no'.
The proponents of GM crops point out their potential to enormously increase productivity ?almost 30 percent in the case of Bt cotton. This increase has apparently almost doubled the profits from Bt-cotton compared to traditional varieties. Critics of GM crops point out that such claims are exaggerated. The increase in productivity does not reduce the potential risk associated with the use of GM plants, and there are other methods like 'organic farming' to achieve the same objectives. They also point out that the proponents of GM technology are interested parties and data supporting their claims must be subjected to objective scrutiny.
The Supreme Court appears to concur with the last point and has suggested to the government that independent experts be associated with the GEAC, the government agency that has the authority to allow further field trials. In the light of the SC ruling the agriculture minister is also talking about the cost benefit analysis of GM crops on a 'strict scientific' basis.
However, from a long term perspective this basic question remains unanswered: Does progress in technology evaluated on a 'strict scientific' basis automatically lead to economic benefits, or is it the other way round ? that investments made in S&T are productive and lead to social welfare only when the socio-economic climate allows diffusion and adoption of new technologies? The recent Bt cotton case clearly shows that the latter generally holds true. Even assuming that all the increased productivity numbers claimed by the Bt cotton proponents are correct, higher productivity is only one of the necessary conditions to lift farmers out of chronic indebtedness. The landholding pattern, irrigation facilities, minimum support price of cotton, not to mention natural calamities such as drought or flood, are some of the factors that determine the economic success or failure of cotton as a crop.
This is not something unique to India and cotton. It is worth recalling that genetic engineering came into existence only in the 80s, when the original Green Revolution (GR) pioneered by Norman Borlaug and based on plant breeding, was already about 20 years old. This was spectacularly successful in the Indian subcontinent, but failed in Africa. While wheat and rice productivity in Asia increased two to three fold, special breeds of maize and cassava failed in Africa, although these crops were specifically suited to the African climate. The reasons for this were many: lack of political will, corrupt administration, poor distribution, etc.
The debate around GM crops also illustrates the impact of globalisation on the interface of technology and economics. The most visible aspect of globalisation has been the shrinking influence of nation-states and the global search by private capital for new markets. Almost all the work that made the first GR possible was unpatented. Contrast this with the frenzied patenting activities that started around the same time that WTO and the TRIPS agreement came into effect. From the year 2000 almost 400 patents in gene-based plant breeding have been filed every year in America. This is more than ten times the total number of patents filed between 1960-80. The intense patent activity in plant breeding is a manifestation of global search by private capital for new markets and all claims of a 'second Green Revolution' must be judged keeping that in mind.
The ultimate economic impact of GM crops will be determined less by trumpeting its magical power and more by its societal acceptability. Advertisements, political pressures, etc. will have an effect, but a careful and objective risk-benefit analysis must find a place. The Supreme Court's ruling is hence a welcome step in the right direction.
The writer is a scientist. These are his personal views.
Report of the Independent Expert Committee on Bt Brinjal
From Kavitha Kuruganti - Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Please recall that in the last week of September 2006, we had put out a press release on an Independent Expert Committee set up on Bt Brinjal. The full report of the Committee is now ready...........see Reports Page for the full report
As can be seen, amongst many important observations and comments, the Committee has found that research guidelines that DBT has evolved (in its own wisdom), related to biosafety assessment of transgenic crops, have not been adhered to by the developers of Bt Brinjal. Further, the Committee notes that with the existing data, "it is not possible to arrive at any meaningful conclusions regarding the safety of the product" or "its efficacy". The committee also notes that from the ICAR-supervised trials' data [All India Coordinated Research Project on Vegetable Cultivation - AICRP], 'there is not much hope for Bt Brinjal'.
While making observations on protocols adopted and summaries of various studies including biosafety tests, the Committee notes that it is prudent to follow a precautionary approach.
The summary of the report of Independent Expert Committee is given below:
"An independent expert committee to look into issues related to Bt Brinjal found that DBT guidelines were not always followed by the developers of transgenic brinjal. It found that some tests as laid down by the DBT were not taken up in the safety evaluation or test protocols were not as per the specifications laid down in the guidelines.
The Committee acknowledged that recent published evidence on the genes and vectors used in evolving Bt Brinjal show that caution needs to be exercised in using these materials in plants and plant products meant for human use. Results of some toxicity tests show that unless raw data is examined and full report seen, it is not possible to arrive at any meaningful conclusions regarding safety of the product.
On the agronomic trials, Bt Brinjal is not compared with the best agronomic and pest management practices available nor have trials been taken up for at least three years. The Committee observed that parameters prescribed in the DBT's permission letter were not always meticulously followed by the company. Committee found that data from the company is insufficient for any conclusion to be drawn about the efficacy of Bt Brinjal. From AICRP data, there is not much hope for Bt Brinjal, the Committee noted.
The Committee made several relevant observations which need to be taken cognizance of, on the protocols used for other studies like pollen flow, cooking studies, aggressiveness & weediness, soil impacts study etc.
The Committee also noted that impact assessment beyond biosafety, including addressing issues like genius loci, of IPR regime on farmers' rights etc. is important. The Committee called for a holistic approach rather than a reductionist approach here.
The Committee noted that the issue of the Indian sub-continent being the Centre of Origin for brinjal is of considerable relevance and that need for Bt Brinjal should be re-examined against this background.
Given that there is uncertainty and variability in the risk assessment process and given that satisfactory methodologies to measure possible long term health effects or unintended/unexpected adverse effects of GM foods are yet to be evolved, the Committee noted that it is prudent to follow a precautionary approach".
For more information, contact:
1. Dr Ramanjaneyulu or Ms Kavitha Kuruganti of CSA at email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org or at (0) 9391359702 / (0) 9393001550 resp.
2. Ms Usha Jayakumar of Thanal at email@example.com or at (0) 9846321118
India's rice industry warns against GE trials - Reuters, October 31 2006
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's top rice exporters and farmers unions warned the government on Tuesday that further field trials of genetically engineered (GE) rice could jeopardise the livelihoods of millions of poor farmers across the country. The warning came just over a week after the European Union decided to compulsorily test all U.S. shipments of long-grain rice. That followed a discovery that U.S. imports to Europe were contaminated with genetically modified (GMO) rice. No biotech rice is allowed to be grown, sold or marketed on the territory of the European Union's 25 countries.
India has carried out field trials of mostly short-grain rice at 10 different sites across the country since 2005, but the Supreme Court last month suspended fresh tests on all crops until a further court hearing. Previous trials show no signs of GM seeds infecting rice exports. But importers and farmers fear the risk of contamination through mixing of seeds during storage or in transportation could affect consumer confidence and India's reputation as a "clean and reliable" rice exporter. "Indian rice is GM-free and we want to keep it that way," said R.S. Seshadri, director of Tilda Riceland and a member of the All-India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) - which represents exporters like Satnam Overseas, Sunstar, Kohinoor. "We are asking them not to do further testing ... we need to review guidelines and enforce stricter standards in light of what has happened in the U.S.," he told a news conference.
India is the largest producer and exporter of Basmati rice - a long-grain rice priced for its characteristic subtle aroma and delicious taste - and exported 1.15 million tonnes, generating 30.3 billion rupees in the 2005/6 financial year. Although most of the tests were on short-grain rice, farmers say many were not informed that field trials were taking place near their own rice paddys. If contamination occurs in exported stocks, buyers in Europe and Middle Eastern countries might ban Indian products, unions say. "The GM-testing happening in this country is a dirty joke which is being played on us," said Yudhvir Singh, a senior official from the Bharatiya Kisan Union, a union representing hundreds of thousands of farmers across India. "We run the risk of hundreds of thousands of farmers losing their livelihoods if bans are imposed or we lose consumer confidence in products."
Haryana farmers oppose GM crops - Sandeep Bhushan - NDTV, October 31 2006
(Karnal): While Bt cotton remains in focus, there is further controversy surrounding genetically modified food crops like potato, brinjal, tomato and rice. Six edible crops have been cleared for field trials and for the first time, a field in Karnal's Rampura village was burnt just days before it would have been harvested because it was growing genetically modified rice. Locals say about 400 activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, which is affiliated to the Mahendra Singh Tikait group, torched the crop standing over an acre. "About 400 farmers stormed the rice fields. They told us this crop is poison, it will affect our cattle and children," said a farmer. The land was leased out by a local farmer to the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company or MAHYCO, the American multi-national Monsanto's partner in India, for a field trial that had been cleared by the Government of India.
But farmers and activists object. They say genetically modified technology, which has now moved to food crops, is unhealthy, contaminates the ground and other crops and is also bad for the farmers because it promotes monopoly of seed companies. The situation in Karnal has been building up since the government allowed field trials of GM crops like brinjal, potato and tomato. A month ago, the Supreme Court had banned any further field trials of such crops - a shot in the arm for farmers and activists who have cited exactly such a ban in all European countries.
But influential opinion within the government has defended field trials. "It is a superior technology and has shown good results in other countries," said M S Swaminathan, Chairman, Farmers' Commission. However, the farmers are not willing to buy such an argument. "The BKU has decided that all GM crops will meet this fate. We are opposed to the seed companies and will not allow them to profiteer," said Harinder Singh, BKU, Karnal. The problem has been that neither the government nor private players have been transparent about the issue, giving rise to fears both among farmers and consumers. The onus is squarely on the government and private companies to prove that GM food promotes the greatest common good.
BKU torches GM rice test field in Karnal - GAUTAM DHEER - Indian Express, October 30 2006 - http://www.indianexpress.com/story/15675.html
CHANDIGARH, OCTOBER 29 : In a serious setback for field tests of genetically modified (GM) rice, activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) have torched the sole field in Haryana where tests for the modified rice variety were being carried out. The incident took place at Rampura in Karnal district on Saturday where modified rice was in the harvest stage. Some 400 BKU activists torched the crop, saying it would contaminate soil and affect the existing variety of rice. After the incident, BKU threatened to burn all such fields in the country where trials are underway. The Rampura land, where the tests were on, had been leased by a farmer to Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd (Mahyco), Monsanto's seed partner in India. Mahyco-Monsanto was the first to release Bt cotton in India in 2002. Mahyco has been authorised by the Government's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to undertake field trials for GM rice in the country.
Rakesh Tikait, BKU's national spokesperson and son of BKU president Mahinder Singh Tikait, told The Indian Express that "such trials will be disastrous for the farmers as they will not only contaminate the soil, but also adversely affect yield from existing rice varieties". "On Friday, we got a tip-off from Hyderabad that such tests were underway in Karnal. So we decided to burn the harvest. We have also sent a team to Gorakhpur (UP) where similar trials are going on in a field. We are awaiting the report," Tikait said.
Sources said that no complaint has been registered by the Karnal police so far.
GM variety may spell trouble for Indian rice - The Hindu, October 30 2006 - http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/015200610300311.htm
New Delhi, Oct 30. (PTI): Commercial cultivation of genetically modified variety of rice in India could lead to restrictions being imposed by the European Union on the country's grain export to the region, the industry has warned. The country's leading rice exporters, who are planning to meet the Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar with their demand on this issue, said that EU has introduced new test requirements for rice import from the US after some consignments were found to be contaminated with unauthorised GM varieties. "Currently, the EU restrictions are applied to the US only. But as other countries flirt with GM, we can expect similar restrictions applied to them as well," the country's largest Basmati rice exporter Tilda Riceland's Director R S Seshadri told PTI. The rice industry is against the commercialisation of GM variety, another leading Basmati exporter Kohinoor Foods' Managing Director Gurnam Arora said. "We are planning to meet Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on this issue," Arora aid.
India's rice export to the EU totalled Rs 507.31 crore in 2005-06, as against Rs 508.46 crore in the previous year. The country's total rice exports dropped 8 per cent to Rs 6,221.26 crore in 2005-06 from Rs 6,768.91 crore in the previous year. If India can toy with the idea of GM rice, the country's Rs 507.32 crore export market in Europe could be in trouble, KRBL Ltd, which markets India Gate rice brand, Chairman and Managing Director Anil Mittal said. "The US is now facing problems due to contamination of GM rice with other non-GM varieties in its export consignment to Europe," Seshadri said. America has a well-established export market of 3,00,000 tonnes in Europe. However, after the US government identified an unauthorised GM variety in its rice supply, the European Commission responded by introducing new test requirements. "Although test results showed that the contamination is approximately 1 grain in 3,000, the EU's rule of zero tolerance for any unauthorised GM, the situation is extremely volatile with the prospect of further restrictions beingintroduced," Sheshadri said.
GM rice variety remains illegal in Europe unless and until the specific variety has undergone rigorous approval, he added. Any GM varieties that might be cultivated in India in the future would have to get prior approval by the EU before export to the region. Otherwise, we can expect the same import restrictions to all Indian rice, including Basmati, he cautioned while adding, "we cannot allow something like that to happen to Basmati." Amira Foods India's Managing Director Karan Chanana echoed similar sentiments. "GM Basmati could spell death knell for the industry," he said. As there is a huge debate going on in the world about the acceptability of GM produce, Chanana said, "GM rice is not currently the requirement of the nation. We are not prepared for its consequences. Hence India should not allow GM rice on its soil."
BHARATIYA KISSAN UNION DESTROYS AND PREVENTS CONTAMINATION FROM A GM RICE PLOT IN HARYANA: Press Release
Finds out that farmer had not been given information on the trial in his land;
Ensures that DBT guidelines are followed by the company
Karnal, October 28, 2006: Activists of Bharatiya Kissan Union [BKU] and scores of villagers of Rampura village in Karnal district of Haryana destroyed a GM Rice plot in Haryana to prevent contamination from the rice plot and to ensure that DBT guidelines are not flouted. Included amongst them is Paramjit Singh, the farmer on whose land Mahyco is doing the trial but who has not been informed about what is being tried out on his land and the Sarpanch of the village, Mr Syamlal.
The BKU activists who went to investigate the trial in Rampura village found out that the farmer, who had leased out his land to Mahyco for Rs. 15,000/- for two acres had not been informed by the company about what kind of seeds are going to be sown on his land. Similarly, the panchayat head has not been given the full details of the trial.
"The way trials are conducted in the country is about playing with the ignorance of the farmers as this case shows. Given the unreliable track record of the company and the regulators in preventing contamination from the trial plots into the supply chain where unwary consumers are eating untested products, we had to ensure that such a thing does not happen from this trial. This is all the more dangerous in a basmati-rice growing belt of the country. We have now ensured that the DBT guidelines regarding destruction of GM plant material in the trial are not flouted", said Mr Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson of Bhartiya Kissan Union.
GM trial plots have become the biggest source of contamination all over the world and regular scandals about untested and uncleared [by regulation] products entering the consumption chain have become routine now. Recent scandals include GM rice contamination in the US and China . India also witnessed several contamination scandals in connection with GM crop trials including the illegal proliferation of Bt Cotton much before the regulatory authorities allowed its cultivation. Civil society investigations have pointed out again and again that material including seed material is allowed to get into the supply chain due to lax or even absent monitoring of trials by the regulators. Even this year, recent reports from Karnataka indicate that the Environment Protection Act is being violated by one of the trials happening in the state.
Mr Gurnam Singh, President, Haryana unit of Bhartiya Kissan Union stressed that given the economic and trade potential of Basmati rice from this belt, it is disastrous for GM rice trials to be conducted, that too secretively.
More than 500 farmers, including many farmers from Rampura congregated at the trial site and demanded its destruction.
For more information, contact:
1. Mr Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson, BKU at: (0) 9219666799
2. Mr Dharmendar Malik, BKU at: (0) 9219691168
SUPREME COURT DOES NOT LIFT SEPTEMBER 22nd STAY ON FURTHER FIELD TRIAL APPROVALS
Allows Delhi University To Go Ahead With Planting Of GM Mustard Until The Petitioner Responds To The Impleadment Application
October 13th, 2006, New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India today allowed the Delhi University to plant its GM Mustard seeds for limited field trials, while giving two weeks' time to the GMOs-PIL petitioners to respond to the University's impleadment application. Without lifting last month's stay on further approvals on GM crop field trials by the GEAC, the Supreme Court allowed the Delhi University to go ahead with the GM mustard field trials on the basis that the Court would hear the matter again in five weeks' time and on the assurance provided by Delhi University that they would uproot the crop in case the Court orders them to do so, after hearing the petitioner's response.
Meanwhile, the Government has asked the Court to give them another couple of days to respond to the main petition in the PIL filed by Aruna Rodrigues and three others. When the respondents objected to the cooption of five independent experts recommended by the petitioners into the GEAC, the Court asked the Government to put its objections on record, to suggest any other names from the government's side as well as enquire whether the proposed experts are being/have been funded directly or indirectly by the biotech companies. By these pronouncements, the Court has indicated clearly that it has taken into cognizance the deep conflict of interest evident in the current regulatory regime in the country.
It has to be seen whether members of various regulatory bodies like GEAC and RCGM, who clearly reflect such conflict of interest, would now resign from such bodies by themselves.
The unfolding of the case so far clearly indicates that the Court has taken on board the main arguments of the petition which include that the biosafety protocols in the country - by design as well as enforcement - are questionable and would pose serious threat to the human health and environment of the country, that the GM crop applicants do not follow protocols, that there is no independent research conducted, no independent review of the results obtained by crop developers, that data is not put out in the public domain for expert scrutiny and so on.
The Petition mainly argues that no field trials should be allowed without comprehensive, scientific, reliable, transparent biosafety testing as asked for by the petitioners, including to test for the inherent dangers of the genetic engineering process itself. The current practice in India is to allow field trials to precede such rigorous biosafety testing which inevitably leads to irreversible contamination. This is compounded by absent or lax monitoring and accountability mechanisms.
Further, the PIL also showcased the inherent conflict of interest evident in the constitution of regulatory authorities. As reports have shown in the recent past, senior office-bearers and members of the GEAC are also part of industry-promoted bodies or are crop developers themselves in their personal or institutional capacities. Many of the GEAC members are ex-officio members from various departments and institutions with very little time or expertise to contribute to the decision-making processes related to GMOs.
For more information, contact:
Shri Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, Supreme Court of India at firstname.lastname@example.org
GM regulator on panel funded by biotech majors - Manoj Mitta - The Times of India, 13 October 2006
NEW DELHI: The co-chairman of the regulatory body for Genetically Modified Crops, Charudatta Mayee, has triggered a conflict-of-interest debate by becoming a director of an international network funded by biotech majors such as Monsanto, Bayer and Dupont. Mayee told TOI that he did not attend the last two meetings of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) because he was thinking in terms of quitting the regulatory body to avoid "unnecessary controversy" over his appointment to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).
Although ISAAA is dedicated to transferring biotechnology to developing countries, Mayee refutes the suggestion that his appointment to its board of directors on September 1 would get in the way of his regulatory job in India. "ISAAA is engaged in a noble mission globally and this is the first time an Indian has had the honour of being on its board," he said, adding that "There is no conflict between its object of promoting biotechnology and GEAC's function of regulating GM crops."
On the issue of ISAAA being funded by the very companies that file applications before GEAC, Mayee said that the network commands such respect around the world that it receives donations from governments as well. But, if he has already stopped attending GEAC's meetings and is planning to quit the regulatory body, it is only because, he says, "I don't want others to point fingers at me. After all, I am in the position of a judge."
"ENABAVI VILLAGE GOES GM-FREE SAYS THAT FOOD SECURITY HAS NOT SUFFERED BY SHIFTING TO ORGANIC"
October 11, 2006, Eenabavi (Warangal district): While an international rice conference in Delhi is discussing the inevitability of genetically modified rice in ensuring national food security in India, Village Eenabavi in Warangal district declared itself GM-Free on October 11 th, 2006. Supported by organizations like CROPS, Centre for World Solidarity and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, this small village in the heartland of farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh is into its third year of chemical-free agriculture and is proving to the world that food security can indeed be secured without any chemical or GM solutions. On 11 th October, all the farmers in the village took an oath to remain GM-Free and organic.
Eenabavi is probably the first modern-day farming village that has gone completely organic, without the use of any chemical fertilizers or pesticides and without any GM seeds, to secure prosperity for each farming family in the village. This village which had gone down the intensive agriculture path, realized the folly of such agriculture around five years ago and decided to try out alternatives. Beginning with NPM (Non Pesticidal Management of crops), the farmers then decided to give up chemical fertilizers too.
"There was one farmer in the village who bought and sowed Bt Cotton with very bad results. All around us, we find other farmers suffering with losses from Bt Cotton. It was in that context, that we decided that we do not need any GM crops in our village and we have all taken an oath not to purchase or sow any GM seeds and not to consume any GM foods. We have healthy organic foods from our own lands that taste a lot better than conventionally grown crops. Our own health has improved after we shifted to organic farming", explained Mr Ittaboina Venkatadri, a leading farmer in the village.
Anjamma, another farmer, added that there have been no decreases in productivity of crops like paddy in the village, even after the shift to organic farming. She pointed out that the cost of cultivation has come down to negligible levels, enhancing the net incomes of farmers. The farmers here grow a variety of crops without the use of chemicals including paddy, chilli, vegetables, cotton, tobacco, maize etc. The village is also experimenting with the System of Rice Intensification [SRI] and the results have been positive so far.
Unlike most other villages caught in agrarian distress across the country, the villagers here want their children to continue with ecological farming and firmly believe that farming is the most viable livelihood possible for them. The farmers here are also willing to spread knowledge and skills about ecological agriculture and a Farmer Resource Centre run by the farmers of Eenabavi was inaugurated on this occasion by Shri Vijay Kumar, IAS, Chief Executive Officer of Indira Kranthi Patham in Andhra Pradesh. The meeting on October 11th was attended by around 700 farmers from neighboring villages.
For more information, contact: Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at email@example.com or - (0) 9393001550
Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 12-13-445, Street # 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad 500 017 - Phone: +91-9393001550
Pental panel questions Mahyco Bt brinjal (eggplant) process - ASHOK B SHARMA - October 10, 2006
NEW DELHI, OCT 9: It seems that the seed company, Mahyco, may have to face difficulties in getting approval for the field trials of its four Bt brinjal hybrids. The expert panel, headed by Delhi University vice-chancellor Deepak Pental to assess the Mahyco’s claims and the concerns raised by NGOs, farmers and consumers’ groups, has started questioning the process of development of the company’s Bt brinjal hybrids and their impact. The 13-member panel was set up by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). It has questioned the marker-assisted process for development of Bt brinjal. Mahyco, in collaboration with the seed multinational, Monsanto has inserted Cry 1 Ac (Bt gene) with the help of marker NPTLL and plant virus promoter gene CaMV 35 S through agro-bacterium process of transformation. In this context, the Pental panel has questioned as to why the company did not use more advanced technology of insertion of gene without the help of markers.
“We have also asked Mahyco to clarify the impact of the inserted gene,” said a member of the panel. Mahyco had sought largescale field trials for its four Bt brinjal hybrids namely MHB-4 Bt, MHB-9 Bt, MHB-80 Bt and MHBJ-99 Bt. It has claimed that these four Bt brinjal hybrids are resistant to fruit and stem borer, a major pest occurring on the crop. The development of Bt brinjal is part of the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program-II (ABSP-II) funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and led by Cornell University.
Under ABSP-II, operational in India and Bangladesh in the South Asian region, the Bt technology has been transferred to a number of public and private agencies in the network. The Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) has developed Bt brinjal and has planned to ask for permission for its field trials in early 2007. TNAU’s centre for molecular biology has chosen four elite brinjal genotypes keeping regional preference of brinjal types in the mind. These elite genotypes - CO2, KKM1, MDU1 and PLR1 - are backcrossed to ingress cry 1 Ac gene. Currently we are generating BC3F1 seeds.
There are, however, more troubles ahead for the country’s first proposed food crop, Bt brinjal. The Supreme Court in its interim verdict in a writ filed by Aruna Rodrigues and other has asked GEAC not to allow any further approval for field trials of any genetically modified (GM) crop, till further orders. The writ petition has urged for a moratorium on GM crops.
Wilting havoc on Bt cotton in Warangal; loss estimated at over Rs 50 crores; Demand for a moratorium on Bt cultivation - October 8, 2006
Bt cotton, beleagured in Warangal district, is reporting another major havoc. This comes in the form of drying up of crops [known as wilting] in over 250,000 acres of Bt cotton area in Warangal District which translates into a loss of over Rs.50 crores, US $12 million] for farmers. This is the finding of a fact finding team consisting of scientists, farmers, academicians and civil society groups which visited four mandals of Warangal on October 5, 2006.
A team of scientists and community researchers from the AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity who are tracking the performance of Bt cotton in Warangal for over five years now were noticing wilt and root rot since mid July this year. In order to have a broad based analysis of their findings, the APCID and WAGE [Warangal Against Genetic Engineering] constituted a 12 member Review Team which visited four mandals [L Ghanpur, Atmakur, Sayampet and Geesugonda] observing the farms of a number of farmers and holding extensive discussions with them on October 5, 2006. In the villages which the team visited, nearly 80-90% of the cotton acreage is made up of Bt cotton.
The farmers were using Bt seeds from diverse seed companies that included Rasi-2, Ajith-33, Mallika, Bunny, and Mahyco-6322. ALL THESE CROPS WERE SEVERELY AFFECTED BY THE WILT, especially on red soils, most of which are owned by poor small farmers. The farmers in these villages have been growing cotton for over three decades and have vast experience in understanding the behaviour of cotton crops. It was their unanimous opinion that they had never seen the kind and extent of wilt they are witnessing this season on Bt cotton.
On a conservative estimate this wilt will result in a loss of upto Rs.100 crores in Warangal District alone. Each farmer has already invested upto Rs.5000 to Rs 7000 per acre due to the wilting. Since the wilt is expected to have affected over 100,000 acres of red soils, in Warangal District, the domino effect of the wilt will mount to a formidable Rs.50 to Rs.75 crores [US $12-18 million].
Agricultural Scientist Mr Kiran Sakkhari who was in the team was of the opinion that the wilt symptoms are similar to root rot caused by Rhizocotonia sp. The typical symptoms of the rot caused by Rhizoctonia are sporadic wilting of the plants in the field. Initially leaves on the affected plants turn yellowish giving a mosaic pattern of alternative green and yellowish pattern on drooping leaves followed by the leaf drop, start getting dried up from top leading to the death of the plant. At times, these plants may also show Bacterial Leaf Blight symptoms. When the plant gets affected by this pathogen, the main root starts to decay and lose secondary root hairs, making plants unable to uptake water and nutrients from the soil leading to the death of the plant.
The Rhizoctonia root rot which was first identified on the Mahyco Bt hybrids by Dr Abdul Qayum and Mr Kiran Sakkhari the scientists of APCIDD in the year 2003, has been spreading more and more year after year. The report released by the APCIDD in early 2005 cautioned the farming and the scientific community that this might turn out to be a disaster with increased adoption of Bt hybrids, since the wilt incidence was noticed more on Bt hybrids than the conventional Non Bt hybrids.
The wilt has also a far reaching consequences. If grown on the same Bt cotton fields, the succeeding crops such as Chilly, Tobacco, Tomato and Groundnut would also be affected by this wilt since the fungal spores that transmit the disease are likely to remain active in the infected fields for 3-5 years.
Just as the farmers were getting aware of the harmful effects of Bt cotton and were readying themselves to abandon it, a new marketing blitzkrieg began by the industry which reduced the Bt seed price by over 70%. This suddenly put more than 80% of the cotton acreage in Warangal district under Bt hybrids marketed by various companies.
The APCID and the Warangal Against Genetic Engineering demand that In the wake of this huge loss to the farming community, the regulatory agencies must immediately gear up and take necessary steps to contain the false marketing hype created by the biotech seed companies and force them legally and otherwise to take the full responsibility for promoting these Bt hybrids by paying out compensation to the farmers who are staring at huge losses.
The APCID and WAGE also demand that
1 An independent commission must be constituted to find out the extent of damage caused by growing these Bt hybrids and pay the compensation to the farmers.
2 Regulatory agencies must immediately take stringent action on the false claims made by the companies. The regulatory are almost non existent at the present time and their comatose state has emboldened the Biotech industry to play havoc with he lives and soils of farmers in Warangal.
3 The government, in step with its earlier bold measures must declare a moratorium on the cultivation of Bt hybrids until a comprehensive study is undertaken taken on the possible impact of these hybrids on cotton environment and livestock.
Convener, AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India
Monsanto: MRTPC orders another probe - The Times of India, 8 October 2006 - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2117473.cms
NEW DELHI: Already facing the charge of selling Bt cotton seeds at exorbitant prices, US biotech major Mansanto now appears to be heading toward more trouble with MRTPC ordering a fresh probe into the accounts of its wholly owned Indian arm - Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech Ltd. Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission has asked its investigative arm Director General of Investigation and Registration to look into MMBL's cost and audit report last fiscal. The Commission has told DGIR to complete its inquiry and submit preliminary investigation report (PIR) within four weeks, sources said.
MRTPC's latest probe order came as a follow-up action of the Ministry of Company Affairs approaching the Commission on manipulation of the financial accounts in MMBL. Sources at the Ministry of Company Affairs confirmed that they have been receiving complaints related to MMBL accounts, which alleged that the US based parent company was receiving more funds than its entitlements. When contacted MMBL spokesperson said they are going through the MRTPC order and would explain their stand at an appropriate time and forum.
It was alleged that MMBL was hiding the actual amount, which it is giving to its parent company as technology fee and other charges, sources said. Interestingly, the fresh probe relating to accounting comes at a time when the Commission has started hearing on a petition filed by the US based company seeking deletion of its name from the case related to over pricing of Bt cotton seeds.
Benefit of doubt - Times of India, 7 October 2006 - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-2110314,curpg-2.cms
The Supreme Court's directive staying fresh field trials of genetically modified crops is a corrective measure that could not have been more timely. Especially so when the establishment has committed itself to usher in the second green revolution riding on biotechnology.
BT cotton is the only GM crop approved for commercial cultivation in India. A whole host of others, mostly food crops, are being tested brinjal, okra, tomato, mustard, chilli, rice etc and await approval before they reach your dining table. By the rule book, a GM crop must be tested for between two and four years, both in limited and large-scale trials.
Only when proven beyond reasonable doubt that it is profitable, poses no harm to the ecology, and human health, is it given the OK stamp. But so far, our GM experiment has largely come a cropper. The bug that bears the strain of babudom plagues field trials being carried out across the country. [babudom = bureaucracy]
GEAC, under the ministry of environment, grants the final approval for tests and subsequently, the crop to be grown commercially. In tandem with DBT, under the ministry of science and technology, it is also meant to monitor safety standards. But they have been guilty in equal measure of unconscionable laxity and apathy. Approvals have often been fast-tracked and there are several reports of lapses. For instance, trial crops must be destroyed but shockingly, farmers are selling under-trial GM brinjal and okra in the open market, and there is precious little the regulators are doing about it. The debate over GM cropping is loaded.
Lobbies on both sides seed giants and environmental activists constantly carpet-bomb us with facts, figures and arguments. It is time to step back and exercise judgment that is not held ransom to rhetoric. Productivity has indeed increased in pockets but BT technology has also spelt disaster for many farmers.
At stake are environment safety and, importantly, food safety. Most European countries have a voluntary moratorium on GM food experiments. Recently the UK virtually embargoed rice imports from the US over fears that the stock is contaminated by a genetic strain not yet declared safe. There are lessons to be learnt from experiments that have gone awry elsewhere be it Mexico or Indonesia where widespread contamination has wiped out several varieties of indigenous crops. The consumer has the right to choose what he eats and food safety is non-negotiable. The need of the hour is a stringent regulatory framework that will inspire consumer confidence. As things stand, we are sowing seeds of ignorance.
Standards, not double standards, please - India should take US-backed WTO attempts to thrust GM foods on us with a pinch of salt
BHASKAR GOSWAMI - Financial Express, October 4 2006 - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=142280
If things do not work your way, seek influence of a heavy weight. This is exactly what the United States is trying to do. With India not accepting genetically modified (GM) foods, the US is trying to rope in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to exert pressure. Knowing that India has not violated any WTO norms, the US is still trying to use the Geneva route to open the Indian market to GM foods. It is opposing India's efforts to set standards for labeling GM products. Terming it as trade restrictive, it has threatened to invoke the WTO provisions on creating technical barriers to trade, and sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures. Either way, India is refusing to blindly toe the American line. The government has taken two significant measures to regulate GM products. First, the ministry of commerce has issued a notification, which prohibits the import of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for food, feed or processing, industrial processing, research and development for commercialisation or environmental release without the approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). Second, the health ministry has amended the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act, and issued a similar notification which covers import, manufacture, storage, distribution or sale of GM food. Both these new rules have also made labeling of GM products compulsory.
Human safety from eating GM foods has been a matter of great concern. After GM soya was introduced in the UK, for instance, cases of allergies went up. A 2005 study found that GM pea, which is under development, caused severe immune responses in mice. Another study reported that GM maize-fed rats developed major lesions in kidneys and livers. Likewise, a number of other scientific studies have pointed out the harmful effects of GM food.
Notwithstanding GM industry claims to the contrary, the fact remains that many aspects of this technology still remain uncertain and several products are being released into the market without adequate tests and trials. In agriculture, for example, GM and non-GM crops cannot grow in isolation and can easily combine through pollination, mixing of seeds etc. Experiments to study the impact of such contamination on the environment and food have simply not been done. It is, therefore, to prevent illegal imports, and also to enable consumers to make a conscious choice that labeling norms are essential.
Since the US does not segregate GM products from non-GM ones, almost all processed food products contain traces of GMOs. This is also the main reason why they persistently oppose labeling. Ironically, while goods imported into the US have to meet the most stringent specification, whenever any US exporter is directed to follow the same procedures by the importing country, it is termed as a trade barrier. When similar tactics failed with India, the US turned to the WTO, which has legal instruments, to help it out.
Using multilateral bodies to prevent GM labeling is not new. The US has consistently blocked international legislation on labeling at various forums like the United Nations' Food Standards Committee and Codex Committee on Food Labeling. However, this time it has challenged the sovereign right of India to decide about its food and its safety, something which is not only against democratic principles but also runs contrary to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. As it is, under pressure from edible oil importers in India, the commerce ministry has exempted the import of GM soybean oil from labeling requirement till March 2007. Even the amended PFA of the health ministry is quite lax. Instead of rigorous biosafety tests before allowing the import, the ministry is merely relying on the safety information provided by the importer.
Further, the amendment is coming at a time when there is no laboratory in the country, which can test products for GM presence. Instead of protecting the health interests of the citizens by prohibiting production or import of GM food, the amendment in its present form intends to legalise its trade. Now, through the WTO, the US wants India to lift all curbs on the import of GM products into the country.
Incidentally, major trading partners of the US, such as Canada, Japan, South Korea, European Union and Australia follow their own GM labeling protocols but the US has never brought such complaints against these countries. It is obvious that the notifications are not only discriminatory but meant to browbeat India into submission. While the extreme reaction of the US is not surprising, the government should resist the attempt of the US to dump GM food into India and concerned citizens should insist on strengthening the PFA in the interest of the consumer.
The writer is with the Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security, New Delhi
All in a day: Six farmers commit suicide - The Times of India, 30 Sep 2006 - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2047898.cms
NAGPUR: Upbeat projections by Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and generous financial promises from the Centre aren't working in Vidarbha. At least six more cotton farmers, crushed by debt, have committed suicide in the last 24 hours. The toll in September alone has gone up to 116, the highest in a month within the last decade, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, a pressure group fighting for the farmers's cause, said on Friday. Deshmukh had claimed in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party president Sonia Gandhi last week at the Congress CMs' conference in Nainital that the situation was improving in the cotton belt of Vidarbha where 318 farmers had reportedly committed suicide since July 1. Earlier, the PM had announced a Rs 3,750 crore special relief package for six worst-hit districts. Introduction of BT cotton in Vidarbha has led to a spurt of farmer suicides.
Most suicide cases relate to those farming families which have run up huge debts because of the high cost in using the expensive genetically-modified cotton seeds, which have to be bought every year. Crop failures in this situation, therefore, leave farmers with debts they are unable to pay and are then hounded by loan sharks. The latest names on the Vidarbha death roster were those of Prakash Madavi of Yavatmal, Parasram Rathod of Washim, Ramesh Bhatkar of Chandur Bazar in Amravati, Gopintah Dongre of Warud in the same district, Ravindra Chakbandalwar of Chandrapur district and Rama Baghel of Gondia, according to Samiti president Kishore Tiwari. Tiwari rejected the government claim that loans were being liberally distributed to farmers. "In fact on Friday, a large number of farmers started an agitation in front of Ghonsa branch of Indian Bank in Wani taluka of Yavatmal district after the bank manager declared that he had received instructions from superiors to stop loan disbursement.
Amravati divisional commissioner S K Goyal has, however, stressed that the loan flow this year was doubled as compared to last year. "Till date, we have given farm loans of Rs 1,500 crore covering eight lakh farmers in the division, he told TOI recently. "Last year about Rs 750 crore was distributed among around four lakh farmers," he said. He also claimed relief measures like cash compensation for crop losses, aid for medical treatment, funding for mass marriage of farmers' daughters were made available to take care of major problems of the distressed farmers. In addition to this, subsidies were given in schemes aimed at supplementing income of farmers through poultry, dairy farming and agri-processing business.
Reacting to the latest deaths, Maharashtra deputy chief minister R R Patil said the government was in a fix, because all possible measures to address immediate problems of farmers had been taken care of. "There is a moratorium on loan recoveries. No one is knocking at farmers' doors demanding old dues. I have asked police department not to support such activities of bank staff," Patil said.
Stop giving approvals to field trials of GM crops: SC - ASHOK B SHARMA - ECONOMY BUREAU - Saturday, September 23, 2006
NEW DELHI, SEPT 22: In a landmark interim verdict, the Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre not to go ahead with its proposed plan for approving field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country.
A bench, consisting of Chief Justice YK Sabharwal, Justice CK Thakkar and Justice RV Ravindran, directed the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) not to give any further approval to the field trials of GM crop until the final judgement was passed on the writ petition by Aruna Rodrigues and other seeking a moratorium on GM crops. The counsel for the petitioner, Prashant Bhushan, told FE, “A rejoinder was filed on behalf of Aruna Rodrigues on August 1. This came up for hearing today and the apex court directed the government to reply to the rejoinder within two weeks.” The Supreme Court also directed the GEAC to co-opt independent experts for deciding on GM crops.
The judgement has given a relief to NGOs and consumer organisations who were opposing the proposed field trials of the country’s first transgenic food crop, Bt brinjal. GEAC had formed an in-house panel of experts, headed by Delhi University vice-chancellor Deepak Pental, to review the objections to the proposed Bt Brinjal field trials raised by independent scientists, NGOs and consumer groups. The panel is scheduled to meet on September 25. The apex court’s judgement has also given some relief to a group of independent scientists who were opposed to the proposed field trials of Bt brinjal.
GEAC has already approved a number of field trials for new Bt cotton hybrid. It has also approved some Bt cotton hybrid for commercial cultivation in the current kharif season. As the court’s interim verdict is for restraining further approval of GM crops, the approved Bt cotton hybrid have escaped the purview of this order.
INDEPENDENT EXPERT COMMITTEE SET UP ON Bt BRINJAL - PRESS RELEASE
Hyderabad & Trivandrum, September 23, 2006: Following Supreme Court's orders on Friday on the need of Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC] to induct some independent experts into its decision-making processes and on the eve of the first meeting of the so-called Expert Committee headed by Dr Deepak Penthal set up on Bt Brinjal by the GEAC, civil society groups announced the setting up of an "Independent Expert Committee" on the issue.
Contending that the constitution of the official Expert Committee was questionable and the terms of reference too narrow, Thanal (Trivandrum) and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (Hyderabad) have set up an 'Independent Expert Committee' to look into the biosafety claims by Mahyco, the civil society responses vis-a-vis the promoter's data and literature on the subject, to assess the very need for Bt Brinjal in the country and to suggest a future course of action to the government, including the GEAC.
"The official Expert Committee's constitution is questionable since there is a serious and objectionable conflict of interest in promoters of GM crops being part of the committee. Further, around half of the 'Expert Committee' consists of existing GEAC members (the constitution of which was subject to Supreme Court's observations on Friday) who can voice their opinions as part of GEAC decision-making processes in any case. It is not clear what procedures the official Expert Committee would follow in taking public feedback on board. It is in this context that we are setting up an Independent Expert Committee with members who have tremendous expertise in their respective fields and have exhibited their social commitment time and again", said Dr Ramanjaneyulu of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.
