#Monsanto digs its heels in Pakistan


Monsanto's Involvement With Agent Orange - 40 Years After the Vietnam Conflict

Coming from a politician or bureaucrat, it wouldn’t have been surprising.
But it was unexpected from the Vice Chancellor of Faisalabad University of
Agriculture when he claimed that GMOs would “bring about a new green
revolution based on biotechnology, precision agriculture and climate
change.” As if the first Green Revolution wasn’t bad enough! If it was for
citizens’ benefit, why wasn’t Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan addressing sustainable
farmers and concerned citizens, instead of briefing diplomats from 24
countries? That fit more into loaded trade and investment talks, not a
country’s delicate agricultural security.

Dr Khan offers no evidence based on local research whatsoever to prove that
GMOs are “a great and safe invention that would enhance crop productivity”.
He seems oblivious of the fact that even GM seed-producing corporations
don’t make that claim.

“Where is the independent data which shows that GM Corn would increase
average yield?” demands Ijaz Ahmed Rao, professional farmer, graduated from
Australia, “Data from USDA clearly shows that despite GM technologies
(Insect-resistant (Bt), Herbicide-tolerant, Stacked gene varieties), yields
in USA have not increased since 1987!”

Rao sounds an alarm the government must note – that Pakistan’s corn exports
to Europe and elsewhere would be seriously affected as they import non-GM
corn and corn products from Pakistan at premium rates and on bases of
certification. Far from boosting Pakistan’s output and earnings, Bt corn
would be the ideal weapon to destroy our exports to Europe which recently
banned Monsanto and other GMOs, with ongoing plans to wipe them out
completely.

Similarly, sans evidence, Dr Khan claims that Bt (GM) cotton increased
productivity while pesticide-application was reduced in Pakistan. Strange
indeed, when in the rest of the world – including USA, the heaviest GM user
– it rapidly lost resistance to pests and required increasing amounts of
pesticides, now multiplied several-fold.

He disregards India’s terrible 15-year experience with Monsanto’s Bt cotton
that, with Monsanto’s overpriced products and unfair practices, led to over
300,000 suicides since 1995, making India the world’s farmers’ suicide
centre. Should we be joining their ranks?

Indeed, Dr Khan ignores Monsanto’s long and ignominious history around the
world – originally a chemical corporation that co-supplied 19 million
gallons of herbicide to defoliate Vietnam’s forests and crops on 4.5
million acres over 11 years, killing or maiming 400,000, causing half a
million deformed children born, helpless and dependant for life, and two
million cancer cases. After diverse other ventures, Monsanto got into GM
seeds which are ‘successful’ only if Monsanto’s accompanying poisonous
chemicals are heavily sprayed.

While appearing to promote Monsanto’s planned launch of ‘Herbicide
Resistance Corn’, Dr Khan was blind to the dangerous ground he was treading
on. Chemically-grown food crops have already lost nutritive value and led
to malnutrition, in both South countries and USA.

Because it wasn’t reported here, the VC probably doesn’t know that on May
25, over two million participants in 436 cities across 52 countries,
protested against Monsanto, demanding it gets out from everywhere. This,
apart from the long-standing, ongoing “Millions against Monsanto” campaign
that informs and brings together concerned citizens and activists globally.

Or that the Carnival of Corn in Mexico City coincided with and joined the
global protest. Mexico was the cradle of corn boasting thousands of corn
varieties; it needed no more, let alone GM corn, from outside. But their
own president sold his country out to Monsanto and other GM corporations,
just as Bush and Obama did the same to their people. In country after
country, it was not the merit of the product but officials that succumbed
to tempting lures.

And last week Japan and South Korea cancelled huge contracts for US wheat
when it was revealed Monsanto’s unapproved GM seeds had contaminated vast
farmlands in USA.

Monsanto dug in its heels in Pakistan over a decade ago since Musharraf’s
time. The General probably didn’t understand agriculture which may have
made it easy to sway him. His regime unilaterally sanctioned corporate
farming, which is increasingly pursued with GM seeds. The timing was
significant.

When Musharraf’s rule ended, the PPP government dealt an unexpected shock
when Mr. Gilani’s very first speech as prime minister ended with the
incongruous announcement – having nothing to do with his political
statements – that they had decided to let Monsanto in. Clearly, political
changes did not undo special interests. Since then, ceaseless crises in
Pakistan have kept attention diverted from Monsanto activities in Pakistan.

Dr Khan should remember the ‘Precautionary Principle’ – unless he’s
excluded ecology from agriculture – and investigate the extent of unchecked
contamination in Pakistan. GM monoculture threatens to wipe out what’s left
of our biodiversity without which even GM can’t continue, will further
chemical-drench and kill our deteriorating farmlands, while he risks being
remembered among the short-sighted responsible for near-extinction of
species.

*
http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/06/12/comment/columns/genetically-modified-threats/

India – Who decides what we eat?


