Tag Archive | "Cotton"

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Genetically Modified Soy Linked to Sterility, Infant Mortality

Posted on 20 April 2010 by admin

“This study was just routine,” said Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov, in what could end up as the understatement of this century. Surov and his colleagues set out to discover if Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) soy, grown on 91% of US soybean fields, leads to problems in growth or reproduction. What he discovered may uproot a multi-billion dollar industry.

After feeding hamsters for two years over three generations, those on the GM diet, and especially the group on the maximum GM soy diet, showed devastating results. By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies. They also suffered slower growth, and a high mortality rate among the pups.

And if this isn’t shocking enough, some in the third generation even had hair growing inside their mouths–a phenomenon rarely seen, but apparently more prevalent among hamsters eating GM soy.

The study, jointly conducted by Surov’s Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Association for Gene Security, is expected to be published in three months (July 2010)–so the technical details will have to wait. But Surov sketched out the basic set up for me in an email.

He used Campbell hamsters, with a fast reproduction rate, divided into 4 groups. All were fed a normal diet, but one was without any soy, another had non-GM soy, a third used GM soy, and a fourth contained higher amounts of GM soy. They used 5 pairs of hamsters per group, each of which produced 7-8 litters, totally 140 animals.

Surov told The Voice of Russia,

“Originally, everything went smoothly. However, we noticed quite a serious effect when we selected new pairs from their cubs and continued to feed them as before. These pairs’ growth rate was slower and reached their sexual maturity slowly.”

He selected new pairs from each group, which generated another 39 litters. There were 52 pups born to the control group and 78 to the non-GM soy group. In the GM soy group, however, only 40 pups were born. And of these, 25% died. This was a fivefold higher death rate than the 5% seen among the controls. Of the hamsters that ate high GM soy content, only a single female hamster gave birth. She had 16 pups; about 20% died.

Surov said “The low numbers in F2 [third generation] showed that many animals were sterile.”

The published paper will also include measurements of organ size for the third generation animals, including testes, spleen, uterus, etc. And if the team can raise sufficient funds, they will also analyze hormone levels in collected blood samples.

Hair Growing in the Mouth

Earlier this year, Surov co-authored a paper in Doklady Biological Sciences showing that in rare instances, hair grows inside recessed pouches in the mouths of hamsters.

“Some of these pouches contained single hairs; others, thick bundles of colorless or pigmented hairs reaching as high as the chewing surface of the teeth. Sometimes, the tooth row was surrounded with a regular brush of hair bundles on both sides. The hairs grew vertically and had sharp ends, often covered with lumps of a mucous.”

(The photos of these hair bundles are truly disgusting. Trust me, or look for yourself.)

At the conclusion of the study, the authors surmise that such an astounding defect may be due to the diet of hamsters raised in the laboratory. They write, “This pathology may be exacerbated by elements of the food that are absent in natural food, such as genetically modified (GM) ingredients (GM soybean or maize meal) or contaminants (pesticides, mycotoxins, heavy metals, etc.).” Indeed, the number of hairy mouthed hamsters was much higher among the third generation of GM soy fed animals than anywhere Surov had seen before.

Preliminary, but Ominous

Surov warns against jumping to early conclusions. He said, “It is quite possible that the GMO does not cause these effects by itself.” Surov wants to make the analysis of the feed components a priority, to discover just what is causing the effect and how.

In addition to the GMOs, it could be contaminants, he said, or higher herbicide residues, such as Roundup. There is in fact much higher levels of Roundup on these beans; they’re called “Roundup Ready.” Bacterial genes are forced into their DNA so that the plants can tolerate Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. Therefore, GM soy always carries the double threat of higher herbicide content, couple with any side effects of genetic engineering.

Years of Reproductive Disorders from GMO-Feed

Surov’s hamsters are just the latest animals to suffer from reproductive disorders after consuming GMOs. In 2005, Irina Ermakova, also with the Russian National Academy of Sciences, reported that more than half the babies from mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks. This was also five times higher than the 10% death rate of the non-GMO soy group. The babies in the GM group were also smaller (see photo) and could not reproduce.

In a telling coincidence, after Ermakova’s feeding trials, her laboratory started feeding all the rats in the facility a commercial rat chow using GM soy. Within two months, the infant mortality facility-wide reached 55%.