Ms Usha Jayakumar of Thanal added, "The Independent Expert Committee would not be bound by narrow terms of reference of just evaluating feedback from the public to the GEAC. They would begin by looking at Mahyco's data and claims. They would also have a broader scope of impact assessment than the GEAC's. The Committee has been set up drawing eminent experts from various relevant fields of experience and expertise. In addition, more members with expertise in their subjects and social commitment would be taken on board soon. We hope that the Independent Expert Committee and their recommendations will present to all Indians the real picture with regard to Bt Brinjal, its biosafety and issues beyond biosafety. This is a matter of informed choices for the farmers and consumers of the country which cannot be discounted by the regulators".
The Independent Expert Committee consists of:
Dr K P Prabhakaran Nair: Eminent International Agricultural (Soil) Scientist with over three decades of research and developmental experience in Europe, Africa and Asia. Best known, the world over, for developing "The Nutrient Buffer Power Concept" - a revolutionary soil management technique that has thrown up the biggest challenge to unbridled chemical agriculture. Widely travelled and the only Agricultural Scientist in the world to have been invited to contribute single author chapters thrice to the magnum opus Advances in Agronomy. Formerly Professor, National Science Foundation, The Royal Society, Belgium and Senior Fellow, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, The Federal Republic of Germany.
Dr M S Chari: Eminent Entomologist. Formerly Director-Central Tobacco Research Institute [CTRI] and ex-Director-Research, Gujarat Agriculture University. Pioneer of non-chemical pest management approaches called NPM.
Prof A Narayanan: Eminent Plant Physiologist. Earlier with ICRISAT. Retired as Principal of Agricultural College, Bapatla and Prof. And University Head, Dept. of Plant Physiology. Was Emeritus Scientist-ICAR at Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Coimbatore.
Dr Ramesh Bhat: Toxicologist, Formerly Deputy Director with the Food & Drug Toxicology Research Centre, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad.
Dr D Narsimha Reddy: Retired recently as Professor of Economics and Dean, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad. His specialization includes science policy studies, Political Economy of Development and Labour Economics. He was a member of the Farmers Welfare Commission set up of AP government to look into the issue of farmers' suicides and agriculture crisis.
Dr Ghafoorunissa : Biochemist dealing with nutrition & health related issues and earlier with the National Institute of Nutrition for 37 years.
For more information, contact:
1. Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at (0) 9393001550 or firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Usha Jayakumar, Thanal at (0) 98-463-21118 or email@example.com
SC bans further approval of GM seed field trials - The Times of India, 23 Sep, 2006 - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2019114.cms
NEW DELHI: In what could be a wake-up call to the Centre, the Supreme Court on Friday banned for two weeks any further grant of approval for field trials of genetically modified seeds by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). This temporary ban on further permission to field trials of GM seeds was granted by a Bench comprising Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal and Justices C K Thakker and R V Raveendran taking exception to non-filing of response to a PIL highlighting the apprehension of agriculturists about possible mutilation of domestic seed variety by the onslaught of GM seeds. Though the Bench refused the plea of petitioner Aruna Rodrigues' counsel Prashant Bhushan for a stay on the ongoing field trials of GM seeds like Bt Brinjal, it agreed for inclusion of an independent expert in the statutory body for examination of the possible impact of GM seeds before they are given the go-ahead for field trials. Asking additional solicitor general R Mohan and senior advocate Rajiv Dutta to ensure that Centre files its response in two weeks, the court fixed October 13 as the date for next hearing on the PIL.
Acting on Rodrigues' PIL, the court had on May 1 asked the government to ensure that no such trials in genetically modified varieties took place without the prior approval of GEAC. It had also warned against indiscriminate field trials of GM seeds. Petitioner had alleged that open field trials of Bt Okra, Bt Brinjal and Bt Rice are being conducted in various parts of the country on the basis of the safety tests conducted by the companies and without any independent verification of their safety claims about GM seeds.
Court stays fresh field trials of GM crops - The Hindu, Sep 23 2006 - http://www.hindu.com/2006/09/23/stories/2006092316540400.htm
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday restrained the Centre from granting any fresh approval for field trials of genetically modified organisms in the country until further orders. A Bench headed by Chief Justice Mr Y.K. Sabharwal also directed the Government to induct scientists and experts into the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), a statutory body for regulating the field trials to examine the issue in depth. The apex court's stay order would, however, not apply to field trials of GM products, which are already underway such as BT brinjal and BT cotton. The Bench passed the orders while dealing with a PIL filed by one Ms Aruna Rodrigues, which complained that the GM products being introduced by some of the MNCs posed serious threat to ecology, crops and human lives.
Citing the spate of farmer suicides in Maharashtra's Vidharbha region and other places in the country as an offshoot of the extensive use of GM seeds, the petition had sought a complete ban on their usage. It was alleged that the GEAC, granted permission for the products in a reckless manner without considering the debilitating effect it would have on the crops and human lives. The petitioner said the move to allow large-scale field trials of BT brinjal by biotech company Mahyco, an Indian collaborative and partner company of Monsanto, if not checked would lead to untold hardships to the farmers and large-scale destruction of crops.
The Bench would take up the matter for further hearing on October 13.
Court: withhold approval for genetically modified products - But it will not stop field trials without knowing Government's stand
Legal Correspondent - The Hindu, Sep 23 2006 - http://www.hindu.com/2006/09/23/stories/2006092317841700.htm
GMO seeds may pose health hazards, say petitioners - The process will be a risky experiment in the country
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee not to give approval for genetically modified products until further orders. A Bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice R.V. Raveendran gave this direction on an application filed by Aruna Rodrigues and three others seeking a ban on release of genetically modified organism/seeds having the potential of causing major health hazards. Counsel Prashant Bhushan alleged that the Government's policy was to give speedy clearance for genetically modified organisms (GOM) even before putting in place a mechanism to test their bio-safety value. He pleaded for stay on grant of fresh approvals and on all field trials of genetically modified crops.
The Bench said: "We are not inclined to direct stoppage of all field trials at this stage without [knowing] the stand of the respondents. At the same time, we deem it appropriate to direct the GEAC to withhold the approvals until further directions are issued on hearing all concerned. The Government would also consider associating independent experts in the field with the GEAC." It directed that the matter be listed after two weeks.
In their public interest litigation, the petitioners said GMO seeds were a pest-resistant, high producing variety with the inherent drawback of passing on strands of pesticide to human body that could in future blow up into major health problems. The hazards included new allergies, greatly increased resistance to antibiotics, and severe toxicity to humans, animals and micro-organisms, resulting in a serious import on human health, and loss of wildlife and biodiversity. In a fresh application, they said genetic engineering, if allowed unchecked, would change the molecular structure of the world's food.
Supreme Court says no to GM products till further orders - By Indo Asian News Service, September 22nd, 2006
New Delhi - The Supreme Court Friday asked the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) not to give approvals to genetically modified products until further orders. A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justices C.K. Thakker and R.V. Raveendran gave the direction on an application filed by Aruna Rodrigues and three others in a public interest litigation seeking a ban on the release of genetically modified organisms/seeds having the potential of causing major health hazards. Counsel Prashant Bhushan alleged that the policy of the government was to give speedy clearance to genetically modified organisms even before putting in place a mechanism to test their bio-safety value. He pleaded for a stay against grant of fresh approvals and of all field trials on genetically modified crops.
In its brief order, the bench said 'we are not inclined to direct stoppage of all field trials at this stage without the stand of the respondents. At the same time we deem it appropriate to direct GEAC to withhold the approvals till further directions are issued on hearing all concerned. The government would also consider associating independent experts in the field in the GEAC.'It listed the matter after two weeks.
The petitioners said the use of technology of genetic engineering and release of GM organisms into the environment would require application of precautionary principle, which mandated that every possible precaution must be taken to ensure that no harmful effects are caused to human and animal health and environment. They said genetic engineering if allowed to proceed unchecked would change the molecular structure of the world?s food. In India, if the GEAC's reckless rush into GM foods was not checked, this process would be the fastest and riskiest experiment anywhere with irreversible impacts on our farmers, their crop choices, our food and health.
On India's Despairing Farms, a Plague of Suicide - By SOMINI SENGUPTA - New York Times, September 19 2006
BHADUMARI, India - Here in the center of India, on a gray Wednesday morning, a cotton farmer swallowed a bottle of pesticide and fell dead at the threshold of his small mud house. The farmer, Anil Kondba Shende, 31, left behind a wife and two small sons, debts that his family knew about only vaguely and a soggy, ruined 3.5-acre patch of cotton plants that had been his only source of income. Whether it was debt, shame or some other privation that drove Mr. Shende to kill himself rests with him alone. But his death was by no means an isolated one, and in it lay an alarming reminder of the crisis facing the Indian farmer.
Across the country in desperate pockets like this one, 17,107 farmers committed suicide in 2003, the most recent year for which government figures are available. Anecdotal reports suggest that the high rates are continuing. Though the crisis has been building for years, it presents an increasingly thorny political challenge for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. High suicide rates and rural despair helped topple the previous government two years ago and put Mr. Singh in power. Changes brought on by 15 years of economic reforms have opened Indian farmers to global competition and given them access to expensive and promising biotechnology, but not necessarily opened the way to higher prices, bank loans, irrigation or insurance against pests and rain. Mr. Singhs government, which has otherwise emerged as a strong ally of America, has become one of the loudest critics in the developing world of Washingtons $18 billion a year in subsidies to its own farmers, which have helped drive down the price of cotton for farmers like Mr. Shende.
At the same time, frustration is building in India with American multinational companies peddling costly, genetically modified seeds. They have made deep inroads in rural India a vast and alluring market bringing new opportunities but also new risks as Indian farmers pile up debt. In this central Indian cotton-growing area, known as Vidarbha, the unofficial death toll from suicides, compiled by a local advocacy group and impossible to verify, was 767 in a 14-month period that ended in late August. The suicides are an extreme manifestation of some deep-seated problems which are now plaguing our agriculture, said M. S. Swaminathan, the geneticist who was the scientific leader of Indias Green Revolution 40 years ago and is now chairman of the National Commission on Farmers. They are climatic. They are economic. They are social.
Indias economy may be soaring, but agriculture remains its Achilles heel, the source of livelihood for hundreds of millions of people but a fraction of the nations total economy and a symbol of its abiding difficulties. In what some see as an ominous trend, food production, once Indias great pride, has failed to keep pace with the nations population growth in the last decade. The cries of Indian farmers or what Prime Minister Singh recently described as their acute distress can hardly be neglected by the leaders of a country where two-thirds of people still live in the countryside. Mr. Singh's government has responded to the current crisis by promptly expanding rural credit and promising investments in rural infrastructure. It has also offered several quick fixes, including a $156 million package to rescue suicide prone districts across the country and a promise to expand rural credit, waive interest on existing bank loans and curb usurious informal moneylenders.
But pressure is building to do more. Many, including Mr. Swaminathan, the agricultural scientist, would like to see the government help farmers survive during crop failures or years of low world prices. Subsidies, once a linchpin of Indian economic policy, have dried up for virtually everyone but the producers of staple food grains. Indian farmers now must compete or go under. To compete, many have turned to high-cost seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, which now line the shelves of even the tiniest village shops. Monsanto, for instance, invented the genetically modified seeds that Mr. Shende planted, known as Bt cotton, which are resistant to bollworm infestation, the cotton farmers prime enemy. It says the seeds can reduce the use of pesticides by 25 percent.
The company has more than doubled its sales of Bt cotton here in the last year, but the expansion has been contentious. This year, a legal challenge from the government of the state of Andhra Pradesh forced Monsanto to slash the royalty it collected from the sale of its patented seeds in India. The company has appealed to the Indian Supreme Court. The modified seeds can cost nearly twice as much as ordinary ones, and they have nudged many farmers toward taking on ever larger loans, often from moneylenders charging exorbitant interest rates. Virtually every cotton farmer in these parts, for instance, needs the assistance of someone like Chandrakant Agarwal, a veteran moneylender who charges 5 percent interest a month. He collects his dues at harvest time, but exacts an extra premium, compelling farmers to sell their cotton to him at a price lower than it fetches on the market, pocketing the profit. His collateral policy is nothing if not inventive. The borrower signs a blank official document that gives Mr. Agarwal the right to collect the farmers property at any time.
Business has boomed with the arrival of high-cost seeds and pesticides. Many moneylenders have made a whole lot of money, Mr. Agarwal said. Farmers, many of them, are ruined. Indeed, one or two crop failures, an unexpected health expense or the marriage of a daughter have become that much more perilous in a livelihood where the risks are already high. A government survey released last year found that 40 percent of farmers said they would abandon agriculture if they could. The study also found that farming represented less than half the income of farmer households. Barely 4 percent of all farmers insure their crops. Nearly 60 percent of Indian agriculture still depends entirely on the rains, as in Mr. Shendes case.
This year, waiting for a tardy monsoon, Mr. Shende sowed his fields three times with the genetically modified seeds made by Monsanto. Two batches of seed went to waste because the monsoon was late. When the rains finally arrived, they came down so hard that they flooded Mr. Shendes low-lying field and destroyed his third and final batch. Mr. Shende shouldered at least four debts at the time of his death: one from a bank, two procured on his behalf by his sisters and one from a local moneylender. The night before his suicide, he borrowed one last time. From a fellow villager, he took the equivalent of $9, roughly the cost of a one-liter bottle of pesticide, which he used to take his life.
Those like him with small holdings are particularly vulnerable. A study by Srijit Mishra, a professor at the Mumbai-based Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, found that more than half of the suicides in this part of the country were among farmers with less than five acres of land. But even those who are prosperous by local standards are not immune. Manoj Chandurkar, 36, has 72 acres of cotton with genetically modified seeds and sorghum in a neighboring village called Waifad. Every year is a gamble, he said. Each time, he takes out a loan, then another and then prays that the bollworms will stay away and the rains will be good. On his shoulders today sit three loans, bringing his total debt to $10,000, a vast sum here.
The study by Mr. Mishra found that 86.5 percent of farmers who took their own lives were indebted their average debt was about $835 and 40 percent had suffered a crop failure. The news of Mr. Shendes death brought his wife, Vandana, back home to Bhadumari. Relatives said she had gone to tend to her sick brother in a nearby village. By the time she arrived, her husbands body was covered by a thin checkered cloth. A policeman had recorded the death the eighth in six months for the officer. Ms. Shende, squatting in the narrow village lane, shrouded her face in her cheap blue sari and wailed at the top of her lungs. Your father is dead, she screamed at her small son, who stood before her, dazed.
September 12, 2006
To Shri B S Parsheera
Ministry of Environment & Forests
Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex
Lodhi Road, New Delhi.
Dear Shri Parsheera
Constitution of Expert Committee on Bt Brinjal, under Dr Deepak Penthal
Through the Office Memorandum dated 24/8/2006 put up on the GEAC website, we have come to know about the constitution of the 13-member Expert Committee on Bt Brinjal, under the Chairmanship of Dr Deepak Penthal, Vice Chancellor, Delhi University.
We have noted the following from this Memorandum:
1.Dr Deepak Penthal, who has been appointed the Chairperson of this Committee, is also a known biotech promoter and his University is undertaking the same system of biosafety testing as is currently present for Bt Brinjal and other crops in this country, for their testing on GM Mustard and other GM crops. Therefore, there is a serious conflict of interest in appointing him as a Chairperson, knowing that his own project would be at stake based on this Committee's recommendations.
2.There are six to seven members of existing GEAC on this assumed-to-be-independent Expert Committee. This constitutes half of the Expert Committee! The GEAC has already been discredited in the eyes of the public for the decision-making processes that it adopts and inducting the same members into this Expert Committee does not instill any confidence in the process to be adopted. In any case, they can express their views as GEAC's members at any point of time, based on the biosafety data that the company has presented, the feedback that the GEAC has received and in their right as GEAC members.
3.This brings us to important questions about the way the GEAC functions too. What is the quorum required for meetings to be conducted and what is the system for decision-making? Do all materials related to important decisions reach all members and how is feedback from members taken on board? These are important questions to be answered by GEAC since it is very unclear as of now how meetings are being organized, who attends, how decisions are taken, on what basis and so on. From all accounts present, the GEAC is just acting as a rubber stamp for the RCGM of the DBT, despite clear instructions from the Supreme Court.
4.Similarly, induction of Dr Mathura Rai also has a conflict of interest element given that IIVR is involved in the entire ABSP II project related to Bt brinjal of which Mahyco's Bt Brinjal is a part.
5.It seems that "expertise" for this Expert Committee is being looked at only in a narrow scientific realm of specialization in a few subjects rather than other kind of expertise. That is the reason why the "expert committee" does not have any representatives of farmers' and consumers' organizations, which it rightfully should have. This once again makes us question the entire process being adopted.
6.The Terms of Reference for the Expert Committee has been limited mainly to evaluating the feedback received on the biosafety data generated by the company. It has to be pointed out that for most of the studies, the data itself has not been put up for public scrutiny but has been left to be looked at, if someone has the resources to visit Delhi and your office. This Expert Committee should have been asked to look at the complete set of data too.
7.Further, one of the important tasks for this committee and its terms of reference ought to have been the assessment of the need for Bt Brinjal in this country.
8.We hope that adequate scientific research assistance (financial and human resources) is being provided to the Committee for a review of existing literature on the subject.
Meanwhile, we also demand that all the feedback received by the GEAC be put up on its website, especially given that such feedback has been received in an electronic form by the GEAC's member-secretary (which is in a ready-to-use form for the website).
We demand that the GEAC address all the issues raised above and make this Expert Committee for Bt Brinjal into a credible, independent, broad-based committee that would work in the best interests of the farmers and consumers of the country.
G V Ramanjaneyulu, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Usha, Thanal, Kerala
Vithu-Arachalur, Erode Dist, Tamil Nadu
Organic Farmers' Sangam of Arachalur, Tamil Nadu
Organic Farmers' Federation of Erode Region, Erode, Tamil Nadu
Organic Farmers' Association of Kollathur, Salem dist., Tamil Nadu
Anantham Amaippu, Tamil Nadu and ARANYA, Erode, Tamil Nadu
Bt brinjal faces consumers, scientists wrath - ASHOK B SHARMA - Tuesday, September 12, 2006
NEW DELHI, SEPT 11: There seems to be more troubles ahead for the country’s first transgenic food crop, Bt brinjal. Several consumer groups across the country have now come forward to oppose the proposed largescale field trials of Bt brinjal. They found support from an eminent molecular biologist, Puspha M Bhargava who criticised the veracity of risk assessment of transgenic crops in the country. The consumer groups bid to prevent the proposed largescale field trials comes in wake of the reported contamination of US rice exports due to the field trials of Bayer’s genetically modified (GM) in that country.
EU and Japan has imposed ban on the contaminated rice from the US. Also there are reported cases of food contamination in France, Germany and the UK due to imports from China, where the GM rice under field trials have contaminated other food crops. In this context, the consumer groups including Mumbai-based Consumer Guidance Society of India, Consumer Co-ordination Council, Delhi-based Voluntary Organisation for Consumer Education also urged the government to prohibit entry of unapproved GM food into the country and ask for mandatory labeling on imports so that no traces of unapproved GM materials enter the country.
• Consumer groups get eminent molecular biologist Puspha M Bhargava’s support who criticised the veracity of risk assessment of transgenic crops like Bt brinjal in India
• GEAC had earlier appointed a 13-member panel to review the proposed field trials of Bt brinjal
Earlier faced with a barrage of opposition from the NGOs, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) decided to appoint a 13-member inhouse panel to review the case for the proposed field trials of Bt brinjal. Now with reputed consumer groups raising objections to the field trials, the GEAC will have a harder nut to crack. The founder director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and vice chairman of the National Knowledge Commission, Pushpa M Bhargava said, “Risk assessment protocols for transgenic crops are weak across the world. There is absolutely no case for approval for field trials of Bt Brinjal. The risk assessment data provided by the producer of the crop, Mahyco and Monsanto, are extremely suspected. The only third party to have done a risk assessment is Intox Laboratory, which is not accredited.”
Greenpeace India’s Divya Raghunandan said, “There is a need to ban GM crops in India, including Bt cotton, if we are to keep our food safe from contamination.”
Crop wilting: new battle for Andhra's cotton growers - BV MAHALAKSHMI - Financial Express, Tuesday, September 12, 2006
HYDERABAD, SEPT 11: After the cattle-battle issue with Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh, farmers are now facing another battle - wilting. In Nalgonda district, farmers are uprooting Bt cotton plants as they are dying due to wilt. It is learnt that in Bhongir mandal of Nalgonda, the farmers have uprooted Bt cotton plants from 41 acres out of the 51 acres planted. This has created a panic among cotton farmers across the state as it has started spreading to the surrounding farms too.
Farmers complain that the plants are slowly dying because the root system is severely decomposed without any secondary and tertiary roots on the main root system. Even the bolls formed on these wilted plants did not bear any seeds. Hence, farmers decided to uproot this crop and make the best use of the remaining part of the agricultural season by sowing coriander with the onset of rains, PV Satheesh, convenor, AP Coalition In Defence of Diversity, said.
The state's farmers had already spent about Rs 5,000 - Rs 7,000 per acre on various operations like land preparation, seed and fertiliser costs and plant protection costs to save their crops from sucking pests. However, the cause for wilting during this season is yet to be ascertained, pointed out agriculture department officials. According to MA Qayum, retired joint director of agriculture, who visited these fields in Nalgonda to assess the extent of damage, the disease is caused by a soil borne fungus called 'Rhizoctonia', which affects the root system causing the plant to wilt from top to down. Hitherto, cotton farmers in the state had never faced this problem, he added.
Further, a team of agricultural scientists from the Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University visited some of the affected fields. The team confirmed the presence of low-to-moderate incidence of thrips in Bt cotton fields and dry root rot and bacterial leaf blight (BLB) on cotton fields. The team even anticipated spreading of the BLB and root rot in cotton with the receipt of rains, and provided some immediate remedial measures. However, these measures are yet to boost confidence among farmers.
Press release: Contamination: 1. Containment: 0. Greenpeace calls for immediate halt to GE Brinjal field trials
New Delhi, 8th September 2006 - Greenpeace India, several consumer groups and a leading scientist today joined forces to prevent large-scale field trials of genetically-engineered (GE) Brinjal from being carried out in the country. The groups were meeting under a banner that announced the latest score from the battle between giant agri-businesses and the anti-GE movement: "Contamination-1 / Containment-0"
The groups met together in the wake of revelations that agrochemical company Bayer's field trials of GE rice had contaminated American rice exports, inviting immediate import bans from Japan and the EU. Almost simultaneously, more research uncovered - and independently verified - that illegal GE rice from field trials in China has contaminated food products in France, Germany and the UK.
"What's happened in Europe over the past three days is just the First Information Report of an ongoing crime," said Divya Raghunandan, Greenpeace India GE Campaigner. "The manipulated gene found to be tainting the banned rice from China is the same one that's being introduced into our brinjal. India is a centre of diversity for this crop, and cultivates over 5 lakh hectares of it annually. If these tests go ahead, they're basically contamination on an unimaginable scale. Let's dispense with the language of control and containment. This is plain and simple commercialisation of a crop by illegal means," she added.
With the approval of GE Brinjal for large-scale field trials pending before the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) and an opening of the market to GE imports, contamination of Indian food crops is inevitable. As was witnessed in the case of GE cotton, soon after being introduced, the new seeds spread all over the country with the government unable to control or even monitor their spread.
Eminent molecular biologist Dr. Pushpa Bhargava stressed the burning need for banning further field trials of GE Brinjal. He said "given the apalling biosafety risk assessment protocols in place today, there is absolutely no case for large-scale field trials of GE Brinjal. The veracity of these these risk assessments is also extremely suspect, since these are carried out by the same companies who are marketing the crop. The only third party to have done a risk assessment is the INTOX laboratory, and that's a non-accredited one."
Indians consume 8 lakh tonnes of brinjal every year. With almost no awareness among consumers of this untested technology and no means to identify the genetically-contaminated food in the market, representatives of Consumer Co-ordination Council were also united in their criticism of the GEAC. "That the GEAC has no representation from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs is an out-and-out travesty. We need a strong voice for the interest of consumers, to stop the agriculture and commerce ministries from turning consumers into guinea pigs just to satisfy business interests," admonished Dr. Arvind Shenoy of CGSI.
Bejon Mishra of VOICE added "the government should prohibit any entry of GE food into the market unless sufficient legislation and scientific evidence is in place to protect consumers from any harm. Also a labelling regime should be enforced, in order that consumers get a choice to not eat food they don't want to eat."
Greenpeace and its allies demand that field trials of GE Brinjal be discontinued until (a) scientific data is made available for analysis by an independent panel of toxicologists and physicians, (b) a representative of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs is invited for consultation by the GEAC, (c) a reliable guarantee is given that no spread of GE plants or any parts thereof shall occur, (d) locations of field trials are placed in the public domain, and (e) labelling laws are firmly in place.
For more information, contact:
Divya Raghunandan, Greenpeace India GE Campaigner: +91-98455-35406
Gene Hashmi, Greenpeace India Communications: + 91-98456-10773
For related reports and further details on our GE campaign, visit: www.greenpeace.org/India/ge-scandal
Protest against GE brinjal field trials - Special Correspondent - The Hindu, 9 September 2006 http://www.hindu.com/2006/09/09/stories/2006090907921300.htm
"Tests can cause contamination"
NEW DELHI: Greenpeace India and several consumer groups on Friday sought to prevent large-scale field trials of genetically engineered (GE) brinjal. The bid comes in the wake of revelations that agrochemical company Bayer's field trials of GE rice had contaminated American rice exports, inviting immediate import bans from Japan and the European Union. Also, it was found that illegal GE rice from field trials in China had contaminated food products in France, Germany and the U.K. "What has happened in Europe over the past three days is just the first information report," Divya Raghunandan, Greenpeace India campaigner, told reporters here.
She said the manipulated gene, found to be tainting the banned rice from China, was the same one that was sought to introduced into brinjal in India. Ms. Raghunandan said India was a centre of diversity for this crop and it was cultivated over 5 lakh hectares annually. If these tests were carried out, they could cause contamination on an unimaginable scale. The approval of GE brinjal for large-scale field trials was pending before the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC)
Eminent molecular biologist Pushpa Bhargava, at a press conference, stressed the need for banning field trials of GE brinjal. He said given the appalling bio-safety risk assessment protocols in place today, there was absolutely no case for large-scale field trials. The veracity of these risk assessments was also not authentic, as these were carried out by the same companies that were marketing the crop.
Demand to halt GE brinjal trials - The Hindu, September 9 2006 - http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/015200609090340.htm
New Delhi, Sept. 9 (PTI): In the wake of reports of illegal genetically modified rice from field trials in China contaminating food products in France, Germany and the UK, Greenpeace-India, along with some consumer bodies, yesterday demanded an immediate halt to similar brinjal trials in India. "What has happened in Europe over the past three days is just the First Information Report of an ongoing crime. The manipulated gene found to be tainting the banned rice in China is the same which is being introduced into our brinjal," GP-Indian campaigner Divya Raghuraman said, adding that since brinjal is a primary food crop, it will at once spread in the market once it gets approval from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).
Representing the Consumers Guidance Society of India (CGSI), Arvind Shenoy demanded that there should be a comprehensive levelling of all GM food items. "The multinationals developing the GM crops cannot fool the consumers. Moreover, the onus must be fully on the importer if the crops breach bio-safety norms and lead to health problems," Shenoy said. Scientist and Vice Chairman of National Knowledge Commission, P M Bhargava said that even though alternatives to Bt crops are available which can be developed indigenously, our country is still taking help from multinationals. "The MNCs involved in the process have only one objective... to take control over the entire agro-business of the country," he alleged.
Ignore US threat, go for GM labelling - ASHOK B SHARMA - Monday, September 04, 2006
India’s attempt to formulate mandatory labelling laws for genetically modified (GM) foods has met with the US challenge in the WTO committee on technical barriers to trade (TBT). This was, however, expected as the US does not favour mandatory labelling of GM foods. It is of the view that GM foods are “substantially equivalent” to their non-GM counterparts and labelling of GM food would amount to “trade restrictive measures.”
This raises a very basic question. If US believes that GM foods are substantially equivalent to their non-GM counterparts, then why it is called “novel food” and why there is a need to patent such innovations? A gene inserted into the crop through transgenic technology with the help of markers and promoters will definitely make it behave in a different manner. The developers of transgenic crops do claim that the concerned crops are “herbicide tolerant, pest tolerant” and so on. This is enough to prove that GM crops are not substantially equivalent to their non-GM counterparts.
Mandatory labelling of GM foods is for giving the consumers an informed choice. It is strange for the country like US which is the largest democracy in the world to deny informed choice to consumers in the name of “restrictive trade measures.” US through its Bioterror Preparedness Act wants disclosures on imported food items. US Food and Drugs Administration (USFDA) insists on disclosures about serval ingredients used in food item. Then why should the case be different for GM foods?
It is the duty of national governments to protect the health of its citizens. There are reported cases across the world about health hazards relating to GM foods. India’s proposal for mandatory labelling of GM food is an humble attempt to give consumers an informed choice and to protect the health of its citizens.
US has also said that India should refer its mandatory labelling norms for GM foods to WTO also under sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. This demand is totally misplaced. Simply labelling of GM food does not imply an SPS measure. Denying imports of GM food may involve an SPS measure.
Mandatory labelling is necessary to check imports of unapproved GM foods. There are already reported cases of such unapproved GM foods entering the country. Many countries, including India have their own approval process for GM crops and foods, based on established scientific principles. India has so far approved only Bt cotton, which means that all other GM products entering the country are unapproved.
The commerce ministry in its changes to the Foreign Trade Policy has rightly inserted the provision for mandatory labelling of GM products. It has prescribed penalty for importers for importing unlabelled GM products. However, as the health ministry could not yet put in place the detailed guidelines, the the commerce ministry’s new provision for mandatory labelling has been kept in abeyance till March 31, 2007.
US has also questioned India’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) role. It said “The scope of the 1989 Rule under the 1986 Environment Protection Act is vague and appears to be broader than any other existing regulatory system in the world for biotechnology products, ie covering products such as cheese, wine, beer or other fermented products made using enzymes produced by genetically engineered bacteria.” Saying so US hinted at the recent pact it has signed with India on farm research. Does this mean that US want our GM approval laws be changed to suit its purpose? Before doing so we must know that the slack USFDA rules have been already challenged by interest groups in the law court in that country.
Earlier in US the hazardous GM Star Link corn, which was meant for animal consumption, slipped into the food chain. All such contaminated food items had to be recalled from retail stores. Recently there is a case of US long-grain rice being contaminated with the GM variety LLRICE-601. LLRICE-601 is not approved for human consumption. The European Union which has appropriate laws in place has acted in time to check imports of contaminated rice. US should know that countries have the right to refuse imports on GM products by invoking the precautionary principles under the Cartagena Protocol.
GM ALERT: US Using WTO to Push GM Food into India - Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security, New Delhi, India
On April 7, 2006, the Government of India amended the Foreign Trade (Development & Regulation) Act of 1992 governing rules on import of genetically modified crops. As per the amendment, imports of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for food, feed or processing, industrial processing, research and development for commercialization or environmental release would be allowed only with the approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). At the same time, all shipments including products containing GMOs have to carry a declaration stating that the product is genetically modified. If the shipment does not contain such a label and is later found to contain traces of GM material, the importer is liable for penal action under this Act. The changed rule came into effect on July 8, 2006. However, under sustained pressure from soybean oil importers, the Government announced that soybean oil will be exempt from the labeling requirement till March 31, 2007.
Prior to this, on March 10, 2006, the Ministry of Health amended the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA) rules necessitating compulsory labeling of Genetically Modified (GM) food. The amendment stipulates that "no person shall except with approval of and subject to the conditions that may be imposed by the GEAC constituted under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, manufacture, import, transport, store, distribute or sell raw or processed food or any ingredient of food, food additives or any food product that may contain GM material in the country". Once the necessary approval has been obtained, all packages of the product will have to be labeled as containing GM food or derivatives. It may be noted that the Health Ministry notification is only concerned with GM foods and does not cover GMOs and GM materials meant for other purposes like feed, research and development, industrial processing or environmental release.
Following these two amendments, the United States government filed two notifications with the World Trade Organization (WTO) in May 2006 (G/TBT/N/IND/12 dated 17 May 2006 and G/TBT/N/IND/17 dated 23 May 2006). Addressed to the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Health, these notifications sought clarifications about the amendments to Foreign Trade Act and the PFA. Reading between the lines, the US also has hinted at initiating action under the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary Measures (SPS) Agreements. The US is seeking a scientific justification for both product coverage and measures laid down under the amendment. The US claims that the 1989 Rules under the Environment Protection Act (EPA) are vague and broader than any other existing biotechnology regulation across the world. With regards to import of GM products, they have questioned the rationale for seeking information on every shipment of the same product to be submitted to GEAC. Both notifications assert that these regulations are trade restrictive for countries like the US planning to export GM products to India.
As it is, the labeling requirement proposed under the amended PFA Rules is lax on various counts. In order to protect consumers' interests and also enable them to exercise choice, labeling ought to be based on a precautionary approach with zero tolerance for any GM contamination. However, the Ministry of Health's amendment requires producer/ importers to merely carry a label that states that the product "may contain" GM material. Instead of rigorous biosafety tests before allowing the import, the Ministry of Health is merely relying on the safety information provided by the importer. Further, the legislation is coming at a time when facilities within the countries for testing products for the presence of GM are grossly inadequate. There is no laboratory in the country, which can undertake such testing. Moreover, testing protocols have still to be developed. Until such a system is put in place, it is obvious that the legislation in its present form is intended to legalize the import of untested GM food into the country. What makes it still worse is that the US is demanding that these lax rules be further diluted. In other words, the US wants India to lift all curbs on the import of GM products into the country.
It is well known that the US has at various forums been consistently blocking attempts to label GM products. So much so that at a meeting of the United Nations' Food Standards Committee in May 2006, the US had opposed "health as a Codex standard." It tried but failed to block discussion on the need for an international guideline to label GM products. We all know that under severe pressure from the US the Codex Committee on food labeling recently deferred a decision to draft guidelines for GM food, something that has been bottled up for more than a decade now. At present, the move against GM labeling is limited to a handful of nations led by the US while consumer resistance across the European Union and Asia is persuading governments to enact strict labeling laws. It therefore becomes obvious that the US is trying to arm-twist India into accepting GM foods. From the sequence of events unfolded above, and in view of what is happening elsewhere, it is very clear
· that the US had tried in the past to force-feed Indians with GM foods in the form of food aid (during a natural disaster and through routine development programmes). India had resisted these attempts.
· that the US is once again trying to interfere with India's sovereign right to decide about its food and its safety.
· that the WTO is yet again being used by the US to further its own trade interests
· that the notifications are not only discriminatory but meant to browbeat India into submission as major trading partners of the US, such as Canada, Japan, the EU and Australia follow their own GM labeling protocols
· that the US does not respect the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which allows countries to enact internal legislations and set up mechanisms that will ensure biosafety
· that the SPS Agreement in the WTO is being conveniently used by the developed countries to further their commercial interests
Further, the recent contamination scandal in the US where Bayer's GM rice - not approved for consumption - was mixed with other rice varieties once again showcases the lax standards and near-absent monitoring mechanisms in the regulation of GM crops. With a lot of anger and furore being expressed within the US over GM rice contamination, there is all the more reason for India to create its own sovereign mechanisms to protect the health of its citizens and as well as protect the environment.
The civil society and consumer groups need to keep a watchful eye on any and every US move to dump GM food. In this context, the Coalition for GM-Free India urges the Government of India to put the interests of its citizens above trade interests. To begin with, the government should rely more strongly on the 1989 Rules of the Environment Protection Act and use a labeling regime to reinforce a moratorium on GM foods in the country.
For more information, contact:
Bhaskar Goswami, Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security, New Delhi. Mob: +91-98111-9135; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad. Mob: +91-93930-01550; Email: email@example.com
 Condition No. 18 in Para 4 of Notification No. 2(RE - 2006)/2004-2009, 7 April 2006, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce & Industry (accessible at http://184.108.40.206/exim/2000/not/not06/not0206.htm)
 Notification No. 4(RE - 2006)/2004-2009, 4 May 2006, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce & Industry (accessible at http://dgftcom.nic.in/exim/2000/not/not06/not0406.htm)
 Notification No. 21 (RE-2006)/ 2004-2006 dated 20 July, 2006, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce & Industry (accessible at http://dgftcom.nic.in/exim/2000/not/not06/not2106.htm)
WILTING Bt COTTON - Eenaadu, Khammam, August 28th 2006
As Bt Cotton plants in many parts of the district are wilting, farmers are crying for help. In Khammam district, farmers have sown cotton in around 90,000 hectares. Around 80% of this is under Bt Cotton. There is a new disease being witnessed on Bt Cotton called "kanchu rangu endu tegulu" [bronze-colored wilt disease or cotton bronze wilt]. Farmers have already invested up to six thousand rupees per acre on this cotton crop so far. Just the cost of seeds per acre has been upto Rs. 1500/acre. At a time that the plants were to yield flowers and bolls, the farmers are going to incur great losses due to the dying of the plants with this disease. There is no treatment for this disease. Scientists have informed that this disease is prevalent more in Canada, America and other such countries.
The affected Bt Cotton plants are drying up completely. In 3-4 days' time, the plants are drying and dying in clusters once a field is affected. With this latest development, farmers are crying out for help. This wilt is more evident in the Bt Cotton fields only. In many places in the district, farmers have already approached the agriculture department officials and complained about the phenomenon. No one is able to explain precisely why the wilt is intense in Bt Cotton plots this year.
The normal acreage of cotton in the district is 93542 hectares. This year, farmers had sown cotton on 90,000 hectares. Out of this, Bt Cotton seed has been sown on nearly 80% of cotton fields. At present, the plants are around 50-60 days' old and the crop is bearing flowers and bolls.
The wilt disease has affected Bt Cotton fields in Palvancha, Kothagudem, Julurpad, Yenkuru, Mulkalapalli, Chandrugonda, Bayyaram, Garla, Penuballi, Vaira, Konijerla, Kusumanchi and Tirumalayapalem blocks of the district. Farmers have spent upto Rs. 6000/- per acre so far and just the seed had cost them nearly fifteen hundred rupees per acre. At a time that the plants were to yield flowers and bolls, the incidence of wilt is going to result in farmers incurring great losses. In addition, the incidence of thrips on cotton fields is high this year.
The symptoms of wilt: After the recent bout of heavy rains in the district, root rot disease (Rhizoctonia) has affected the Bt Cotton plants. The plants first start wilting, then drying up and then die in 3-4 days' time. The disease can affect the crop at any stage of growth. It is mostly seen during flowering stage. Root injury is seen and the disease spreads further through a fungus in the soil. In addition, the bronze-wilt disease is a new phenomenon on Bt Cotton (in the district). The edges of the leaves are turning brass-colored and yellow and are drying. The plant does not rot but only dries up and dies. For now, there is no cure for bronze wilt.
Note on this from Dr. G. V. Ramanjaneyulu, the Executive Director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture:
A November 2000 report of the USDA on Bronze Wilt points out that there is an association between a new strain of the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens and the bronze wilt and that the bronze wilt is present in the seed of all U.S. cotton varieties. Bronze wilt is supposed to have caused damage to American cotton in 1995 and 1996 and more so in 1998. Many Roundup Ready GM cotton varieties in the US had to be removed due to their susceptibility to bronze wilt, as per an August 2005 Delta Farm Press report. The question to ask now is - has the initial use of American cotton varieties for the Bt Cotton backcrossing programme in India brought in this disease into the country and made it into a significant menace for the farmers here? It has to be noted here that the bronze wilt outbreak periods in the US correspond with the period in which the Bt Cotton experimentation began in India. What is the connection between this new disease-causing strain of Agrobacterium and the one used in the making of Bt Cotton, is another important question to asked.
A similar phenomenon was reported last year from several parts of Maharashtra and northern Andhra Pradesh with the Maharashtra government calling it "lalya disease" [reddening disease]. Has the government investigated the causes for the many different kinds of wilt being witnessed on Bt Cotton right from the first year, including lalya and the bronze wilt?
The latest outbreak of disease reported from Khammam once again shows that the biosafety testing regime in the country is inadequate and unscientific in capturing during the trials the potential incidence of all these new diseases in cotton after the advent of Bt Cotton, reported from different states year after year, even in official records. It is not clear if any comprehensive investigations are being made into these phenomena that farmers are experiencing at an expensive cost to themselves and despite repeated reporting by the media and civil society groups.