The new biotechnology Bill will allow biotech firms to tamper with our food
Devinder Sharma

Devinder Sharma

11-05-2013, Issue 19 Volume 10

Illustration: Vikram NongmaithemIllustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

In March, US President Barack Obama signed the HR 933 continuing resolution — popularly known as the Monsanto Protection Act — that effectively divests the federal courts of their constitutional power to stop the planting or sale of genetically modified (GM) seeds and crops regardless of the health and environmental consequences. In other words, whether you like it or not, despite the havoc it can play with your life and environment, you have no choice but to quietly accept GM foods.

On 22 April, amidst the noise over the 2G Spectrum and Coal blocks scams, the government introduced in Parliament the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, 2013. The jubilation that followed in the Association for Biotechnology-Led Enterprises (ABLE) was telling of how industry and the government work in tandem in this country.

Setting aside all concerns expressed by the 2004 Task Force on Agricultural Biotechnology, led by eminent scientist MS Swaminathan, the Bill is a hurried attempt to remove all possible obstacles in the promotion of the risky and controversial technology. In a lot of ways, the BRAI Bill is a precursor to the Monsanto Protection Act in the US. While the US government has removed all regulatory hurdles in the promotion of GM crops, the BRAI Bill too makes the task much easier for biotech firms by providing a single-window, fast-track clearance for GM crops. In the garb of “confidential commercial information”, it imposes restrictions on the application of the Right to Information Act. It also has certain clauses that limit the jurisdiction of the courts. The BRAI Bill, therefore, provides a strong and legally-tight protective shield to biotechnology companies.

The need to curb transparency and accountability arises only when something dangerous has to be kept hidden from public glare. It first begins by pro-industry scientists occupying senior government and university positions to create scare by misrepresenting facts in the name of ‘science-based’ debates.

Writing in The Guardian, George Monbiot points to the particular instance when the chief veterinary officer of UK had “discounted fears that BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) could jump from one species to another”. The failure to acknowledge a scientific fact led to the emergence of mad cow disease.

In India, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research has been aggressively pushing for the use of GM crops in the name of food security. When the environment ministry questioned the veracity of scientific claims, and imposed in 2010 a moratorium on the genetically engineered food crop — Bt Brinjal — the GM industry was pushed on the backfoot. Adding to its woes was the 2012 report of the Standing Parliamentary Committee, which found “biotechnology regulation to be too small a focus on the vast canvas of biodiversity, environment, human and livestock health and therefore recommended an all-encompassing Biosafety Authority”.

Subsequently, after seven states — West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Kerala — refused to go in for open field trials of GM crops, the only option left was to bulldoze public resistance through a legally binding mechanism. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) then swung into action, and knowing that the MOEF is no longer a natural ally, moved the introduction of the Bill to the Department of Science & Technology, which incidentally is a promoter of the technology. The conflict of interest is clearly visible. But a defiant PMO continues to look the other way.

At the same time, citing “public interest”, the Bill has taken away the hold states have over agriculture and health. States can no longer refuse permission; they are left with only an advisory role.

What makes the Bill a subject for a serious national debate, besides of course looking into the role being played by the PMO in promoting corporate welfare, is that it impacts everyone in the country. Whether you want to know or not, the Bill provides biotechnology companies with unlimited powers to tamper with your food, health and environment. In the end, the decision is ours whether you would like the government and the GM firms to decide what you eat.

letters@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 19, Dated 11 May 2013)

 

We Don’t Need Genetically Engineered Bananas For Iron Deficiency



 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The latest insanity from the genetic engineers is to push GMO bananas on India for reducing iron deficiency in Indian women.

Nature has given us a cornucopia of biodiversity, rich in nutrients. Malnutrition and nutrient deficiency results from destroying biodiversity, and with it rich sources of nutrition.

The Green Revolution has spread monocultures of chemical rice and wheat, driving out biodiversity from our farms and diets.

And what survived as spontaneous crops like the amaranth greens and chenopodium (bathua) which are rich in iron were sprayed with poisons and herbicides. Instead of being seen as iron rich and vitamin rich gifts, they were treated as “weeds”. A Monsanto representative once said that Genetically Engineered crops resistant to their propriety herbicide Roundup killed the weeds that “steal the Sunshine”. And their RoundUp Ads in India tell women “Liberate yourself, use Roundup”. This is not a recipe for liberation, but being trapped in malnutrition.

As the “Monoculture of the Mind” took over, biodiversity disappeared from our farms and our food. The destruction of biodiverse rich cultivation and diets has given us the malnutrition crisis, with 75% women now suffering from iron deficiency.

Our indigenous biodiversity offers rich sources of iron. Amaranth has 11.0 mg per 100gm of food, buckwheat has 15.5,neem has 25.3,bajra has 8.0,rice bran 35.0,rice flakes 20.0bengal gram roasted 9.5,Bengal gram leaves 23.8 ,cowpea 8.6,horse gram6.77, amaranth greens have upto 38.5,karonda 39.1,lotus stem 60.6, coconut meal 69.4,niger seeds 56.7,cloves 11.7,cumin seeds 11.7.mace 12.3,mango powder (amchur) 45.2,pippali 62.1,poppy seeds 15.9,tamarind pulp 17.0,turmeric 67.8, raisins 7.7……..

The knowledge of growing this diversity and transforming it to food is women’s knowledge. That is why in Navdanya we have created the network for food sovereignty in women’s hands – Mahila Anna Swaraj.