When Ermakova fed male rats GM soy, their testicles changed from the normal pink to dark blue! Italian scientists similarly found changes in mice testes (PDF), including damaged young sperm cells. Furthermore, the DNA of embryos from parent mice fed GM soy functioned differently.

An Austrian government study published in November 2008 showed that the more GM corn was fed to mice, the fewer the babies they had (PDF), and the smaller the babies were.

Central Iowa Farmer Jerry Rosman also had trouble with pigs and cows becoming sterile. Some of his pigs even had false pregnancies or gave birth to bags of water. After months of investigations and testing, he finally traced the problem to GM corn feed. Every time a newspaper, magazine, or TV show reported Jerry’s problems, he would receive calls from more farmers complaining of livestock sterility on their farm, linked to GM corn.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine accidentally discovered that rats raised on corncob bedding “neither breed nor exhibit reproductive behavior.” Tests on the corn material revealed two compounds that stopped the sexual cycle in females “at concentrations approximately two-hundredfold lower than classical phytoestrogens.” One compound also curtailed male sexual behavior and both substances contributed to the growth of breast and prostate cancer cell cultures. Researchers found that the amount of the substances varied with GM corn varieties. The crushed corncob used at Baylor was likely shipped from central Iowa, near the farm of Jerry Rosman and others complaining of sterile livestock.

In Haryana, India, a team of investigating veterinarians report that buffalo consuming GM cottonseed suffer from infertility, as well as frequent abortions, premature deliveries, and prolapsed uteruses. Many adult and young buffalo have also died mysteriously.

Denial, Attack and Canceled Follow-up

Scientists who discover adverse findings from GMOs are regularly attacked, ridiculed, denied funding, and even fired. When Ermakova reported the high infant mortality among GM soy fed offspring, for example, she appealed to the scientific community to repeat and verify her preliminary results. She also sought additional funds to analyze preserved organs. Instead, she was attacked and vilified. Samples were stolen from her lab, papers were burnt on her desk, and she said that her boss, under pressure from his boss, told her to stop doing any more GMO research. No one has yet repeated Ermakova’s simple, inexpensive studies.

In an attempt to offer her sympathy, one of her colleagues suggested that maybe the GM soy will solve the over population problem!

Surov reports that so far, he has not been under any pressure.

Opting Out of the Massive GMO Feeding Experiment

Without detailed tests, no one can pinpoint exactly what is causing the reproductive travesties in Russian hamsters and rats, Italian and Austrian mice, and livestock in India and America. And we can only speculate about the relationship between the introduction of genetically modified foods in 1996, and the corresponding upsurge in low birth weight babies, infertility, and other problems among the US population. But many scientists, physicians, and concerned citizens don’t think that the public should remain the lab animals for the biotech industry’s massive uncontrolled experiment.

Alexey Surov says, “We have no right to use GMOs until we understand the possible adverse effects, not only to ourselves but to future generations as well. We definitely need fully detailed studies to clarify this. Any type of contamination has to be tested before we consume it, and GMO is just one of them.”

International bestselling author and filmmaker Jeffrey M. Smith is the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology. His first book, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating, is the world’s bestselling and #1 rated book on GMOs. His second, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, documents 65 health risks of the GM foods Americans eat everyday. Both are distributed by Chelsea Green Publishing. To help you choose healthier, non-GMO brands, use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide.

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After Monsanto’s GMO Meltdown in the USA

Posted on 14 April 2010 by admin

After Monsanto’s GM Meltdown in the USA…

Syngenta comes to the rescue to keep the transgenic treadmill going Prof. Joe Cummins

A fully referenced version of this article is posted on ISIS members’ website and can be downloaded here

MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FORM WITHOUT EXPLICIT PERMISSION. FOR PERMISSION, AND REPRODUCTION REQUIREMENTS, PLEASE CONTACT ISIS. WHERE PERMISSION IS GRANTED ALL LINKS MUST REMAIN UNCHANGED

One major impact of crops genetically modified (GM) for insect resistance is that the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cry toxins conferring insect resistance are specific for particular pests. After the Bt crops have been planted for several years, the target pest is usually diminished, leaving an ecological niche into which another insect pest species may invade. This has already happened with Bt cotton in India [1] (Mealy Bug Plagues Bt Cotton in India and PakistanSiS45) and in the United Stated, where the tarnished plant bug has emerged as the major pest in the cotton belt [2] (GM Crops Facing Meltdown in the USA,SiS 46).