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture demands that:
the state government of Andhra Pradesh, the Central Institute for Cotton Research and the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee form a collective team to investigate into the bronze wilt being reported from Khammam district and estimate the extent of incidence and extent of possible losses to farmers immediately the GEAC and CICR also look into possible connections between the lalya disease in other states and the bronze wilt witnessed here the GEAC and CICR present a comprehensive report on the phenomenon of wilt (including 'para-wilt', 'new wilt' and 'bronze wilt' as reported in official documents as well as media reports) being witnessed right from the first year of Bt Cotton in the country due to pathological as well as abiotic stress reasons. Why are such conditions higher on Bt Cotton than on non-Bt Cotton, as farmers have observed and reported repeatedly?
Alois et. al. (1998), Bronze wilt of cotton, The Texas A&M University System
The Cause of Bronze Wilt of Cotton - www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/nov00/wilt1100.htm
GEAC forms expert panel to study Bt brinjal effects - ASHOK B SHARMA - Friday, September 01, 2006
NEW DELHI, AUG 31: The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has set up an expert panel under the chairmanship of the vice-chancellor of the Delhi University, Dr Deepak Pental to review the health and environmental concerns of Bt brinjal developed by Mahyco. Other members of the panel are the former professor of Botany in the Delhi University, Dr Mohan Ram; retired professor, Dept of Botany, Delhi University, Dr C R Babu; director, Central Food Technology and Research Institute, Dr V Prakash; director, National Institute of Nutrition, Dr B Sesikaran; principal scientist, National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, Dr P Anand Kumar; director, National Botanical Research Institute, Dr Rakesh Tuli; director Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Dr Mathura Rai; professor of economics at Institute of Economic Growth, MN Murthy; director, Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), S Parasuraman; director, department of biotechnology and secretary RCGM, Dr TV Ramanaiah; and the additional director in the environment ministry and member secretary of the GEAC, Dr Ranjani Warrier.
The health ministry has been asked to nominate its representative in the panel. All the members of this expert panel are already members of the GEAC with the exception of S Parasuraman of the TISS. The GEAC has cleverly kept out NGOs, farmers’ and consumer organisations from the panel. The panel would evaluate comments received from the various stakeholders vis-a-vis the biosafety data generated by the concerned seed company, Mahyco and available scientific/technical data/literature from studies conducted by various national and international institutions. It would suggest additional studies, if any, to be conducted. The expert panel would also evaluate the adequacy of the protocol proposed for large-scale field trials and recommend additional safeguards, if any. It would recommend protocol for socio-economic studies and make any other recommendation on related aspects. The panel chairman may co-opt other members with required expertise in the committee as and when required. The panel may invite views of other stakeholders, including farmers, consumer organisations and NGOs.
The seed company, Mahyco, which has developed Bt brinjal in collaboration with the US multinational, Monsanto, had asked for large-scale field trials. Farmers groups, consumer organisations and NGOs has objected to the proposal saying that India is the centre of origin for brinjal and the open air field trials would result in cross pollition to native brinjal varieties and result in a loss in biodiversity. They have also cited several scientific evidences from across the globe about health hazards relating to Bt genes and the promoter and the marker used in development of Bt brinjal.
GEAC is baffled at the news of sheep mortality on account of grazing over Bt cotton fields in Warganal district in Andhra Pradesh. It has asked the state government to send factual reports of this issue and also asked the department of biotechnology to conduct toxicity studies on Bt cotton leaves. GEAC has already admitted that toxicity studies on Bt cotton leaves have so far not been conducted. The reported cases of sheep mortality has become a major roadblock in the process of approval of Bt brinjal for largescale field trials.
US opposes India’s initiative on labelling of GM foods - Monday, August 28, 2006 - ASHOK B SHARMA
NEW DELHI, AUG 27: The US has raised concerns over India’s plans to formulate labelling norms for genetically modified (GM) foods at the WTO committee on technical barriers to trade. US has urged India to rather resolve the issue through a dialogue between the regulatory specialists of both the countries. It said that both the countries believe in biotechnology as an important tool for enchancing farm growth and hinted at the recent US-India accord on agricultural research and education. US believes that GM foods are "substantially equivalent" to their non-GM counterparts and any attempt to segregrate and label GM foods would amount to "trade restrictive measures." It has said that India should notify its decision for labelling of GM foods before the WTO panel also as a sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures since it involves "approval for biotechnology".
The new India’s Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) had made labelling mandatory for imported GM products and also prescribed penalty for imports of unlabelled GM products. Accordingly, the health ministry took up the onus of finalising the details of labelling norms. The ministry has recently set up a taskforce for the purpose. As the detailed guidelines for labelling are yet to be finalised, the directorate-general of foreign trade has deferred its decision to insist on labelling till March 31, 2007. Apart from labelling, is the issue of allowing its imports. As per the existing law, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) is the only authorised body to approve import, production and sale of any GM product. So far the only GM crop approved in the country for commercial use is Bt cotton.
US has questioned India’s approval process for GM products and said: "The scope of the 1989 Rules under the 1986 Environment Protection Act is vague and appears to be broader than any other existing regulatory system in the world for biotechnology products." It has questioned the rational for such broad product coverage and measures. US has sought clarification for use of GM material in industrial production. It has asked whether the GEAC's recent approval process for import of GM soyaoil would be the same for other imported GM products and whether there would be a testing regime for imported GM products. It has also asked whether the law would be same for the domestically produced GM products like Bt cotton seed cakes used as animal feed.
India May Move In On Japanese Rice Market - Matthew Borghese - All Headline News Staff Writer - August 22 2006
New Delhi, India (AHN) - The U.S. will no longer export rice to Japan as lawmakers overseas fight the importation of genetically modified food. According to the Financial Express, unapproved, gene-modified rice made by Bayer CropScience AG, was found in commercial U.S. rice supplies last week following which Japan, the second largest importer of rice from the US, announced a ban. Now, India is positioned to sell 300,000 to 400,000 tons of non-basmati rice to Japan. Japan is slowly opening up to Indian trade, recently it began allowing mangoes. Now, after previously buying 291,000 tons of rice from the U.S. last year, Japan will have to quickly find a new supply.
Anil Monga, managing director, Emmsons International, a star trading house tells the newspaper, "There is a huge opportunity for India to tap and export non-basmati rice to Japan. India has never exported rice to Japan before, so the quality parameters will have to be checked."
Field trial of Bt brinjal hangs in balance - GEAC yet to resolve issue of sheep mortality in Bt cotton fields in Andhra Pradesh
ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, August 19 2006 - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=137713
NEW DELHI, AUG 18: The fate of proposed largescale field trials of Bt brinjal hangs in balance as the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) is yet to resolve the issue of the reported cases of sheep mortality on account of grazing over Bt cotton fields in Warangal district in Andhra Pradesh. The GEAC met on Thursday and a senior official said, "We could not resolve the issue as factual reports and post-mortem studies from the state government are awaited. We have also asked the department of biotechnology to conduct animal toxicity study for Bt cotton leaves and seeds."
The Andhra Pradesh-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) had brought to the notice of GEAC reported cases of sheep mortality. Speaking from Hyderabad, Kavitha Kuruganthi of CSA said, "The shepherds and the shepherds' union leaders have recorded their testimony which shows that sheep mortality was due to grazing over Bt cotton fields. The local veterinary surgeon has found that 11 out of 45 mortality cases between January and April were linked to grazing over Bt cotton fields and Bt poisoning."
Kuruganti said the Hyderabad-based Veterinary Biological Research Institute found that Bt plants samples brought for tests contained high nitrate content, which showed that Bt cotton needed higher doses of chemical fertilisers.
The GEAC has also asked three leading institutes like Central Food Research and Technology Institute, Mysore, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad and Sri Ram Institute, Delhi, to test a byproduct of soyabean used in preparation of ice creams and find out whether it contains GM traces. This action of GEAC flows the recent sensational relevation that Unilever's ice cream sold in UK contained protiens from genetically modified (GM) fish. GEAC apprehends that there may be chances of imported GM soyabean being used
in ice creams.
Regarding permission to ICRISAT to export its GM groundnut seeds to South Africa for research purposes, the GEAC said that final clearance from NPGRB was necessary.
Govt sets up committee on GM food - Sandeep Bhushan - News India, NDTV, August 4, 2006
(New Delhi): Even as controversy rages over pesticides in soft drinks, a new committee will look into what some consider another health hazard - genetically modified food. The labelling of GM foods has been set up by the Health Ministry and the Parliament has just passed a new law which will set up one single authority to replace the existing arrangement where a number of ministries validate GM technology. But politics once again has taken the centrestage, pushing the serious issue to the backseat.
Are soft drinks really safe? Or could they damage your health? The same question is being asked about genetically modified or GM food like soyabean oil. Last year, India imported 20 lakh tonnes from the USA, Argentina and Brazil. These are countries where genetically modified food is not banned and labelling is not compulsory. The government has now set up a committee to ensure all GM food is labelled and consumers know exactly what they are eating or drinking. But members say labelling is not enough. "This is a very tricky area where we do not even have the wherewithal to test how it impacts human health," said Bejon Mishra, Member, GM Food Labelling Committee.
The government has also proposed an integrated food and standards authority - a one-stop shop to clear GM food and technology, part of the 2005 Food Bill just passed by Parliament. This is being currently done by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Environment Ministry and has sparked off a turf war. The Health Ministry, presently regulating the import of GM food, is unwilling to give up control. It has been backed by parliamentary committees as well as the Agriculture Ministry. The matter has now gone to the Prime Minister's office, which wants the body to be autonomous. However, the Food Processing Ministry is unwilling to give up its claims. "I think we have a claim over this. The commission should be under our jurisdiction," said Subodh Kant Sahay, MoS, Food Processing.
The impact of Bt cotton on the financial health of the farmers has been documented. But what Bt brinjal and Bt potato will mean to human health has not been documented and to add to it, unseemly bickering between ministries over the issue conveys a degree of unseriousness over an issue of utmost public importance.
PRESS RELEASE: GMOs
THE INTENDED APPROVAL OF BT BRINJAL BY THE GEAC PROMPTS AN URGENT APPEAL IN THE SUPREME COURT
THE G OF I IS SUBJECTING INDIANS TO THE RISKIEST & FASTEST EXPERIMENT ANYWHERE WITH REGARD TO GM FOODS AND ANIMAL FEED
Dated 1st August, 2006
In continuation of the PIL [Public Interest Litigation] filed in July 2005 in the Supreme Court for a moratorium pending a comprehensive biosafety protocol, this is an emergency response by the Petitioners, in view of the intended plans by the Union of India to subject India to the riskiest experiment faced anywhere in the world and at a pace which will contaminate our food supply and food chain within months. This is the most serious challenge that India faces. We must succeed in reigning in the Government and its Regulator, the GEAC, for the profoundly serious reason that transgenic contamination means, CONTAMINATION AT THE MOLECULAR LEVEL OF OUR FOOD AND ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL TIME. The Indian nation has been put on notice by the GEAC that it intends to give Mahyco (Monsanto Partner and Indian Collaborator) permission for large-scale field trials of Bt brinjal, preliminary to its commercialisation. In the meanwhile we have also learnt that limited field trials have been carried out all over the country on every conceivable food crop including rice, an array of vegetables, and oilseeds. The Regulator plans to give staged approvals for these for large-scale field trials and their eventual commercialisation, on an unprecedented and short time-scale. And as if this were not enough, it also intends to change the basis of approvals, to quite simply make them easier, to an 'Event'-based system, (as opposed to a case-by-case basis - see below), a uniquely irresponsible and unscientific departure not yet a part of any 'approval' process internationally, for GM.
The urgency of this Application in the Supreme Court which was filed today, is guided by the fact that if the Court refuses to step in and apply the Precautionary Principle at this point in time, then the situation will be so serious with regard to the irrevocable contamination of India that the PIL will be rendered infructuous. The Petitioners have therefore 'prayed' the following:
(i) Direct the Respondents to stop all field trials, for all GM products anywhere and everywhere in the country with immediate effect;
(ii) Direct Respondents to institute a autonomous panel of Independent scientific and credible experts mandated to protect public health and the environment, as an ombudsman, to oversee GM biosafety and GM policy;
(iii) Direct the Respondents 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
Mahyco has also been bold enough to file for a patent for this important vegetable, a major presence on every table in the country, most so the poor, urban and rural. This clearly demonstrates an unwavering eye for commercial advantage. It is also clear that the concerns with GE and its handling in India have reached such a crisis that it can no longer be entrusted to a Regulator that is betraying the national trust. Encouraged by its power and ability to disregard all dissent based on farmer-feedback on the failure of Bt cotton and the increasing incidence of health hazards, it is now emboldened to pursue a major phase 2 thrust into Bt Foods, as opposed to animal feed, in support of the biotech agenda and the 'American Indo-US Agricultural Initiative'. The evidence before the SC shows the involvement of USAID in the development of GM crops and Bt brinjal in India.
It is completely unacceptable that public policy with regard to the unique risks of genetic engineering is based on the crop developer's (Mahyco) studies and assurance, termed by the Regulators as biosafety studies. As a matter of principle, which must be upheld for rigorous, independent and honest science, such a bias is indefensible and invalidates the test protocol, which must now be held to be void. The crop developer cannot be expected to prove that his own crop is allergenic and unsafe. This biosafety study is nothing more than an ill-conceived PR exercise by Mahyco, masquerading as a scientific document, with little supporting data to verify the claims.
There is an outcry by leading international scientists, (many of whom have provided affidavits for the Court), who are aghast at the new depths being plumbed and allowed by the Indian Regulator, of abysmal standards in so-called biosafety studies, not yet observed elsewhere. The repercussions of the Regulator's releases of GM foods in India will be global. Dr. Arpad Pusztai, the world renowned toxicologist and leading expert in protein lectins in a telephone conversation with Petitioner No 1, Aruna Rodrigues, said that in all these years of scrutinising industry studies, (and most of these have passed through his hands), he has never seen anything quite like this. Prof. David Schubert of the prestigious Salk Institute says, the safety testing data on the Ministry (GEAC) website is "very poorly done and in the absence of REAL DATA it is impossible to make any assessment of the validity of their claims". Dr. Doug Gurian Sherman, Senior Scientist at the Centre For Food Safety concurs. Dr. Robert Mann formerly senior lecturer in biochemistry at the University of Auckland and Advisor to successive Ministry's of Health in NZ, says, "I regard the 'Bt'-brinjal field-trial proposal as one of the most ill-conceived I have encountered in my three decades of critical appraisal of GM. The risks and hazards, while not exactly known or indeed precisely foreseeable, appear to be so grave that the proposed field-trials should be enjoined pending a thorough assessment such as has yet to be performed."
While various Bt toxins have been incorporated into GE corn and cotton for animal feed, it has NEVER BEFORE BEEN EXPRESSED IN A VEGETABLE CROP FOR COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION ANYWHERE. Bt brinjal in India if approved, will be the FIRST internationally, widely grown vegetable/food product with a Bt toxin. It is a major source of calories in India, because of its fat content, it is widespread, is part of the diet of most Indians, is eaten in significant quantities and while cooked, there is less processing, and therefore more hazardous. In Ayurvedha preparations, it is eaten raw, where the purity of the product is critical.
Broadly, there are at least 5 major concerns about the safety of Bt Brinjal and why it would be a grave mistake to introduce Bt brinjal in India:
i. Its hazardous potential for effecting human health: GM FOODS HAVE NOT BEEN SAFETY TESTED ANYWHERE, LEAST OF ALL BT FOOD CROPS AND VEGETABLES. Bt crops are toxic. No toxicology testing has ever been done. Furthermore, serious limitations of current allergy-testing procedures for GMO proteins, is widely recognised. For example, the recent case in Australia, revealed that a protein previously consumed safely in beans had become immunogenic (allergic reaction), when engineered into GMO peas. In other words when the transgenic DNA from a GM plant/food is taken up, integrated and expressed in vertebrate organisms, like the alpha-amylase inhibitor gene from beans, when expressed in peas they exhibited altered functions and allergenic properties. Other forms of unintended effects are possible which would confer unanticipated activities to cry genes (Bt proteins like in Bt cotton). It took 10 years to discover the 'bean altered effect in peas' and the tests were abandoned. The immunogenicity of the GMO peas would not have been detected by currently used tests - the tests that revealed the problem are not currently part of required protocols for any regulatory agency. This means that new allergy tests and careful long-term tests are needed to assure the safety of all Bt crops and particularly food crops like Bt brinjal. It also demonstrates unequivocally, the problems that emerge with the process of genetic engineering, that they are intrinsic to the technology.
"GE crops present unique and irreversible risks, no new GM crops should be allowed to be cultivated, commercially traded or incorporated into human food or animal feeds without the minimum required testing methods referred to." (Dr A Pusztai)
ii. It will certainly contaminate the many varieties of brinjal currently grown in India as well as its wild relatives: the implications of the introduction of Bt Brinjal in India are extremely serious as India is a centre of origin and domestication of brinjal. Because Brinjal originated in India, there are many varieties of both wild, such as Solanum Incanum, and cultivated plants. Therefore it is likely that the Bt gene will be transferred from the crop to those wild relatives. If the gene confers an advantage to the wild plants, it will spread in those plants and cause possible harm. "This is a very different risk than for the crop itself, since most crops, unlike their wild relatives, cannot survive without cultivation" (Doug G-Sherman) When risk assessments were done in the US and EU for these crops, no evaluations of possible impacts on 'centres of origin' were even conducted. These questions were never ever considered.
Farmers in traditional agriculture as in India play a markedly different role from farmers in industrial agriculture whose role is limited to the production of crops. In traditional agriculture, farmers play a role in conservation, development of new cultivars, actively maintaining crop landraces (domesticated from wild varieties). Since transgenic crops have the potential to reduce genetic diversity, Bt brinjal varieties could displace local brinjal landraces that hold genetic diversity important to local farmers and the world, as sources of important traits. Once GM brinjal is cultivated on a large scale these tremendously important sources of genetic diversity will be lost forever due to transgenic contamination. The genetic diversity is important because some of the strains will be naturally resistant to lethal pathogens, which would be fatal to crops in the future. Once lost, this lack of diversity can lead to the complete loss of the crop. The most recent example is the demise of the banana due to the loss of fungus resistant wild relatives. It is to be expected that like any new technology, (microwaves, mobiles for example) farmers will experiment with GE crops, especially in India, where the government, sarkari, endorsement through 'approval' carries great weight that the transgenic seed is indeed better than their own, when in fact it is not.
iii. Potential environmental harm from the Bt Cry1Ac gene: Bt crops are not sufficiently selective and specific for pests and by inflicting damage to beneficial insects they destroy the natural balance between pests and useful organisms. Environments in centres of domestication are quite different from those where GE crops are grown. Both pests and non-target organisms are different. If the gene spreads in wild relatives of brinjal, its escape into the environment will likely be permanent. The toxin produced by the gene may then kill insects that feed on the wild plants. These insects, in turn provide food for other organisms such as birds and mammals, which may then suffer harm.
iv. It will evoke dissemination of mutant insects resistant to Bacillus thuringiensis: the natural bacterium B. t. is very important in advanced organic agriculture, so insects resistant to this pesticide would be a serious threat to many types of agriculture on which a country such as India inevitably & rightly relies.
v. It will eliminate a current and potential export market once it is known that it is a GM product that is being sold. In the US, farmers rejected GM wheat (HT, herbicide tolerant) for this reason and it is not grown in that country. Within India, non-GM farms including organic farms will be contaminated. This will be largely surreptitious and therefore un-known, will not be labelled and will therefore affect both farmers? rights and consumers and their food and health choices.
The GEAC Changes to 'Event-based' System
There is no scientific evidence published or otherwise to show that event-based regulation is scientific and therefore acceptable. Quite the contrary, evidence shows that "splicing the same transgene into different crops can lead to different unforeseen and unpredictable consequences" known as 'unintended effects', an accepted euphemism for scientific ignorance: totally "un-predicable changes unrelated to the nature of the transgene can occur, because of the complexity of interactions between genes, as well as the more obvious problems of gene disruption by insertion of the transgene itself". Furthermore, the bean-pea experiment described above "formally proves that the assumptions underlying the 'event based' approval process are fundamentally wrong" (Prof David Schubert).
Prompt toxicity of a GM product might be rapidly detected once the product entered the marketplace if it caused a unique disease, and if the food were labelled for traceability, as were the GM batches of tryptophan, the famous case of a GM food supplement, amino acid, which killed hundreds of Americans. HOWEVER, CANCER OR OTHER COMMON DISEASES WITH DELAYED ONSET WOULD TAKE DECADES TO DETECT, AND MIGHT NEVER BE TRACED TO THEIR CAUSE.
The 'Prayer' to the SC for a Status Quo: The Writ Petition may not be made infructuous
It is abundantly clear that the GEAC is quite lacking in commitment to the methods involved in the serious business of test protocols, in their design, their processes, execution and independence, or the critical need for "sceptical analyses" of GM proposals to assess their hazards. All of these are conspicuous by their absence in the Bt brinjal study. Instead, the Regulator is resorting to tweaking the Mahyco study here and there, as if it can be strained of weaknesses. The GEAC's regulatory performance is a sad commentary on Indian regulation. The attempt to pass off the Mahyco-sponsored Bt brinjal testing as legitimate biosafety tests is a new low in Indian standards and integrity. Furthermore, the insidious move to event-based regulation is unparalleled anywhere. At best, the Regulator may be accused of ignorance in which case it stands disqualified to carry out its mandate under the EPA.
It has also become clear that civil society cannot reign in a Regulator that is malfunctioning with intent and deliberation. We just do not have the resources, the expertise and experience to do so. IT WOULD THEREFORE BE EXTREMELY UNWISE FOR THESE REASONS TO RISK THE NATION'S BIOSAFETY AND SOVEREIGN INTERESTS. Furthermore, the GEAC has no credibility left in the eyes of civil society. Thus, it has become both necessary and urgent to institute the office of an Ombudsman, autonomous, independent, free of government interference, or the presence of bureaucrats in its management: WITH THE SPECIFIC MANDATE TO PROTECT INDIA'S BIOSAFETY, STARTING AS A FIRST ORDER OF PRIORITY WITH ASSESSING THE UNIQUE RISKS POSED BY GE AND ITS IMPACTS. SUCH A WATCHDOG WILL OVERSEE THE WORK OF THE GOVERNMENT REGULATOR IN WHATEVER FORM. A panel of independent scientists of eminence from India and abroad, need to be deployed to work out sound processes for safety testing protocols, who have the experience to fill the current gaps in safety testing procedures and assessment.
It is of profound concern that a regulator and a department of government can abuse its powers by subverting democratic processes to such an degree, that it is able to subject India to the incalculable consequences of its hubris and extreme folly for evermore, in perpetuity, impacting the many dimensions of the problem in India, and globally, presented by the unique risks of genetic engineering and GM crops.
There are two major and far reaching crises facing mankind. The first is undoubtedly 'climate change'. The second is the profound truth that the unique risks of GE and GM crops have potential impacts of many magnitudes that are still not understood and would affect our world in ways unimaginable. Arguably, it stands with climate change as two of the most serious crises to be challenged and overcome; However, its threats (GE) are not perceived or recognised by peoples, because it is still a new technology and is being subjected to the same spin and swift boating as 'climate change' was for years and indeed still is, with the support of the White House. We are only now waking up to the realisation of the fallout of this immense folly. The interventions required globally for reductions in CO2 emissions to be effected by national governments are both complex and structural. On the other hand, with GM crops, the intervention necessary is still remarkably simple, within the powers of National Governments, given the political will, honesty to recognise the risks and ability to withstand US pressure. Not all African Nations are capitulating to this inordinate pressure. Furthermore, the scope for correction and redemption that lies within the powers of the Indian justice system makes the possibility of such an intervention, timely, effective and full of hope. It is the Petitioners' case that this Writ Petition cannot be allowed to fall by the way side because of the utter irresponsibility and recklessness of a Regulator-turned-approver of GM. Approvals have already been given for an astonishing array of 91 field trials. This is of the greatest concern. The timescale during which the Regulator plans approvals for large-scale field trials of Bt brinjal is in August 2006 with further plans for other crops later in the year. Therefore, time is of the essence for remedial action. Based on the evidence in this Application and this is the reason for filing it, we are at a crossroads now. In the time that it takes for this Hon'ble Court to be seized of the debate and evidence before it, India will be irreversibly contaminated and this WP will become infructuous. Genetic engineering if allowed to proceed unchecked will change the molecular structure of the world's food. In India, if the GEAC's reckless rush into GM foods is not checked, this process will be the fastest and riskiest experiment anywhere, with irreversible impacts on our farmers, their crop choices, our food and health, our wild places and our countryside. Truly we need sense and it would appear, an uncommon sense: sound science must prevail in the debate over GE to ensure the safety of consumers and the environment. It truly presents the gravest global threat alongside 'climate change'.
Risks covered up - By Devinder Sharma - The Deccan Herald, http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/jul312006/panorama1632232006730.asp
It is now official. A report by the Planning Commission has accepted that Bt cotton shouldn't have been approved for the rainfed regions of the country. The "astronomical" seed price, the need for more water and pesticides has aggravated the crisis for cotton farmers who are already reeling under a terrible agrarian emergency.
The Bt cotton debacle was on the cards. If the latest reports of Bt cotton farming in China, the global case study for promotion of the silver-bullet GM crops, are any indication, cutting-edge technology is being promoted at the cost of gullible farmers. A study by the Cornell University and the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy has found that Bt cotton farmers have to spray as much as the conventional farmers are, besides incurring net losses. There is also no GM crop that increases productivity. Many of these crops - for instance, GM soyabean - reduce crop yields.
The prime minister visited Vidharba but neither have the cotton farmers growing Bt cotton been compensated nor has the industry been blacklisted. No uncomfortable questions are likely to be asked, no heads will roll, and no one will be accountable for the biggest scientific fraud to have hit Indian science. Such is the callous apathy towards the farming community that the apex committee - the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) - has, instead of persecuting erring firms and officials, further allowed the seed companies to incorporate the Bt gene into any cotton variety. It is now getting ready with a green signal for Bt brinjal. It is a tragic reflection of the way science has been made subservient to corporate interests.
Scientific research is rigged, alarming evidence of health dangers are covered up, and intense political pressure silences the sane voice of dissidents. Distortions, omissions, cover-ups and bribes are used to promote an unhealthy and risky technology, and that too with the "pious" intention of increasing productivity and thereby, eradicating hunger.
The overt and covert machinations to push unhealthy and risky GM foods began a decade ago. The US found a simple way out to first force the African countries into submission. The US Senate passed a Bill, the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003, (HR 1298), which, in a diplomatic way, links financial aid to combating HIV AIDS with GM food acceptance. Ministers, judges, bureaucrats, scientists and journalists are routinely taken to the US to learn about the "virtues" of GM technology.
Bt brinjal is the world's first genetically altered food crop ready to be released in its centre of origin. It is also a field test to ascertain the impact on human health. So far, the industry has been, ad nauseum, repeating that GM crops have brought no ill-effects on Americans who have been eating it unknowingly for a decade or so. This is, however, not true. Average, middle-aged, white Americans are much more sick than their counterparts in England, startling new research shows. This is despite US healthcare spending per person being more than double what Britain spends. The inference is clear. Americans are also more prone to diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, lung disease and cancer. In the 1980s, nearly 100 Americans were killed and more than 5000 fell sick from a disease called Eosinophillia-Myalgia Syndrome (EMS), which was traced to a genetically engineered brand of GM soya (L-tryptophan) produced by the Japanese company Showa Denko.
A UK study found that soya allergies skyrocketed by 50 per cent after GM soyabean was imported. Public awareness about the harmful effects of GM food is now becoming global. The risks include unexpected food allergies, toxins in food or hastening the spread of antibiotic-resistant disease. Even the seed giant Monsanto's own studies have shown that some rats fed on GM maize had smaller kidneys and variations in the composition of their blood, while the rats fed on normal maize were healthy.
Bt brinjal is not the only food GM crop on the horizon. Scientists are getting ready with a list of 20-odd crops that have been genetically altered - rice, mustard, cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, potato and soyabean to name a few. The GM food industry is getting ready to treat the nation as a testing laboratory.
(A plant geneticist by training, the writer is a researcher and policy analyst specialising in global food and agriculture.)
Farmer suicides hit 10-year high as aid package from Indian PM falls short - Paul Peachey - AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE , Saturday, July 22, 2006
The suicide rate of farmers in India's poverty-stricken main cotton belt has hit a 10-year high, apparently prompted by disappointment at an aid package from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Sixty farmers - including two fathers and their sons - have killed themselves this month, crippled with debt and hit by falling prices for cotton, says a group working with farmers. Singh announced on July 1 a relief package of 37.5 billion rupees (HK$6.23 billion) after a visit to the Vidarbha region of western Maharashtra. More than 600 Vidarbha farmers killed themselves in the 12 months to the end of June, hitting a peak of more than 70 in March, said Kishor Tiwari, of the Vidarbha People's Protest Forum. But it got worse after Singh's visit. The death rate is the highest in the 10 years the group has kept records.
"People are very disappointed because they had high hopes," Tiwari said, as Singh missed key issues. Singh ordered a waiver of interest payments to state-owned banks. But activists say he failed to address the issue of private moneylenders used by 90 percent of farmers. Some moneylenders - including politicians and businessmen - charge up to 120 percent annual interest from farmers.
Federal government officials earlier this year said more than 8,900 farmers had committed suicide since 2001 in four states hardest hit by agricultural distress, including 980 in Maharashtra. The number has been dismissed by activists. A state government-backed report, for instance, says more than 4,100 farmers ended their lives in Maharashtra in 2004. Its author, Srijit Mishra, said "something has to be done with the moneylenders. The ground level situation seems to be getting worse." Activists blame the high cost of genetically modified seeds for adding to farmers' indebtedness. And the Supreme Court last month backed investigators who said US biotech giant Monsanto charged too much for cotton seed and had to cut prices. Mahyco Monsanto's cotton was planted by more than one million Indian farmers in 2005, resulting in higher yields and less pesticide, the company claimed. But farmers said GM seed last year was nearly four times the price of traditional seed.
A new disease appears to be spreading for Bt cotton
PRESS RELEASE, July 18, 2006 - from APCIDD-DDS [Deccan Development Society]
To, The Editor
Alarm bells are ringing for the Bt cotton farmers once again. Buoyed by the government decision to control Bt seed prices nearly 100% more farmers planted Bt cotton this year. But the early results are nothing but scary.
A new disease appears to be spreading for Bt cotton in the districts of Nalgonda and Rangareddy. A senior agriculture scientist Dr Qayum [who retired as the Joint Director, Agriculture of the AP Government] who toured these areas reports that "a peculiar symptom of middle order leaves exhibiting necrotic spots" is visible in Bt cotton that was planted early. Never before has this disease appeared in cotton.
This might turn out to be fatal for Bt cotton plants. Last year there were wide spread complaints that Bt cotton had invited Tobacco Streak Virus, a disease which had never been seen on cotton plants in the history of the crop in this region. Similarly there have been widespread reports that the soils on which Bt cotton has been planted have been showing early symptoms of toxicity. Last year the news that over 1500 sheep grazing on Bt cotton had died had sent chill down the spine of plant toxicologists. The APCID which has been researching Bt cotton in Warangal District since the last four years had written to the officers of the Veterinary Department with evidences of goats and other animals who had grazed on Bt cotton dying of toxicity.
Now the new symptom which according to Dr Qayum might be a "complex of Tobacco Streak Virus and Necrosis" is becoming visible in Nalgonda and Rangareddy Districts. With the delay in rains compounding the problem, farmers are panicking the area.
In view of this the APCID demands that the Government immediately order a scientific inquiry into the disease from the scientists of Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University as well as invite scientists from the Central Institute for Cotton Research and get to the truth of the matter. Bt cotton plant is a toxic plant by definition because it continuously produces its own pesticide at least for 90 days of the plant growth. To make people believe that this has no effect on soil, human, animal and environmental health is one of the crudest lies offered to the farming community. If the lie is perpetuated in the same fashion year after year, Bt cotton could be another major reason for farmer suicides in the state.
P V Satheesh - Convenor
GM crops: Court notice to Centre on ban plea - India becoming dumping ground: petitioner - The Hindu, July 15 2006
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre seeking a ban on introduction of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in any form, whether by import or by manufacture in India till a regulatory framework is put in place. A three-Judge Bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice R.V. Raveendran issued the notice on a petition filed by Vandana Shiva seeking such a ban. The petitioner submitted that while most countries were banning GM products India was being used as a dumping ground for multinational corporations. Vested interests and corporate houses such as Monsanto were encouraging the development of unhealthy and scientifically known to be dangerous GM Organisms disregarding the health, environment or future of the people.
Feedback on Bt Brinjal biosafety & beyond - letter from Coalition for GM-Free India to the GEAC, 16th July, 2006 (go to reports page).
SHOULD INDIA BE FED GM FOOD? - The Bangalore Declaration, July 5, 2006
In a Round Table titled Should India be fed GM Food? held at Bangalore, Karnataka on July 5, 2006, a 52 member group consisting of six food scientists, nutrition experts and agricultural scientists, two law specialists, a dozen eminent farmer leaders, twenty consumer groups, half a dozen media people and six environmental NGOs thoroughly discussed the GM Labelling Rules being proposed by your Ministry and have come to the following conclusions:
We question the need to allow import of Genetically engineered foods, and wonder what is the current necessity to facilitate these imports at all? Is it to give more nutritious food to Indian people or to ensure their food security? On both counts the need of these imports is highly questionable.
As food, nutrition and agriculture scientists in the group:
We are completely convinced of the advantages of our traditional foods over the articulated need for genetically engineered [GE] foods. The traditional cropping technology that is marked by biodiverse farming systems contains all the human nutritional needs within it. These systems are natural, non-toxic, and the knowledge of their cultivation is located within the community. These natural foods have therapeutic value also because of the bioactive molecules contained in them. It is the awareness of these advantages that we must create among the citizens of this country. We would like to emphasise that a particular focus of our government should be on reclaiming and popularising less familiar, uncultivated and underutilised foods that are integral to our biodiverse farming and are very rich in all the macro and micro nutrients.
Considering the problems of primary, secondary and tertiary processing of foods, we feel that there are temptations to recommend GE foods. But these problems can be met by making citizens and consumers aware of the multifaceted advantages of traditional Indian foods According to us, most of the problems relating to agricultural productivity, food security and nutrition arise from a fragmented approach to science. This blinds a majority of scientists to the existing alternatives. Therefore there is an acute need for holistic scientific research along with integrated evaluation. We want to emphasise that biotech science has been marginalising other life sciences. There are large areas of scientific ignorance and misinformation that govern the current biotech led scientific arguments. There is an urgent need to correct these and retrieve a holistic science.
As farmers we are convinced that:
We do not want any kind of labelling. We totally reject GE food and GE technology, since we all know that authentic alternatives already exist in this country including organic, traditional systems of food production. The proposed amendment in the name of biosafety undertaken by the government is totally anti farmer, anti people and anti environment. We are of the opinion that the labelling order being pushed down our throats without any large debates and discussions is definitely an effort to promote GE and prop up the MNCs involved in GE.
We want to emphasise that food and nutritional security of this country can only be achieved if the knowledge of crop production is integral to the community. In our traditional systems this knowledge is located and distributed within the community and therefore it carries a distinct social and economic advantage over GE crops which is a centralised, proprietary knowledge system and must be viewed within the framework of IPR regime. Apart from externalising production knowledge, GE is also characterized by a total externality of inputs. It is a market oriented technology and has very little to do with the welfare of food consumers and food producers. It can only be done in a monopolistic form of production which will displace the farming community of this country, which is almost 70% of our population. This will be a disaster of monumental proportions.
We contest the idea that we have to keep on increasing food output using GE to meet the food security of people. This is a total fallacy. Traditional production systems have the capacity to produce enough and more to address the food security of this nation. It is a great irony that while our government is happy to export organic foods produced in this country, it is also trying to import GE foods into the country. Through this policy process, we wonder whether it is trying to create a ìsecond classî of food consumers in this country who should be fed with inferior GE foods that are injurious to peopleís health while superior organic foods are exported. To overcome all these, we should concentrate on traditional food systems which have all the nutritional, food and health security. This centuries old organic system in this country will be killed if we allow GE foods and technologies to take over.
We want to warn the government that GE technology, besides tampering with nature, through the contamination of crops which is inherent to it, will irreparably damage our biodiversity and genetic resources and pauperise the enormous genetic wealth of this country. Therefore the government should never forget even for a moment that GE is internally contaminant and its presence itself is the presence of contamination and therefore whether it is labelled or not, will carry irreparable damage to our agriculture and environment. We believe that a lot of the changes in our food and agricultural policies are being done without any discussion with the people being affected by those changes. Such policy changes made at the Centre are contrary to the Constitution of the country where agriculture is a State subject.
As consumers in the group:
We are horrified that the rights enumerated in the Consumer Protection Act have not been represented in the current labelling efforts. We are completely opposed to GE technology per se. The lessons learnt from other countries that have rejected GE foods have guided us to come to this conclusion. We strongly urge that GE foods should not be imported until it is conclusively proven safe. The regulatory mechanism available in the country such as GEAC, Food Standards Council should be made more transparent and autonomous. Currently they are captured by the industry. As consumers we oppose GE food and GE technology thrust by such mechanisms.
In the light of all of the above, the Bangalore Declaration emanating from the round table Should India be fed with GM Food, in which food, nutrition and agricultural scientists, legal experts, farmer leaders, consumer groups and environmentalists strongly opposes the efforts to import GM foods, labelled or unlabelled, into this country. The Bangalore Declaration strongly argues for a GM-Free India in the interests of the health and nutrition of its population, food safety, food security and the environmental integrity.
On behalf of
Y G Muralidharan - CREAT
Maj Gen Vombatkere - MYSORE GRAHAKARA PATRIKA, A Mysore city based consumer organisation
P V Satheesh
SOUTH AGAINST GENETIC ENGINEERING
A coalition of 50 networks, individuals representing farmers, consumers, academics, scientists, media practitioners and civil society groups in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra
Genetically Modified (GM) Technology is No Solution to Agriculture Crisis - News Release
New Delhi, July 10 - Farmers from Haryana, Delhi-rural and Western Uttar Pradesh led by the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) today gathered at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi to oppose the proposed introduction of Bt. brinjal, India's first genetically modified (GM) food crop. Bt. brinjal has a bacterial gene whose patent is owned by Monsanto. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has invited comments from stakeholders regarding the biosafety and socio-economic studies on Bt. brinjal by July15 after which it would take a decision.
"We condemn the government's plans to irresponsibly introduce GM food crops without proper long term studies of its impact on the health of the people and environment and on the socio-economic realities of the farmers of this country" said Yudhvir Singh, President, Delhi state, BKU representing millions of farmers in a coalition comprising Bharatiya Kissan Union in North India, Shetkari Sanghatan, Maharashtra, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Samithi (KRRS) in Karnataka and the Tamil Nadu Farmers Association. "In our memorandum (1) to the Prime Minister we have demanded a total ban of GM open air large scale field trials" he said.
Farmers today held dharnas outside the office of the District Collector in at least hundred districts across the country and demanded a 'Genetically Modified seeds free India'. "We are against the anti-farmer and multinational company friendly agricultural policies of the UPA government," said Rakesh Singh Tikait who is the spokes person for BKU.
Leaders of the farmer coalition strongly rejected GM technology as unsustainable and expensive and said it is not suited for a country like India where 80% of the farmers are small and marginal. "The unprecedented haste by the GEAC to approve Bt Brinjal is raising suspicions and it is a shame that the government has excluded farmer groups in looking for a solution to the agrarian crisis", said Yudhvir Singh.
"Our experience in Vidharbha shows that fancy technologies like GM seeds which are introduced as a saviour for farmers, are a pretext for reaping profits by seed companies who get massive royalties from seed sales leaving the farmer with nothing but unfulfilled promises", said Vijay Jawantia, Shetkari Sangathan. The introduction of Bt cotton has added to the crisis in the agricultural sector in rain fed regions like Vidharbha and has resulted in greater number of farmer's suicides, he said. "The Rs.1200 technology fee that Monsanto extracted from the sale of every packet of Bt. cottonseed has robbed farmers of Rs. 625 crores in Andhra Pradesh alone and has only driven farmers to suicides". He warned farmers not to fall prey to the aggressive marketing techniques and huge profit promised by the companies and exhorted farmers to understand the hidden threats behind GM crops and reject the technology.