The solution to malnutrition lies in growing nutrition, and growing nutrition means growing biodiversity, it means recognizing the knowledge of biodiversity and nutrition among millions of Indian women who have received it over generations as “Grandmothers Knowledge”. For removing iron deficiency, iron rich plants should be grown everywhere, on farms, in kitchen gardens, in community gardens, in school gardens, on roof tops, in balconies….Iron deficiency was not created by Nature. And we can get rid of it by becoming co-creators and co-producers with Nature.

But there is a “creation myth” that is blind to nature’s creativity and biodiversity, and to the creativity, intelligence and knowledge of women. According to this “creation myth” of capitalist patriarchy, rich and powerful men are the “creators”. They can own life through patents and intellectual property. They can tinker with nature’s complex evolution over millennia, and claim their trivial yet destructive acts of gene manipulation “create” life, “create” food, “create” nutrition. In the case of GM bananas it is one rich man, Bill Gates, financing one Australian scientist, Dale, who knows one crop, the banana, to impose inefficient and hazardous GM bananas on millions of people in India and Uganda who have grown hundreds of banana varieties over thousands of years in addition to thousands of other crops.

The project is a waste of money, and a waste of time. It will take 10 years and millions of dollars to complete the research. But meantime, governments, research agencies, scientists will become blind to biodiversity based, low cost, safe, time tested, democratic alternatives in the hands of women.

Bananas only have 0.44mg of iron per 100 grams of edible portion. All the effort to increase iron content of bananas will fall short of the iron content of our indigenous biodiversity.

Not only is the GM banana not the best choice for providing iron in our diet, it will further threaten biodiversity of bananas and iron rich crops, and introduce new ecological risks.

First, the GM banana, if adopted, will be grown as large monocultures, like GM Bt cotton, and the banana plantations in the banana republics of Central America. Since government and Aid agencies will push this false solution, as has happened with every “miracle” in agriculture, our biodiversity of iron rich foods will disappear.

The idea of “nutrient farming” of a few nutrients in monocultures of a few crops has already started to be pushed at the policy level. The finance Minister announced an Rs 200 crore project for “nutri farms” in his 2013 budget speech.

Humans need a biodiversity of nutrients including a full range of micronutrients and trace elements. These come from healthy soils and biodiversity.

Second, our native banana varieties will be displaced, and contaminated. These include Nedunendran, Zanzibar, Chengalikodan, Manjeri Nendran II

 

Table varieties
Monsmarie, Robusta, Grand Naine, Dwarf Cavendish, Chenkadali, Poovan, Palayankodan,Njalipoovan, Amritsagar, Grosmichel, Karpooravalli, Poomkalli, Koompillakannan, Chinali, Dudhsagar, Poovan, Red banana

 

Culinary varieties

Monthan, Batheea Kanchikela Nendrapadathy

Njalipoovan, Palayankodan, Robusta.

(KERALA AGRICULTURAL UNIVERSITY ORGANIC PRODUCTION OF BANANA (Musa spp.)

 

There is a perverse urge among the biotechnology brigade to declare war against biodiversity in its centre of origin. An attempt was made to introduce Bt brinjal into India which is the centre of diversity for Brinjal. GM corn is being introduced in Mexico, the centre of diversity of corn. The GM banana is being introduced to the two countries where banana is a significant crop and has large diversity. One is India, the other is Uganda, the only country where banana is a staple.

Fourth, as recognized by Harvest Plus, the corporate alliance pushing Biofortification, there could be insurmountable problems with the biofortification of nutrients in foods as they: “… may deliver toxic amounts of nutrients to an individual and also cause its associated side effects (and) the potential that the fortified products will still not be a solution to nutrient deficiencies amongst low income populations who may not be able to afford the new product and children who may not be able to consume adequate amounts.” (Food Biofortification: no answer to ill-health, starvation or malnutrition By Bob Phelpshttp://www.freshfruitportal.com/opinion-biofortification-is-an-obstacle-to-food-justice)

 

Fifth, Australian scientists are using a virus that infects the banana as a promoter. This could spread through horizontal gene transfer. All genetic engineering uses genes from bacteria and viruses. Independent studies have shown that there are health risks associated with GM foods.

 

There is no need for introducing a hazardous technology in a low iron food like bananas (which brings us many other health benefits )when we have so many affordable, accessible, safe and diverse options for meeting our nutritional needs of iron.

 

We have to grow nutrition by growing biodiversity, not industrially “fortify” nutritionally empty food at high cost, or put one or two nutrients into genetically engineered crops.

 

We don’t need these irresponsible experiments, that create new threats to biodiversity and our health, imposed by powerful men in distant places, who are totally ignorant of the biodiversity in our fields and thalis, and who never bear the consequences of their destructive power. We need to put food security in women’s hands so that the last woman and the last child can share in nature’s gifts of biodiversity.

 

Monsanto’s Dark History


MONSANTO CHEMICAL COMPANY AT NITRO ON THE KANA...