Yudhvir Singh challenged the government that farmers would fight the introduction of GM seeds in food crops. "The American multinational Monsanto-Mahyco which is responsible for Bt. cotton, has now applied to market Bt. brinjal. This company is in contempt of court for refusing to reduce the patent fee on Bt. cotton seeds despite a court order from Andhra Pradesh" said Yudhvir Singh. "Brinjal is grown by millions of small and marginal farmers across India. Any government must be answerable to millions of farmers in this country if it wants to stay in power," he said.
Contact: Yudhvir Singh, President, BKU, Delhi State. Mobile : 9868146405 firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Notes to editor: (1) Memorandum personally handed over by farmer leaders to Prime Minister, Dr. Man Mohan Singh at 3 p.m. on July 10, and copy submitted to Agriculture Minister, Shri. Sharad Pawar and Minister of Environment and Forests, Shri. A. Raja.
Vidarbha farmers' suicides, Bt cotton linked - Makarand Gadgil / Nagpur - Business Standard, July 4 2006
Genetically modified cotton seeds or Bt cotton is one of the major reasons for the spate of farmers' suicides in Vidarbha over the last two years, say experts. Last year, when Bt cotton was introduced in the region, the seeds were priced at a prohibitive Rs 1,700 for a 450 gm packet, almost four times higher than the hybrid seeds. "The reason for such a high price was the high royalty of Rs 1,400 per packet charged by Monsanto, the US seed company which has developed the Bt seeds from its licensed seed manufacturer in India," said Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti.
However, the Andhra Pradesh government challenged this high royalty in the Supreme Court, after which Monsanto agreed to reduce the royalty and this year seeds are available at Rs 750 per packet, still pricier by Rs 300 compared to the hybrid seeds, says Tiwari. Tiwari argues that the combination of high seed price and withdrawal of the monopoly state purchase scheme is what drove the farmers in the area to suicide. "With imported cotton coming in at 10 per cent duty, there was no way a Vidarbha farmer could compete in the marketplace profitably. This state of affairs will continue until the government raises the import duty on cotton to 60 per cent or reintroduces the monopoly purchase scheme," he said.
Vijay Jawanghia of the Shetkari Sanghatna [farmers' movement] adds, "The introduction of Bt cotton only increased the indebtedness of the farmer as it raised the overall cost of inputs by 40 per cent. And unfortunately, at the same time prices fell from Rs 2,300 per quintal to Rs 1,700 per quintal as the state government withdrew its cotton monopoly purchase scheme." Tiwari also alleges that the state went ahead with the introduction of the Bt seed without considering its implications and despite expert opinion to the contrary. He points out that both Dr Punjabrao Agriculture University of Nagpur and the state agriculture commissioner had said that Bt cotton is ideal for areas where temperature doesn't exceed 35 degrees Celsius. But summer temperatures in Vidarbha often soar beyond 45 degrees. Also, it is not the ideal seed for areas dependent on rains.
KEEP KERALA GM FREE
To: Sri V S Achuthanandhan, Honorable Chief Minister, Government of Kerala
You may be aware that the Government of India has plans to approve the release of Genetically Modified Crop varieties in food crops starting with Bt Brinjal. This is a dangerous move which can have disastrous consequences on the food safety, health and environment. It can also irreparably damage the farming sector in the country, which is already facing the after-effects of globalization and WTO policies.
While the controversy over Bt cotton intensifies in the country, Government of India has recently stated through its Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) under Ministry of Environment & Forests that they are going to give permission to large scale field trials of Bt Brinjal, an important vegetable crop in the country. This is only a beginning. Small scale field trials of at least 20 food crops like rice, mustard, potato, tomato etc. are going on in the country in the research institutions and farmers' fields even without the knowledge of the state governments and often, without the knowledge of farmers themselves. By the end of this year, the seed companies would be coming out with results of field trials for getting permission for commercial release of their transgenic varieties.
The concern over the environmental and public health impacts of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is not yet resolved even among the geneticists, nutritionists and toxicologists. Many studies on GMOs have already shown health impacts like allergies, cancers, tumours, stomach lesions etc. in experimental animals. This is enough to cause alarm especially while the health concerns are increasing even in a state like Kerala where people have access to good health care facilities and are economically better off. In India, many reports have pointed out to the serious inadequacies in our biosafety testing and our risk assessment related to GMOs. Even in the developed world, many regulatory systems ask basic questions like 'is it socially and ethically justifiable', before the introduction of any GMO into the environment. In India, even though majority of our people survive on agriculture, even basic scientific questions are yet to be asked and answered with regard to GMOs, leave alone risk assessment parameters that cover social costs.
Kerala is rich in biodiversity, from the coastal tract to the High Ranges. 50% of the state falls within the purview of Western Ghats which is a global biodiversity hot spot. It was predicted and now is a well realized fact that GMOs can contaminate the natural world through horizontal gene transfer (HGT) and other means. GMOs are unnatural, not just because they have been produced in the laboratory, but because they can only be made in the laboratory, creating organisms and in ways that have never existed in the course of 3.8 billion years of evolution. Scientists concede that they do not understand the mechanisms of GE induced changes in gene expression in sufficient detail (Aruna Rodrigues, 2005). This is the reason why there is an internationally accepted bio safety protocol which is put in place to regulate the release of GMOs. Biotechnology Task Force Report by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan also put forwarded the fact that ecologically sensitive areas like Western Ghats region should be kept safe from contamination from GMOs.
Bt Cotton, the only GM crop to be approved for planting so far in India, is under commercial cultivation in the country since 2002. Bt Cotton was released with permission from GEAC. From the very beginning, there were concerns raised about its poor performance, high cost of seeds, continued pesticide use, illegal proliferation of unapproved seeds etc. Even state governments have admitted that Bt Cotton is more vulnerable to pest and disease attack compared to non-Bt Cotton [AP government], that Bt Cotton has been stress-intolerant and that organic cotton gives the best profits to farmers [Maharashtra government]. Even in cases where Bt Cotton has failed and state governments have ordered the concerned seed companies to pay up compensation, the companies (the Multi-national corporation - Monsanto and Mahyco) refused to become accountable, as in the case of Andhra Pradesh. They have even challenged the order of the Andhra Pradesh Government and the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) Commission on the matter of the very high cost they charge for their seeds from the farmers.
Now, studies are coming out about the health impacts on agriculture workers and on impacts on livestock. There are reports that indicate mortality amongst livestock that graze in the cotton field after harvest. Farmers from various states including Punjab are reporting adverse impacts on their soils by growing Bt Cotton.
While such circumstances prevail in the country the central government should have taken a precautionary approach and should have stopped or at least stalled the further release of GE seeds. But on the other hand Government of India is going ahead with giving permission to more GE seeds, that too in food crops like brinjal, bhindi, rice etc. This is dangerous, unscientific and undemocratic. More importantly, this will be an irreversible damage done to Indian agriculture. There can be no co-existence of GM agriculture along with non-GM agriculture in this country since contamination is unavoidable, genetic and physical.
Although Kerala is rich in biodiversity and rural economy is still dependent on agriculture, we are also a food dependent state. Hence such decisions as this by the central government can have disastrous consequences ecologically, economically and socially in the state. We believe that as a politically aware society we should take a position on this issue and ask the central government to stop giving permission to such unsafe technology in the country and especially in Kerala.
Food is fundamental to our existence and it is our right. We should not allow MNCs and their associated national seed companies to take control over our agriculture, food, health and farmersí lives. We have thousands of proven safe alternatives to produce quality food in adequate quantities. Such alternatives unfortunately are neglected and do not receive any support from the government. While these can truly help our farmers, especially small and marginal and landless farmers, the central government is going ahead with a pro-GMO policy which can only help the big corporations to profit.
To overcome the agriculture crisis in the state a large number of farming experiments are going on in the last 10-15 years by farmers, research institutions, organizations and Self Help Groups of women in Kerala. These include Integrated Pest Management practices, vermi composting, organic farming, bio dynamic farming, multi cropping, group farming etc, to name a few. The results are highly encouraging and the farmers are getting better prices for their products and it is becoming a model for other farmers. But the introduction of GMO s can destroy all these efforts within no time. It is imperative for Kerala to remain organic because of its export potential which can actually save the farmers who cultivate spices and other cash crops and whose economy is dependent on its trade. There is a good and promising market for organic food within the state as well as outside and our farmers can benefit from tapping into such opportunities. But introduction of GMOs can kill this market altogether since contamination of crops by GMOs (unintended effects) is a certainty, and such crops are rejected by many of the importing countries. .
Therefore, we the undersigned people request you to raise this concern with the central government and demand that the release of Genetically Modified Crops and seeds be immediately stopped. We also request you to uphold the progressive status of Kerala as a growing organic state by declaring it and keeping it a GM free state.
Dr Thomas Varghese, Agriculture Scientist, (Ex-Chairman, Kerala State Agriculture Prices Board), Trivandrum
Prof R V G Menon, Kerala Sashtra Sahitya Parishad, Trivandrum
Dr A S K Nair, Scientist, Centre for Earth Science Studies, Trivandrum
C R Neelankandan, Environmentalist, Ernakulam
Jacob Lazer, People's Union for Civil Liberties, Kochi
Annie Punnoose, Social Activist, Trivandrum
S Usha, Coordinator(Sustainable Farming), Thanal
P R Sreekumar, GREENS, Trivandrum
Prof. M. K. Prasad, Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishan, (Ex _Pro Vice Chancellor, Calicut University), Kochi
Dr. S. Santhi (Environmental Scientist), Trivandrum
Dr. C. Thankam ( Retd ñ Professor, Botany, Government Womens College), Trivandrum
Dr K Saradamoni, Social Scientist
GEAC wants varsities to supervise on GM crop trials - ASHOK B SHARMA, July 01, 2006
NEW DELHI, JUNE 30: The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) on Friday decided to involve the state agriculture universities in bio-safety studies and field trials of transgenic crops. It deferred the decision on the proposal submitted by Mahyco asking permission for large scale multi-locational field trials of Bt Brinjal.
GEAC also deliberated on report submitted by the CD Mayee panel on Bt cotton and related issues. Mayee is at present the chairman of Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board (ASRB) and is also the co-chairman of GEAC.
NGOs had complained about large-scale violations of biosafety norms in the field trials. The GEAC has taken up this issue seriously and asked the Mayee panel to suggest measures for strengthening biosafety norms, said Desh Deepak Verma of GEAC.
Farmers' organisations and NGOs had also cited reported cases of mortality in sheeps grazing over Bt cotton fields in Warangal district in Andhra Pradesh. In this, context, GEAC has asked the promoter agency for transgenic crops, department of biotechnology to investigate the causes of such deaths. It has also asked the Andhra Pradesh government to send factual reports on this situation.
GEAC has admitted that it has not conducted enough toxicity studies. It said that it would conduct toxicity studies on Bt cotton leaves. The proposed largescale field trials of four Bt brinjal hybrids developed by Mahyco is now held up. The NGOs had also alleged, quoting scientific evidences, that Bt brinjal may prove to be hazardous to health and environment.
Plea to declare Orissa GM-free - Statesman News Service - http://www.thestatesman.net/page.news.php?clid=9&theme=&usrsess=1&id=121731
BHUBANESWAR, June 29: Voluntary organisations, particularly Thread, have urged chief minister Mr Naveen Patnaik to follow Uttaranchal's steps in declaring Orissa a "GM-free state". In a letter to the chief minister, Mr G John, executive director of Thread, cautioned against the move to introduce Bt Brinjal (the first genetically modified food crop) in the Indian fields. Since brinjal [aubergine/eggplant]is a widely grown crop in Orissa, the introduction of Bt Brinjal will destroy the backbone of farmers, he said. It will have an adverse impact on the health of a large section of the population, besides affecting livestock because people are used to feed livestock with leftovers and waste vegetables, including brinjal.
The disaster of growing Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra ought to be kept in mind, the NGO, which works on food security for tribals in Orissa, said. Even if the genetically modified crops are free of health and environment hazards, the fact is that it will lead to dependency on foreign seed providers, "something which spells disaster".
Listing out certain demands, the NGO said since effects of the modified organism are unknown and potentially hazardous, the use of it should be restricted till these seeds are properly examined. Bio-safety testing should include both medium and long-term effects on environment and health and needs to be carried out by independent and scientifically competent bodies.
Brazil GMO crackdown seen leading to $30m in cotton losses - DJCS, June 22, 2006
SAO PAULO - The discovery of illegal Monsanto (MON) transgenic cotton plants on roughly 18,000 hectares of Brazilian cotton farms caused a quarantine of those fields by federal authorities this week and will likely amount to $30 million in losses, according to Brazil's Cotton Producers Association, or Abrapa. "Farmers are more than a bit worried. Some say that they didn't know the plants were GMO," said Abrapa President Joao Carlos Jacobsen about the prohibited Roundup Ready Fiex Cotton, a genetically modified cotton seed that helps control the spread of weeds.
Abrapa estimates that 6,400 metric tons of cotton will be destroyed as a result. Brazil's government only allows for the planting of Monsanto's Bollgard cotton, another transgenic variety, in a few experimental fields. Bollgard cotton makes the plant more resistant to the boll weevil, one of the most damaging pests to cotton. Twenty properties throughout Brazil's top cotton-producing states were discovered this month to be using transgenic cotton. Government authorities are currently in Goias, the nations No. 3 producer.
The National Biosecurity Commission, or CTNBi0, said farmers would not be permitted to plant cotton on those fields in the 2006-07 crop. That doesn't mean farmers will plant less cotton, however. Most cotton farmers also plant soy and raise cattle, so they could move crops to other fields without reducing output.
Requests for permission to use GMO crops are currently being stalled at CTNBi0 under various political bottlenecks. CTNBi0 currently has a backlog of roughly 80 requests for experimental field tests for GMO corn, soy, rice and cotton, among other things.
Indian soymeal exports jump on strong demand - By Hari Ramachandran - REUTERS, June 19, 2006
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's soymeal exports are expected to nearly double to 3.7 million tonnes in the year ending September 2006 on strong demand from Vietnam and Japan and competitive prices, a top trade official said on Monday. "Vietnam, Japan, China, South Korea and Indonesia were among the strong buyers of Indian meal during the year," [Rajesh Agrawal, chairman of the Soybean Processors' Association of India] told Reuters over telephone from Indore. "Everywhere Indian meal was better accepted this year because it is non-genetically modified and of good quality," Agrawal said.
Seeds and protests - COVER STORY, FRONTLINE, Volume 23 - Issue 12: Jun. 17-30, 2006 - INDIA'S NATIONAL MAGAZINE - from the publishers of THE HINDU
VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN in New Delhi - http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/stories/20060630004102200.htm
The UPA government's decision to allow field trials in GM food crops may have human and economic costs. "THERE is greater attention of the public and political parties on issues such as fuel price hike, essentially because the impact of such measures on the everyday lives of people is more direct and immediate. But an issue such as the proposal to introduce large-scale field trials and seed production of a genetically modified (GM) food crop does not evoke the same kind of attention, though the long-term negative impact on society is comparatively higher. Our struggle is on and we know it will be long-drawn-out." Devinder Sharma of the Coalition for GM free India (CFGMFI) comments thus about the campaign launched by his organisation against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's move to initiate field trials and seed production of four hybrids of the transgenic Bt Brinjal. Members of the CFGMFI, a loose confederation of about 20 organisations and groups working in sectors including agriculture, consumer rights, organic farming, women's issues, medicine and environmental protection have been camping in New Delhi since the first week of June to generate awareness about the consequences of the GM food crop trials and get the government to drop the proposed move.
The government announced that it was considering a proposal to carry out the first ever GM food crop trials on May 25 rather quietly through a press release of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The press note, which was released even as the debate on the fuel price hike dominated media headlines, also announced other Ministry decisions. These included importing GM soybean oil and, commercially releasing Bt cotton hybrids developed by companies such as Nath Seeds, J.K. Seeds and Mahyco, the Indian subsidiary of the international corporate Monsanto. The press note also stated that the Bt Brinjal proposed by the UPA for field trials was, in fact, developed by Mahyco. All these decisions were apparently cleared by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) under the Ministry. Though the press note did not make specific references, there were indications from the Ministry that the GEAC perceived the Bt Brinjal trials as a forerunner to trials involving other food crops such as mustard, potato and tomato.
Implications for health
According to the CFGMFI, these decisions have far-reaching implications for agriculture and health . This is especially so giventhe contentious results that experiments with Bt cotton have produced in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. The CFGMFI leadership pointed out that negative consequences were all the more likely because the GEAC had said that the Bt gene being used for the brinjal trials was the same as the one used in Bt cotton. It appears that the same set of tests carried out when Bt cotton was introduced in the country is now being applied for Bt Brinjal. The tests were essentially devised by Monsanto; the company has proclaimed that the Bt cotton seed it supplied to India was safe. However, reports from the States in which Bt cotton was introduced have indicated that the tests against effects on human health were not as foolproof as claimed by the company. Most farmers and farm workers in different States have experienced longstanding allergies of different kinds. More recently, reports from Andhra Pradesh indicated a rise in sheep mortality after grazing on Bt cotton. According to the CFGMFI, some scientific investigations have even pointed to a clear correlation between exposure to Bt Cotton and the adverse health conditions seen among farmers.
The CFGMFI asserts that studies have established that the Bt gene is a known toxin that affects human and livestock health adversely. A note submitted by the organisation to Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Anbumani Ramdoss states: "Published, peer-reviewed papers by scientists demonstrate that recombinant Cry1Ac protoxin in the Bt gene is a powerful immunogen and when fed to mice, induced antibody responses similar to those obtained with the cholera toxin. Research shows that Cry1Ac actively binds to the inner surface of the mouse's small intestine. This contests the often-heard argument that Cry proteins do not affect mammals since they supposedly do not have receptors that bind the truncated toxin in the gut." Given these results, the CFGMFI points out, the consequences of trials with a food crop, indeed a vegetable crop that will be consumed directly, are unimaginable. The coalition argues that that introduction of the Bt gene in the food crop sector has the potential consequence of genetic manipulation. However, the position of the Ministry of Environment, as expressed by GEAC, is that the bio-safety package has been completed for brinjal and there are no reasons to stop large-scale field trials.
The Ministry proposes field trials of four hybrid varieties of different shapes and colours. It contends that the Bt gene provides protection against pests such as shoot and fruit borer and helicoverpa (bollworm). The Ministry argues that though the Bt gene used in brinjal is the same as the one in Bt cotton, more extensive bio-safety tests have been carried out since brinjal is a food crop. Ministry officials told Frontline that this time the toxicity study was conducted on mice, fish, poultry, rabbits, goats and cattle.
Apart from health concerns, the commercial dimensions of the exercise are also being questioned. There is a widespread perception, shared even by some State Agriculture Ministers belonging to the Congress, that the manner in which GM seeds are promoted is beneficial only to private companies, particularly big multinational corporations like Monsanto. The National Commission on Farmers headed by Professor M.S. Swaminathan has recommended that "the public sector must come up with competitive Bt cotton hybrids so as to lower the seed cost and benefit resource-poor farmers". He has highlighted the need to develop non-hybrid Bt cotton varieties to enable the reduction of seed prices, and to help farmers to retain their own seeds and to share them. But in almost every segment, companies such as Mahyco have held sway over the development and distribution of Bt seeds.
Such monopolies have had a negative effect on trade practices.In early June Agriculture Ministers and senior officials of seven cotton-growing States met in Hyderabad. They appealed to the Central government to join them and implead in the case against Monsanto on the pricing of Bt cotton seed. The meeting also called for a regulatory body to be set up to fix the trait value (a form of royalty charge) for technology products, which was being used by companies like Monsanto to extract unfair prices from farmers. For every 450 gm of seeds sold in India, Monsanto charged a trait value without any rationalisation. The trait value was first fixed (in 2004) at Rs.1,200 for 450 gm and increased to Rs.1,250 in 2005. It was reduced to Rs.900 for the kharif season in 2006. However, the trait value in the United States has remained at the equivalent of Rs.300 for the same weight for many years. The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (TPC) took note of this in May and asked Monsanto to reduce the trait value in India. The Hyderabad meeting, chaired by State Agriculture Minister Raghuveera Reddy and attended by Ministers from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Gujarat government, the Janata Dal (S) led Karnataka government and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) led West Bengal government, called upon all cotton-growing States to unite and fight the Monsanto monopoly.
Even as such calls go out, the Manmohan Singh-led UPA Ministry has opened up new areas for Monsanto. The Left parties referred to this trend in a note submitted at the UPA-Left Coordination Committee meeting on June 15. The note pointed out that "the Seeds Bill piloted by the Ministry of Agriculture seeks to subvert the seed rights of farmers and facilitate monopolisation of the seed business in the hands of the multinational seed companies. The Indo-U.S. Knowledge Initiative on Agricultural Research and Education ... has not only empowered Wal-Mart and Monsanto to dictate the agenda of agricultural research in India but also ensured that such research will be largely funded by the U.S.-based multinationals and therefore tied to the stringent intellectual property regime of the U.S."
The campaign on Bt Brinjal trials is, for the time being, carried forward primarily by organisations such as the CFGMFI. Many political parties may not accept the outright rejection of GM technology propounded by segments of the CFGMFI and a section of academics and activists. However, the human and economic dimensions of the propagation of GM seeds in India and the wide-ranging political reaction it has evoked indicates that the issue could well be another political front against the UPA's neoliberal policies.
Biotech brinjal - FRONTLINE Volume 23 - Issue 12: Jun. 17-30, 2006 - INDIA'S NATIONAL MAGAZINE - from the publishers of THE HINDU
Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had a rather unusual bunch of visitors last week - Greenpeace protesters dressed up as sheep and cattle, who camped outside his office. The "animals" were asking for an investigation into the death of 1,600 head of cattle and sheep in Andhra Pradesh in April 2006. The deaths were closely linked to prolonged consumption of Bt cotton stalks and leaves that were left in fields after the harvest.
Bt cotton is the only genetically modified (GM) seed sold in India. In the four years since it has been in use, not only has it failed to live up to its claim of being a `miracle seed', but it has also had harmful effects on biosafety. At a time when the safety of Bt cotton is highly suspect, the government's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) is considering clearance of large-scale field trials of Bt Brinjal. It is the first time that GM Brinjal is being released for an advanced stage of field trials in open conditions anywhere in the world. It is also the closest India has got to sanctioning GM food crops. If cleared, it will be the first time that the GEAC allows large-scale field trials for GM food crops. Such field trials could lead to the uncontrolled release of genetically modified organisms into the environment, which could contaminate normal varieties of the crop. Japan and several European countries have banned cultivation of GM food crops. But India is allowing it entry without taking adequate precautions.
Bt seeds are created by inserting a gene (Cry1Ac) from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into a plant cell. This gene is supposed to protect the brinjal from insects such as the fruit and shoot borer. Bt cotton provides resistance to bollworm because the insect dies after eating the Bt toxin; the toxin disrupts its digestive process.
Biosafety tests for Bt brinjal started in 2002. After two years of greenhouse evaluation, Mahyco, the company producing the seed, started field trials in 11 locations with five hybrids in 2004. The results of the limited field trials have been posted on the GEAC website. The GEAC has invited public feedback before it decides whether to give clearance for large-scale field trials.
Several environmental groups and farmers' associations have appealed against the trials. But the GEAC is dismissive. "We would like some concrete objections based on the data placed before us by Mahyco, not general, emotional arguments," B.S. Parsheera, Chairperson of the GEAC, told Frontline. However, environmentalists opposing the trials say that the data are too sketchy to provide scientific feedback. "This shows how the GEAC takes decisions that affect the health of millions - based on meaningless presentations by companies," said Kavitha Kuruganti from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.
Top biotech scientists are also critical of the manner in which the GM tests are being conducted. "It is an absolute scandal for us to allow further trials despite the failure of Bt cotton. The seed should be withdrawn immediately, just like faulty drugs are removed from the market. We are being taken for a ride by the MNC [multinational company]-government nexus. These committees don't even have specialised scientists. They exist only to promote the interests of powerful companies, not of the country. And these MNCs, such as Monsanto which is promoting Bt seeds in India, have a notorious record all over the world," said Dr. Pushpa Bhargava, founder of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, a world-renowned pioneer of genetic engineering in India. "No country in the world has a satisfactory system of assessing the risks associated with the release of GM plants into the environment. What has happened in this extremely lax environment all over the world is extremely disturbing, " Bhargava explained. "It is shocking that no tests were done to monitor the effects on cattle or sheep if they ate the leaves of the Bt cotton plant, even though in India crop plants are often fed to cattle as fodder. That is why so many animals died in Andhra Pradesh. The main problem is that there is a conflict of interest in using the tests and data provided by the company." The GEAC denies any such vested interest. "What vested interest? We are following all the norms laid down. Many institutes across the country are conducting the tests," said Parsheera.
The effects on human health are numerous and often unknown. A recent study in Madhya Pradesh found that farm workers exposed to Bt cotton had allergies including skin eruptions and swollen faces. The Cry1Ac gene is a powerful immunogen and can prompt adverse reactions from the immune system. If humans eat Bt brinjal it is possible that the Bt toxin can enter the human digestive system and interfere with the bacteria in the intestines. There are severe limitations to current allergy testing procedures for genetically modified organisms. Many GM crops such as beans and Starlink corn were found to produce allergies after they were sold in the market. The NptII gene used as a marker in Bt brinjal can affect antibiotic resistance. The cauliflower mosaic virus, a viral promoter used in Bt brinjal, is similar to the hepatitis B virus, and could reactivate dormant viruses. Studies worldwide have shown that eating GM food can result in wasteful growth of gut tissues and bacterial proliferation, intestinal tumours, immune system suppression and interference with the development of the body's vital organs.
Mahyco, however, denied that there were any health risks. "Bt is no more immunogenic than any other protein that human and animals are exposed to," said Mahendra Sharma, managing director of Mahyco Monsanto Biotech and general manager of Mahyco. "It does not have any effect on the gut of mammals. It only kills insects. Studies have shown that if mammals consume 100mg of the toxin for every 1 kg of body weight, there is no adverse effect. We conducted tests on cooked Bt brinjal and they showed that the DNA disintegrated with the heat and there was no harmful effect. There is no risk of antibiotic resistance or risk of re-activating any viruses." None of Mahyco's claims has been verified independently, said Bhargava.
Genetically modified plants can harm the environment and biodiversity. Once out in the fields, there is no way of knowing whether normal plant varieties have been contaminated by the GM variety through pollination, which could lead to the extinction of local crop varieties. This is the reason for the `buffer zone' that most GM crops have rarely followed in India where land is scarce. Moreover, the Cry1Ac gene affects butterflies and moths and alters soil microbiology. Farmers using Bt cotton in India report decline in soil productivity. However, Mahyco said that its tests had ruled out the possibility of any such adverse impact on the environment.
Three varieties of the Bt cotton seed were denied permission of extension by the GEAC, based on the Andhra Pradesh government's analysis that their performance was inadequate. Two more varieties were banned by the Andhra Pradesh government after farmers' crops failed and the company refused to pay compensation. Yet, the GEAC feels that India needs GM technology. "We are far behind the rest of the world in biotechnology. We should catch up or we will face severe food security problems," said Parsheera. "It is absurd to say that GM crops will bring us food security. Is there no food security in E.U. countries that have banned GM?" asked Bhargava. "It may kill biodiversity. Several organic methods of cultivation have proved far more effective," he said.
Field studies by the Deccan Development Society disproved many of the claims made about the advantages of using Bt Cotton. It is supposed to reduce expenses on pest management and increase productivity, but the study found that organic farmers had higher net returns and lower pest management costs. The government is racing headlong into the genetic engineering maze, though agricultural studies are showing that natural processes are more effective. In just four years of GM technology, we have seen many disastrous results. Will no one listen as nature strikes back?
Uttaranchal will not allow GM crops, says CM - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, June 20, 2006
NEW DELHI, JUNE 19: Chief minister Narayan Dutt Tiwari has assured the leaders of Bharatiya Kissan Union (BKU) that he will not allow cultivation of any transgenic crop, with a view to protecting the image of the state as producers of organic food. The recently developed transgenic food crop, Bt Brinjal has hit a stumbling block before undergoing field trials in the hill state of Uttaranchal. Mr Tiwari had earlier declared that Uttaranchal would be the producer of organic produces. Taking advantage of the chief minister's declaration, BKU held its annual convention in Haridwar and passed a resolution calling for a ban on cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops. BKU represents farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal. "We concluded our three-day convention in Haridwar, and proceeded to state capital Dehradun to hand over our resolution and discuss with him. The chief minister assured us that he will not allow cultivation of any GM crop in the state and would maintain the image of the state as producer of organic produces," said the BKU president, Chowdhary Mahinder Singh Tikait.
Mr Taikait claimed that 30,000 farmers from five states gathered at the three-day convention. Leader of Shetkari Sangathan Vijay Jawandhia also joined the farmers' conclave. Mr Jawandhia said, "The adverse impact of chemical agriculture has come to the fore. We should also be careful about genetic contamination of other crops by cultivation of GM crops. There is no need for GM crops".
A group of NGOs under the banner of 'Coalition for GM-free India' also attended the farmers' conclave.
Bhartiya Kisan [farmers] Union to oppose GM crops in Punjab - Amrita Chaudhry - Express India, June 19 2006
Ludhiana, June 19: PROMOTERS of Bt cotton in Punjab, the Bhartiya Kisan Union, will now oppose the introduction of other Bt crops in the state. This turnaround, according to Manjit Singh Kadian, general secretary, BKU, has come after "the Centre allowed the testing of Bt brinjal in the country. As we eat vegetables we cannot take the risk which involves our health".
Kadian, who recently attended the Kisan Mahakumbh organised by the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Tikait) group at Hardwar, said, "It has been decided at the national level that we will oppose the GM crops in India. But in a situation where not only the government but also scientists support this, we will have to launch a people's movement. We will begin by educating our farmers and consumers about the ill-effects of the GM crops just as it happened in Europe, when the consumers refused to buy GM crops from the market, the government had to order a ban on cultivation of GM crops."
When asked why the BKU did not appose Bt cotton in Punjab, the kisan leaders said, "The farmers of Punjab wanted Bt cotton and as such cotton is not eaten directly except in case of oil. But here we are talking about vegetables. Though the companies claim that cooked at high temperatures the poison in the Bt brinjal will be nullified, but when we cook at home we do not measure the temperature. Another fact is that there is no end to poison. See for ballworm, the company gave us Ballguard 1 and now when the pest is resistant to this, the company has launched Ballguard 2, which means that the intensity of poison is just increasing."
To drive home their point, the BKU has included banning the GM crops in Punjab in their charter of demands and they will present the same to the state government during its two-hour Rasta Roko on July 16. Further in the first week of August, the BKU will organise a seminar in the state where the farmers will be educated on the harmful effects of GM crops.
Indian Farmers reject Bt Brinjal and other GM crops
Haridwar, June 17, 2006: On the second day of the annual convention "Kissan Kumbh" of Bhartiya Kissan Union in Haridwar, delegates resolved that India does not need GM crops. 30,000 farmers have congregated for the 3-day Kissan Kumbh from the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal.
Chowdhary Mahinder Singh Tikait, President, Bhartiya Kissan Union strongly rejected GM seeds in Indian agriculture and demanded that the government at least allow Indians to eat safe food, without GM. "The Indian government is becoming anti-farmer in every way in any case now, it wants to feed Indians with poison in the form of Bt crops. How can we accept this?", he said.
"The real need for such crops comes from the seed industry which wants to secure more and more markets by selling these seeds to farmers at expensive prices, otherwise, it is inexplicable that the government wants to allow a Bt Brinjal crop in the country, despite the fact that there is no apparent need for it", said Mr Devinder Sharma, noted agriculture trade policy analyst speaking on the occasion.
The farmers in delegation and other speakers from states like Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra etc., shared the bitter experience with Bt Cotton in the country.
"We are being asked to produce more using such technologies. Will the government then guarantee the farmers that their increased production will be procured by it? This is especially relevant to ask in a situation when despite using GM technology, American farmers are having to be propped up by different kinds of subsidies. Will the Indian farmers be guaranteed similar support then?", asked Shri Vijay Jawandhia of Shetkari Sanghatan, Maharashtra. "The Indian government should learn from the bitter experience with pesticides that it is not enough to promote a product as being safe without adequate tests or without a precautionary approach. It should have the vision to promote right and sustainable technologies that put the control in the hands of Indian farmers over their agriculture", added Shri Yudhvir Singh, Bhartiya Kissan Union
Farmers attending the convention decided that they will send their protests to the Health and Environment Ministers for not pro-actively intervening in the matter to protect the interests of all Indians. There would be a massive education campaign launched with farmers in all villages about the various hazards of GM crops including Bt Brinjal, it was decided.
Farmers have decided to march to Dehradun to press the Chief Minister to declare Uttaranchal state as the first GM-free state in India.
For more information, contact:
Yudhvir Singh, BKU: 098-681-46405
Dharmendar Malik, BKU:092-196-91168
Rakesh Tikait, BKU: 094-125-07451
Stop sale of BT cotton seeds - New India Press, Friday June 16 2006
DAVANAGERE: Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha has decided to burn BT Cotton plantation, if both the state and central government does not stop sale of Bolgard cotton seeds and all other genetically modified seeds in the state, said its state president Chukki Nanjundaswamy. After taking part in two-day Farmers' Study and Training Centre held here on Wednesday, she said after distributing BT cotton seeds to farmers in 1995 they were started to complaining about poor yield and losses, hence Raitha Sangha activists had taken up burning these plants. Now again Sangha is forced to resort the same agitation.
It was evident majority of farmers who committed suicide in Karnataka and Maharashtra were none other than who had grown cotton with BT cotton seeds. However, the Sangha had decided to make villages free from poison and chemical hazards. An awareness campaign will be taken up in this regard and also importance of producing local seeds to save bio-agriculture methods.
Multi national giants like Monsanto, Bayer and Dupant, Syngenta have been pressurising UPA government to introduce Seeds Bill-2004 at early as above companies have grip of over 75 percent seed sale in Asia, South America and other nations, she said.
States unite to fight agri-exploitation by multi national companies - KVVV CHARYA - June 10, 2006
HYDERABAD, JUNE 9: In order to protect small and marginal farmers from exploitation, the nine cotton growing states have decided to join hands and fight multi-national seed companies like Monsanto.
“We are not against any company or technological advancement but exploiting the poor farmers is not allowed,” agriculture ministers from four states - West Bengal, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh (AP) - said at a media conference in Hyderabad on Friday. They met here to decide the future course of action on Bt cotton seed pricing. The remaining five states-Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra were represented either by their principal secretaries or commissioners.
Explaining the outcome of the meeting, Andhra Pradesh agriculture minister N Raghuveera Reddy said the agriculture ministers have decided to request the Union government to implead into the writ petition pending before the Supreme Court. Similarly, the concerned states can also file impleading petitions. Gujarat and Maharashtra have already filed the petition, Mr Reddy pointed out.
INDIA IS NOT A GUINEA PIG FOR Bt BRINJAL
New Delhi, June 14th 2006: Coalition for GM-Free India, consisting of leading farmers organizations, consumer organizations, organic farming groups, women's groups, environmental activists and members of the medical fraternity today met with the Union Minister for Health, Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, to impress upon him that India is not a guinea pig for Bt Brinjal.
The issue assumes importance in the context of the GEAC considering approval for large scale trials and seed production of Mahycoís Bt Brinjal. India is the country of origin and diversity when it comes to Brinjal and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety specifically asks for special impact assessment in such instances. However, in the case of Bt Brinjal no such assessment is apparent.
The concerns raised by the Coalition include:
Health studies worldwide have shown that Cry1Ac, the Bt toxin used in Bt Brinjal is a powerful immunogen and actively binds to the gut cells of mammals too as studies in mice show. Cry toxins are known allergens too. In India too, Bt Cotton is known to cause human health problems, as a scientific study in Madhya Pradesh shows. There are also reports of sheep mortality linked to grazing on Bt Cotton GM DNA fragments were shown to have been transferred to human gut bacteria in the only human clinical trial carried out so far through horizontal gene transfer. This poses serious potential hazards
The aad marker gene and the nptII marker genes used in Bt Brinjal are antibiotic-resistant.
The streptomycin-resistant marker is recommended not to be used in GM plants used as food.
The Cauliflower Mosaic Virus used a promoter in Bt Brinjal is known to initiate transcriptional activity in human cells. There is a danger of the promoter reactivating dormant viruses, raising concerns related to cancers. This promoter is known to be especially unstable.
Past history with the company shows that it suppresses important data related to health effects. In the case of Bt Brinjal, no independent tests have been taken up. Majority of the tests reflect a serious conflict of interest with the company doing the tests or funding them
The agronomic data in the case of ICAR-supervised Bt Brinjal trials are unreliable and manipulated, without any statistical analysis done. There is no information on pesticide use reduction with Bt Brinjal
The tests done in the country are inadequate and impact assessment on GM crops including Bt Brinjal should incorporate socio-cultural parameters too.
There are many potential environmental hazards with Bt Brinjal, including on the diversity of brinjal and its wild/related species and the corresponding ecosystems.
Consumer rights will be violated if Bt Brinjal is allowed into the country since there can be no choices left after that
Most importantly, it is not clear what the need for Bt Brinjal is, since (a) there is no crisis in production in brinjal and (b) there are well-established successful IPM/NPM and organic approaches that could be adopted for pest management in brinjal.
For more information, contact:
Devinder Sharma firstname.lastname@example.org or (0)98-113-01857
Kavitha Kuruganti at email@example.com
The coalition's full nine page address to Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, Honorable Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Government of India (June 14, 2006), Bt BRINJAL HUMAN HEALTH HAZARDS AND BEYOND can be downloaded from the Reports page as a pdf file
Bt brinjal stirs fresh controversy - Wednesday, June 14, 2006
(New Delhi): Even while the controversy over BT Cotton rages a subsidiary of Monsanto, the company that's marketing BT cotton in India, is close to getting approval for large scale testing of genetically modified brinjal Activists are enraged as the government is shrouding the whole process in secrecy without any public opinion being sought. Greenpeace in its usual flamboyant style protested outside the Krishi Bhavan in Delhi against the mysterious cattle and goat deaths in Andhra Pradesh that occurred allegedly after they grazed on the BT cotton crop. While a government inquiry into those deaths is still to be completed a proposal for large scale testing of BT brinjal is on the verge of being cleared. This has further enraged the activists.
The question Greenpeace is trying to raise is what do we really know about genetically modified food and its effect on humans. "Before proceeding any further we must conduct a report on what has happened till now. It affects thousands. It's an inexplicable stand that the GEAC [Genetic Engineering Approval Committee] has taken. It's well known when you engineer a crop toxins are created. I have no idea as to what tests have been conducted," said Dr Suman Sahai, Gene Campaign.
It's a fear echoed by Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary of the Bharat Krishak Samaj who has been working on farmer welfare issues for years. He's now written to the GEAC, the nodal agency for approving genetically modified food. "Bt cotton has failed in this country. It hasn't reduced dependence on pesticides. How can they think of introducing BT brinjal when farmers in Andhra are afraid to take their cattle through Bt cotton crop as they claim it leads to deaths?" said Chaudhary.
The European Union has so far resisted genetically modified food with big multinationals like Kellogs, Marks and Spencers and Wal Mart insisting on being GM free. In America consumers don't have much choice. Agro giants have ensured that genetically modified food is not labelled as such and in India the issue is shrouded in secrecy. The public has been told too little to be able to decide.
BHARAT KRISHAK SAMAJ
( FARMERS’ FORUM INDIA )
Chairman: Dr. BAL RAM JAKHAR, Governor, Madhya Pradesh A-1,Nizamuddin West, New Delhi-110013 - Phone:24359508, Telefax: 24359509 - Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Executive Chairman: Dr. KRISHAN BIR CHAUDHARY, Former Chairman, State Farms Corporation of India
May 31, 2006
Shri B S Parsheera, Chairperson, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC], Ministry of Environment & Forests, Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi
Dear Shri Parsheera
Sub: Bt Brinjal Large Scale Field Trials Consideration of application for permission by GEAC
This is with regard to the Agenda Item No. 4.2 in the GEAC meeting dated 1/6/2006 which says that GEAC will consider permission for seed production and Large Scale Trials of Bt Brinjal of 4 Mahyco hybrids in this meeting.
In this regard, we would like to bring to your notice that the GEAC is yet to act and fix liability on the various biosafety violations and irregularities brought to your notice by civil society organizations, including on a Bt Brinjal limited field trial in Andhra Pradesh. While turning a blind eye to the harsh realities related to serious regulatory failures, you seem to be ready to go all out to support the industry in its profit-making endeavours.
Given that there are many studies on adverse health effects with many GM crops from all over the world, what is the assurance that the right questions have been asked in this case to arrive at the right answers with regard to the safety of these crops? We have found that Bt Cotton, which was upheld through your tests to be safe to human health [amongst other things] is indeed causing a lot of health problems amongst farm workers and ginning factory workers. Similarly, there were recent reports on the mortality of livestock after grazing on Bt Cotton. It is not clear how GEAC is assessing such possibilities as part of its biosafety testing regime nor how is it acting at least on such reports by commissioning detailed independent investigations once these preliminary reports are out.
It would be disastrous for this country to rush into approvals just because a prescribed set of tests for a prescribed period have been completed as per some procedures laid down. There has never been a serious public debate initiated on the adequacy of such a biosafety regime and even though there is a Supreme Court case pending precisely on this matter, the GEAC seems to be in a great hurry to approve even GM food crops like vegetable crops, for reasons that are not clear at all. This is especially surprising in all those crops where safer, inexpensive and farmer-controlled options like IPM, NPM and Organic are in place, successfully practiced and established all over the country.
The data presented by the company on various studies done in Bt Brinjal was put up by the GEAC only this morning [31/5/06] and considering that this is a very important food/vegetable crop of the country, there should be at least 90 days allowed for feedback on the biosafety tests and their findings. Secondly, the data put up is not adequate for an intelligent and scientific debate to take place since it only has findings without details of the research design and protocol in each case. We demand that full reports on each test be presented and not just findings.
We also demand that the GEAC show its accountability to the public by sharing what improvements have been made in its biosafety protocols, in its monitoring systems and in its accountability systems, before giving any more permissions for trials, given your proven inability to ensure biosafety in this country. Here, we would like to remind you that it was during such field trials that illegal Bt Cotton and rapid contamination of the Cotton chain began in this country and GEAC could only wring its hands in helplessness. The dangerous and unscientific manner in which field trials take place in this country tell us that we are only one step away from a huge bio-disaster wreaked on Indian agriculture.
To sum up, we once again demand that the complete set of data on Bt Brinjal including the testing protocol [and not just findings] be put up for public feedback, that at least 90 days be provided for such feedback, that such feedback be taken on board with all the seriousness it deserves, that clearly-needed improvements be made in the testing regime and monitoring systems and shown to be made to the public before any permission for any more trials in the open environment are given in the country.
Krishan Bir Chaudhary
Letter sent to AP Agriculture Minister in the context of Agriculture Ministers meeting from 7 states to discuss and determine the price of Bt Cotton at Hyderabad on 9th June, 2006, highlighting concerns regarding Bt Cotton and the findings of a Study.
Honourable Shri Raghuveerareddygaru,
Please let me greet you on behalf of the 40 million and odd farmers of Andhra Pradesh on the auspicious day of Mrugasira Karte the day on which the first rain star takes birth. A day when millions of farmers reach their farm to plant the seed for a new season. A day on which hopes are planted on earth. And a long wait begins for the harvests of the planted seed.
Tomorrow you will be joining Agriculture Ministers from seven cotton growing States of the country in a meeting at Hyderabad to discuss the issue of price of Bt Seeds.
It is but natural that AP is chosen as the place for the agricultural ministers to discuss the price of Bt cotton, because you and your government have put up a historic fight against Monsanto to curb its greed and clip its evil corporate wings. A fight unprecedented in the agricultural history of the modern world. At least in the case of an all-conquering Monsanto which has used corruption, sleaze and threat to make most governments to bow before it.
But you have remained a shining star. Probably a Mrugasira Karte, yourself. We trust, this is because you are a farmer yourself. And in a world swamped by burgers and pizzas, you still eat Ragi Mudda at home, paying tribute to mighty millets in your own way.
It is this personal and politically persona of yourself that inspirers this letter to you. Reddygaru, please read this letter carefully before you attend the Ministers? meet. Please spare a few minutes for this letter in your punishing schedule.
On the one hand this meeting of Agricultural Ministers is a welcome news in the sense that there is a general understanding among the various Indian states that the enormously usurious rates of Bt seeds are robbing Indian farmers of the very small gains they get by cultivating Bt cotton. But we also think that this is certainly not the only issue that needs to be considered in your conference.
What we urge you to discuss is the issue why Bt cotton should not be banned from Indian soils? What is it that we are going to lose if we do so except for saving the royalty adding upto of billions of rupees that Monsanto collects for its Bt gene and ploughs back into USA? Is it right for us to make the poor Indian farmer pay for the greed of one of the most profit hungry multinational?
When you are sitting for this conference, surely you will have before you a long list of the history of failed Bt cotton in India, particularly in Andhra Pradesh. You are also acutely aware that at least a thousand farmers, if not more, have committed suicide after growing Bt cotton in AP, Maharashtra as well as in Karnataka. These facts are not yet very well known. But when they start emerging, they will be calamitous in their impact.
In Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra at least half a dozen studies done by independent scientists [scientists who have not been bought over by the corporations nor the ones who are serving governments and therefore are under the obligation not to speak out] and development economists have clearly brought out the successive failures of Bt cotton both on the economic front and yield front. You, Shri Raghuveera Reddygaru, are more aware of this than your counterparts from other states. Our own studies have been regularly fed to you and your government, year after year.
But unfortunately, these suicides and failures of Bt cotton will be passed on to an elegant phrase coined by the biotech industry called externalities. Will you be trapped by this elegant prose or are you ready to put your nose into harsh facts, Shri Reddygaru? If you do, let us produce some facts for you that you may not be very familiar with:
There is no scientific proof in this country that mentions that pesticide consumption has reduced in the cotton growing districts after Bt cotton has been introduced.
[If you read the statistics on the USDA website, you will know that in the USA, after a decade of cultivating GM crops on nearly 65% of its farms, pesticide use has not come down even by an ounce. The curve for pesticide use has remained flat for the last ten years]. Please consider this very seriously, since pesticide-reduction is the raison detre for the existence of Bt cotton in this country, according to the MoEF. The studies that we have ourselves conducted as well as the ones we are familiar with, the reduction of pesticides is only very marginal. Just about 6-7%, a fact that not merit the introduction of Bt Cotton.
The accumulating evidences suggest that the pest, Helicoverpa armigera is already building resistance in India. This means that within two to three years farmers must get back more toxic pest sprays than before, or buy Bollgard II [which has been recently introduced in South Africa] seeds which are supposed to have higher pest resistance properties in them. But the catch is that in Australia Bollgard II sells at around $110 [5060 rupees] per hectare, an amount with which Indian farmers can purchase seeds for ten acres of land.
And then the question of Yield. Bt is not a yield spinning mechanism as being promoted by industry. You know it more than anyone else Shri Reddygaru. In your state alone Bt yields have crashed year after year. Two AP governments have advised their farmers against Bt use. You are clearly aware that yield in Bt Cotton depends on the yield potential of the hybrid into which the Bt gene has been introduced.
In other words, if Bt gene is introduced into a low yielding hybrid, the cotton yields will be low. If it is introduced into a high yielding hybrid, the yields will be high. There is no contribution by Bt gene itself to the yield increase in cotton
However there are so many studies which point to the crash of Bt cotton in terms of yield, especially under non irrigated conditions. In Andhra Pradesh, during the 2002-2003 year of dry spell, Bt cotton yields were 35% less than non Bt cotton yields. This has clearly emerged in our study of 2002-2003. Since then we have done regularly scientific studies until 2006. In no year Bt yields were significantly higher than non Bt yields. On those rare years when Bt yielded higher than the same Non Bt hybrids, the difference was hardly 1 to 2 per cent.
But let us caution about far more dangerous facts that are emerging from our studies:
a. There are sufficient advance evidences to say that soils on which Bt cotton is cultivated are becoming reservoirs of pathogens causing root rot disease for subsequent crops such as chillies.
b. The toxicity of Bt plants for small ruminants is proving fatal. In AP itself our own studies have carefully documented such instances since 2004 and have submitted reports to the Department of Animal Husbandry for their action. For a country in which most of the rural poor, especially women, who own a couple of small animals such as goats and many shepherd households raise large herds of sheep and goat, this can be fatal.
c. There are early reports that people who have stored their Bt cotton harvest in their houses have started suffering from breathing allergies and skin rashes. WE MUST SERIOUSLY CONSIDER WHAT EFFECT THIS MIGHT HAVE ON POOR COTTON PICKERS FOR WHOM WORKING ON COTTON FIELDS IS A MAJOR LIVELIHOOD OPTION.
Considering all these facts [and many more which we are willing to submit to you if you want them, both within India and across the world], the question now is not whether we will use Bt cotton at a reduced price? The question really is, whether in the interest of the economic well being small and poor farmers in India, in the interest of Indian soils, in the interest of the health of the farm labourers, particularly women, in the interest of the shepherding community of this country, ARE WE READY TO BAN BT COTTON?
Mr Minister, millions of Indians in your state have elected you to this august position with a lot of faith and hope. Please keep their interests at your heart. Cutting through the corporate hype, brushing aside the manufactured evidence of the bought up science, confronting the powerful vested interests, please think on behalf of the small farmers who are your major constituency and their bitter experiences with Bt cotton.
We have no doubt that you will concur with us that Bt is best Banned.
On the day of Mrugasira kaarte, day on which millions of your farmer brethren go to their fields to plant new seeds for the new season, please give them new hope Shri Reddygaru, by banning Bt from their fields. Let their soils be saved, let their animals be saved. Let the health of your millions of farmer fraternity be saved.
Please show this initiative with a new courage and determination, as you have always shown in the past.
The state of AP and the Indian nation will be grateful to you for that act.
Wishing you well in your deliberations
[p v satheesh]
Convenor, AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity
Convenor, South Against Genetic Engineering
To Sri N.Raghuveera Reddy, Minister For Agriculture and Horticulture, Food, Civil Supplies, Legal Metrology and Consumer Affairs, Block-J,7th Floor, Room No-703, Ph: 040-23451196, Email: email@example.com
1. Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, Chief Minister, 'C' Block, 4th Floor, AP Secretariat Hyderabad, Ph: 23456698,23451805,23455205 Fax: (Off)23452498,23454828 (Res)23410555, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Dr Poonam Malakondiah, Commissioner for Agriculture & Additional Director of Agriculture, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh Ph: 23232107 Fax: 24565236 / 23237545 Email: email@example.com
A Review of Bt Cotton Performance In India - It’s a blind run for Bt cotton hybrids - ASHOK B SHARMA - Monday, June 05, 2006
With the arrival of the South-West Monsoon, sowing of cotton and other crops has begun for the summer season. In this season, 59 approved Bt cotton hybrids are likely to be sown. Biotech industry is upbeat with the spate of new approvals by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). They have launched their aggressive marketing strategies to sell large stocks of seeds. They expect that the area coverage under Bt cotton will rise to 3.5 million hectare this year.
That the area under Bt cotton would increase this year would not be surprising. Biotech companies know very well how to dispose off their stocks through aggressive marketing strategies. They have friends like the Punjab chief minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, to do the job for them. In the previous year, Mr Singh involved the state agencies in promotion of sales of Bt cotton seeds. He even went public in campaigning for Bt cotton.
In this era of growing consumerism, there is always a tendency to choose newer and newer brands of products be it air-conditioner, car, TV set or washing machine. The companies know the tendency of class customers, and accordingly design their brands and change their strategies. Farmers as consumers of seeds are no exception. They keep on trying different varieties of seeds which come into the market. The increase in area coverage under different new varieties of Bt cotton, therefore, cannot be the sole criteria for concluding that Bt cotton is gaining wide acceptance among farmers. Bt cotton is entering the fifth year of its commercial cultivation in India. It is too short a period to judge the acceptance or rejection of Bt cotton in a vast country like India.
In the first two years, three varieties of Bt cotton hybrids Mech-12, Mech-162 and Mech-184 were in cultivation in south and central India. The area coverage in the first year was 44,500 hectare (ha), which increased to 1 lakh (100,000) ha in the second year. With the approval of RCH-2 (of Rasi Seeds) for the same regions, the area coverage marked a five-fold increase to 5 lakh (500,000) ha in 2004. Does this explain the wide acceptance of Bt cotton? Figures are often misleading. We have in this country an increase in suicide rate among farmers, in the midst of agriculture growth.
After the review of 3-year performance, the GEAC came to the conclusion that Mech-12, Mech-162 and Mech-184 have failed to give results in Andhra Pradesh. It banned the cultivation of these three hybrids in Andhra Pradesh (AP). Mech-12 was banned for cultivation in the entire southern zone. Farmers growing Bt cotton were put to heavy losses, and the AP government asked the seed company, Mahyco-Monsanto, to compensate the farmers. The company, however, is reluctant to reimburse the farmers for their losses.
With 3 years of cultivation of Mahyo-Monsanto’s three Mech Bt hybrids in AP, the area coverage did not increase beyond 80,000 hectare. RCH-2, approved for cultivation in 2004 increased the area coverage to some extent. With the withdrawal of three Mech Bt hybrids from cultivation in AP in 2005, and with the approval of six new Bt cotton hybrids of different companies, the coverage in the state shot up to 2.8 lakh (280,000) ha. It is clear that in 2005, farmers, disappointed with the failures of Mech Bt hybrids, tried their luck with the new approved Bt hybrids. Andhra Pradesh is just one instance.
In 2005, 16 new Bt cotton hybrids were approved, and for the first time north India was allowed to cultivate Bt cotton. The area coverage under Bt cotton increased to 13 lakh (1.3 million) ha. However, this area is insignificant as compared to the total area under cotton crop, which is about 0.9 - 1 crore (9 to 10 million) ha.
There are reports about failure of Bt cotton in different parts of the country. But GEAC has been quick in approving new Bt hybrids, without assessing the performance of those already under cultivation. This year it approved 43 new Bt cotton hybrids. With this, the total number becomes 59, out of which Monsanto charges royalty for 52 hybrids. It is reluctant to reduce its royalty and is interested to earn more profits.
Field trials of Bt Brinjal unjustified,says NGO - SOUTHERN NEWS - TAMIL NADU Jun 3, 2006 - NewIndPress.com, June 3 2006
SALEM: Speak Out Salem, the activism wing of the Salem-based NGO Socio Economic Environment Development (SEED), has launched a campaign against the proposed large scale field trials by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) and the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The move comes after an agenda was placed in the GEAC meeting on June 1, regarding granting permission for seed production and large scale trials of four hybrids of Bt Brinjal by an MNC. In this regard, Speak Out Salem has sent a memorandum to the chairperson of the GEAC pointing out that the GEAC has already grossly failed in its proclaimed objective of ensuring safety of the environment and public health and is liable for all the biosafety violations and irregularities that have been brought to notice on the Bt Cotton issue by various research institutions, civil society organisations and even the state governments.
Attention had also been called on the violations in a Bt Brinjal field trial in Andhra Pradesh. It is surprising that the GEAC wants to consider giving further permission to large scale field trials of genetically modified crops in the country, the memorandum said. Studies on adverse health effects of GM crops were so disturbing that some countries have been forced to stall their research. The field trials of Bt Cotton in India has already led to contamination of the cotton chain, the memo said.
"This is an unprecedented situation. Given this situation, we demand the GEAC to take a precautionary approach in further research and release of Genetically Modified Organisms, especially in food crops, and stall the release of Bt Brinjal seeds," the memo from the wing said, "even though cotton is a non-edible crop, it had had an adverse impact on people who were engaged in its production and processing. In these circumstances, what will be the impact of Bt Brinjal on the health of people who will be forced to consume it, for no safety has been ensured?" the memo said.
In our country, both the scientific community and the farmers have done a lot of work on Brinjal to improve its productivity and control the pests, through IPM, NPM, organic farming, biodynamic farming, etc. The results are highly encouraging and these methods are inherently safe unlike the GMOs. In this situation, it is unwarranted for the GEAC to be in such a hurry to give permission to the Bt Brinjal hybrids. A Supreme Court case, regarding introduction of GMOs, biosafety procedures, etc., is pending and it is a legal impropriety on the part of the GEAC to be in such a hurry to approve GM food crops. Speak out Salem has decided to create awareness among farmers about the dangers of genetically-modified crops and motivate them to resist field trials.
Do We need Transgenic Brinjal in our Food Plate? - Debjeet Sarangi of Living Farms, a project of DRCSC, Kolkata - www.drcsc.org
Transgenic Bt brinjal will become India's first genetically modified food crop if it is cleared by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the Union Environment and Forests Ministry says a report appeared in The Hindu on 27th of May 06. Mayhco has produced transgenic brinjal plants with Cry 1Ac gene from Bacillus thuringensis, tolerant to fruit and shoot borer. Our policy makers seem to have learnt nothing from the suicides of hundreds of farmers in Andhra Pradesh due to Bt cotton.
Let us consider this:
Violations in the Bt Okra trial by Mahyco-There have been several violations and issues of concern with the Bt Okra trial by Mahyco to fruit and shoot borer in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh by inserting Bt gene called Cry1Ac as uncovered by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture .Firstly, the farmer was not informed that this was a transgenic crop trial. He was not aware about the Bt Okra seed being planted on his land. This raises questions of ethics as well as issues related to conforming to biosafety guidelines. Since he did not know what the crop was, it was more likely that he would violate norms. He did. The farmer and his family consumed the untested and not-yet-cleared-for-safety Bt Okra from the trial plots at least twice. The Field Assistant of the company was also not aware that this was a Bt Okra trial at the beginning of the season. He was told about it only later.
Safety of GE Foods?
Questions over the safety of GE foods were raised as far back as in 1998, when renowned scientist Arpad Pusztai,of Scotland's Rowett Research Institute, tested an experimental GE potato on laboratory rats . The rats fed on the GE potatoes suffered substantial damage to their immune systems, plus abnormal weightless. Some also had abnormal growth in their intestinal cells, which could indicate a prelude to cancer.
The Indian Council for Medical Research [ICMR] sounded a severe note of caution on GM foods in India. In a report entitled "Regulatory Regime for Genetically Modified Foods-The way ahead", the ICMR invoked several studies from across the world to point out to the potential problems with GM foods and has asked for an overhaul of the existing regulatory systems. It takes note of the allergencity potential of GM crops and the case of potential health hazards of GM potato, amongst other things.
Monsanto has admitted that no one knows - or can know - what will happen when genetically modified organisms are put directly into the human food chain and are released into the natural environment, as is the case with genetically modified crops.
Environmental risks of insect resistant crops (Bt crops)
According to the biotechnology industry, the promise of transgenic crops inserted with Bt genes is that they will replace synthetic insecticides now used to control insect pests. However, most crops have a diversity of insect pests, and therefore insecticides will still have to be applied to control pests, which are not susceptible to the Bt toxin expressed by the crop (Gould 1994
Effects on non-target species
By keeping pest populations at extremely low levels, Bt crops could potentially starve natural enemies, as predators and parasitic wasps that feed on pests need a small amount of prey to survive in the agro ecosystem. Among the natural enemies that live exclusively on insects which the transgenic crops are designed to kill, egg and larval parasitoids would be most affected because they are totally dependent on live hosts for development and survival. No one has analyzed the consequences of such transfers on the myriad of natural enemies that depend on pollen for reproduction and longevity. This will make things very difficult for marginal and small farmers who rely for insect pest control on the rich complex of predators and parasites associated with their mixed cropping systems. These findings open a whole new dimension on the unexpected impacts of transgenic crops on non-target organisms which play key roles in the ecosystem, such as providing alternative food for natural enemies that depend on field margins for their continual existence in agro ecosystems (Altieri 1994).
The products of genetic engineering are living organisms, which reproduce, move, and in general, behave in ways that are not entirely predictable. The natural course of any seed is inevitably to spread. That is what makes a seed a seed. It will be just a matter of time for the Bt brinjal to join the pool and for contamination to occur. The native and traditional varieties of brinjal will be contaminated with GE transgenes as happened in rural southern Mexico where the traditional varieties of corn had been contaminated with GE.
The experience in different countries shows that it is impossible for normal or organic produce plants to coexist with GE altered crop varieties There will be no stopping the spread of gene-altered pollen and seeds through wind or animals, or by machines and human beings. That meant farmers lost their free choice which varieties of brinjal to grow. In Canada gene-altered soya seeds had been used for ten years. At the present time, there was no more genetically unchanged soya or rapeseed.
Moreover, large-scale landscape homogenization with transgenic variety will exacerbate the ecological vulnerability already associated with monoculture agriculture. As the new bioengineered seeds replace and contaminate the old traditional varieties and their wild relatives, genetic erosion will accelerate, warn the scientists involved in studies on the impact of transgenic crops on sustainability of indigenous farming systems.
The push for uniformity will not only destroy the diversity of genetic resources, but will also disrupt the biological complexity that underlies the sustainability of indigenous farming systems (Altieri 1996).
As humanity, we see how a small group of people moved by arrogance and driven by profit, with the support of various forms of power, are shamelessly playing Nature. The biotech industry is working over time and applying all possible strategies to flood the Indian market with transgenic crops .So, that there's nothing we can do about it. We may have to just to surrender to that. Our traditional seeds will be the only recourse if the prevailing belief in the safety of genetic engineering proves wrong. Unless our seed supply is preserved free of genetic contamination, our ability to change course if genetic engineering goes awry will be severely hampered.
We demand the GEAC should put a total moratorium on Bt crops in India until the government adequately answers the fundamental questions about the human health, environmental, social and ethical implications of Bt crops by having an in-depth investigation on Bt okra & Bt cotton. The government should also investigate the claim of bio tech industries that Bt crops have greatly reduced pesticide use
The data presented by the company on various studies done in Bt Brinjal was put up by the GEAC only this morning [31/5/06] and considering that this is a very important food/vegetable crop of the country, there should be at least 90 days allowed for feedback on the biosafety tests and their findings. Secondly, the data put up is not adequate for an intelligent and scientific debate to take place since it only has findings without details of the research design and protocol in each case. We demand that full reports on each test be presented and not just findings.
We also demand that the GEAC show its accountability to the public by sharing what improvements have been made in its biosafety protocols, in its monitoring systems and in its accountability systems, before giving any more permissions for trials, given your proven inability to ensure biosafety in this country. Here, we would like to remind you that it was during such field trials that illegal Bt Cotton and rapid contamination of the Cotton chain began in this country and GEAC could only wring its hands in helplessness. The dangerous and unscientific manner in which field trials take place in this country tell us that we are only one step away from a huge bio-disaster wreaked on Indian agriculture.
Debjeet Sarangi, Living Farms, Bhubaneswar, 31.05.06
Living Farms, PP-27.PANDAV NAGAR( a project of DRCSC, Kolkata ), PO-Baragada Brit Colony, Bhubaneswar -751018,Orissa
Phone-0674-5524011 - www.drcsc.org
BT cotton in yet another controversy - Uma Sudhir - NDTV, June 1, 2006
(Hyderabad): There is yet another controversy linked to the genetically modified Bt cotton plant and this time it is the alarming reports of sheep and goat taking ill, even dying after grazing on leftover Bt cotton fields. This is what farmers and shepherds in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh are saying. The central government has reportedly ordered independent toxicology tests on Bt cotton leaves to ascertain the facts. "They just became very dull and lifeless and died," said Pendala Venkatamma describing what happened to her sheep.
Earlier this year in February-March several villages in Warangal reported that sheep and goats were dying in unusually high numbers from a disease they did not recognise. The only clue they had was that the animals grazed continuously on fields where Bt cotton had been grown. "They were grazing on Bollguard cotton. In 4-5 days, they became dull, their stomach swelled up and they died," said Gantaiah, Shepherd.
Fact finding team
An independent fact-finding team that surveyed three random villages said animals that fed continuously on Bt cotton for up to a week became listless with erosive lesions in the mouth, nasal discharge and blackish diarrhea. The mortality was as high as 25 per cent against the usual 5-10 per cent for this season. "They took one or two sheep from the dead animals. Doctors conducted post-mortem but could not find viral, bacterial or fungal problem with that," said Ramprasad, scientist, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.
In Warangal, about 11 hectares was on cotton this year and 20 per cent of that officially on Bt cotton. But the unofficial figure puts that at upto 50 per cent. In January this year, following rains and some irrigation, there was fresh foliage but few bolls, so the fields were let out for grazing. "Animals that have been grazing on non-Bt cotton also, shepherds are reporting that on such fields even if they grazed for 15 days, there was no problem reported. Whereas on Bt cotton, with 3-4 successive days of grazing, they started showing symptoms," said Kavita Kurungati, Researcher.
When contacted, Monsanto, which has released Bt cotton commercially in India, said safety studies on goats, cows, buffaloes, chicken and fish have been conducted as part of the regulatory process to get Bollgard approved. "We conducted goat-feeding stury with Bt cotton seed and found it to be safe," said Dr Vishwanathan, Industrial Toxicology Research Center, Lucknow. Critics point out that there was no bio safety study on Bt cotton leaves, which is consumed by cattle during open grazing. But Monsanto says Bt protein is present in miniscule amounts in cotton leaves and a goat will have to eat over 24 tonnes of old leaves to reach the upper safe limit of 4300 mg/kg body weight of Cry 1Ac toxin present in the Bt plant. The company says the deaths could have been due to pesticide residues.
The state government has ordered an investigation by the animal husbandry department. "We have immediately alerted animal husbandry dept to give us the details of villages where this has happened and what are their findings regarding this. We are certainly going to pursue this further with the research institutes genetic research institutes, which can analyse the whole thing and yes, it is a cause of concern," said Poonam Malakondaiah, Agriculture Commissioner, Andhra Pradesh. Only a detailed scientific investigation may be able to establish whether at all there is a link between Bt cotton and the mortality in sheep and goat. Even otherwise it would be wise to go for much more comprehensive bio safety testing not just for Bt cotton but the whole range of genetically modified food crops that may soon be part of commercial Indian agriculture.
GEAC nod for new Bt cotton hybrids cultivation in South - http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=128554
ASHOK B SHARMA - Saturday, May 27, 2006
NEW DELHI, MAY 25: The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has approved 6 Bt cotton hybrids for commercial cultivation in south India in the upcoming kharif (summer) season. These hybrids represent three different new events. It also approved 16 new varieties containing Cry1Ac gene. GEAC turned down the request made by Mahyco for renewal of prermission for commercial cultivati on of Mech-12 Bt in Andhra Pradesh. Mech-12 Bt was banned for cultivation in the entire south India from 2005 after its repeated failure in last three years. GEAC had also banned Me ch-162 Bt and Mech-184 Bt from cultivation in Andhra Pradesh.
Among the 6 Bt cotton hybrids containing the new events are - MRC-7351 BG-II and MRC-7201 BG II containing stacked genes Cry 1 Ac and Cry 2Ab (MON 15985 event), and MRC-7347 BG II containing Cry 1 Ac and Cry 2Ab genes (MON 15985 event). These three varieties are developed by Mahyco. Other three approved varieties are - NCEH-3 R containing encoding fusion genes (Cry 1 Ab+Cry Ac) developed by Nath Seeds, and JK Durga and JKCH-99 containing 1 Ac gene event-1 developed by JK Seeds.
Among the other approved 16 Bt cotton hybrids containing are - GK-207 and GK-209 developed by Ganga Kaveri, ACH-33-1 and ACH-155-1 developed by Ajeet Seeds, RCH-111 BG I, RCH-371 BG I, RCH-2 08 BG I, RCHB-708 BG I developed by Rasi Seeds, Brahma Bt and Paras Laxmi developed by Emergent Seeds, NCS-913 Bt cointaining stacked Cry Ac gene (MON 531 event) developed by Nuziveedu Seeds, PRCH-102 Bt and PRCH-103 Bt containing stacked Cry 1 Ac gene developed by Pravardhan Seeds, PCH-2270 Bt and 2171 Bt containing stacked genes Cry 1 Ac (MON 531 event) developed by Prabhat Seeds and KGCHH-9632 Bt developed by Krishidhan Seeds.
GEAC had in its last meetings approved 8 new Bt cotton hybrids for cultivation in north india and 12 new Bt cotton hybrids for cultivation in central India. The farmer leader of Bharat Krishak Samaj, Dr Krishan Bir Chaud hary has sent a letter of protest to GEAC saying: “It is surprising that a large number of Bt cotton hybrids are being approved despite reported cases of failure.”
For central India, the GEAC approved four new Bt cotton hybrids containing stacked genes for commercial cultivation, namely MRC-7301 BG II and MRC-7326 developed by Mahyco, ACH-11-2 BG II and developed by Ajeet Seeds and KDCHH-441 BG II developed by Krishidhan Seeds.
GM cotton belt is suicide belt - The Telegraph - Calcutta, May 10 2006 - http://www.telegraphindia.com/1060510/asp/nation/story_6205196.asp
New Delhi, May 9: A large number of suicides by farmers in India are "intimately connected" to the high cost of production of genetically modified (GM) cotton and other capital-intensive crops, a non-government organisation has claimed. The New Delhi-based Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology which will hold a bija (seeds) yatra said the high costs of cultivating capital-intensive crops, including GM cotton, have contributed to the suicides. "We find a strong correlation. The suicide belt is the GM cotton belt," said Vandana Shiva, director of the foundation. "The cost of cultivating GM cotton is high and, over the years, cotton prices have fallen."
The foundation released a report documenting farmers' suicides in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Punjab since the mid-1990s. In Maharashtra's Vidharbha alone, more than 400 farmers have killed themselves since June 2005, it said. "A farmer told upfront all the costs associated with cultivating GM cotton would probably not have gone in for the seeds," Shiva said. "We're also seeing suicides among farmers who've planted other crops that involve high cultivation costs." The foundation's report cited an independent study in Punjab that has recorded 1,360 suicides in 91 villages in two blocks of the state's Sangrur district.
Seed companies argue that the steady rise in the area in India under GM cotton cultivation is evidence of its good performance. They have said GM cotton can increase yields by killing the bollworm pest. In the proposed bija yatra, the foundation will join farmers' organisations in several states to encourage farmers to boycott GM cotton, avoid other seeds that involve capital-intensive cultivation, and promote organic cultivation. Farmers along the route of the yatra in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka will be provided training on low-cost ecological organic farming and get seeds that do not need expensive cultivation processes, Shiva said. The foundation has called for a moratorium on GM cotton and an independent assessment of the social and economic impact of the introduction of GM cotton in the country five years ago.
BHARAT KRISHAK SAMAJ (FARMERS' FORUM INDIA )
Chairman: Dr.BAL RAM JAKHAR - Governor, Madhya Pradesh
Executive Chairman: Dr.KRISHAN BIR CHAUDHARY - Former Chairman, State Farms Corporation of India
09th May, 2006
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare,
Govt. of India
Bharat Krishak Samaj is against the irreversible, uncontrolled, and potentially dangerous release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment. We are also concerned about the health hazards of GM products
We are in favour of Mandatory Labelling of All GM products, irrespective of the percentage of traces of GM materials present in the product in any form whatsoever.
Labelling norms should clearly state that it is a GM product. There should be no soft provision to state "May Contain GM Traces".
GM products can enter the market either through imports or through domestic production. As of now only approved GM product in the country is Bt cotton. But we are sorry to note free clandestine imports of GM seeds and GM food and feed into the country, flouting all regulatory norms. Unapproved imported GM seeds are being cultivated in this country, in blatant violation of biosafety norms.
ON IMPORT ISSUES :-
We are happy to note new changes in the Foreign Trade Policy which said that all imported GM products should be labeled. 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 Foreign Trade (Development & Regulation) Act, 1992. This is an indication for Mandatory Labelling
But we are agrieved to note that the Foreign Trade Policy in another clause said : "It has been decided to allow pre-shipment test certificates from accredited international agencies in lieu of test reports." Similar are the words of the draft proposals of the health ministry on proposed amendments to the PFA rules which says that labeling should also "indicate that the product has been cleared for marketing and use in the country of origin so that the verification, if needed can be taken up with that country without having to resort to testing."
The Foreign Trade Policy and the draft amendments to the PFA Rules, therefore, in one voice wants to legalise the entry of GM products through labelling and without adequate tests on risks involved - WE VEHEMENTLY OPPOSE THIS MOVE
Recently, the GEAC in its last meeting gave a green signal to imports of crude and refined soyabean oils extracted from genetically modified sources. The consensus which emerged at the GEAC meeting was to allow soyabean oils extracted from a particular strain of GM soyabean, saying that oil from this particular strain is being imported in many countries of Asia. Besides, GEAC is of the opinion that only crude soyabean oil can contain traces of GM and not refined soyabean oil.
Further legalising the imports of GM soyabean oil, the GEAC has shown some motivated concerns. Motivated, because it wants to legalise entry of GM soyabean oil. It said that only crude GM soyabean oil should be labelled and the processors in the country should adhere to safe disposal norms - WE VEHEMENTLY OPPOSE THE GEAC MOVE TO LEGALISE THE ENTRY OF CRUDE AND REFINED GM SOYABEAN OILS.
ADEQUATE TESTS SHOULD BE DONE IN THE COUNTRY TO ESTABLISH THE SAFETY OF GM PRODUCTS TO BE APPROVED FOR IMPORTS. TESTS SHOULD ESTABLISH SAFETY OF HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT. THE PROCESS AND RESULTS OF SUCH TESTS SHOULD BE MADE TRANSPARENT.
If such adequate tests cannot be conducted in the country to establish health and environment safety, precautionary principles of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety should be applied to deny imports of GM products for food, feed, processing and cultivation. However for research purposes, imports may be allowed, but with a strict provision of not allowing its release in the environment. Caution should be taken that the research materials are not clandestinely diverted for use in food, feed and processing for consumption.
Here is the relevant portion of the Cartagena Protocol : "lack of scientific certainty due to insufficient knowledge regarding the extent of the potential adverse effects of a living modified organism on conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in the Party of import, taking also into account risks to human health, shall not prevent that Party from taking a decision, as appropriate, with regard to the import of the living modified organisms in question.....to avoid or minimise such potential adverse effects."
ON DOMESTIC ISSUES
Under the present WTO regime no member country cannot afford to have dual policies for domestic production and consumption and imports. The new changes in the Foreign Trade Policy has called for Mandatory Labelling of GM products intended to be imported. Therefore, under the present WTO regime, if GM products intended to be imported are to be labelled, the same has to be for products domestically produced and approved. HENCE WE SUPPORT MANDATORY LABELLING OF DOMESTIC GM PRODUCTS.
But we are very much concerned with the spate of approvals being given to new varieties of Bt cotton by GEAC, despites reported cases of failure of earlier approved varieties, largescale violations of biosafety norms and new evidences of adverse effects on animal health due to consumption of Bt cotton seeds and plant parts.
There are in pipeline a number of GM food crops for approval. We feel that there is no sufficient sphisticated mechanism in this country to establish the safety of GM crops. We, therefore, demand a moratorium on release of GM crops, invoking the Precautionary Principles.
ON OTHER COMPLEX ADMINISTRATIVE AND POLICY ISSUES ;
We are in doubt how far the efforts of the health ministry would be effective, in face of the behind the scene activity in the government.
The Commerce ministry through Foreign Trade Policy suggested Mandatory Labelling. The health ministry has taken up the issue. But there are other agencies in the country which can dilute the prescribed norms at their behest.
The agriculture ministry is in charge of implementing plant and animal quarantine norms. The ministry recently diluted prescribed quarantine norms to import wheat from Australia.
The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is designated as WTO TBT point in the country. BIS is negotiating with standard setting bodies of other countries for working out Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs). MRAs are designed to relax norms for mutual acceptance by both the importing and exporting countries. The Export Inspection Council (EIC) is also engaged in working out MRAs with other countries. This they feel is designed to boost country's exports. In this context, we feel there are chances of strict GM Labelling norms and GM regulations in the country being relaxed to give easy entry to GM products and in return gain access for exports of other commodities
The most worrying situation has been created by the recent India-US Knowledge Initiate in Agriculture Research and Education. We fear that through this pact US may put pressure to relax our regulatory norms on GM products.
Next there are plans to dismantle GEAC which is under environment ministry. There are plans to set up an autonomous regulator for GM products as suggested by the MS Swaminathan Committee and RA Mashelkar Committee. WE FEEL SUCH A MOVE WOULD BE DANGEROUS. GEAC SHOULD CONTINUE UNDER ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY AND HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS REGARDING GM PRODUCTS SHOULD BE VIGOROUSLY ADDRESSED WITH TRANSPARENCY.
Similarly there is a move to minimise the role of health ministry, directorate of PFA and ICMR in their say over the concerns for health hazards relating to GM food and feed. The Food Standards and Safety Bill 2005 tabled in Parliament seeks to take away the powers of health ministry, directorate of PFA and ICMR. It has suggested setting up of a Food Authority, presumably under the administrative control of the ministry for food processing industries. WE FEEL THAT SUCH A MOVE WOULD BE DANGEROUS. HEALTH MINISTRY, DIRECTORATE OF PFA AND ICMR SHOULD HAVE GREATER SAY AND THEY SHOULD BE AGGRESSIVE IN EXPERSSING CONCERNS OVER THE SAFETY OF GM FOODS.
(Krishan Bir Chaudhary) - Executive Chairman
GEAC nod for new Bt cotton varieties, farmers cry foul - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, May 2, 2006
NEW DELHI, MAY 1: In the upcoming kharif (summer) season eight new varieties of Bt cotton will be grown in north India and 12 new varieties will be grown in central region. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), which gave its approval for commercial cultivation of these 20 new varieties of Bt cotton in the northern and central zone of the country is slated to meet next week to give its approval to some new Bt cotton varieties for commercial cultivation in south India.
Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary, executive chairman of the country's largest farmers' organisation Bharat Krishak Samaj said, "Bt cotton has put farmers into heavy losses. Instead of reviewing the performance of Bt cotton released earlier, the GEAC is going ahead with a spate of new approvals. It is unfortunate that GEAC reviews the performance in three years, instead of reviewing it each season." He said due to the pressure of farmers? groups, the GEAC had to concede the failure of Mahyco-Monsanto's Mech-184 Bt, Mech-162 Bt and Mech-12 Bt after three years of commercial cultivation. These varieties were banned for commercial cultivation in Andhra Pradesh since 2005. Mech-12 Bt was banned for cultivation in entire south India. Dr Chaudhary said that farmers could not wait for three long years to get justice. Even today Mahyo-Monsanto has not compensated Andhra Pradesh farmers for the losses they have incurred.
Divya Ragunandan of Greenpeace India also criticized the new approvals by GEAC. The eight new Bt cotton varieties recently approved for commercial cultivation in north India are - MRC-6025 Bt and MRC- 6092 Bt containing cry 1 Ac gene Mon 531 event developed by Mahyco, NCS-913 Bt and NCS-138 Bt containing cry 1 Ac gene Mon 351 event developed by Nuzeveedu Seeds, RCH-308 Bt and RCH-314 Bt containing cry 1 Ac gene Mon 531 event developed by Rasi Seeds, JKCH-1947 Bt containing cry 1 Ac (event 1) developed by JK Agri Seeds and (8) NCEH-6 R Bt containing encoding fusion genes (cry 1 Ab + cry 1 Ac) GFM developed by Nath Seeds.
GEAC approved two new Bt cotton varieties for cultivation in rainfed and irrigated areas of central India, namely, GK 205 Bt containing cry 1 Ac gene (Mon-531 event) developed by Ganga Kaveri Seeds and RCH-377 Bt containing cry 1 Ac gene (Mon-531 event) developed by Rasi Seeds. For cultivation in irrigated areas in central India, GEAC approved seven new Bt cotton varieties, namely, ACH-33-1 Bt and ACH-155-1 containing cry 1 Ac gene (Mon-531 event) developed by Ajeet Seeds, Tulasi 4 Bt and Tulasi 117 Bt containing cry 1 Ac gene (Mon-531 event) developed by Tulasi Seeds, Brahma BG containing cry 1 Ac gene (Mon-531 event) developed by Emergent Genetics, VICH-111 Bt containing cry 1 Ac gene (mon-531 event) developed by Vikki Agrotech and JK Varun Bt containing cry 1 Ac gene (event 1) developed by JK Seeds. For cultivation in exclusive rainfed conditions in central India three new varieties were approved, namely, VICH-5 Bt and VICH-9 Bt containing cry 1 Ac gene (Mon-531 event) developed by Vikram Seeds and PRCH-102 Bt containing cry 1 Ac gene (Mon-531 event) developed by Pravardhan Seeds.