 

By EcoWatch

06 April 13

rom its beginnings as a small chemical company in 1901, Monsanto has grown into the largest biotechnology seed company in the world with net sales of $11.8 billion, 404 facilities in 66 countries across six continents and products grown on more than 282 million acres worldwide. Today, the consumer advocacy nonprofit Food & Water Watch released its report, Monsanto: A Corporate Profile.

“There is a growing movement of people around the country who want to take on Monsanto’s undue influence over lawmakers, regulators and the food supply,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch and author of the book Foodopoly. “People need to know about Monsanto’s history as a heavy industrial chemical manufacturer; a reality at odds with the environmentally friendly, feed-the-world image that the company spends millions trying to convey.”

“At the end of March, the American public saw first hand the unjustifiable power that Monsanto holds over our elected officials when an unprecedented rider, dubbed the ‘Monsanto Protection Act,’ was tacked onto the spending bill to fund the federal government,” said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now! “This is an outrageous interference with our courts and separation of powers and we cannot sit back and allow our elected officials to continue to take orders from Monsanto at the expense of family farmers and consumers.”

The report offers a timeline of milestones in the company’s history including chemical disasters, mergers and acquisitions, and the first genetically modified plant cell.

“Despite its various marketing incarnations over the years, Monsanto is a chemical company that got its start selling saccharin to Coca-Cola, then Agent Orange to the U.S. military, and, in recent years, seeds genetically engineered to contain and withstand massive amounts of Monsanto herbicides and pesticides,” said Ronnie Cummins, executive director of Organic Consumers Association. “Monsanto has become synonymous with the corporatization and industrialization of our food supply.”

The report concludes with recommended actions for the federal government to take to temper Monsanto’s anti-competitive practices and control over agricultural research and government policies. It also suggests steps that regulators should take to better protect consumers and the environment from the potentially harmful effects of genetically engineered (GE) crops.

“Even though you won’t find the Monsanto brand on a food or beverage container at your local grocery store, the company holds vast power over our food supply,” said Rebecca Spector, west coast director of Center for Food Safety. “This power is largely responsible for something else we cannot find on our grocery store shelves-labels on genetically engineered food. Not only has Monsanto’s and other agribusinesses’ efforts prevented the labeling of GE foods, but they spend millions to block grassroots efforts like California’s Prop 37 in order to keep consumers in the dark.”

“The chemical pesticide industry, with Monsanto leading the way, took over U.S. seed industry and engineered bacterial genes into food crops with the primary purpose of selling more weed killer that contaminates our food, water and bodies,” said David Bronner, the CEO of Dr. Bronner‘s Magic Soaps and leader in GE food labeling campaigns across the country.” Just like the citizens of Europe, Japan and China, Americans deserve the right to opt out of the genetically engineered food science experiment.”

 

 

#India -GM crops will sow food insecurity


KAVITA SRIVASTAVA, The Hindu

Farmers destroying GM crops in Karnataka. GM crops are input-intensive and labour-displacing. — K. Bhagya Prakash

Farmers destroying GM crops in Karnataka. GM crops are input-intensive and labour-displacing. — K. Bhagya Prakash

The recent affidavit filed by the Ministry of Agriculture in the Supreme Court arguing that if India does not walk the path of genetically modified (GM) food, then it will starve, gives a scary picture of how the highest court of the country can be misguided in order to protect global corporate interests.

This is a lie, because the situation of hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity of the people in the country is not due to inadequacy of production (we have had record production in the last three years), but due to distribution and purchasing power. The Indian Government is one of the world’s biggest hoarders of foodgrains, about 667 lakh tonnes as on January 1, 2013. This makes the current stock 2.5 times more than the Government’s own benchmark for buffer stocks. One wonders why our Government continues to insist that lack of food production is the cause for hunger in this country?

The question to ask is, why are these mountains of foodgrains not being distributed to the people when a third of the children are born malnourished, half of children are underweight and a third of the adult population has a body mass index (BMI) of below 18.5, one of the worst in the world.

Corporate interests

The Planning Commission’s estimate of the required subsistence calorie intake for defining the poverty line is set at 2,400 calories per person per day in rural areas and 2,100 calories per person per day in urban areas. Going by that figure, at least 80 per cent of the population in rural areas and 50 per cent in urban areas fall below the required subsistence intake. We stand way down the Global hunger Index at 65th out of 88 nations, worse than many sub-Saharan African countries.

Despite repeated Supreme Court orders regarding distribution of foodgrains to the poor at Antyodaya prices, the Government does not comply and refuses to allow food to be distributed through the public distribution system (PDS), although clandestine ways are used to export the grain abroad. And now we have this attempt of the Agriculture Ministry with its GM promotion to push for global corporate interests by riding on the backs of our starving millions. It is important to ask whether GM crops are a solution much worse than the problem that is being sought to be addressed.

The decision of bringing in GM food may not only harm Indian agriculture overwhelmingly but also push a majority of people to the brink of starvation. GM crops are an extension of input-intensive and labour-displacing model of industrial agriculture. Hence, they would harm small and marginal farmers and farm labourers, majority of whom are women. It is important to observe that agriculture, unique among sectors of production, plays the dual role of providing an enormously important source of livelihood and of producing the means of life.