Field trial of GM crops only after GEAC approval, rules apex court - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, May 02, 2006
NEW DELHI, MAY 1: The Supreme Court has ruled that any field trial of genetically modified (GM) crops should be conducted only with the approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). The Bench consisting of Chief Justice YK Sabarwal and Justice CK Thakkar on Monday passed this interim verdict on a petition filed by Aruna Rodigues and other calling for a moratorium on field trials of GM crops and import of GM products. Speaking to FE, the advocate for the petitioner, Prashant Bhushan said : "The Supreme Court realised the gravity of the issue and said that the GEAC alone should give approval for any field trials of GM crops in the country."
Usually the GEAC, being the apex regulator under the environment ministry, gives approval to multi-locational largescale field trials of GM crops. But the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM), a body under the promoter agency, department of biotechnology (DBT) approves multi-locational contained field trials of GM crops. The monitoring and evaluation (MEC) is also constituted under DBT. The GEAC gives its approval for largescale field trials on basis of the reports of RCGM and MEC. Even when the GEAC gives its final approval for commercial cultivation of GM crops after largescale field trials, the data presented by RCGM and MEC are considered.
The Supreme Court verdict takes away the powers of RCGM and MEC to conduct any field trials of GM crops without the approval of the GEAC. Most of these field trials are conducted under secrecy and even the agriculture department of the state government concerned has no knowledge regarding the locations where the field trials were being conducted. The biotech company also never informed the farmer that they were giving GM seeds for cultivation. Recently, Greenpeace India and a network of over 20 local NGOs had brought to light largescale violations of biosafety norms in the field trials. Sources said some transgenic food crops are in the process of contained field trials approved by RCGM. Some of the transgenic crops under such trials are brinjal, cabbage, cauliflower, maize, groundnut, mustard, okra, pigeon pea, rice, tomato, chilly, bell pepper, potato, tobacco, wheat.
* The Court verdict takes away powers of RCGM and MEC to conduct any field trials of GM crops without the approval of the GEAC
* Most of these field trials are conducted under secrecy even the state government concerned has no knowledge about it
* Greenpeace India and some local NGOs discovered largescale violations in the field trials
GEAC, Act immediately to protect India's biosafety - PRESS RELEASE
Hyderabad, May 1, 2006: Prominent farmers' unions and NGOs working on environmental and sustainable agriculture issues have written to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC] to act immediately to protect India's biosafety from GM technology in agriculture. The GEAC, which has received complaints nearly four months ago on serious irregularities in field trials of GM crops including GM food crops [Bt Rice, Bt Brinjal, Bt Okra etc.], has failed to investigate the matter properly and fix accountability so far. Meanwhile, the Department of Biotechnology as well as the GEAC are giving more and more permissions for trials in farmers' fields. The next GEAC meeting, as per schedule, is supposed to take place on 10th May 2006.
Writing to the Chairperson of GEAC Mr Bir Singh Parsheera, unions like the Bhartiya Kisan Union, Shetkari Sangathan, Karnataka Rajya Rytha Sangha, Andha Pradesh Rythu Sangam etc., pointed out that despite repeated evidence put in front of it, the GEAC is yet to do anything concrete to protect India's biosafety in this regard. Consumer Coordination Council, a federation of more than 60 consumer organisations, also lent its voice to the demands put to the GEAC, expressing concern about the food and feed chain getting contaminated in the country through these trials.
India continues to approve more and more GM crops either for research in farmers' fields or for commercial cultivation [more hybrids of GM cotton were recently approved by the GEAC] without ensuring that the most basic institutional mechanisms [like the State Biotechnology Coordination Councils or the District Level Committees] are in place. This is a clear violation of the Environment Protection Act. In 2005, numerous trials of brinjal, cauliflower, cabbage, corn, groundnut, mustard, okra, pigeonpea, rice and tomato belonging to 17 different agencies were allowed by Department of Biotechnology for trials in open field conditions despite the fact that inadequate biosafety regime and improper monitoring are being showcased again and again, right from 1998.
The signatories to the letter, including Mr Devinder Sharma, noted agriculture policy analyst, Greenpeace India, Thanal, Sunray Harvesters and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture demanded that liability be fixed for all biosafety violations witnessed so far. They further demanded that no new approvals be provided for any field trials of GM crops until India's biosafety regime is completely re-looked at. This should include the permissions provided by the Department of Biotechnology for trials in farmers' fields, often without the involvement of state governments and with lax or even absent monitoring. There are many cases where the farmer is not even aware of what is being tried out in his/her field and there is routine contamination of the food/feed chain from such trials of untested and uncleared products. India is just one step away from serious, irreversible contamination from such trials.
For more information, contact:
Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at (0)9393001550 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to contact the GEAC Chairperson on this subject, the contact phone is: email@example.com and phone: 011-24361308
Mortality in Sheep Flocks after grazing on Bt Cotton fields, Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh - Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April, 2006
Dr. G. V. Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 12-13-445, Street no.1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad-500 017, India
91(40)27017735, 27014302 - www.csa-india.org - firstname.lastname@example.org
Download here as a pdf file (104kb).
Massive civil society call to the Government of India - April 2006
RESPONSE TO THE LABELLING OF GMOS
[DRAFT RULES TO AMEND PREVENTION OF FOOD ADULTERATION Rules 1955: (COPY OF NOTIFICATION DATED 10TH MARCH '06)]
Download here as a pdf file (100kb)
Protect farmers' interests - Are new regulations for GM crops a boon for agribiotech? - PV SATHEESH - The writer is director, Deccan Development Society
Is labelling GMOs a good enough solution to a country where the illiteracy levels are close to 40%? Currently, a huge publicity blitz is on by the ministry of consumer affairs asking the citizens of India to understand what is MRP, expiry date, etc, after these rules have been in operation for over 30 years. If understanding MRP and expiry date is so difficult, how will the Indian consumer comprehend the implication of GM food even if it is labelled?
In a country where the GM debate is almost non-existent, where the first GE crop, Bt cotton, crashed taking along with it hundreds of farmers lives, what is the obscene hurry to open the gates for GM crops? Why are we rushing in where angels are afraid to tread?
As recently as three months ago, Switzerland rejected GM food in a nationwide referendum. Why is our nation so undemocratic? Does the population of this country deserve no role in making such decisions? Are we keeping track of the global evidences about the unsafe character of GM foods that are mounting by the day? Here are few examples. In a recent experiment, the noted Russian scientist Ermakova from the Russian Academy of Sciences found that the offspring of female rats fed on GM soya were five times more likely to die within three weeks of birth than those of mothers fed on normal soya. The legendary scientist Arpad Pusztai found young rats fed GM potatoes damaged in every organ system including an increase in thickness of the stomach lining to twice that in controls. Data from the 1990s available with the USFDA show that rats fed with GM tomatoes developed small holes in their stomach. A new Australian research says that a harmless protein in bean when transferred to pea caused inflammation in the lungs of mice.
From mice to men is not far away. Five unexplained deaths and mysterious illnesses in the south of the Philippines occurred when a Monsanto GM maize hybrid came into flower. Antibodies to the Bt protein in the GM maize were found in the villagers. These are only tip of the iceberg. Facts that are emerging out of science labs and peasant farms swell the damning evidences against GM in spite of the all cover ups attempted by the powerful industry's continuing spin.
In a country like India, can we say we have labelled GM and let them eat it at their own peril? The irrefutable evidence of pesticide residue in Coca Cola did not deter GenNext from declaring their undying allegiance to the soft drink. The one billion population of this country cannot be left to the market logic of the CII and the biotech industry baying for their profits and the ministry of commerce, which is an accomplice. India should initiate a democratic debate, not on whether we should label, but on whether we should let GM food enter this country.
More Illnesses Linked to Bt Crops
Further evidence has emerged on the link between common transgenic proteins and serious allergic reactions while regulators turn a deaf ear and approve yet more planting. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
The same transgenic proteins implicated in two different GM crops [fully referenced version of article *for members*: http://www.i-sis.org.uk/full/MILTBTFull.php]
We recently reported illnesses and deaths among villagers of south Mindanao in the Philippines that are suspected of being linked to the genetically modified 'Bt' maize with an insecticidal protein from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis  ("GM ban long overdue, five deaths and dozens ill in the Philippines", SiS 29). Since then, similar illnesses are reported to have occurred in Madhya Pradesh, central India, as a result of exposure to 'Bt' cotton genetically modified with the same or similar insecticidal protein(s).
India began commercial planting of Bt cotton in 2002/03 with 38 038 ha (0.78 percent of hybrid area), increasing to 6.4 percent and 11.65 percent respectively in 2003/4 and 2004/5. Currently, nearly 9 million ha of cotton is grown in India, 2.8 million hybrid cotton. Madhya Pradesh is India's fifth largest cotton producing state, with Malwa and Nimad the main cotton growing regions. The Bt cotton varieties planted were developed by Monsanto, and carry the insecticidal Cry1Ac protein (Bollgard) or both Cry1Ac and Cry1Ab proteins (Bollgard II), according to an article on the industry's website . Farmers from the Nimad region in Western Madhya Pradesh began complaining of health hazards after Bt cotton was planted. This prompted a three-member team representing a coalition of non-government organisations to carry out a preliminary survey in six villages in Nimad region between October and December 2005.
The team interviewed 23 of the farm and factory workers who fell ill after having handled Bt cotton. All had itching skin, 20 had eruptions on the body, and 13 had swollen faces. In some cases, the itching was so bad that they had to discontinue work, or take anti-allergy medicine in order to be able to work. The survey resulted in a report which concluded : "All the evidence gathered during the investigation shows that Bt has been causing skin, upper respiratory tract and eye allergy among persons exposed to cotton... The allergy is not restricted to farm labourers involved in picking cotton but has affected labourers involved in loading and unloading Bt from villages to market, those involved in its weighing, labourers working in ginning factories, people who carried out other operations in the field of Bt cotton, or farmers who stored cotton in their homes etc."
The team consisted of Dr. Ashish Gupta of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (People's Health Movement, India); Ashish Mandloi, a graduate of Barwani College working with Narmada Bachao Anolan (Save Narmada River Movement) and associate of the National Alliance of Peoples' Movements; and Amulya Nidhi, a health activist working in Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh specializing in Urban and Rural community Development, and associated with Shilpi Trust and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan. The survey covered 6 villages in the Barwani and Dhar districts of Nimad region in Madhya Pradesh, interviewing various groups of people involved in handling cotton - women picking cotton, labourers loading-unloading cotton, ginning factory workers - as well as a local doctor and an agricultural scientist.
Allergy symptoms in farm workers and other workers handling Bt cotton
The team found allergy symptoms in people in direct contact with Bt cotton on their hands, feet, face, in their eyes and nose, with some becoming "very severely ill." The skin was the most common site of allergy: itching, redness, eruptions and swelling. Typically, after the first 4-5 hours of exposure, most people complained of itching on the face and the hand. Soon, the itching increased and by the time they finish the day's work, they had redness on the hands and face and swelling of the face. After continued exposure of one to two days, small white eruptions would appear, most often on the face. The symptoms began to subside after varying periods from four to five days up to five to six months, but black discolouration would show on the skin.
The people affected did not have previous history of allergies even though they were involved in picking cotton earlier. Those who had more severe symptoms of the skin tend also to have associated allergies of eyes and respiratory tract. Eye irritation, involving itching, redness, swelling and watery eyes affected 11 of the 23 individuals; 9 had upper respiratory symptoms of watering from the nose and excessive sneezing. Three had mild symptoms, while 10 each had severe and moderate symptoms respectively. One woman had to be removed from the fields and taken to Barwani District Hospital where she remained for 9 days.
Cotton fibre appeared to be causing the allergy. (In the case of the Bt maize in the Philippines, the pollen was suspected to be the main culprit.) The owner of the ginning factory Mr. Sunil Patidar said that symptoms like itching, redness of eyes, watering of eyes and cough were found in labourers in his factory. Most of the labourers were having problems, and the year before, it was even more prevalent. He said that was why labourers were not ready to unload the cotton-loaded truck from Maharastra. The labourers working in different ginning factories said itching of the whole body was very common, and only when they took Tab. Avil (a common anti-allergy medicine) every day were they able to work. Kalibai of Kothra said she has been working for 20 years picking cotton and never had any symptoms until 2004, when she suffered very bad allergy from picking Bt cotton.
Dr. Ramesh Jar of Saigaon, Ayurvedic doctor, has been practicing in Aawli, Tal Thikri in District Barwani. He said he has already received around 150 cases of allergy from two villages of Aawli and Saigaon in 2005. In 2004, he had around 100 cases. He is prescribing Dexona injection and Levocetrigen for skin and anti allergic drops for eyes. Dr. Debashish Baner, an agricultural scientist, thinks that Bt cotton produces Bt toxin in all tissues including cotton fibres. The team is demanding a government enquiry; but that seems to have fallen on deaf ears so far.
Bt bacteria and spores were previously linked to allergic reactions
Bt toxins come from the soil bacterium Bacilllus thuringiensis (Bt), common strains of which produce a large family of insecticide Cry proteins each targeting a different range of insect pests. Strains of Bt have been used as sprays to control insect pests in the United States for many years before transgenic Bt crops were created. A study published in 1999 funded by the US Environment Protection Agency found that exposure to the Bt sprays "may lead to allergic skin sensitisation and induction of IgE and IgG antibodies or both" .
Farm workers who picked vegetables that required Bt spraying were evaluated before and after exposure to Bt spray, and one and four months afterwards. Two groups of low, and medium exposure workers not directly exposed to Bt spray, but working at different distances from the sprayed fields were also assessed. Investigations included questionnaires, nasal/mouth lavages, assessment of ventilatory function, and skin tests. To authenticate exposure to the organism present in the commercial preparation, bacteria isolated from lavage specimens were tested for Bt genes by DNA-DNA hybridisation. Blood immunoglobulin G and IgE responses to spore and vegetative Bt extracts were assayed.
Positive skin-prick tests to several spore extracts were seen chiefly in exposed workers. In particular, there was a significant increase in the number of positive skin tests to spore extracts one and four months after exposure to Bt spray. The number of positive skin test responses was also significantly greater in high- than in low- or medium-exposure group of workers. The majority of nasal lavage cultures from exposed workers was positive for the commercial Bt organism as demonstrated by specific molecular genetic probes. Specific IgE antibodies were present in more workers from the high-exposure group than from low- and medium-exposure groups. Specific IgG antibodies also occurred more frequently in the high- than in the low-exposure group.
In a previous public health survey of a large number of individuals exposed to a massive Bt pesticide spraying programme , some of the symptoms recorded include rash and deep swelling. One worker developed inflammation of the skin, itching, swelling and reddening of the skin with redness of the eyes. Bt was cultured from the red eyes. In 1992, Bt was used in an Asian gypsy moth control programme, and was found to be associated with classical allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal mucosa) symptoms, exacerbations of asthma, and skin reactions among exposed individuals reporting possible health effects after the spraying operations . Similar findings occurred during another Bt spraying in the spring of 1994 .
Allergens trigger 75 percent of asthma cases
Allergenicity is of particular concern because approximately 75 percent of asthma cases are triggered by allergens  and illnesses and deaths due to asthma have rocketed in recent years. Asthma deaths tripled in the United States from 1 674 in 1977 to 5 438 in 1998. The costs of asthma doubled from $6.2 billion in 1990 to $12.7 billion in 2000 .
Bt crops were first introduced in the United States in 1996, and have expanded substantially in acreage since, with little or no further research on the toxicity or allergenicity of the Cry proteins released in greater and greater abundance into the environment. Limited studies carried out by a research team in Cuba showed that Cry1Ac is a powerful immunogen, and when fed to mice, induced antibody responses similar to those obtained with the cholera toxin. Furthermore, Cry1Ac actively binds to the inner surface of the mouse small intestine, especially to the 'brush border' membranes on the cells lining the small intestine . It has also been shown that all the Cry proteins in Bt crops have amino acid sequence similarities to known allergens [12-14], and are hence potential allergens.
Regulators are guilty of gross negligence
Meanwhile, the biotech industry has been aggressively promoting GM crops worldwide, especially those with Bt biopesticide and in developing countries like India and the Philippines. The latest survey carried out by the industry-funded group ISAAA claims that the global area given over to GM crops has increased from 81 million ha in 2004 to 90 million ha in 2005 . Bt crops now comprise 29 percent of the total (18 percent Bt, and 11 percent stacked Bt and herbicide tolerance).
Regulators continue to approve Bt crops, despite the fact that successive surveys carried out both by scientists and by non-government organisations have demonstrated that Bt crops have failed to match the performance of local varieties  and farmers who bought into the aggressive propaganda have ended up in debt, and worse, suicide [17-18], so much so that an 'agrarian crisis' was declared in Maharastra.
The latest evidence of serious health impacts linked to Bt crops comes in corroboration of previous findings dating back to the 1980s that should have halted the development and approval of Bt crops then. By now, it is simply gross negligence not to impose a ban on further releases of Bt crops until they have been proven safe by a thoroughly independent enquiry.
SERIOUS EVIDENCE OF HARM FROM GMOS TO HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT SAFETY GROWS
PRESS RELEASE: GMOs REJOINDER AFFIDAVIT
A Rejoinder Affidavit was filed on the 18th April 2006 in the Supreme Court [in India]. This is a follow-up of the Public Interest Writ Petition, filed last year for a moratorium on Genetically Engineered crops, pending a comprehensive and transparent biosafety testing protocol. The 'Rejoinder' contains clear and damning evidence from independent world scientists about serious hazards of GM crops to health and biosafety. It effectively destroys the government's stance that GM crops, including those used for animal feed, eg. Bt cotton are safe.
One of the main selling platforms of the biotech industry, for example, is that GM crops are effective against pests and weeds. Scientists have long known that both claims hold little truth based on their knowledge of how 'resistance' occurs in nature. Farmers around the world have reported it for both Bt and herbicide-tolerant GM crops. They were ignored. Now, there is scientific proof that GM crops, both pest and weed resistant crops create a nightmare of super pests and super weeds precisely because of the phenomenon of resistance. Yet various national governments, including the Indian Government, have preferred to be lured by the high claims of the biotech industry and their commercial agenda to profiteer and control farming through patents. The G of I has even ignored the reasons for farmer suicides directly linked to the failure of Bt cotton and has comprehensively ditched farmer interests and public health safeguards to support the biotech industry. So if this fundamental tenet of GE is now proven to be the sham it always was, the Q is:
What is left of this technology and what conclusions must civil society draw from a government that is resolute in its support of the biotech and US commercial agenda?
The evidence against GE on every dimension of biosafety is now so serious that the 'Rejoinder' accuses the Government of "deliberate intent to allow GM contamination in India. The biosafety violations are so extreme that they represent the highest betrayal of India's national interest including national food security".
Transgenic (Bt) cotton is recognised by scientists to be a potentially toxic crop. Therefore, the effects of GM crops are similar to that of pesticides and must be tested accordingly, using stringent safety-testing protocols as required in the Public Interest Writ. It must be stressed that no GM food has been proven safe for human consumption anywhere in the world because the safety testing has simply not been done.
Notwithstanding the serious evidence of biosafety hazards of GE, the Government has concluded an agreement with the US, which will swamp India with GM crops and allow access by multinational biotech corporations to India's rich genetic wealth. The so-called 2nd green revolution to be ushered in by the 'Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agricultural Research and Education', will contaminate India's biodiversity and our food supply in perpetuity. It astoundingly elevates Monsanto, a thoroughly discredited company internationally, to the position of official 'US brand ambassador' to India. Monsanto is the 90% monopoly leader of biotech with the stated dark dream of supremacy over world agriculture, where "NATURAL SEEDS ARE VIRTUALLY EXTINCT and the hope of the industry is that over time, the market is so flooded that there's nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender". This is the same company that in February 22, 2002, was found guilty by a US court in Anniston, of poisoning the water supply of the local residents, on all six counts of "negligence, wantonness and suppression of the truth, nuisance, trespass, and outrage". Outrage, according to Alabama law, usually requires conduct "so outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society."
Monsanto hasn't changed. If Monsanto hid what it knew about its toxic pollution for decades, what is it hiding now? And what does it mean, what are we called upon to believe, when the Indian Government forms an alliance with such a company, with such a track record? This agreement will deliver Monsanto's dark agenda with the active help of the Indian Government! It is a morally bankrupt and ethically deviant policy on GM; a tragically inappropriate tie-up, wholly detrimental to the national interest, which impacts sovereign issues of genetic wealth and IPRs, bio-safety, food security, farmer and consumer rights and public health. The Country now faces the unbelievable situation, which defies the most elementary logic, where Indian policy concerning these issues will be subject to even greater manipulation than at present, by private multi-national biotech corporations that exist to make a profit. The company with its hand firmly on the rudder is MONSANTO! The Rejoinder provides evidence of why and how this will lead to the predicted fait accompli of contamination that is the objective of a regulatory body, which is manifestly in a conspiracy of collusion and UNTRUTH with the biotech industry. This is a serious charge. It asks for a high level enquiry based on prima facie evidence of the regulatory bodies including the GEAC of misleading the Prime Minister and his cabinet about the hazards of GM.
It is a truism that the goal of health safety-assessment is that a "food should not cause harm when prepared, used or eaten according to its intended use" (Codex Alimentarious guideline 2003). Or, to expand the logic, if a product causes cancer in animals, it should not be put in food. This is in fact the ?Delaney Amendment? in the US, which is being used in the case against Monsanto's Aspartame, (the sweetner also called EQUAL), which has been proven to cause cancer amongst other serious hazards as outlined in the Writ Petition. If GMOs cause cancer in rats, as has been demonstrated along with other significant health risks, then, eminent world scientists are absolutely right to call for stringent, independent and peer-reviewed long-term animal feeding studies to determine the health safety of GM crops. Until then they have called for a global moratorium. This is also the impeccable logic of the Petitioners prayer in the WP. The "Precautionary Principle" is the superior scientific principle and path that must be followed most urgently for GM crops because the spread of GMOs will alter the molecular structure of the world's food supply in PERPETUITY. Even if, eventually, for the sake of argument, the evidence against GM were to be proved wrong on all dimensions of biosafety, it would still prove to be "right action" based on prudence, for India to apply the precautionary principle in the SHORT TERM in order to be reasonably sure of the biosafety of GM crops. The short term is a mere blip on the horizon of perpetuity and worth every nano-bit of trouble to avoid a disaster of unimaginable and many magnitudes, should even a small part of the evidence be proved right.
Aruna Rodrigues - Petitioner
Co-Petitioners: Devinder Sharma, Rajeev Baruah and PV Satheesh
Destitute and dying on India's farms - Amelia Gentleman - International Herald Tribune, APRIL 18, 2006
SUNNA, India Discussing the effectiveness of pesticides as a human poison is not a very cheerful topic for a wedding, but Radika Mamidwar's wedding was not an entirely cheerful occasion. Four months ago, her father, Subhash, drank a quantity of monocrotophos - a highly toxic organophosphate used to kill insects, long since banned in the United States - and died alone in his cotton field near their home. The cotton harvest had failed and debts to money lenders and the bank were mounting. The impending costs of the imminent wedding made a dire financial situation impossible, and he picked the chemical he hoped would kill him fastest. He was the third farmer in the village to commit suicide this season.
In the Vidarbha cotton belt, which stretches across central India, to the eastern part of the state of Maharashtra, 451 cotton farmers have killed themselves since the beginning of this harvest; about 2,300 have committed suicide since 2000. Of the 3.4 million cotton farmers in this region, 95 percent are believed to be struggling with heavy debt, according to the local farmers' support network, the Vidarbha Jan Aandolan Samiti. The farmers who commit suicide represent a tiny minority who abandon the battle for survival, but thousands more are living on the brink. The deaths are symbolic of a greater malaise in Indian agriculture. The country has 120 million farmers, and agriculture accounts for the livelihood of two-thirds of the Indian population, but as new wealth is flaunted in the cities, most small farmers are still living in conditions of profound deprivation. This year, in addition to the problems in Maharashtra, crop failures in Punjab, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have prompted hundreds of farmers to kill themselves. Some groups of bankrupt farmers have erected signs on the highway offering up their village for sale as a way to raise money.
Supervising a small, subdued wedding party in his absence, Subhash's widow, Suverna Mamidwar, said she knew her husband had been concerned about the unexpected costs involved with planting a new genetically modified cotton seed this year. It had been heavily advertised by the state Agricultural Ministry, but it had not delivered the promised high yield. Subhash owed 40,000 rupees, or $890, to the bank, and about 100,000 rupees more to private lenders in the village - with no way of repaying the loans. "I could see that he was worried, but I had no idea he would commit suicide," she said. Her house, with its carved wooden doors and tiled roofs, arranged around a generous central courtyard, is a reminder of a time when cotton was profitable.
One of the guests, Kishar Sikkalwar, the leader of a neighboring village, spoke more angrily. "He should have told us about his problems, and not done such a foolish thing," he said. It is not clear that Sikkalwar would have been able to offer much help. He is himself owes the bank about 100,000 rupees, which he cannot repay because of crop failure. Plunging the wedding party into deeper desolation, he rattled off the names of seven farmers he knew who have killed themselves this season as a result of the poor harvest. "One man drowned himself, but the others took the quickest route. If they didn't drink monocrotophos, they drank endosulfan" - also an insecticide.
Once known as white gold because it was such a profitable crop, cotton is no longer a money-making venture in India. The growing sophistication of agricultural methods has made cotton farming more and more expensive over the decades, and the Indian government has gradually moved away from subsidizing farmers' production. Cotton is more vulnerable to pests than wheat or rice, and farmers are forced to invest heavily in pesticides and fertilizer. Two years ago a new genetically modified seed, Bt, was introduced into India, and enthusiastically endorsed by the local government. Its manufacturer, Monsanto, said it was resistant to boll weevil - the main cotton pest - and required just two sprays of insecticide for every crop, instead of the usual eight. The modified seed sold for about four and a half times the cost of normal seed, but many farmers opted to buy it because they believed it was indestructible and would give a higher yield. They were devastated when many of the Bt cotton plants were afflicted in November with a reddening that destroyed much of the crop. Rain at the wrong time was considered part of the problem, and that left the farmers with unusually high debts. Since most of these farmers have historic debts to the banks on which they have long since defaulted, they are forced to borrow from local money- lenders at exorbitant rates of interest. Some of the rates may go as high as 100 percent a year.
A few houses away from the wedding party, sitting in the hot shade beneath the corrugated iron roof of her home, Jyoti Jeddyar said her husband, Sanjay, was always telling her not to worry about the 50,000 rupees he owed the bank and the extra 40,000 he owed to private money lenders. "But with two small children, I was always worrying about how he would pay, anyway. Nothing he said could stop me worrying," she said. He committed suicide in November - another dose of monocrotophos - and she has been forced to take out new loans of her own.
Sanjay Mahadeorao Todase, senior medical officer in the small hospital in the nearby town of Pandnarkawada, said that treating farmers who have poisoned themselves with insecticides had become so routine that he barely had the emotion left to feel shocked by it. "They are brought in by bullock cart, on the back of bicycles or on three-wheeler trucks," he said. He knows instantly that most of them have drunk some kind of organophosphate because of their pinpoint pupils and the smell of noxious poisons from their mouth. "I've seen between 50 and 100 this year," he said.
Activists blame the liberalization of agriculture and the move away from traditional farming methods for the farmers' difficulties. Devinder Sharma, a campaigner on agricultural problems in India with the Delhi-based Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security, is preparing a detailed study into farmer suicides in India. He claims the total was 28,000 between 1995 and 2005, although the figures are imprecise because there is no central monitoring organization. He said it was striking that most suicides occurred in parts of the country practicing intensive farming of cash crops, and least in impoverished regions like Bihar and Orissa, where farmers tend to rely on subsistence agriculture. Last week the National Commission on Farmers called for a nationwide survey on farmer suicides to help track the true scale of the problem. Yogesh Chand Nanda, a member of the commission, said: "There is a problem in Indian agriculture right now. During the 1990s, profitability went down - the cost of farming rose, wages increased, the price of seeds and fertilizers went up, but the returns were lower. A large number of people who used to be subsistence farmers have moved towards commercial farming - exposing themselves to much greater risks." The Congress party government was swept to power in 2004 on promises to share the newfound wealth in the cities with the rural hinterland - but it is a slow process. "Per capita incomes in farming areas are less than one-sixth of those in nonfarming areas," Nanda said.
For those dealing with the tragedies close up, the unfolding crisis inspires only profound gloom. In his office in Pandnarkawada, the agrarian activist Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Aandolan Samiti compiles a daily suicide update, which he illustrates by sticking a large skull and crossbones on a map of the region. "The government should not be allowing the farmers to do such aggressive and expensive farming," he said. "There is no longer any state protection for the farmers, and suddenly this crop has become hugely loss-making. People are selling their cotton at throwaway prices. "There will be more deaths. May God save the farmers who are next in line."
Todase, the physician, has become skilled at pumping the stomachs of the local farmers, but their survival depends largely on how close they live to the hospital. Farmers in remote areas usually succumb to the poison before treatment can begin. "Pesticides act on the nervous system - first they have convulsions, then the chemicals start eroding the stomach, and bleeding in the stomach begins, then there is aspiration pneumonia - they have difficulty in breathing - then they suffer from cardiac arrest," he said. "I don't feel angry but when one sees someone with such symptoms, it is a sad moment for a doctor as a person."
Frail regime, easy entry for GMOs - ASHOK B SHARMA - April 17, 2006
India has planned to introduce mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods. The health ministry is in the process of finalising its draft proposals for amending relevant provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Rules, 1955. While the health ministry is expected to finalise the draft in May, the commerce ministry in its amendments to the Foreign Trade Policy has said that all imported GM products should be labeled. 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 Foreign Trade (Development & Regulation) Act, 1992. The health ministry’s draft proposal is related only to GM foods and does not cover GMOs and GM materials meant for other purposes. Hence it does not fully address the concerns stated in the Cartagena Protocol about the transboundary movement of GMOs (referred as living modified organismsLMOs).
Incidentally, no other agency in the country is devising guidelines for labeling of GMOs and GM materials. Therefore, the Foreign Trade Policy’s call for mandatory labeling of GM materials will not be resolved in the narrow range provided in the proposed draft amendments to the PFA Rules. Mandatory labeling of GM materials, irrespective of threshold limits, can be viewed as a movement in the right direction, keeping in view the grave concerns about health and environment safety. Mandatory labeling will certainly to an extent check the clandestine imports of GM materials. But the most important issue is whether the labeled GM materials would be allowed easy entry into the market.
The proposed draft amendments to the PFA rules says that labeling should also “indicate that the product has been cleared for marketing and use in the country of origin so that the verification, if needed can be taken up with that country without having to resort to testing.” Similar are the words of the Foreign Trade Policy which says: “It has been decided to allow pre-shipment test certificates from accredited international agencies in lieu of test reports.” The government has therefore exposed its incompetency in testing GM traces. In fact there are no adequate quarantine and sanitary and phytosanitary checks for imported products. It is for this reason there is a prevalence of a number of exotic pests and diseases in the country. It is a matter of shame that the government instead of setting up adequate testing facilities for these types of hazards is relying on certification from foreign agencies. Government is the custodian of public health and environment. It is not wise on its part to abdicate this responsibility.
The proposed changes in the PFA Rules have recognised the powers of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in approving the GM materials for use and consumption. Should not the GEAC be staffed with competent persons to conduct rigorous tests on GM materials? If this is not possible, the Cartagena Protocol has given enough authority to refuse imports of GM materials, on the basis of apprehensions of hazards. The WTO rules need to reconcile with the Cartagena Protocol, which is a global treaty.
NGOs have reported cases of violation of biosafety norms in field trials of GM crops and the cultivation of Bt cotton. If this is true, then there is a possibility of contamination of our food crops. In such a case many food crops may require testing for possible GM content. Labeling for both GM and non-GM content can be an issue. Instead of strengthening the mandate of environment and health ministries, there are proposals for setting up of an independent regulator for GM products and a separate food authority. It would be better if the mandate of these two ministries are strengthened to take care of public health and environment.
CIVIL SOCIETY DEMANDS ACTION AGAINST MAHYCO-MONSANTO AFTER ITS INDICTMENT FOR MONOPOLY PRACTICES
Gene Campaign: PRESS RELEASE
The Director General of Investigation and Registration (DGIR) has indicted Mahyco-Monsanto and found it guilty of illegal practices in the Bt cotton case filed against the company by the All India Kissan Sabha and Andhra Pradesh Ryotu Sangam before the MRTP (Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission ). The DGIR report states that Mahyco-Monsanto was charging an excessively high royalty fee for its Bt gene which made the seed exorbitant for farmers, leading to losses; that Mahyco-Monsanto has provided no rationale for the exorbitant license fees and that because there is no competition, Mahyco-Monsanto are in a position to charge for the technology arbitrarily and unreasonably, thus establishing a monopoly.
The DGIR report was welcomed by civil society groups that have been demanding action against Mahyco-Monsanto because its exorbitantly priced cotton was a failure, farmers had suffered heavy losses and already fragile farm economies were taking a beating.
Dr Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign, Dr Suneelam of Madhya Pradesh Kissan Sangharsh Samiti, Sri Yudhvir Singh of the Coordination Council of Farmers Movements, Sri Anil Chaudhary of Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) and Sri Dhirendra Singh of Popular Education and Action Center (PEACE) said in a joint statement today that the indictment of Mahyco-Monsanto by the Director General of Investigation and Registration is an important and welcome step. The groups said this is a landmark judgment since it marks the first step that has ever been taken against the company whose poor quality Bt cotton has resulted in major losses for the farming community in almost all states where it was cultivated, chiefly Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Despite the widespread failure of the Mahyco- Monsanto Bt cotton varieties reported by NGOs, State governments, media and other independent agencies, neither the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) nor the Ministry of Agriculture, have so far moved to take action against the offending company.
After the first harvest of 2003 when it was clear that the Mahyco-Monsanto cotton had failed, Gene Campaign had demanded from the Agriculture Minister that the company be made to pay compensation to those farmers who had suffered losses. Mahyco- Monsanto had flatly refused to pay any compensation; the government allowed it to have its way and the company was not made accountable for its actions. In 2004, a coalition of NGOs led by Gene Campaign requested an enquiry by the Central Vigilance Commission into the reasons why in the face of widespread failure of its Bt cotton, government officials refused to take any action against the company.
The organizations said that the DGIR report should be seized upon to start the process of redressing the losses suffered by farmers. The DGIR, which is a statutory body has established a clear case against Mahyco-Monsanto through due process of law so action must be taken swiftly. DGIR found that Bt cotton seeds are only being produced by sub-licensees of Mahyco-Monsanto which is, therefore, in a position to fix a higher royalty fee in the absence of any competition. It thus imposes unjustified costs and restrictions on the farmers.
Dr Suman Sahai, Dr Suneelam, Sri Yudhvir Singh, Sri Anil Chaudhary and Sri Dhirendra Singh said that it is clear that Mahyco-Monsanto is guilty of illegal action since the trade practice of charging exorbitant and unreasonable royalty fee amounts to monopolistic trade practice under Section 2(i) of the MRTP Act 1969 where 'Monopolistic Trade Practice' has been defined as a trade practice which has or is likely to have the effect of maintaining the prices of goods or charges for services at an unreasonable level by limiting, reducing or otherwise controlling the production, supply or distribution of goods. In the absence of any competition from other Bt cotton producers, Mahyco-Monsanto is in a position to maintain the price of Bt cotton seeds at an unreasonable level by fixing the license fee as it wishes, arbitrarily. The company is also in a position to control the production of Bt cotton seeds through its sub-licensees.
Gene Campaign,Madhya Pradesh Kissan Sangharsh Samiti, Coordination Council of Farmers Movements, INSAF and PEACE said that Mahyco-Monsanto's indictment by the DGIR should be followed immediately by action against the company. The organizations have demanded that:
* Mahyco-Monsanto be made to pay compensation immediately to farmers who have suffered losses due to crop failures from planting their MECH 12, MECH, 162 and MECH 184 Bt cotton.
* Mahyco-Monsanto be made to refund the excessive price it has charged farmers due to the exorbitant license fees of Rs 1250 per bag of seed, which has been found to be illegal and monopolistic by the DGIR.
* Mahyco-Monsanto be barred from setting the rate of royalty/ license fees on the Bt technology unilaterally and arbitraraily. The license fee should be set by a multi stakeholder body involving Mahyco-Monsanto, Indian seed companies, government officials and representatives of farmers and their organizations, inkeeping with the guidelines of the MRTP.
In 1996, Monsanto developed insect resistant Bt cotton by introducing Cry1Ac gene from a soil borne bacteria Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) and commercialized this trait in USA and subsequently in other countries.
Monsanto came to India with the same gene and technology and got commercial approval in India in 2002 through its joint venture with Mahyco through the new company Mahyco-Monsanto Biotechnology Ltd (MMBL),
Monsanto has successfully used the genetically modified crop release regulatory system to keep its monopoly intact preventing the entry of Indian seed companies or even other multinational companies.
Even though the Indian law does not allow gene patents, specifically to prevent monopolies from being exercised on genes and plants, Mahyco-Monsanto has been able to exercise a de facto patent because of the monopoly position it has succeeded in establishing .
India : Maharashtra Bt cotton farmers earn 68% lower incomes, says YUVA - April 4, 2006
The YUVA today release the findings of a scientific study, which compares the performance of Bt Cotton along various parameters of cost, pest incidence, yields, other effects etc., with non-Bt Cotton grown in similar conditions in the state of Maharashtra.
Bt Cotton: Higher investment for better results
"While yields of non-Bt Cotton are marginally lower than Bt Cotton, the Cost of Cultivation is 23.5% higher in the case of Bt Cotton. Non-Bt Cotton has also fetched marginally better prices for the farmers than Bt Cotton. Due to all of this, overall, non-Bt Cotton farmers have obtained more net incomes than Bt Cotton farmers. This is 68% more income than Bt Cotton farmers. Our report only reiterates the state government's comparative analysis of non-Bt, IPM, Organic, and Bt Cotton which shows that the cost of cultivation of IPM and organic cotton are significantly lower than Bt Cotton," said Palash Ghoshal (YUVA), the Principal Investigator of the study.
The Cost of Cultivation data also shows a difference not only in the seed cost between Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton, but also in terms of fertiliser cost (around 21% lower in non-Bt Cotton) and pesticide cost. In fertilizer application, while the average was 2.06 for non-Bt Cotton, for Bt Cotton, an average number of 2.56 applications of fertilizer contributed to the results seen Bt Cotton.
Increased water requirement for better results
The study also showed that the performance of the Bt Cotton improved with irrigation. Irrigation caused an increase of around 40 kilos per acre compared to the general average. It is also interesting to note that when it comes to pesticide use cost on Irrigated Bt Cotton and Unirrigated Bt Cotton, the difference was to the tune of Rs. 427/- per acre, with irrigated Bt Cotton costing Rs. 220/- more than its unirrigated counterparts. A margin of Rs. 300/- was present even in the fertilizer cost, with irrigated non-Bt Cotton costing lesser than irrigated Bt Cotton on this front.
Bt Cotton: Increased land holding for better results
While the average yields for Bt Cotton were 4.97 for the entire sample, the average yield of the largest landowners was 5.97 quintals per acre. Similarly, their cost of cultivation was also high at an average of Rs. 7099.75 per acre, compared to Rs. 6270 for the general sample of Bt Cotton farmers. In the case of non-Bt Cotton farmers, the average yield of the 4 largest landowners in the sample [at 4.63 quintals an acre] was marginally lower than the general average for non-Bt Cotton farmers [at 4.70 quintals an acre].
"Their average net income of Bt Cotton farmers in the study was lower than Rs. 3000/acre, whereas they were expecting around Rs. 24,000/- to Rs. 23,000/- per acre as per the companies promises. Calculated like this, the magnitude of losses for Bt Cotton farmers in Maharashtra in just these four study districts, where around 4.5 lakh acreshas been sown with approved Bt Cotton, is to the tune of 1080 crores of rupees. Monopolized, unpredictable technologies like Bt Cotton with its massive reliance on inputs is precisely what pushed Vidharba farmers into indebtedness and finally suicide", said Datta Patil, YUVA.
* Ban on Bt Cotton in the sate of Maharashtra and arrest permissions for commercial cultivation of any new varieties.
* The companies made liable for false marketing and immediate compensation to be paid to all Bt Cotton farmers who have incurred losses.
Bt Cotton - No Respite for Andhra Pradesh Farmers - More than 400 crores' worth losses for Bt Cotton farmers in Kharif 2005
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture: Press Release
Hyderabad - March 29, 2006: Even as companies like Mahyco-Monsanto are lobbying with the state government of Andhra Pradesh to come back into the state with their Bt Cotton hybrids, a study done by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and partner organizations like CEAD, MARI, Navajyothi, SECURE, Krushi and SYO has shown that even in Kharif 2005, there has been no respite for Bt Cotton farmers in the state and the collective losses incurred by the farmers are estimated to be around 400 crores of rupees.
The study, based on season-long fortnightly monitoring of 120 Bt Cotton fields from five districts of Andhra Pradesh, used a comparative design to compare the results from these fields with those of 123 NPM/Organic cotton farmers from four districts. The findings showed that the cost of cultivation per acre on Bt Cotton was around 67% higher than NPM/Organic Cotton, while the net incomes were lower in Bt Cotton by at least 37% compared to NPM/Organic Cotton.
Reflecting on the findings of this intense monitoring effort, Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture said, "Our fact finding visits throughout the season as well as this scientific study point out that Bt Cotton not only does not deliver the promises made by the companies in their marketing propaganda - it also fares badly compared to non-Bt Cotton, especially NPM/Organic approaches to cotton cultivation. On the other hand, the risks involved in cultivating Bt Cotton are high and often times, unknown and unpredictable. In this context, it is incomprehensible why the government is promoting a technology that asks poor, unsupported cotton farmers to take more and more risks and land themselves in big losses".
The study found that the pest incidence in Bt Cotton was higher than in NPM/Organic Cotton and that the pesticide cost on Bt Cotton was 378% more than on NPM/Organic Cotton. The study was taken up as part of the efforts of the MEC [Monitoring & Evaluation Committee] on Bt Cotton, set up by 20 civil society organizations across the country.
"It is interesting to note that even the government's assessment of Bt Cotton for Kharif 2005 points out that the pest and disease incidence on Bt Cotton was higher than on non-Bt Cotton, reiterating some of our findings. Information obtained from the agriculture department by CSA also shows that the yields with Bt Cotton ranged from 4-6 quintals per acre, far below the yields and yield increases promised by the Bt Cotton companies. The stress intolerance of Bt Cotton was also acknowledged in the governmental assessment. Further, Bt Cotton's high susceptibility to sucking pests was also recognized. The government feels that Bt Cotton is suitable only under fertile soils, with good INM and with assured irrigation. If the government knows all of this, why is it allowing hyped-up propaganda on Bt Cotton? Why is it not making the companies liable for the promises that they are not keeping? Why is it not taking appropriate decisions on the technology itself and its desirability, rather than taking a hybrid-by-hybrid approach to decision-making related Bt Cotton?", asked Ms Kavitha Kuruganti of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.
In Andhra Pradesh, the government is yet to acknowledge that there has been failure of the Bt Cotton crop in Kharif 2005 and it is busy trying to resolve pending liability and pricing issues from the earlier years. Meanwhile, the Bt Cotton companies, in blatant violation of existing laws, are going ahead and publicizing their products without clearance. Some companies are also taking up 'advance bookings' with farmers.
In this context, CSA demands:
1.that the government present a comprehensive white paper on the performance of Bt Cotton (against intended benefits and promises made as well as the other results observed and recorded) in the past four years and decide whether it is a sound and sustainable pest management option for the cotton farmers in the state
2.that the government put into place accountability mechanisms right at the time of providing marketing licenses and address pending liability issues immediately
3.that the government put strong curbs on aggressive and false marketing being indulged in by the companies and fix liability for violations of the Environment Protection Act
For more information, contact:
1.Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu at +91-9391359702 or email@example.com
2.Ms Kavitha Kuruganti at +91-9393001550 or firstname.lastname@example.org
People's Initiative to defend country's food security - Movement for patent-free villages to be launched - The Hindu, March 24 2006
*Action plan to defend food and farming from threat of genetically modified organisms
*On May 10, action will be taken to boycott Monsanto's Bt cotton seeds
NEW DELHI: At a two-day meeting on "Food Safety and Food Rights: Emerging Challenges to Health, Nutrition and Farmers Livelihood", farmers' organisations, environmental groups, scientists and health and nutrition experts have decided to launch an action plan to defend the country's food security.
Addressing a joint press conference here on Thursday, Director of Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology Vandana Shiva and farmers' representative Krishnavir Chaudhary said the plan intended to defend India's food and farming from the threat of genetically modified organisms (GMO), processed and junk foods, the Indo-U.S. Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture and the proposed Integrated Food Law.
On April 8 - the day of global resistance against GMOs - a movement for GMO-free, patent-free villages would be launched. Navdanya, Bhartiya Krishak Samaj, Khethi Virasat and other sustainable agriculture and farm organisations would participate.
On May 10, to coincide with the 149th anniversary of the first movement of Independence of 1857, action would be taken to boycott Monsanto's Bt cotton seeds and launch "Asha Yatras" (Pilgrimages of Hope) in regions where Bt Cotton aggravated farmers' suicides.
"Farmers would be offered hope through distribution of open-pollinated varieties of diverse crops and training on ecology and organic farming," Dr. Shiva said.
The participants at the conference also decided to launch a People's Initiative in agriculture as an alternative to Monsanto-Walmart-led Indo-U.S. Knowledge Initiative i Agriculture, "which was reducing India's food and farming systems to a market for U.S. agribusiness, threatening farmers' livelihood, biological and food diversity, food safety and healthsafety."
The People's Initiative would monitor the U.S.-India Agreement, spread knowledge about GMOs, defend farmers' rights to seed and food sovereignty and defend citizen's right to safe, healthy, nutritious, adequately affordable and culturally-appropriate food. Task forces were being set up to undertake research and build campaigns for spreading knowledge of food and farming that protects environment, farmers' livelihood and public health.
GM Crops in India - Is the Government's Policy Stance Justified? - Kasturi Das - Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), - Discussion March 4, 2006
Even after more than a decade of its introduction, the health and environmental safety implications of transgenic or genetically modified (GM) crops are yet to be determined conclusively. In the backdrop of this uncertainty serious concerns have been expressed by a large segment of scientists and environmentalists all over the world regarding the
appropriateness of commercial cultivation of GM crops. As far as India is concerned, anxieties have been further aggravated by the inadequacies inherent in the regulatory framework and the lackadaisical manner of its implementation. The loopholes embedded in the biosafety regulation in India and the gross lack of preparedness of the country to deal with large-scale commercial application of a potentially dangerous technology liketransgenics have been blatantly exposed with the experience of Bt cotton the only GM crop "officially" approved for commercial cultivation in this country. These issues have been discussed at length in the article by Lianchawii (EPW, September 24, 2005) and the subsequent discussion by Reji K Joseph (EPW, December 3, 2005). In the backdrop of the concerns expressed in the aforesaid articles, the present attempt is to analyse the appropriateness or otherwise of the policy stance taken by the government of India (GoI) on the issue of GM crops, particularly in the light of certain latest developments.
It may be recalled at the outset that ever since its introduction in March 2002, Bt cotton has always been at the centre of controversy for one reason or the other. The latest one has been triggered by an unprecedented step taken by the government of Andhra Pradesh. In January 2006, a case was filed by this state government against the biotech major Monsanto under the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act (MRTP Act) for charging abnormally high trait values or royalties on its Bt cotton seeds. Notably, of the Rs 1,850 spent by the farmers on a 450 gm packet of Monsanto’s Bollgard cotton seeds, Rs 1,250 accrues to the company as royalty. While this has resulted in a significant increase in the cost of cultivation of Bt cotton in India, according to the information revealed by the AP government, for the same 450 gm of seeds Monsanto charges (the equivalent of) Rs 108 in the US and only Rs 34 in China. It has further been pointed out that while the Monsanto and its subsidiaries in India charge an exorbitant price of Rs 1,850 for just 450 gm of seeds, they pay a meagre amount of around Rs 250 to the seed growers for as much as 750 gm of seeds.
While the huge difference between seed cost 1 has played a significant role in the adverse economics of Bt cotton compared to non-Bt hybrids, a number of other factors have also contributed to the observed poor performance of this maiden GM crop of India. It may be recalled here that the principal reason behind the introduction of Bt cotton in India was its purported ability to make the cotton plant resistant to bollworms the most dreaded cotton pest of India. However, several empirical studies being undertaken by distinguished civil society organisations (like the Gene Campaign 2 , Greenpeace, the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) 3 ,Deccan Development Society (DDS) 4 ,etc) in different parts of the country during the past three years of commercial cultivation of Bt cotton in India have revealed that:
The bollworms are able to survive on Bt cotton.
Pesticide savings are not significant from Bt cotton as compared to non-Bt hybrids.
Yields of Bt cotton are often less than those of non-Bt hybrids.
The huge difference in the seed costs between Bt and non-Bt cotton, coupled with the lack of satisfactory yield (and often crop failure) from Bt and insignificant savings in pesticide costs (from Bt cotton) have resulted in lower net profits (and often losses) for Bt-cultivating farmers as compared to their non-Bt counterparts.
The observed poor performance of Bt cotton in India may be attributable to a great extent to the inappropriateness of Bt technology in the context of this country, if the findings from scientific research undertaken by the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur, are to be believed. The results from field experiments being undertaken as early as 2003 by Keshav R Kranthi and others in this premiere government research organisation on eight Bt-cotton Bollgard hybrids commercially grown in India has been reported in a recent research article published in the July 25 edition of Current Science 5. Their research has clearly revealed that the Bt cotton "hybrids" being grown in India are inadequate for effectively controlling the bollworm, particularly beyond 110 days after sowing.
The study has further indicated that the poor performance of Bt cotton in controlling bollworms in this country may also be attributed to the fact that they are being grown as hybrids here, as against the true breeding varieties, grown elsewhere in the world, including the US, China and Australia. It has further been pointed out that although the Bt cotton varieties in the US succeeds in causing 99-100 per cent mortality in tobacco budworm, the major cotton pest in the US, the same Bt technology is not likely to succeed in India where the major target pest is a bollworm and not a tobacco budworm.
However, in spite of having such clear-cut scientific evidence, regarding the inadequacies and inappropriateness of Bt technology in the context of India, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the country’s apex body for approving GM crops, has not taken any initiative whatsoever to stall its commercial cultivation altogether. Instead, during April-May 2005, the GEAC granted fresh approval for commercial cultivation of Bt cotton in the north Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana. Sanction has also been given for 13 new varieties of Bt cotton hybrids. Furthermore, except for Andhra Pradesh, approval has been renewed in all the other five states, which were already under Bt cotton cultivation since 2002.
While on the one hand, the GEAC has continued to promote Bt cotton, on the other, efforts are on at the highest level of policy-making in New Delhi to put in place a full-fledged policy framework, in the form of the (draft) ‘National Biotechnology Development Strategy’ 6 in order to provide a big push for the proliferation of (not only Bt cotton but all) transgenic crops in the country in future.
A close scrutiny of the draft biotech strategy document clearly reveals that it is aimed at speeding up the process of approvals for commercial cultivation of transgenic crops in the future, without even taking care of their environmental and health safety aspects adequatel 7. While the gross regulatory failure observed in the case of Bt cotton underscores the necessity of putting in place a more rigorous and accountable regulatory framework for governing the commercial release and cultivation of GM crops, the draft policy document instead proposes the establishment of an independent National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority as the single window clearance body, with the aim of speeding up the approval of transgenic crops. This is indeed a unique proposal, given the fact that such a single-tier approval system does not exist elsewhere. Even the US has a three-tier system for approval of transgenic crops.
Notably, an attempt has been made by the powers that be in the aforesaid policy framework to push through the transgenic agro-technology on the pretext of achieving a number of noble objectives, such as, increase in agricultural yield, economic well-being of farm families, food security of the nation, security of national and international trade in farm commodities, etc 8. This, despite the fact that the credentials of GM technology in terms of fulfilling these crucial objectives have not yet been proved conclusively. On the contrary, there is a plethora of evidence, which indicates the potential regressive impact of genetic engineering in all these respects 9.
As far as yield is concerned, several empirical studies in India have revealed poorer performance of Bt cotton compared to their non-Bt counterparts. A similar dismal performance of GM crops on the yield front has been observed elsewhere in the world too. On the basis of an extensive review of relevant scientific and other evidence relating to the performance of genetic engineering, an Independent Science Panel Report 10, published in 2003 concluded, "The consistent finding from independent research and on-farm surveys since 1999 is that GM crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits of significantly increasing yields…"
Given the lack of satisfactory yields, along with the high costs of GM seeds and other costs of cultivation, there exist ample grounds to apprehend that the promotion of GM crops may end up worsening the economic conditions of numerous small and marginal farmers of India, rather than improving them. This, in fact, has already been proved to be true in case of Bt cotton in different parts of India (especially in Andhra Pradesh), where cultivation of this GM crop has resulted in grave financial losses and suffering to thousands of farmers, often forcing them to commit suicide.
Coming to the question of food security, even if it is assumed, for the sake of argument, that GM crops will help to boost the yield of Indian agriculture, will it guarantee two square meals for the entire population of the country? Perhaps not. Because, the principal constraint in realising the right to adequate food in India is economic accessibility or affordability and not physical availability 11. Moreover, there is every possibility that the monoculture-based GM technology, by endangering the biodiversity of India, may end up threatening the livelihood a large section of the agrarian community of the country, still practising traditional/organic farming.
Another major source of anxiety surrounding transgenic crops is the threat of contamination of non-GM crops by their GM counterparts. Given the ground realities of agricultural conditions prevailing in India, segregation of GM and non-GM crops and implementation of the rigorous system of "identity preservation" (IP) and "traceability" would be virtually impossible to implement in a situation of co-existence of GM and non-GM agriculture 12. Hence, farmers would not actually be in a position to exercise their freedom of practising (non-GM) agricultural technology of their own choice.
Even if it was assumed for the sake of argument that IP was possible to implement in India, the excessive operational costs involved in the implementation process would make agriculture such an expensive activity that it would be out of the reach of most of (small and marginal) farmers of the country. Moreover, even after investing huge money for IP, the non-GM farmers would still be confronted with the acute risk of rejection or loss of premium prices (more so in case of "certified organic" products) in the export as well as domestic markets owing to the high possibility of contamination from GM crops. Hence, Indian agricultural exports may also turn out to be a vulnerable and risky venture in a situation where GM and non-GM crops coexist.
However, in case India refrains from paving the way for the further promotion of transgenic crops, it may be in an advantageous position on the external trade front, if the current global market trends are anything to go by. The markets for certified organic foods in various developed countries, for instance, have been projected to grow in the coming years at a stupendous rate ranging from 10-15 per cent to 25-30 per cent. With public opinion against GM crops gaining increasing momentum in different parts of the world (including in some major trading partners of India like the EU, Japan or even the US), global market prospects are likely to get increasingly better in the future for any non-GM agricultural product and not only for ‘certified organic’ produce.
To sum it up, there is not enough economic justification to pave the way for the cultivation of transgenic crops in India. Hence, instead of taking recourse to GM crops whose environmental and food-safety implications have not yet been proved conclusively anywhere in the world as the only means to bring about a "second green revolution", a prudent approach on the part of policy-makers in India at this juncture would be to put a moratorium on the further commercial cultivation of transgenic crops in the country.
1 The cost of Bt cotton seeds is three to four times higher than that of non-Bt hybrids of cotton.
2 See Suman Sahai and Shakeelur Rehman, 'Bt Cotton Performance 2003-04: Fields Swamped with Illegal Variants', 2004, available at www.genecampaign.org.
3 See www.csa-india.org for various studies on Bt cotton.
4 See Abdul Qayum and Kiran Sakkhari, 'Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: A Three-Year Assessment', Deccan Development Society, Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity and Permaculture Association of India, 2005.
5 See K R Kranthi, S Naidu, C S Dhawad, A Tatwawadi, K Mate, E Patil, A A Bharose, G T Behere, R M Wadaskar and S Kranthi, 'Temporal and Intra-plant Variability of Cry1Ac Expression in Bt-cotton and Its Influence on the Survival of the Cotton Bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner), Noctuidae: Lepidoptera)', Current Science, Vol 89, No 2, July 25, 2005, pp 291-98.
6 After release by the science and technology minister Kapil Sibal, on April 1, 2005 the draft 'National Biotechnology Development Strategy' was kept in the public domain by putting it on the department of biotechnology (DBT) website for the next six weeks. The last date for receiving the feedback from the public was May 16, 2005. According to an announcement made by Sibal, the draft was supposed to be finalised after all the suggestions had been reviewed. The finalisation is still awaited.
7 For details see Agriculture Today, 'The National Biotechnology Policy: Need for a Radical Overhaul', June 2005, pp 5-8.
8 See 'Report of the Task Force on Application of Biotechnology in Agriculture' submitted to the union ministry of agriculture in May 2004 by M S Swaminathan, chairman, Task Force on Agricultural Biotechnology, available at http://agricoop.nic.in/TaskForce/tf.htm. Notably, the draft 'National Biotechnology Development Strategy' has accepted all the recommendations of the aforesaid task force while formulating the policy framework for agro-biotech.
9 For details see Kasturi Das, 'GM Crops in India: Why Open Pandora's Box', 2004, available at http://www.eldis.org/cf/search/disp/docdisplay.cfm?doc=DOC17560&resource=f1.
10 Independent Science Panel, 'The Case for a GM-Free Sustainable World', published by Institute of Science in Society, London and Third World Network, Malaysia, 2003.
11 Kaushik Ranjan Bandyopadhyay, 'The Right to Adequate Food', The Hindu, February 10, 2003.
12 For details see Suman Sahai, 'Can Gm and Non-Gm Crops be Segregated in India: Is Coexistence Possible?' 2005, available at http:// www.gmwatch.org/p1temp.asp?pid= 53&page=1.
DEMAND TO MAKE PUBLIC THE INDO-US AGRICULTURE DEAL - Press Release, 23 March 2006
Dr Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign, Dr Suneelam of the Madhya Pradesh Kissan Sangharsh Samiti and Sri Yudhvir Singh , Secretary of the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements said today that the Indo- US agriculture deal announced by President Bush in Delhi was a one sided affair in which India would gain little and give away a lot. Charging the government with maintaining an illegitimate secrecy regarding the terms and conditions of the deal with the Americans, the representatives of the three leading organizations working in agriculture said that the government’s actions suggest that the deal with the Americans is not in favor of India. The three demanded that the Indo- US agriculture deal be placed in Parliament for discussion and circulated to the public so that the views of stakeholders and citizens could be taken before finalizing the agreement.
Public consultations have been conducted on draft laws like the Biodiversity Act, Farmers Rights Act, Patent Act and the Seeds Bill, so why not now?
Dr Suman Sahai said that it appeared that the government was paying in agriculture for the gains it was seeking in the nuclear sector. The "Second Green Revolution" that was announced was in fact opening up India to genetically engineered crops and foods which the US promotes aggressively and which is rejected in most other parts of the world.
In addition, the Americans are getting unhindered access to the country’s vast genetic wealth in agriculture, without any certainty that this will be ever paid for, how it will be used and what kind of IPRs will be demanded.
In order to force open the wall of secrecy surrounding the agriculture deal, Gene Campaign has demanded information on the details of the Indo- US pact under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Dr Suneelam, MLA from Multai and leader of the Madhya Pradesh Kissan Sangharsh Samiti said that it is a tragedy that even 60 years after independence, governments are very willing to sacrifice agriculture and farmer interests to obtain real or perceived gains in other sectors. Today, when their city counterparts get easy credit at 4% interest, farmers still have to pay 12 to 18 % interest on loans taken from cooperative banks. Dr Suneelam added that it is cause for great concern that huge American multinationals Wal-Mart and Monsanto, are on the board of the Indo- US Initiative on Agriculture Research and Education. This creates a playing field that is far from level.
Sri Yudhvir Singh said that the Indo US pact dealing with agriculture is an anti farmer deal and will not be accepted by the farmers of India. He said that a resolution was passed at the Kissan Rally organized on 21 March, 2006, that the farmers will not accept any agriculture deal with the US. Accusing the government of working against the interest of farmers to gain favor with the Americans, Sri Singh said that the wheat import issue was another clear example of government favoring the Americans. The chief beneficiaries as exporters of wheat to India will be huge American corporations like Cargill and Dow. Sri Singh said that there was enough wheat and there was no need to import any.
Dr Suneelam, Sri Yudhvir Singh and Dr Sahai expressed grave concerns about the following issues with respect to the India- US agriculture deal:
Wal-Mart and Monsanto are on the board of the Indo- US deal. Monsanto has been elevated from a seed company to a representative of the US government. There is a conflict of interest here with its position as a seed company.
The most important focus of the Agri deal is developing genetically engineered crops, animals and fish. This will force the dissemination of GE foods in India, which are being rejected in most parts of the world.
The deal will allow the Americans to have unhindered access to the rich and valuable genetic diversity stored in India's Gene banks. It is not clear whether they will pay for this genetic wealth.
Under the guise of collaborative research, Wal-Mart and Monsanto will be able to use the universities and Krishi Vigyan Kendras which serve as extension agencies for farmers, to take their products to farmers in many parts of India. Wal-Mart and Monsanto have said they are keen to use their position on the Board to enter into retailing in agriculture and agricultural trade.
India is paying for this deal. The US government has made clear that it will not invest any money. India has already committed 400 crores, out of which about 300 crores will be used for genetic engineering and biotechnology products.
IPR (intellectual property rights) is on the agenda, so it is feared that India’s liberal IPR regime will come under pressure. It is feared that the Americans will insist on genes being made patentable under the Indian Patent Act. With that seeds can be patented through the back door.
The Indo- US pact has been born in complete secrecy and none of the major stakeholders have been consulted. Negotiated directly by Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and Dr Mangla Rai, DG, ICAR, the program has been finalized with the Americans, without any participation of the Planning Commission. The scientific community, State governments, farmers organizations and civil society have all been excluded.
Contact: DR. SUMAN SAHAI - Phone: -98-110-41332 Email email@example.com - DR. SUNEELAM 094-251-09770 SRI YUDHVIR SINGH 98-681-46405
Indo-US agreement: a serious ‘threat’ to agriculture sector - By Krishan Bir Chaudhary - (The Assam Tribune, March 8, 2006)
The Indo-US agreement on agriculture will cast a demonising spell over the countury and is bound to cause large-scale plunder of the agro-society and definitely tend to capitalize on our living, life pattern, culture and social norms. Already much maligned, misconceived and utterly irrelevant second green revolution is a clever ploy to promote the iterest of America and other Multi National Corporation’s (MNCs). American MNCs like Wall-Mart, Monsanto etc will be there on the Board of the Indo-US Agriculture Initiative to monitor agriculture research, education and dissemination and exchange of knowledge between India and America. The first meeting of the Board held at Washington was attended by these two companies. It is really disgusting that now these American multinationals will teach lessons to Indian scientists on what type of technology India needs. The entire game is aimed at promoting the interest of American MNCs.
The Indo-US agreement amounts to an open invitation to the MNCs for the take over and control of our inputs and all other resources. This will enable them to avail unbridled sway over our agro-rural systems. Indian Agricultural Universities, Krishi Vigyan Kendras and Research Centres will now act as agencies and extension infrastructure to promote the technologies of Monsanto, Cargill etc. Of the various disgusting provisions of agreement, the one that relates to training of Indian agricultural scientist is really silly and shameful. It obliges the Indian Government to pre provide Rs. 400 crores to meet the tuition charges of Indian scientists for training in America. The so-called training programmes have been worked out for the advancement and promotion of Genetic Engineering and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in India on behalf of the M NCs. This will facilitate take over of production and smooth access into the consumership trade by the MNCs.
By Patenting and Branding Seeds, they will openly exploit Indian agriculture. India will be coerced into production of raw materials for the American MNCs and is turn these multinationals will sell their branded end products through misleading advertisements and catchy slogans, labelling their products efficacious, hygienic and safe from health point of view. As we visualize, the day is not for off that the stuff we shall grow and eat will be decided by these MNCs. Thrusting the American Model of agriculture on Indian agricultural system will cause untold destruction, miseries and disrupt our identity & entity as one of the largest farming country in the world. Farmers and family farms will be doomed forever.
The Indo-US agreement is fraught with the lurking danger that these American MNCs will get access to our Germ Plasm Bank of indigenous crop varieties and get them patented in their name. Investment and expenses incurred on agricultural research will be borne by us but the Indian agricultural scientists will work at the dictates of MNCs, converting the entire country into a big research labs of MNCs. This agrement will require India to place the scientific manpower and the vast natural resources at the disposal of American MNCs. We apprehend, the agreement has been formulated in such a way that it wil promote corporate and contract farming and thereby forcing the farmers to work as labourers in their own farm.
The planning commission is playing an extermely dubious role which is absolutely not is the national interest. The entire agricultural research will go into the lap of the MNCs. The Govt. and its advisors are maintaining a very mysterious and veiled silence over the Indo -US agreement on agriculture. The agreement will prove to be perilous to Indian agriculture and severely endanger over food security. The Govt. morally owes an explanation to the nation because political compulsions whatsoever, should never be given precedence over national interest that will imperil the livelihood resources of the people snatching them of their daily bread. We call upon the Govt. to instantly make public the Indo-US agreement on agriculture because it has put the sovereignty of the country at stake. Let there be a comprehensive debate over this issue in Indian Parliament.
(The Writer is an executive chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj, New Delhi)
Yediyurappa supports agitation against Seed Bill - Calls for wider consultations on the implications of the Bill - The Hindu, March 9 2006
Bangalore: The protest against the Seed Bill, 2004 of the Union Government gathered momentum with Deputy Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Wednesday announcing his support for a non-political movement against restrictions on the use of seeds patented by multinational companies. "I am speaking as a farmers' representative and I will be with you to resist any legislation that goes against the interests of millions of farmers, including those in Karnataka," he told a State-level convention organised by Janapara Vedike, Karnataka, here. If the right to patent and sell seeds is confined to market forces, which is an euphemism for MNCs, Indian farmers stand to lose out on their traditional occupation. Wider consultation is necessary on the implications of the Seed Bill before it is ratified by the Rajya Sabha before being enacted as law, Mr. Yediyurappa said.
Agriculture scientist and activist Devinder Sharma said many of the genes of rice varieties are already the intellectual property of a Switzerland-based MNC, which may not share it in future with Indian farmers. Seeds of other traditional crops are at risk of passing into foreign hands, he said. "The Seed Bill aims at bringing to India the American model of agriculture, which is technology-based, while ours is people-oriented. There are only seven lakh farmers left in the U.S., and over a decade ago, two lakh farmers sold their land and took up other occupations. Legislation like the Seed Bill will deprive lakhs of Indian farmers of their livelihood and they may be forced to migrate to urban centres for jobs... there may be a tremendous demographic change within the next 10 years," Mr. Sharma said. Water will be another commodity over which the market forces are beginning to assert their rights, and bottled water is already costlier than milk, he pointed out. The far-reaching implications of the Seed Bill have not been made known to elected representatives at the village level and no free debate has taken place till now, he charged.
Any legislation without the consent of those affected by it goes against the basic of democracy. The Union Government's budget spoke volumes about investments from overseas and the rising Sensex, but little about any changes proposed in its agricultural policy, which will affect a larger section of the people.
Revised menu - India looks to open agriculture to US corporates
SOURAV MISHRA - Down to Earth [India's science and environment magazine], Mar 7, 2006
India has a formidable agricultural research establishment. Do we need tied technology from US firms?
It seems times have changed. Information technology is out and agriculture is in. The thrust on agriculture is now enshrined in the draft of the Indo-US Knowledge initiative on Agricultural Research & Education, which is the agenda for US President George Bush when he comes to India in March 2006. Prime minister Manmohan Singh said in July 2005 during his us visit, "We owe our green revolution to America. Now we can herald a second green revolution with the American assistance." This statement cleared the decks for big time US entry into Indian agriculture. Though agriculture has been prioritised, supposedly for public good, not a single bit of information has been made public. Neither scientists nor farmers have any clue about the initiative. The authorities make it clear that nothing is being disclosed because of the impact on the budget session. Down To Earth has managed to unearth the following disquieting facts.
Knowledge or trade?
The so-called knowledge initiative has the world's largest retailer Walmart and second largest seed corporation Monsanto on the board from the US side. While the Indian business community is represented by Venkateshwara Hatcheries. The board is co-chaired by Mangla Rai, Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Ellen Terpstra, administrator, Foreign Agricultural Services, United States Department of Agriculture. On February 14, 2005, the board of 14 members (seven from each side) prepared a draft focusing on four areas ?education, food processing, biotechnology and water management. The Indian scientific community criticises the presence of the corporate sector and areas chosen. Eminent geneticist Suman Sahai says, "The areas chosen are best suited to American needs only. India needs more of low-end technologies at this stage for its subsistence level farmers. The high-end technology will only solve the business purpose of the multinationals on the board."
Ranjana Smetacek, director, corporate affairs, Monsanto India says, "We will continue our work of providing improved technologies for betterment of Indian farmers." Monsanto brought Bt technology for pest resistance in cotton to India.
Food and trade analyst Devinder Sharma says, "India has become a dumping yard for redundant technologies of all kinds. Besides American technology in agriculture is high-input based, as the farmer population there is mere 7 lakh [1 Lakh = 100,000]. But for 70-crore [1 Crore = 10 Million] Indian farmers such costly inputs can only bring more suicides." A recent research by entomologist K R Kranthi of the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) revealed how Bt technology is 10 times less effective against the Indian pest than its American counterpart. Seeds with such a technology are sold at five times the price of normal seeds resulting in heavy debts for farmers.
Suman Sahai says, "Earlier a private company like Monsanto only had the status of a business entity now they can ask the director-general of ICAR [Indian Council of Agricultural Research] to get our vast genetic wealth from any of its more than 200 research establishments. The private companies can develop gene patents and sell them at a much higher price." This concern can't be denied as Madelyn E Spirnak, senior advisor biotechnology, USDA [US Dept of Agriculture] clarifies, "The US goal is to make sure that the Indian biotechnology markets remain open." The US goals could make the farmer-friendly Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers' Rights (PPVFR) Act redundant.
"The Indian agricultural research system is the largest in the world. It has successfully produced more than 3,500 varieties of crops. We are world's largest milk producer and rank second in foodgrain, fruit & vegetable production. This proves that American help is not needed at all," says a scientist from ICAR [Indian Council of Agricultural Research] on condition of anonymity.
"If India thinks we can learn from American agriculture, it mustn't forget their success is sustained on a subsidy of $100-billion per year, which is one seventh of India's gdp ," says Sharma.
The presence of Walmart is also questioned. "The company has the worst record in agriculture retailing as it crashes prices to rock-bottom levels forcing farmers either to sell them at lower prices or perish," says Aroonim Barua, a Delhi-based retail consultant.
An official in the Union ministry of agriculture says the Indo-US initiative will cost India over 1000 crores with the US not spending a single penny. [1 Crore = 10 Million; to convert a Rupee amount (given in Crores), into its corresponding Dollar amount in Millions, divide the rupee Amount by 4.87]
CSA presents evidence of biosafety violations in GM food crop trials again - the case of Bt Brinjal and Bt Rice in Andhra Pradesh
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) - PRESS RELEASE
Hyderabad - March 4, 2006: Presenting damning evidence of blatant violations in biosafety guidelines of the Environment Protection Act in the case of GM food crop trials, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture [CSA] showed yet again that such violations have now become a routine phenomenon, with no liability and monitoring mechanisms in place. On the eve of the next GEAC meeting on March 8th 2006, a CSA team consisting of Mr S Ramprasad and Ms Kavitha Kuruganti has now uncovered violations that took place in field trials of Bt Brinjal and Bt Rice in farmers' fields in Andhra Pradesh in 2004 Kharif. This is close on the heels of various companies denying in a GEAC-convened meeting recently that there were any violations of EPA norms at all.
"In the February 27th meeting called by the GEAC specifically on the issue of biosafety violations, biotech companies assured everyone present that all material from field trial plots was being destroyed as per the norms, after being bought back from the trial farmers. However, the latest evidence from the field trial farmers of Mahyco's Bt Rice and Bt Brinjal shows clearly that this is not happening. Untested products are routinely being allowed to contaminate the food/feed chain. It is really time that GEAC and DBT stop giving permissions for trials when they do not obviously have any control over the situation", said Ms Kavitha Kuruganti of CSA.
Earlier, in the month of December 2005, CSA uncovered a Bt Bhindi field trial being conducted by Mahyco in Narakoduru village of Guntur district where biosafety violations were recorded. In January 2006, the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee [MEC] of 20 civil society organizations presented evidence on many biosafety violations in Bollgard II GM Cotton field trials [Monsanto's stacked, 2-gene Bt Cotton] and of Nath Seeds' Fusion Bt Cotton. Based on the findings of their investigations, the MEC members pressurized the GEAC to act on the violations and fix liability. In response, GEAC called for a meeting of all the companies involved in such trials, the concerned state governments and representatives of Greenpeace India and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture on February 27th 2006. In this meeting, the state governments clearly told the GEAC that no information is being provided to them on various field trials happening. The GEAC was also forced to admit that even it had no information on where trials are happening in this country!
Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director of CSA added, "India is yet to decide through a coherent and publicly-debated policy on whether GM food crops are needed and what are the various risks involved. On the other hand, most recent studies on GM crops point to the potentially serious dangers of GM foods on human health, including studies suppressed by the biotech industry. Yet, it is preposterous that the Department of Biotechnology [DBT] is giving permissions for field trials to happen in farmers' fields where many violations are happening. We found that often the farmers do not even know what is being tried on their fields and the state governments are not informed about the trials. Further, from the three case studies that we investigated on three different GM food crop trials, the companies are fully aware of the EPA guidelines, follow them to a certain extent until the DBT team visits the plots after which they encourage the trial farmers to contaminate the supply chain. This is completely unacceptable".
The EPA penal clauses specify that contravention of the law and guidelines will be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees. While the GEAC is not acting on the evidence being presented of regulatory violations, the state governments express their inability to do anything on the matter, given that the central government bodies are acting independently in this regard. However, as the case of Bt Cotton shows, the onus of protecting farmers' interests will ultimately fall on the state governments in the case of failures and other problems.
For more information, contact:
1. Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (0)9391359702
2. Ms Kavitha Kuruganti at email@example.com or at (0)9393001550
1. CSA's Report on Bt Brinjal and Bt Rice field trials in farmers' fields in AP
2. CSA's Report on Bt Okra [Bt Bhindi] trial in a farmer's field in AP
3. MEC's Press Note on "GM Crop Trials Shrouded in Secrecy", on the February 27th meeting between the GEAC, MEC members and representatives of Bollgard II companies
4. Letter to the GEAC Chairperson by Greenpeace India and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture following the February 27th meeting
Monsanto forced to cut Bt cotton seed prices - ASHOK B SHARMA - March 06, 2006 http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=119549
NEW DELHI, MARCH 5: Faced with the allegations of high prices of Bt cotton, Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (MMB) has decided to reduce the technology fee by 30%. From the next season, MMB’s licencees would require to pay technology fee of Rs 900 for a 450 gram pack of Bt cotton seeds. MMB and its licencees have 20 approved varieties of Bt cotton seeds in the country. MMB’s senior manager, Sarita Bahl said, “This has been done with a view to meet the market conditions. If the seed companies choose to lower their sale prices, it will encourage more farmers to choose genuine Bt cotton seeds instead of spurious ones.” It may be noted in context that MMB’s Mech 162, Mech 184 and Mech 12 Bt cotton varieties had failed to give the desired results in Andhra Pradesh in 2004. The Andhra Pradesh government had threatened that it would cancel MMB’s licence if the company do not adequately compensate the farmers by the beginning of the new marketing season. The case is now under the jurisdiction of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. Sale of Mech 12 is banned in South India. The Andhra Pradesh government has also filed a petition before the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission for the high “trait value” charged by Monsanto, which had raised the seed prices. According to the Andhra Pradesh government, the high trait value of Rs 1,250 had raised the prices of Bt cotton seeds to Rs 1,700 (450-gm) in 2004. In 2005 the prices shot up to Rs 1,850. The actual price should be only Rs 450.
INDIA PAYS IN AGRICULTURE FOR NUCLEAR DEAL WITH US: OPENS DOORS TO GM CROPS AND FOODS - Suman Sahai
Mr George Bush announced from the historic Purana Qila that India and the US will enter into an Indo- US Knowledge Initiative on Agricultural Research and Education. As the US president made it a point to emphasize, the initiative is to promote a 'Second Green Revolution' in India which means promoting agriculture biotechnology, especially genetically engineered crops and foods. Agriculture biotechnology has been cleverly packaged as the 'Second Green Revolution' by its promoters, the Life Science Corporations, in order to subliminally invoke the strong positive impressions that the political leadership in this country associates with the Green Revolution. In actual fact the two revolutions are about as different as chalk and cheese. The Green Revolution was a publicly owned technology, belonging to the people. The research was conducted with public money to fulfil a public need, inadequate food production, and it created public goods to which everyone had access. There were no Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), no patents vested in multinational companies, no proprietary technologies or products. If there was ownership of the GR, it was vested in the farmer. Once the seed reached the farmers, it was theirs; they moved it where they wanted. Therefore despite its faults, the Green Revolution addressed farmers needs and India's food production showed an upward curve.
The Second Green Revolution is almost the exact opposite. It is a privately owned technology. Six corporations (Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, DuPont , Dow and BASF Plant Science) control practically the entire research and output in the field of transgenic plants. Processes and products, including research methodologies are shackled in patents and the farmer has no say, let alone any control. The technology creates only private goods that can be accessed only at significant cost (a bag of Mahyco- Monsanto's Bt cotton seeds in India costs Rs. 1850 as compared to between Rs. 300 to Rs 400 for superior varieties produced locally). The seed belongs to the company, which strictly controls its movement. With the development of the popularly termed "terminator" or sterile seed technology, the farmer is reduced to a helpless consumer, not a partner as in the case of the GR. The Second Green Revolution has in its 20 years, not yet produced a crop variety that has any direct connection to hunger and nutritional needs. That in short is what the Indo-US deal in agriculture contains.
The so called Knowledge Initiative has been prepared over the last several months in India, more or less with the Americans calling the shots. Despite the last minute red herring of Indian mangos arriving in Washington this summer, the agriculture initiative is a one-sided affair from which India will gain little and give far too much. It is apparent that India has agreed to pay in the agriculture sector for the concessions that it has sought from the US in the nuclear field. As always, it is the agriculture sector that finds itself being sacrificed in order to attain some nebulous goal framed in the context of national development. In the case of the GATT/WTO, the then Indian negotiators had no qualms accepting debilitating intellectual property rights regimes despite widespread national protests, to make some theoretical gains in the textile sector which actually never materialized. But the willingness to sacrifice agriculture for gains in some other sector was part of national policy then and appears to be so today when we have paid for nuclear concessions with accepting an American agenda in agriculture.
The US government had made clear right from the beginning that it would not invest a single dollar in the initiative and that India would have to foot the entire bill. . India has already committed that it will invest 400 crores in the agriculture initiative. Out of this about 300 crores will be used for genetic engineering and biotechnology products. The Indian money will be used to pay for the visits of American scientists to India as well as for the visits of Indian scientists to the US. There is talk of the US investing in some fellowships for research but the Intellectual Property Rights on the research outcomes will belong to the Americans.
Wal-Mart and Monsanto, two American multinationals are on the board of the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agricultural Research and Education. Monsanto has now been elevated from being a seed company to becoming a member of the official US delegation. The American multinationals made their intentions very clear during the first meeting of the board in Washington in December 2005. Wal-Mart and Monsanto propose to use their position on the board of the Agriculture Initiative to enter into retailing in agriculture and agricultural trade. The board will set the agenda for collaborative farm research with Indian laboratories and agricultural universities. Apart from a poultry company, the Indian side on the Agriculture Initiative Board is represented by some bureaucrat from the agriculture Ministry and Dr Mangla Rai, Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). This skewed composition indicates the nature of the playing field on which the Agriculture Initiative will be implemented and the sheer inability of the Indian side to take on the Americans. The agriculture exercise has been led by Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. The entire preparation of this initiative was a highly secret affair with no consultations with any of the stakeholders . The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences,(NAAS) , the Indian scientific establishment, the Agriculture Ministry , farmers organizations, civil society organizations, Members of Parliament and state governments, have all been kept out of the discussions. As have been eminent agriculture experts and the rest of the Planning Commission.
The main features of the India - America agriculture deal are agricultural biotechnology, access to biological resources and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). All three sectors are interrelated and all are of crucial interest to the US. Progress in agricultural biotechnology has thrown up one very clear fact, that technology rich countries like the US do not have the raw material needed for biotechnology, which are genetic resources. Intellectual property rights regimes in the form of TRIPS/ WTO are the instruments devised to gain access to developing country bio resources.