Output Mirage

To link GM to increased food production, and hence food security, is a fallacy. Evidence is emerging that food security indicators have not improved but only deteriorated in countries that have adopted GM crops elsewhere in substantial areas. A recent letter from hundreds of Indian scientists, sent to the Minister for Environment and Forests, presents clear and strong evidence on this.

From our experience with Bt cotton it is clear that cultivation of GM crops, though it failed to increase yields, definitely increases input costs because of the royalty attached to seeds. It also includes increased irrigation and agrochemical requirements. Food security also means availability of safe food. There is growing scientific evidence questioning the safety of GM food. This shows the irresponsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture towards the people of this country, in advocating the introduction of yet-to-be-proven-safe technologies with several potential hazards as a part of our food systems.

Comprehensive provisions

Hunger and malnutrition are the greatest threat to India’s national security. The National Food Security Bill is a crucial opportunity to address this. We hope that this will not be missed when Parliament deliberates the report of the Standing Committee on Food and Consumer Affairs on the National Food Security Bill 2011. The present Bill and the Standing Committee recommendations have undermined the issues of farmers and consumers, by not recommending measures to ensure sustainable food production, guaranteeing MSP at real input costs, or providing safe food which is free of contamination from GMOs or agrochemicals.

Instead, the committee has recommended the provisioning of fortified foodgrains andatta (flour) under the PDS which opens the door for commercialisation of both agriculture and the food system; fortification of food grains could also open the doors for GM technologies.

The committee’s recommendations have also undermined the right to food of children, by provisioning maternal entitlements for only the first two children, thus denying the exclusive breast feeding rights of subsequent children born to the family and also not providing legal cover to the Anganwadis. It has undermined the vulnerable people’s right to food by not bringing Community Kitchens under the law, and undermined nutritional security by only talking of distribution of cereals.

Further, it falls far short of providing adequate food to all (universal) through the PDS, by only covering 67 per cent of the population with as little as 5 kg of cereals per head per month. It, finally, has not provided for criminal penalties or independent grievance redressal systems, essentially diluting the legal guarantees given by the Supreme Court in the “right to food” case. We hope that Parliament will undo what the Ministry of Agriculture is trying to do through the courts and bring in the wisdom that food security must address issues related to access to resources (land, forests and water), provide for revival of agriculture, protect livelihoods of food producers, especially small & and marginal farmers, and preserve local food systems.

In order to ensure that we are a society free of malnutrition and hunger, the need of the hour is to immediately legislate a truly comprehensive food security Bill rather than the myopic one that is being proposed.


By arguing that GM crops are essential to food security, the Government seeks to conceal the underlying reality.


(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 20, 2013)

 

Corporate Push for GMO Food Puts Independent Science in Jeopardy


by Vandana Shiva, Asian Age Dec 7.2012

Science is considered science when it is independent, when it has integrity and when it speaks the truth about its search. It was the integrity, independence and sovereignty of science that drew me and propelled me to study physics.(Photo: rodale.com)

Today, independent science is threatened with extinction. While this is true in every field, it is the field of food and agriculture that I am most concerned about.

At the heart of the food and agriculture debate are genetically modified organisms, also referred to as GMOs. The agrochemical industry’s new avatar is as the GMO industry. According to the industry, GMOs are necessary to remove hunger and are safe.

But evidence from all independent scientists has established that GMOs do not contribute to food security. The UN-sponsored International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report — written by 400 scientists after a research of three to four years — concluded that there is no evidence that GMOs increase food security. The Union of Concerned scientists concluded in its report, “A Failure to Yield”, that in the US, genetic engineering had not increased the yield. “The GMO Emperor Has No Clothes” — a Global Citizens’ report on the state of GMOs based on field research across the world — also found that genetic engineering has not increased yields. Yet, the propaganda continues that GMOs are the only solution to hunger because GMOs increase yields.

The Supreme Court of India appointed an independent Technical Expert Committee (TEC) to advise it on issues of biosafety. The committee has some of India’s most eminent scientists, including Dr Imran Siddiqui, director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, and Dr P.S. Ramakrishnan, India’s leading biodiversity expert and professor emeritus at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

One would have expected the government to accept the recommendations of this eminent panel and to throw its weight behind the integrity and independence of science.

The most effective road to reducing hunger and malnutrition is to intensify land use in terms of biodiversity and ecological processes of renewal of soil fertility. Biodiverse ecological farms increase food and nutrition output per acre.

Instead, the government is throwing its weight behind the industry and its fraudulent claims. The Centre has joined the industry in opposing the expert committee’s report recommending moratorium on open field trial of GM crops for 10 years. Responding to a direct query from a bench presided over by Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice S.J. Mukhopadaya, Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, appearing for the Centre, said that the Centre does not accept the recommendations of the TEC. With the industry also filing objections to the report, the court directed the expert committee to give a final report after considering objections by various parties.

Stressing on the need to introduce GM crops, the Centre has said it would not be able to meet the first millennium development goal (MDG) of cutting the number of hungry people by half without such technologies. A moratorium of 10 years would take the country 20 years back in scientific research, it added.

These are fallacious arguments. Only two per cent of the GMO soy in the US is eaten by humans. The rest is used as biofuel to run cars and as animal feed. More GMOs do not mean more food.

The most effective road to reducing hunger and malnutrition is to intensify land use in terms of biodiversity and ecological processes of renewal of soil fertility. Biodiverse ecological farms increase food and nutrition output per acre.

The real scientific need for India and the world is to do research on agroecology, on how biodiversity and agro-ecosystems can produce more food while using lesser resources.

In the chemical industrial paradigm, seed and soil are empty containers to add toxic chemicals and genes to, and water is limitless. Industrial agriculture is destroying the natural capital on which food security depends.

All independent research on safety indicates that GMOs have serious biosafety issues. This is why we have a UN biosafety protocol.

The industrial agriculture and GMO paradigm has no understanding of the millions of soil organisms that produce soil fertility, the thousands of crop species that feed us, the amazing work of pollinators like bees and butterflies. And because ecological interactions that produce food are a black hole in the GMO paradigm, the impact of the release of GMOs in the environment is also a black hole. Independent science is vital to fill the gaps in knowledge about the ecology of food production and the ecology of biosafety. This is the knowledge gap that the TEC and independent scientists everywhere are trying to fill.

All independent research on safety indicates that GMOs have serious biosafety issues. This is why we have a UN biosafety protocol.

Beginning with Hungarian-born biochemist and nutritionist Dr Arpad Putzai and continuing with French scientist Dr Seralini, industry and its lobbyists assault every independent scientist whose research shows that GMOs have risks. Dr Putzai’s research, commissioned by the UK government, showed that rats fed with GMO potatoes had shrunken brains, enlarged pancreas and damaged immunity. Dr Putzai was hounded out of his lab and a gag order was put on him.

The publication of a paper in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology “Long Term Toxicity of a Roundup Herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant GM Maize” by Dr Seralini et al (2012) has generated intense debate on the safety or otherwise of Monsanto’s GM maize NK603.

The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) welcomes Dr Seralini’s study. I joined 120 scientists to sign a letter —Seralini and Science: An Open Letter — supporting Dr Seralini’s study.

Independent science is vital to fill the gaps in knowledge about the ecology of food production and the ecology of biosafety.

Russia and Kazakhstan have since halted imports of NK603 maize and, more recently, the Kenyan Cabinet has issued a directive to stop the import of GM foods due to inadequate research done on GMOs and lack of scientific evidence to prove the safety of the food.

This precautionary approach is what India’s Supreme Court-appointed TEC is calling for.

Citizens of California had put up Proposition 37 in the recent elections for something as simple as the “Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food” by having a label on GMO foods. This is recognised as a citizen’s right in Europe and now in India. But the California vote was defeated by industry spending — big food industry players are paying big bucks to battle California’s GMO labelling initiative. According to reports, they are spending as much as $1 million a day on false and misleading advertising.

If citizens don’t have the right to know and scientists don’t have the freedom to speak the truth, we are creating societies that are dangerous — both in terms of loss of democratic freedom and in terms of risking biosafety.

Independent scientists, along with the bees and biodiversity of our plants and seeds, could well become a species threatened with extinction if we do not stop the GMO drone.

 

#India-Bt failure to hit cotton yield by 40%: Govt


Published: Monday, Nov 26, 2012, 5:48 IST
By Yogesh Pawar | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

For the first time, Maharashtra has officially admitted that cotton yield is likely to reduce by nearly 40%. Bt cotton failure in more than 4 million hectares of land has reduced cotton yieldfrom 3.5 million quintal to 2.2 million quintal.

A report sent by the state agricultural department to the Centre states that the estimate of the net direct economic loss to cotton farmers in the state will be nearly Rs6,000 crore, whereas accumulated losses are likely to cross more than Rs20,000 crore due to a steep rise in cultivation costs.

Farmers and activists in the state’s cotton belt say the rise in the prices of Bt cotton seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and labour since last year has had a huge impact. “The agrarian crisis sweeping through the state due to Bt cotton failure has only widened. Unlike when cotton crop failure was reported only from Vidarbha and Marathawada, reports of such crop failure are now coming in from Khandesh in north Maharashtra, too,” said Kishore Tiwari of farm advocacy group Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti.

National Crime Records Bureau reveals that the number of farmer suicides in Maharashtra are likely to cross 5,000 this year in comparison to the 3,500 last year. The figures last year were, in fact, the highest among all states in India.

This is the third year in a row that Bt cotton failure is being reported in Mahahrashtra. Last year, the state paid Rs2,000 crore to 4 million cotton farmers as compensation. Unlike earlier when dry land farmers were affected, even areas with adequate irrigation are facing a crop loss this year.

Ravindra Shinde, a farmer from Dhamane village in Dhule, had taken a loan like several others, and is now worried about repaying it. “I spent Rs50,000 per hectare this year but Rs30,000 last year. Now with crops failing, I don’t know what to do?” he said.

According to state records, Maharashtra grows Bt cotton in 4.2 million hectares of land. This is the largest among all cotton-producing states. Even thenit has been reporting lowest cotton yield of about 5 quintal per hectare since 2006. The latest official estimate says this is likely to fall to 3 quintal per hectare. “This means a net loss of more than Rs38,000 per hectare!” points out Tiwari, who plans to lead debt-trapped farmers in march to the legislative council on December 11 during the winter session at Nagpur.