Through the Agriculture Knowledge Initiative, the Americans have asked for unhindered access to India's gene banks. India's considerable genetic wealth stored in its gene banks will become available to the Americans for free under the guise of this unequal agriculture agreement. In India, the universities on their own and through Krishi Vigyan Kendras, serve as extension agencies for farmers in the field and because of this they have a wide outreach. Wal-Mart and Monsanto will be able to use the universities to reach farmers in many parts of India, to sell their products and establish their business, without the US having made any investments in this Initiative. . The agriculture initiative will allow the Americans to have complete access to the rich and valuable genetic diversity stored in India's Gene banks. It is not clear whether they will pay for this genetic wealth or how they will pay for it. Genetic resources are a very valuable economic resource in the era of biotechnology, the Americans have little economically useful genetic resources.
The Board has discussed issues of intellectual property rights on products developed from the research programme so it is feared that whereas India will invest all the money in the research, the patents will be taken by the Americans. India's unique IPR law called the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act (PPVFR) , the only law in the world which is TRIPS compliant but still grants legal rights to farmers, will come under threat from American pressure. The Americans along with Agbiotech multinationals like Monsanto have been lobbying for a change in India's IPR laws to introduce patents on seeds and genes and do away with the provisions for protecting farmer's rights. A combination of physical access to the gene banks and an IPR law that allows seed patents will deliver India's genetic wealth into American hands. This will constitute a severe blow to India's ability to be food sovereign and food secure in the long run.
The Americans have asked for all restrictions to be removed to facilitate the import of US farm products into India. This is significant since essentially they have asked for the right to export GM crops and foods to India. India must be cautious that it does not become the dumping ground for a technology and its controversial products that have been rejected in many parts of the world and whose safety and usefulness remain questionable. Given the aggressive one-sided nature of the America-India initiative, it is important to ask where India is headed with its agriculture program. Who ultimately will be deciding India's Agbiotech policy? The MS Swaminathan Task Force on Agbiotechnology has recommended that India's policy on transgenic crops should be sensitive to biodiversity conservation and the social- economic context of our composite agrarian system, which essentially means that the rights of farmers and their livelihoods must not be jeopardized by any genetically engineered crops. The Indo- US knowledge initiative goes against all these goals because it seeks to force open India's agriculture markets, disregarding the safeguards proposed by the Swaminathan Task Force Report.
It is not out of place to emphasize a simple truth here, that food security is an integral part of national security. All India's efforts in the nuclear arena to shore up its national security goals will be undermined if it allows itself to become insecure in the matter of food.
Meeting Bush? Farming off the menu, says NGO - DH News Service - The Deccan Herald, March 2 2006
Hyderabad: Deccan Development Society (DDS), an NGO promoting organic farming and revival of local food cultures, has appealed to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy not to discuss agricultural issues with American President George Bush during his six hour visit to Hyderabad on Friday as it would only push the state on to the path of destruction and despair. "Except for its brute power, the US has nothing to offer to a civilised state like Andhra Pradesh, more so in the area of agriculture," said DDS Director P V Satheesh in an open letter to Mr Reddy. Pointing out the "duplicitous" role of the US in conservation-related conventions, Mr Satheesh said the US was pushing India to sign various international charters on biodiversity and climate change when Washington itself had not signed any of them. While the state was recommending pathbreaking methods in managing pests, the US had increased by 40 times, its pesticide use in the last 50 years. Besides, it exploits 85 per cent of all its freshwater resources in that country for agriculture. The subsidising of big, export-oriented farmers in the US to the extent of $350,000 per year had indirectly resulted in the suicides of farmers in India, he said. Also, the US agriculture actually uses 10 fossil fuel calories for each calorie of food produced. "Can we emulate this model... (that would) turn farmlands in this state into a desert?" he asked.
The global strategy of the US is to push genetic engineering (GE) of crops and their export which is the future of its economy. "With the death of its manufacturing sector, outsourcing of its IT industry and a huge scarcity in manpower to maintain its knowledge economy, the US is desperately dependent" on GE. That is why it's using its might and clout, "arm-twisting and bullying" through the WTO to force governments in Europe, Africa and Asia into accepting GE crops or removing the ban on them. This is the reason why the US is making "aggressive incursions" into agricultural research and development.
"What the US wants to do is to completely subvert all non-GE research by luring, tempting and bribing major research institutions. If it fails, it will bully them to accept biotech as the sole area of research. That is the reason why Mr Chief Minister, Bush’s visit to the (Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University) sends shivers down several spines," he said. Giving an example of the bulldozing by American-controlled organisations like the World Bank and IMF, Mr Satheesh said Haiti was forced to liberalise its rice markets in the mid-1990s and cheap US imports flooded its market. Local production collapsed along with the livelihood of tens of thousands of rural people. The country, which was self-sufficient a decade ago, today spends half of its export earnings on importing US rice. Urging the chief minister to show all hospitality to the guest by offering him all the delicacies of the state, Mr Satheesh pleaded that he should not discuss agriculture with him since it was the sure path to destruction and despair.
Monsanto's Bt cotton has failed in India: Gene Campaign - Suman Sahai and Veena Pachhapur - http://southasia.oneworld.net/article/view/128337/1/5339
The Andhra Pradesh Government will move the Monopoly and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) over the issue of 'abnormally high trait value' imposed by the multinational Monsanto and other companies selling genetically-modified Bacillus thurengiensis (Bt) cotton seeds to farmers. There are already reports showing that Monsanto's Bt cotton is a failure where Gene Campaign conducted a field study to analyse the performance of Bt cotton and non-Bt cotton. The survey was conducted in selected locations in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh and included a total of 100 farming families selected by random sampling. The Bt cotton varieties compared were Bt. 162 and Bt. 184 belonging to Mahyco-Monsanto and the non-Bt cotton varieties were the local hybrids Brahma and Banny.
Bt cotton yields lower
Average yield per acre was found to be lower in the case of Bt cotton in all categories of land holdings. Non-Bt cotton varieties yielded between 15 and 17 percent more than the Bt cotton.
Poor quality cotton
The Bt cotton was found to be a shorter duration crop (90-100 days) than the non-Bt cotton (100 to 120 days) but the plants showed less vigorous growth, with fewer branches and smaller leaves. A major problem reported everywhere was the premature dropping of bolls in Bt cotton that were on average smaller in size than the non-Bt cotton bolls. A comparison showed fewer bolls and shorter fibre length in Bt cotton. Non-Bt. cotton was graded as A and B quality whereas Bt. cotton was graded as B and C, fetching on an average Rs. 300/quintal less on the market.
No resistance to pink bollworm
One of the most significant findings of this study was the indication that these Bt cotton varieties do not offer protection against pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella). Pink bollworm attack was found to be severe after 60 to 70 days. There are two possible reasons for this. The first is that the period of expression of the Bt endotoxin does not coincide with the time of the bollworm attack. The other explanation is that the pink bollworm is not susceptible to the Bt endotoxin. The latter theory receives support from scientific literature. Morin et al. report that field populations of pink bollworm harbour three genetic mutations that confer resistance to Bt toxin.
Economics of Bt cotton cultivation
The economics of cultivating Bt cotton is clearly not in favour of farmers. The seed is about four times more expensive than the good local hybrids. The difference in the price of seed is approximately Rs. 1200 per (450 gm) bag, while savings on pesticide averaged only Rs. 217 per acre. The total investment per acre is much higher for Bt cotton than for non-Bt cotton varieties. The Bt cotton farmer had to invest on average, Rs. 983 more per acre than his non-Bt counterpart. Net profit from Bt cotton was lower per acre compared to non-Bt cotton in all types of fields (low to high yielding). In fact, 60 % of the farmers cultivating Bt cotton were not even able to recover their investment and incurred losses averaging Rs. 79 per acre
Why the Mahyco-Monsanto cotton failed?
A number of factors have probably contributed to the failure of Mahyco-Monsanto's Bt cotton. The first is the poor quality of the varieties. It is known that MECH 162 and MECH 184, which were transformed to Bt 162 and Bt 184, are poor to modest performers. A better variety would give better Bt cotton so the GEAC must answer why it approved this Bt cotton when better quality Bt cotton hybrids belonging to Indian companies are in the pipeline. Because of the expensive seeds and modest pesticide saving, the economics of the Bt crop is not favourable for the farmer. Tilting the balance further is the fact that Bt cotton must be grown with a refuge, necessary for resistance management. This is recommended as 20 % of the cultivated area by the GEAC. 'Wasting' 20 % of the land on managing resistance makes the Bt cotton even more nonviable, especially for small farmers. A further problem appears to be the vulnerability of Bt cotton to pink bollworm, which is a significant cotton pest in India. If this is indeed the case as the study demonstrates, then the Bt strategy for cotton is likely to fail because if the Bt endotoxin protects only against the green bollworm and not against the pink bollworm, then farmers will have to continue pesticide sprays.
No Regulatory structures set-up
One of the most shocking revelations of this investigation was the fact that neither State Level nor District Level Committees had been set up in either Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh where Bt cotton was being commercially grown. This is a breach of law and a direct violation of the prescribed rules for the manufacture, use, import, export and storage of hazardous microorganisms and genetically engineered organisms and cells, under the Environment Protection Act, 1989.
High Court issues notice to Chief Secretary on farmers' suicides issue - The Hindu, March 3, 2006
Mumbai: Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court has issued notice to Maharashtra Chief Secretary and Principal Secretaries of agriculture and finance departments on the issue of suicides committed by cotton growing farmers. The division bench of Justice J N Patel and Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari has directed the Chief Secretary and others to file an affidavit as to the steps taken to prevent the suicides within four weeks. The notice in this regard was issued on February 27. The PIL, filed by Kishor Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti and Tukaram Meshram, alleged the number of farmers committing suicides because of crop failure, since last June, has reached 337 by February end. Besides, other reasons such as lack of alternatives to money-lenders, the PIL contended that most of these farmers were cotton growing farmers from West Vidarbha region and failure of government promoted BT Cotton seeds ruined them. According to the petitioners, the state government encouraged BT Cotton seeds -- which are genetically modified -- saying it would lessen spending on pesticides, which proved to be wrong. Among other things, the PIL has demanded government's promotion of BT cotton -- marketed by Monsanto BT Seeds Company -- should be probed. It has also demanded families of farmers who have committed suicide be given a compensation of Rs five lakh each.
“GM crop trials shrouded in secrecy”
New Delhi, February 27, 2006: The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC] and the State Governments today accepted that they are not kept informed by the companies on where the GM crop trials are happening. This was revealed at a meeting convened by the GEAC to look into the matter of irregularities in GM field trials brought up by the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee [MEC]. The two-hour discussion on the issue of field trial irregularities took place this evening, organised by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC], Ministry of Environment and Forests, based on the investigative report submitted by the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee led by Greenpeace India and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.
In January 2006, the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee consisting of 20 civil society organizations made public the serious irregularities discovered in Bollgard II GM Cotton trials across the country, including violations of biosafety guidelines of the Environment Protection Act. This was presented to the GEAC, with a demand that all field trials be declared invalid for the year and that liability be fixed under the EPA for all violations. Today’s meeting convened by the GEAC was attended by representatives of Greenpeace India and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture as well as representatives of Mahyco Seeds, Nath Seeds, Krishidhan Seeds, Rasi Seeds, Tulasi Seeds and Ajeet Seeds. In addition, state government agriculture department officials and department of environment representatives were present from Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu along with Director, Central Institute for Cotton Research [CICR], Nagpur and a scientist from the Agricultural Research Station, Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh. The new GEAC Chairperson, Mr B S Parshira, the co-Chair Dr D D Verma and the Member-Secretary of GEAC, Dr Ranjini Warrier were present.
In the meeting, companies also accepted that they are going ahead with advertising, organizing of ‘field days’ and ‘advance bookings’ for unapproved Bt Cotton hybrids, in anticipation of clearance from the GEAC. State government representatives expressed their objection to this practice, which is in violation of norms.
Some of the points that emerged in the meeting were:
• Violation of biosafety guidelines in relation to crop material from field trials not being destroyed but allowed to contaminate the supply chain: The companies claimed that material from the trials was being bought back from trial farmers and destroyed whereas the MEC had evidence of the farmers selling it in the local market. The GEAC Chairperson felt that this violation is something that needs to be further looked into and assured that in all such cases where the companies were found to have violated the guideline, the approvals will not be accorded and action taken
• State Governments’ Feedback: The MEC’s reports have been sent to all state governments and other concerned stakeholders, as per the GEAC and their feedback on the violations would feed into any future action that GEAC would take
• Unscientificity in trials: On the unscientificity of trials, including on lax monitoring by companies and data from only good plots is being presented for approval, the companies once again denied this allegation. However, the GEAC promised that this would be looked into further. GEAC also felt that their guidelines of monitoring should be improved since right now, it is not based on random sampling.
• Secrecy around the field trials: All the state governments’ representatives present in the meeting denied that they get any information from the companies on the trials taking place, while the companies insisted that they keep the state governments in the loop. At this point, it was revealed that even GEAC was not kept informed about where the trials were happening. On this, it was felt that state governments and agriculture departments should be involved in the monitoring of trials and that communication systems should be streamlined on this.
• Marketing of Bt Cotton before approvals: On the issue of advertisements coming out, ‘field days’ being organized and ‘advance bookings taking place before approvals being accorded, the companies did agree that they are doing so [“since that is how the seed industry works”] while the state government representatives felt that this is inappropriate, especially given that the majority of farmers are illiterate and can be easily misled by these marketing strategies.
• Food Crop Field Trials: In the context of field trials of GM Food crops like Bt Okra happening in farmers’ fields without their knowledge, the Mahyco representatives said that “bio-physical containment” is not possible, while state government representatives once again objected to food crop trials happening without any information to them. There was no decision taken on this, even as the MEC pointed out that food crop field trials should not happen in farmers’ fields, given the scope of contamination from these trials
• Other issues: The AP state government representative also pointed out that there are anomalies in quantities with regard to seed stocks held and supplied by the companies and the actual permission for seed production given by the GEAC when it comes to Bt Cotton.
The MEC members also pointed out the larger issue of serious regulatory failure given that GM soy products are being imported into India without the permission of GEAC, that GM food crop trials are happening with violations on the ground, without biosafety being cleared, that there is large scale failure of Bt Cotton in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh and that most suicides this year were related to Bt Cotton failure. The GEAC assured the team members that they will look into all the issues being raised. The discussions that emerged from this meeting would now be reported to the larger GEAC and decisions taken.
For more information and for the report of the MEC on field trial irregularities, contact:
1. Ms Divya Raghunandan, Greenpeace India, 09845535406 or firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Ms Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 09393001550 or email@example.com
3. Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 09301359702 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bt cotton seeds in eye Of political storm - By Shashikant Trivedi - Tuesday, February 21, 2006
At a time when Mahyco Monsanto is in the process of launching the new version of Bt Cotton (Bacillus thuringiensis), cotton prices have crashed to Rs 2200-2700 per quintal, against Rs 4,300 to 4,500 per quintal. The issue rocked the State Assembly yesterday when members of opposition parties, including the Congress, today staged a walkout in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, alleging heavy losses suffered by farmers due to the low yield from Bt cotton. They also accused the ruling BJP of promoting multi-national companies. Raising the issue through a calling attention motion, Samajwadi Party leaders Suneelam, Govind Singh, and Arif Aqeel of Congress claimed that thousands of farmers in Malwa and Nimar region were growing Bt Cotton on an area of 6.34 lakh hectares, the average yield of cotton had been reduced from 15 quintals to only 4 quintals. Demanding compensation for the affected farmers, the opposition members claimed that Bt cotton had proved to be a failure in terms of cost effectiveness, germination, productivity and quality.
Replying to the opposition, agriculture minister Chandrabhan Singh refuted their allegations and said production had increased by using Bt cotton seeds. The state government had permitted farmers to grow Bt cotton after getting necessary formalities and permissions from the Centre. "An enquiry had been initiated in some cases, and the matter has been probed. Reports will be sent to the Central government," he said. Bt cotton's allergic reactions in Madhya Pradesh, in which farmer-turned state Governor Balram Jakhar has reportedly ordered a probe, came to light during the month of November last year. During a public hearing organised by Dhar district's Krishi Upaj Mandi presented during the hearing, at least 14 animals had died and several fell reportedly ill. It had also been alleged during the hearing that use of the seeds had led to a rise in cases of skin diseases. Genetically modified Bt Cotton is allegedly causing allergic ailments among people.
Monsanto India Ltd had claimed that results of Bt cotton in Madhya Pradesh were encouraging. The national manager of the company, P Rath, claimed to have come up with an improved version of Bt cotton named as Bollgard-2. The approval for Bt-2 was in the last stage of trial in November. According to Monsanto figures released in November, the sales of Bt cottonseeds had swelled from 2002-03 to 2005-06. Bt cotton crops covered an area of 1470.40 hectares though 3676 packets, which had increased to 1,34,638.80 hectares, with consumption touching 3,36,597 packets of Bt seeds. More and more firms joined the Bt cotton race Mahyco sold 1,97,390 packets to cover 78,956 hectares, Rasi Seeds sold 1,02,150 packets to cover 40,860 hectares, Ankur Seeds sold 576 packets to cover 230. 40 hectares and Nuziveedu Seeds sold 36,481 packets to cover 14,592.40 hectares of land in Madhya Pradesh.
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INDIA: BT cotton seeds cause allergy: NGO - http://www.bharattextile.com/newsitems/1998748
INDORE: The NGO's three member investigation team has suspected that a large number of farmers of Nirmar region suffer from allergies after coming in contact with BT cotton seed, sources said here on February 19. The three member team comprising of Dr Ashish Gupta, Ashish Mandloi and Amulya Nidhi, carried out the survey in five villages and interviewed 23 labourers and farmers of Barwani and Dhar district between October and December 2005. The team further revealed, the toxins inside the BT cotton seed which helps the cotton plant fight the deadly American Bollworm, was the main reason behind the allergy. The team also admitted that the study was not a comprehensive one and it covered only those persons who had allergies and had been definitely been exposed to BT cotton plant or had picked up cotton. Dr Gupta said that all respondents had itching of skin, while 86 pct of them had eruptions on body and 56 pct had swelling of face where as in some cases, the itching was so severe that they had to discontinue their work, or had to work after taking anti-allergy medicine. The use of the BT cotton seed increased in the past two seasons has surged the cases of allergies in the region. So the team suggested to conduct a detailed investigation into the matter and also to take necessary measures to stop the allergies eruption.
Farmer bodies of UPA coalition up in arms against govt - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, February 20, 2006
The farmer organisations have cautioned the Congress-led government against its "anti-farmer policies". They have warned that unless the ruling UPA coalition mends its ways it may face the same fate as that of the esrtwhile NDA government at the Centre. Incidentally, such voices of resentment have come from the farmers' outfit of the ruling UPA partners. The Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS), the farmers' outfit of the Congress party, has called for immediate withdrawal of the amendments to the Seeds Act tabled in Parliament.
Speaking to the FE BKS executive chairman Krishan Bir Chaudhary said: "The amendments proposed to the Seeds Act are anti-farmer as they calls for manadatory registration of seeds and prevents farmers from saving seeds for the next crop. The Plant Varieties Protection & Farmers' Rights (PVP&FR) Act is sufficient to regulate the seed sector. There is no need for any other legislation. Rather the PVP&FR Act should be further amended in the interests of farmers and for making biopiracy impossible."
Dr Chaudhary criticised the prime minister and the agriculture minister for suggesting that farmers diversify out of wheat and rice cultivation when the government, apprehending shortage, has planned to import 5 lakh tonne of wheat. He said there is no need to import wheat as there is enough stock in the country. He alleged that artificial shortage has been created due to hoarding by traders and multinationals like Cargil and ITC.
Dr Chaudhary also criticised the proposed Indo-US intitiative in Agriculture Research and Education, describing it as against the interests of Indian farmers and a waste of public funds. He said that transgenic technology worldwide in crops has created health and environmental hazards and consumers are reluctant to consume GM foods. The US, through this collaboration, intends to thrust GM food on Indian consumers. The US and multinationals will gain free access to the genetic biodiversity and indulge in biopiracy, he said.
The general secretary of CPI's All India Kisan Sabha, Atul Kumar Anjaan, in addition, said, "As per the proposed agreement Indian scientists who would be persuing studies in US under the exchange programme will have to pay a hefty fee of Rs 400 crore." He criticised the government's move to invite FDI in retail sector as damaging to the interests of farmers and small retailers. The joint secretary of CPM?s farmers? outfit, NK Shukla said: "By this agreement, US would extend a strong patent regime in agriculture, affecting the interests of Indian farmers."
Farmers bodies oppose Indo-US research initiative - ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express, February 18, 2006
NEW DELHI, FEB 17: The proposed multi-crore India-US Knowledge Initiative in Agri Research and Education has run into rough weather with the farmers' organisations of the UPA coalition partners opposing the move. The proposed collaboration in agri research and education was mooted in July 2005 during Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's visit to US. Subsequently, a team of Indian agri scientists visited US in December 2005 to work out the modalities of the programme. A team of US agri scientists are now in Delhi to prepare the final action plan ahead of the expected visit of President Bush. The farmers' organisations have criticised the move as 'surrendering the interests of Indian peasants to the multinationals based in US'. They have demanded that the government make the details of the programme public and initiate a debate in both the houses of the Parliament.
The joint initiative intends to develop new and commercially viable technologies for agricultural advancement in both countries. Efforts would be initiated for public-private partnership where the private sector can help identify research areas that have the potential for rapid commercialisation. Transgenic technology and genomics would be used for harnessing genetic potential of agriculturally important plant and animal species. Speaking To FE, the executive chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj, Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary said, "This agreement is against the interests of Indian farmers. High skilled Indian agri scientists who have so far been working for the interests of country's farmers will now be forced to work for the US agriculture and dance to the tune of multinationals. India would pour in huge investments only to facilitate the monopoly of multinationals."
Walkout over low yield from Bt cotton by opposition in Madhya Pradesh assembly - New Kerala, 15 Feb 2006
Bhopal: Major opposition parties, including Congress today staged a walkout in Madhya Pradesh assembly alleging heavy losses suffered by farmers due to low yield from Bt cotton grown by them and accusing the ruling BJP of promoting multi-national companies. Raising the issue through a calling attention motion, Samajwadi Party leader Suneelam and Govind Singh and Arif Aqeel of Congress claimed that thousands of farmers in Malwa and Nimar region who grew different varieties of the genetically modified Bt cotton had to incur huge losses. Demanding compensation to the affected farmers, they claimed that during several tests, Bt cotton seeds have been proved to be a failure as far as germination, productivity, quality and cost effectiveness are concerned. Farmers, who grew Bt cotton, were facing huge debt burden due failure of crops, they said.
Refuting the allegations levelled by opposition members, Agriculture Minister Chandrabhan Singh said though crops were damaged in some areas due to lack of irrigation facilities, overall production has increased by using Bt cotton seeds. Following complaints about Bt cotton, the matter was probed and its report sent to the central governmemt, he said. Unhappy with the Minister's reply, Congress members staged a walkout, while Samajwadi Party and CPI-M MLAs followed them charging the state government of promoting multi-nationals. The house witnessed noisy scenes when Speaker Ishwardas Rohani informed members about acceptance of the resignation by BJP MLA from Budhni Rajendra Singh.
Wal-Mart and Monsanto on Indo-U.S. Agriculture Initiative board
The Hindu (Indian national newspaper), Feb 10 2006 - (FRONT PAGE) - http://www.hindu.com/2006/02/10/stories/2006021016040100.htm
*The MNCs keen on using Initiative for retailing in agriculture
*American side told Indians there would be no U.S. government funding
*India would have to pay "tuition fee" for scientists visiting U.S. for "capacity building" and training
NEW DELHI: The United States-based multinationals, Wal-Mart and Monsanto, are on the board of the Indo-U.S. Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture Research and Education. It will set the agenda for collaborative farm research with Indian laboratories and agricultural universities. In India, the universities on their own and through Krishi Vigyan Kendras serve as extension agencies for farmers on the field and have a wide reach. The influence of the American private sector became obvious to Indian scientists during the first meeting of the board in Washington DC in December 2005. Representatives of the Wal-Mart food chain and the Monsanto Seed Corporation were keen on using the Initiative for retailing in agriculture and on trade aspects. Transgenic research in crops, animals and fisheries would be a substantial part of the collaboration in biotechnology, requiring India to pledge huge funds.
Issues of Intellectual Property Rights and Benefit-Sharing were also discussed. India is endowed with rich biodiversity and has a huge bank of germ plasm and genetic resource material in the public research system. India is looking for joint ownership or joint patents, whereas in the U.S. much of the transgenic and hybrid agricultural technology is with the corporates. Indian Council of Agriculture Research Director-General Mangala Rai is the co-chair of the Board along with Ellen Terpstra, Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agriculture Services. There will be seven members on each side.
Only private funding
According to well-placed sources, the American side clearly told the Indians that there would be no U.S. government funding. In their university system, research is funded by the private sector, which will then hold the patent on a technology. Even technologies developed with public funds are licensed to corporates. But India will have to pay even the "tuition fee" to scientists who visit America for "capacity building" and training. It is also expected to allocate up to Rs. 400 crores over three years towards the Initiative. Of this, about Rs. 300 crores will be for research in transgenic and biotechnology. Sources said this came as a jolt to scientists, who were looking for a yesteryear kind of development and application-oriented collaboration and technology dissemination with substantial U.S. funding. But for the appointment of a joint secretary on the board, the Union Agriculture Ministry has virtually no direct role. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia is directly and closely involved in the Initiative.
After considering a 56-page Indian draft proposal, the board identified four major priority areas. They are: Human Resource and Institutional Capacity Building; Agri-Processing and Marketing; Emerging Technologies and Natural Resources Management. The Indian side had sought priority collaboration on Climate Change, Soil and Waste Management, IPR, Bio-safety, Food Safety, Regulatory Frameworks, Post-Harvest Management, Value Addition, Food Marketing, Product Handling, Nanotechnology, Vaccines and Diagnostics and Precision Farming.
However, the Board agreed only on four areas in the short term: Education, learning resources, curriculum development and training; Food Processing and use of bio-products and bio-fuels; Biotechnology and Water Management. Hectic and hush-hush preparations are on to finalise a Work Plan next week, in time for a formal announcement by U.S. President George Bush when he arrives in India in March.
WHAT DOES THE INDO-US DEAL ON AGRICULTURE GIVE? - Suman Sahai
On his visit to the US, the Prime Minister made a deal on nuclear energy and another on agriculture. Because of the furor over the former, the latter seems to have gone unnoticed. It should not be. India has asked for US help to develop drought resistant crop varieties; reduce post harvest losses, take information about improved technologies directly to farmers and provide training in sanitary and phytosanitary standards. Training to improve food standards will be welcome since India is very poor in this regard. Indian exports are returned, sometimes because buyers use phytosanitary standards as a protectionist tool but also because the products are contaminated or substandard. Phytosanitary training alone will not enable Indian farmers to participate more fully in global trade, as is projected. That will only happen if domestic subsidies and tariffs are reduced by the US and EU. The subsidy impediments to those markets are being negotiated, without any success whatsoever, in the agriculture negotiations prior to the December WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong.
Although not stated explicitly, the agriculture pact deals essentially with agricultural biotechnology. The US really does not have anything of relevance to offer Indian agriculture and small farmers. The technologies available in US laboratories are known and there is nothing of importance to Indian agriculture which is plagued by different problems, like lack of credit and crop insurance, spurious seeds and substandard inputs. Then there is the problem of Intellectual Property Rights. Almost all products and processes in agricultural biotechnology are protected by patents and practically controlled by six multinationals. The technologies developed in American universities have also slipped into their hands thanks to the Bayh-Dole Act which allows universities to transfer technologies generated with public funds, to the industry. A collaboration with the US would make sense only if technologies were to be available free of patents, if not, there is no need for a special deal. Monsanto's Bt technology, for instance, is available to anyone who can pay their license fees. A deal to use US technology is likely to increase the pressure on India for introducing seed patents and removing the ban we have placed on the American terminator technology. The Americans favor patents on seeds as against Plant Breeders Rights which is the Indian legislation.
Regarding the special focus on developing drought resistant varieties, it is worth recalling that globally this research has been entrusted to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The principal mandate of the public sector CG system with its strength of over 8000 scientists is to develop drought resistant plant varieties for developing countries. If at all India needs to use the transgenic approach to drought tolerance, its natural partner is the CG system, not the US.
If it is post harvest losses we are concerned about, there are relatively straightforward solutions. We need scaling up of our food processing sector to add shelf life to agricultural produce. More and better warehouses for storing our buffer stocks and better transportation facilities, (less broken trucks that leak the grain as they transport it) are guaranteed to reduce post harvest losses. The main post harvest technology that the US has is the delayed ripening technology that was used to create the 'Flavr Savr' tomato. Flavr Savr was abandoned largely because of health fears after it was found that laboratory rats fed on the GM tomato died or suffered health damage. Flavr Savr has never been revived and we should be cautious that we do not become the dumping ground for failed and dangerous technologies.
The part that mystifies most is the assertion that the Indo-US collaboration will take information and know-how directly to the farming community. How does it propose to do this? Given the fact that we have dismantled the agriculture extension service and the connections between the laboratory and the farmers' fields have been snapped many years ago, through which mechanism will these allegedly beneficial technologies be taken directly to the farming community? The Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) , set up as technology absorption hubs in rural areas have long ago fallen into disuse and there is no provision to revive them.
The real problem in Indian agriculture today is the appalling state of the agricultural research system, which is moribund, lacking innovative capacity and engaged to a large extent, in copy cat research. Over a third of all the research being done on GM crops in the country is based on Monsanto's Bt gene, as though the only problem we have in Indian agriculture is the bollworm (the pest against which Bt is partly effective). The Indo-US deal will not solve our problems nor introduce the desperately needed spirit of independent scientific enquiry that seems to have abandoned the ICAR system. Instead, a radical overhaul of the country's agricultural research is needed. Heads must roll, the stables be cleaned up, the system revamped and good scientists, of which there are plenty, brought in to lead the world class research that our scientists are capable of. That, and not a dubious pact in agriculture is what the country needs today.
AP farmers hit by failed Bt cotton crop - Uma Sudhir, NDTV - January 22, 2006 (Hyderabad)
Farmers in Andhra Pradesh are grappling with crippling debt and desperation and choosing to end their lives after their cotton crop failed. Most farmers say, Bt cotton that was introduced to put an end to their problems, have now become one of the biggest causes of farmer suicides.
Twenty-year-old Vijayalakshmi is a widow and she blames the genetically modified Bt cotton for it. Less than two months ago, her husband Raju drank pesticide because the Bt cotton he grew on four acres left him with a debt of over Rs 1 lakh. With no buyers even for the land he owned, the humiliation of not being able to even ensure his wife and two little children don't go hungry was too much for the 25-year-old. "We grew Raasi [Bt] hybrid seeds with great hope but it has ruined us. Never before, had we invested Rs 75,000 in one crop. Now he is dead and I have debts and two children. What should I do?" said Vijaylakshmi.
There were other widows and farmers with similar tales at the public hearing on Bt cotton in Hyderabad. All of them echo the sentiment that what was seen as the seeds of hope are turning out to be seeds of debt and death. "Bt Cotton is hardly useful. They had said that it would yield 10-12 or even 15 quintals but I got only 3 quintals," said Devaiah, a cotton farmer. "It has not significantly reduced pesticide use, it has not reduced cultivation cost. It has in fact increased cultivation cost." "There's no high yield, farmers have suffered negative returns. That is why the first Bt cotton suicides have started being reported," said P V Satheesh, Convenor, South Against Genetic Engineering.
Hit by GM crops
Activists say they fear the proposed meeting next week of multinational seed giant Monsanto's CEO with the President and Prime Minister could be an attempt to influence prospects for genetically modified seeds in India. In the last four years that Bt cotton has been grown, every time farmers encountered a failure, they were told, that particular variety had failed for some reason but the technology itself was faultless. So a new variety was popularised the next year. As one activist put it, Bt cotton has become the story of 'operation successful, patient dead'.
Farmers to move consumer court over Bt cotton - New Delhi, January 10 2006 - http://news.webindia123.com/news/showdetails.asp?id=215572&cat=Science
About 50 cotton growers of Madhya Pradesh plan to approach the state's consumer court over the alleged failure of genetically modified Bt Cotton II to deliver promised results.
"We were promised by the company (Mahyco) that these seeds were of better quality and would have higher yield," said Rancholal Gobaji Anametaria, a farmer from Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh. "We have decided to go to the consumer court by the end of this month. We have asked all farmers in Madhya Pradesh to file cases against the company," he told reporters here Tuesday.
Farmers and members of the Beej Swaraj Abhiyan were in the capital to press their demand before the government that the genetically modified variety of seeds should not be promoted in the country as it had allegedly failed to deliver the promised results. The Madhya Pradesh government has permitted Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco) to carry out a pilot project in the state. Anametaria added that the state's agriculture department had promoted the seeds as part of the pilot project to check the quality of the genetically advanced Bollgard II, popularly known as Bt cotton II.
Another farmer, Brij Bhushan Singh Rathore from Jamli, said: "We were promised that the new seeds would yield around 25 quintal per acre but at the end of the season we found that the yield was only 6 to 7 quintal." Rathore said that Mahyco had said that the hybrid seeds would need less fertiliser and pesticide in comparison to non-BT seeds but these crops also required similar quantities of fertilisers and pesticides for the crop. "We have carried out a survey of 50 farmers who had taken part in the pilot project. All of them have found that the yield of the seeds was less," said Nilesh Desai of Beej Swaraj Abhiyan. Desai added similar surveys would also be conducted in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
SOUTHERN NEWS - TAMIL NADU - FEDCOT hails AP action against Monsanto - New India Presss, January 6 2006
MADURAI: The Federation of Consumer Organisations of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry (FEDCOT) and the Consumer Coordination Council, New Delhi, have hailed the bold, though belated, initiative of the government of Andhra Pradesh for filing a case against Monsanto for its unfair trade practices (UTP). In a press release here, the chairman of FEDCOT, P Duraisingam, stated that Monsanto had supplied genetically modified BT cotton seeds, which caused havoc among the families of cotton farmers in AP. The seed, which promised bountiful cotton harvest failed miserably leading to many farmers committing suicide. Duraisingam said that this was the first time since the Monopoly Restriction of Trade Practices (MRTP) Act was enacted in 1964 that a State government had come before the MRTP Commission on behalf of consumers aggrieved by unfair trade practices. He said that many giant companies in India, both national and multinational, including public sector undertakings, adopt many prohibited UTPs harming the interests of the consumers. Central and State governments should follow the good example set by the AP government to check these unfair trade practices, the release added.
Andhra to pursue farmers' compensation with Mahyco - Hyderabad, January 07, 2006
Andhra Pradesh Saturday threatened to cancel the licence of the Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco) if it didn't compensate farmers for poor quality seeds leading to the failure of Bt cotton crop in the state. The warning came ahead of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) hearing on the state government's petition challenging Mahyco for charging a high premium for the Bt strain in the cottonseed providing protection against bollworm. The MRTPC hearing is on Jan 10. Mahyco is a subsidiary of global seed major Monsanto.
During the kharif summer crop last year, the Bt cottonseeds supplied by Mahyco had failed in 25,000 acres in Warangal district besides in other areas too. "The case we have filed on behalf of the farmers is only on one issue - Monsanto is charging abnormally high trait value for the Bt cottonseed," said Agriculture Minister N. Raghuveera Reddy addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the Indian Science Congress, which concluded Saturday. Based on the reports of 20 expert teams, the state government had verified that the farmers had indeed been duped by the seed company, which had entered into a memorandum of understanding to pay compensation in case the seed quality led to crop failure. "In the case of seed performance, though we tried our best to get them to honour their contractual agreement, the compensation to farmers has not been paid." This resulted in the government serving notice and ultimately blacklisting Mahyco Bt cottonseeds during the kharif season this year, the minister said.
As an interim arrangement the state government has paid compensation to the affected farmers who had an agreement with Mahyco. "If Mahyco does not pay compensation this season, we will not hesitate to cancel their license and also fight them in the high court," said Reddy. On the case filed in MRTPC, Reddy said it has been done as Mahyco is charging a trait premium, for which Monsanto holds the patent overseas, of Rs.1,250 per 450 grams of seed in India, while in the US it is charging only Rs.108 for the same quantity of Bt cotton seeds. Further, the Indian subsidiary of Monsanto is paying farmers only Rs.250 per 450 grams for production of seeds, while its market price has been fixed at Rs.450. Together with the trait charge, the farmers have to pay Rs.1,850 per 450 grams packet for the kharif crop (harvested in winter) as against Rs.1,750 last year.
As against just 10,000 acres a couple of years back, Bt cotton is being grown currently in 550,000 acres in Andhra Pradesh alone. The minister said the high trait premium would be challenged against all Bt cotton seed providers. Reddy expressed concern that the seed companies are not training farmers in the use of genetically modified seeds, which has led to them being unaware that Bt cotton provides protection only against the bollworm problem. He admitted that the budnecrosis virus, normally found to kill groundnut crop, had been found to spread to cotton crop, including Bt cotton this year.
The state government has meanwhile taken up with the central government and the agriculture minister the field trial of Bt okra (ladyfinger) undertaken by Mahyco at Narokoduru village in Guntur district without prior information. Angry farmers in the area had burnt down the crop on learning that field trials were being done.
Most farmers who committed suicide were Bt cotton growers: VJAS - Yavatmal Maharashtra - Webindia123, IndiaJanuary 02, 2006
The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) has alleged that 170 cotton growers from Western Vidarbha, who had opted to sow Bt cotton of a US-based seeds company, had committed suicide during the period from June to December last year. As many as 212 farmers in Vidarbha had committed suicide during the period of whom 182 were from Western Vidarbha, VJAS president Kishore Tiwari said in a statement here today. Among the 182 suicides in Western Vidarbha, 170 were by Bt cotton growers, the statement alleged. Over six lakh farmers from Vidarbha had sown Bt cotton on the assurance that the minimum yield would be 20 quintals per acre, the statement said. However, the average yield per acre was only two to three quintals per acre, the statement alleged. The VJAS proposes to initiate legal action against the US-based seeds company demanding compensation for farmers who had been ''misled by false assurances'', the statement said.
Gene contamination may affect organic exports - By B S Satish Kumar - Deccan Herald News Service
An internationally renowned scientist has cautioned that the country's organic exports might be rejected due to gene contamination, if India permits commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) food crops. Hungary-based toxicologist and nutrition expert Arpad Pusztai, who was in Bangalore recently, told this reporter that there was every possibility of organic crops getting polluted due to crossing-over of genes from the GM food crops, if the government gives permission for commercial cultivation of GM food crops. The caution by the scientist -- who conducted a pioneering study on the impact of GM potatoes on rats and concluded that these varieties affected their growth as well as their health -- comes at a time when NGOs and green activists are suspecting that the government is setting the stage for allowing commercial cultivation of certain GM food crops in the near future. As the average land-holding size of farmers in India is just around 1.50 hectares, it is simply impossible to prevent crossing-over of genes and genetic pollution due to GM crops, the scientist argues. "Organic agriculture and BT cannot co-exist, especially in India due to small land-holdings," he remarked, while taking a different view from that of the Indian policy makers, who are for such a co-existence. At present India has allowed commercial cultivation of only cotton crop. This has not polluted organic food crops, as normally the genetic pollution occurs within similar species, the scientist explained.
Pointing out that any organic produce has to be certified by an authorised agency to show that it is grown organically, he said the Indian organic produce can never pass certification tests if GM food crops are allowed to be cultivated. Most of the Western countries, especially the European ones, which can provide a huge market for Indian organic produce, are very particular about non-GM crops and have stringent certification, he pointed out. "The problem with GM crops is that they are unpredictable. With whatever research has been done so far, it is not possible to ascertain the impact of GM crops on human health. We are yet to achieve precision regarding research in this field.....Hence, we should exercise caution and conduct more research before jumping into commercial cultivation of GM food crops," he cautions. "In the absence of safety studies, lack of evidence cannot be interpreted as proof of safety." He denied the argument that BT is a must to take care of India's increasing food requirements. Even organic farming can take care of food requirements provided you pump the same amount of money into research that is being invested on BT research.
Citing a FAO study, he says the world has 125 per cent more food than the requirement of the global population. But it has not been able to reach all due to distribution problem and not due to production shortage.
Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner Thangamma Monnappa too observed that empirical evidence from all over the world shows that contamination does occur wherever GM crops have been introduced alongside conventional or organic crops.