“We demand a compensation of Rs20,000 per hectare and fresh crop loans for every farmer for the ensuing kharif season. We also want food security and free health education, along with the implementation ofland development, soil enrichment and watershed development under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,” he said.

He appealed to the government not to mock the farmers. “We hope the state relief packages actually help farmers this time instead of just benefiting contractors, politicians and multinational agro majors like it has in the past.”

 

SC panel calls for 10-year ban on GM trials #goodnews #Monsanto



Scientists qualified in evaluation of bio safety data to be engaged to analyse safety data
Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi Oct 19, 2012, 10:14 IST

The Technical Expert Committee appointed by the Supreme Court to assess the safety of GM crops has in its interim report recommended a ten-year moratorium on field trials of BT transgenics in all edible food crops meant for human consumption.

The moratorium which has been in place following a decision take by the then Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has now been seconded by this panel which was set up in May this year in a petition by Aruna Rodrigues versus Union of India.

Giving reasons for the unanimous recommendation of the five member committee , the report cites the precautionary principle in the matter of open field trials of GMOs, Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety and in the Rio Declaration of 1992 of which India is a signatory.
But the other reasons it said included the time required to identify specific sites for conducting such trials and the time needed for devising and putting in place a sufficient mechanism for monitoring the trials. It has advised designation and certification of specific sites for conducting open free trials whenever they are performed.

The committee further said that ten years were needed to ensure fulfillment of another of its recommendation which is to ensure that a panel of scientists qualified in evaluation of bio safety data is engaged to analyse safety data.

It said that there was conflict of interest in regulatory bodies and considerable time was needed to get rid of this. It also asked for time so that regulations include requirement for preliminary bio safety tests including toxicity in small animals .

It has also called for a ban on outsourcing and sub contracting of field trials.The TEC’s specific mandate was to advise whether GM trials should be banned or not and if they were to be allowed what precautions were to be taken.

The report echoes the recommendations made recently by a parliamentary standing committee on GM crops.

The order is to be now examined by the Supreme Court on October 29.

Civil society hailed the recommendations for a ten year ban on GM open trials. Suman Sahai GM expert and scientist said that she hoped the report would be accepted. The Coalition for a GM-Free India welcomed the interim report and said it would wait for the Supreme Court’s hearing in the matter.

”While earlier inquiries and debates have been discounted by GM proponents as ‘political’, or ‘emotional’, or ‘non-scientific’ inquiries and recommendations/decisions, it is worth noting that the TEC consists only of scientists, including scientists from the government as its representatives. The members of the TEC included PS Chauhan, PC Keshavan, Prof PS Ramakrishnan, Dr Imran Siddiqi and B Shivakumar.

 

Bar GM food crops, says parliamentary panels #BTbrinjal #Goodnews


basudeb

The committee found that the present regulatory system in our country which comprises of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is inadequate and the regulatory system needs to be more robust, ensuring severe scrutiny.Basudeb Acharia
Chairperson, parliamentary committee on agriculture

A parliamentary committee has recommended halting all field trials of genetically modified (GM) seeds and sought an independent probe into how the government had accorded approval to Bt brinjal, a seed that was developed by Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Ltd (Mahyco).

Though it’s not mandatory for the government to accept the parliamentary standing committee’s recommendations, the suggestions of several such panels have significantly influenced government policy. Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh in 2010 imposed a moratorium on the sale of Bt brinjal seeds in India.

The recommendations of the panel comes a day after the Maharashtra government cancelled Mahyco’s licence to sell Bt cotton seed in the state. This was after allegations that the company had misinformed state agricultural officials on the availability of Bt cotton seeds for farmers.

Mahyco said in a statement that it will wait to hear from the government before addressing issues around the ban.

“In India, where 82% of the agriculture industry is of small farmers and where there is huge biodiversity, we should not go for GM foods. Even if we take the argument that we have to increase our food production according to the demands, we should look into indigenous ways to enhance it,” said Basudeb Acharya, chairman of the standing committee on agriculture and a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Pointing out that the introduction of Bt cotton was not discussed in Parliament before it was introduced in the country, Acharya said there was neither a study on its impact on cattlefeed made out of the cotton seeds, nor was any specific regulatory body to ensure food safety and standards.

The parliamentary panel, which met around 1,500 farmers in Goregaon in Maharashtra, also found they were left with no other alternatives to Bt cotton seeds in the market.

“The production cost, which was reduced due to less usage of pesticides, has been increasing,” Acharya said. “And we found largest number of suicides were reported from the areas where Bt Cotton is grown.”

The committee also pointed out that Ayurvedic medical practitioners have complained it had an adverse impact on the medicinal plants grown in the area.

The panel’s study on Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops—Prospects and Effects is among the most extensive studies conducted by a parliamentary standing committee. The panel received 467 memorandums, 14,862 documents and reviewed evidences given by 50 organizations during its 27 sittings on the subject.

While Bt cotton is the only GM plant that’s allowed to be cultivated, several private companies have been looking at introducing different kinds of GM seeds, including rice, tomato and wheat.

Following protests from civil society groups and farmers, several state government’s have banned trials of GM crops.

To bring greater transparency in the way crops are tested, the government has proposed an independent regulator, called the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India. Legislation to set up the authority has been pending for two years.

Earlier this year, the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution ruled that all packaged food that was sourced from GM ingredients had to be labelled so.

The “report vindicates the concerns and positions taken by many state governments in India, such as Bihar, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, etc., which have disallowed GM crops, including field trials. It also vindicates the larger public demand not to allow GM crops into our food and farming systems” Sridhar Radhakrishnan, convener of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, a group that is opposed to the introduction of GM crops, said in a statement.

jacob.k@livem

 

Ban on Mahyco seed sale
Maharashtra Government has cancelled the licence of agriculture seed major Mahyco, to sell Bt cotton seeds in the state, following complaints.

Minister for Agriculture Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said the state government was left with no option but to cancel the company’s licence, given the serious nature of the complaints. “The government has cancelled the licence of Mahyco to sell with immediate effect,” Pune-based state Agriculture Commissioner Umakant Dangat told PTI over phone. “We were hearing several complaints against them from last 2-3 years. They did advance booking but did not supply seeds. Last year, there was an acute seed shortage in the state,” Dangat said.

Mahyco did not give us its seed distribution programme for this year. There were complaints that seeds were sold in Beed and Jalna districts at inflated prices, he said.

How Monsanto Is Sabotaging Efforts to Label Genetically Modified Food


Lobbyists from the biotech industry are ardently opposing GMO labeling.
June 26, 2012  |

Photo Credit: illuminating9_11

As the 2012 Farm Bill continues to take shape in the halls of the United States Congress, the immense influence of corporate interests is on display.

On June 21 the United States Senate voted overwhelmingly against the Sanders Amendment that would have allowed states to pass legislation that required food and beverage products to label whether or not they contain genetically engineered ingredients.

The amendment, proposed by Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, is particularly relevant as many states prepare to vote on a ballot initiatives that would require such labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods.

Lobbyists from the biotech industry have ardently opposed GMO labelling. These opponents argue that because food labelling has historically been handled by the Food and Drug Association (FDA), it is a federal issue and, therefore, individual states do not have the right to implement such legislation. Indeed, in the case of Vermont, Sanders’ home state, Monsanto successfully intimidated the state legislature from voting on a bill that would have required GMO labelling.

Patty Lovera, the assistant director of Food and Water Watch, explained that states planning to vote on GM labelling in November could face a legal fight to defend their right to enact such laws.

“However, this amendment would have taken this threat away,” Lovera told IPS.

In a move heralded by food advocates, Sanders introduced amendment 2310 on June 14 this year, after his own state legislature backed out of voting on the popular bill, H.722, also known as the Vermont Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.

Vermont lawmakers allowed the bill to stall – and ultimately die – in the Vermont House Agriculture Committee in April, after a representative from biotech giant, Monsanto, threatened to sue the state if the bill passed.
Significantly, the Senate vote, 73-26, did not fall along partisan lines, with 28 Democrats voting against the Sanders Amendment.

Lovera emphasised that the powerful biotech lobby informs how politicians vote. “This doesn’t happen overnight, this is a result of years and years of lobbying and pressure from the biotech industry,” she said.

In a report published in November 2010, Food and Water Watch revealed that the largest food and agricultural biotechnology firms and trade associations spent a total of 572 million dollars on campaign contributions and lobbying over the course of ten years.

Importance of Labelling

The Senate vote comes amidst near global agreement that there is a need for GMO labelling.

Codex Alimentarius, the food safety arm of the United Nations, concluded last year after nearly 18 years of debate, that countries were free to label goods as containing genetically engineered ingredients and that labelling of genetically-modified organisms would indeed help inform consumers’ choices.

“GMO labels are a risk management measure to deal with any scientific uncertainty,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with the Consumers Union, who has been a long-time advocate for mandatory testing and labelling of genetically engineered (GE) foods.

“Labelling is the only way to track unintended effects,” Hansen said. “How can you know what you are allergic to if you do not know you are eating GMO’s?”

In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Association’s hands-off approach to regulating genetically engineered foodstuffs runs contrary to international standards. Currently the U.S. is the only developed country that does not require safety testing for GE plants. However, the Codex Alimentarius instructs countries to conduct safety assessments of all GE plants.
According to testimony written by Dr. Hansen, “This means the U.S. cannot meet the global standards for safety assessment of GE foods. Consequently, countries that require food safety assessments for GE foods could block shipment of such GE foods from the U.S.”

Recent polls conducted by MSNBC and Thompson Reuters found that between 93 and 96 percent of the American public believe genetically engineered foods should be labeled as such.

California’s GMO labelling initiative collected close to one million signatures, doubling over the requisite 500,000 signatures to secure a place on the November ballot, and the FDA received over 850,000 letters in support of labelling GE food.

Voting as they did, the U.S. Senate did not in any way reflect the desires of their constituents or reflect the guidance of food experts.

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