Now Christoph Then of Test Biotech, an independent German research group, reports on the spread of the western bean cutworm (Striacosta albicosta) and the massive damage inflicted on Bt maize in the United States [3]: “The infestation has been observed since the year 2000.…. This cutworm has historically been confined to very limited regions and did not cause any major problems in maize crops. For several years now the pest has been spreading into more and more regions within the US Corn Belt and causing substantial economic damage. In 2009, maize plants affected by the western bean cutworm were even found in Canada for the first time. According to scientific publications, this new pest has been caused by the large-scale cultivation of genetically engineered plants expressing Cry1Ab such as MON810. It is seen as a case of ‘pest replacement’, often found where there is extensive use of pesticides in industrial agriculture. Pest replacement means that new ecological niches open up which other competitors then occupy. In this case, a naturally occurring competitor of the western bean cutworm has been intentionally suppressed by the extensive cultivation of Bt maize plants, thus allowing the new pest to spread on a large scale and heavily infest the crop. A whole arsenal of insecticides – some of them highly toxic – and genetically engineered multi-stacked maize are recommended for controlling the pest.”

Syngenta MIR162 to the rescue

For the most part, the pesticides used to combat new pests are toxic, expensive and leave residues on food and feed.  The Bt Cry toxins available for genetic modification have not proven   sufficiently effective against the newly emerged pest. Syngenta Corporation was quick to fill the pesticide gap by introducing a maize line called Agrisure Viptera to control western bean cutworm.  That GM maize line is derived from event MIR162 incorporating a Bt vegetative insecticidal protein, VIP3Aa [4]. VIP toxins are produced in growing Bt cells as distinct from the Cry toxins that are produced as crystals in stationary stage sporulating Bt cells. Agrisure Viptera was cleared for commercial release by USDA/APHIS and USEPA in time for the growing season in 2010.

Event MIR162’s Bt insecticidal vegetative protein gene vip3Aa20 is driven by a maize polyubiquitin promoter with the CaMV 35S 3’ polyadenylation termination signal. A selectable marker pmi encoding mannose-6-phosphate isomerise from E. coli, also driven by the maize polyubiquitin promoter, withAgrobacterium nopaline synthase terminator. The phosphomannose-isomerase converts mannose-6-phosphate to fructose-6-phosphate. Only transformed cells are capable of utilizing mannose as a carbon source. Transgenic plants regenerated from selected transformed immature embryo-derived calli contained the pmi gene and the gene was transmitted to the progeny in ‘Mendelian’ fashion [6]. (This is based on the statistical misuse of failure to depart from ‘Mendelian ratios’ as evidence of transgene stability,  as pointed out by ISIS [7] GM Rice Unstable (isisnews 9/10). The Syngenta petition for non-regulated status of MIR162 maize was an extensive document describing the construction of the transgenic maize line and its field testing for productivity and resistance to pests. VIP3Aa20 produces pores in the gut cell membrane of insect pests that caused the cells to burst; its target cell proteins are different from those of the Cry proteins. The impact of MIR163 on non target organisms were examined, but only with the VIP3Aa20 protein produced in the bacterium E coli, which is  different from that expressed in the transgenic maize.  The latter is transcribed from a DNA sequence that had been altered to optimise production of VIP3Aa20 protein in maize, differing by several amino acids, but assumed, unjustifiably, to be insignificant [6].

In 2005, USDA/APHIS  determined that Syngenta Corporation cotton event COT102 with transgene VIP3A was no longer regulated, and is now used to control a number of Lepidopteron pests  [8, 9].

Syngenta’s patented death proteins

Syngenta corporation, producer of chemical and biological pesticides, has patented the vip genes for use in transgenic crop plants and microbes [10]. The patent provided evidence that Vip3A toxin produces apoptotic cell death, a series of cytological changes including the production of membrane bound apoptotic bodies and activation of endonuclease enzymes that cleave chromatin into discrete fragments. Apoptosis (meaning petals falling from a flower) or programmed cell death, is common to all cells with discrete nuclei. Apoptosis is a part of normal development, but that induced by VIPp3A toxin is not. In order to function fully in the plant cells the vip3A gene is modified in its coding sequence, and is given additional extraneous sequences: a strong promoter to drive transcription, an intron to facilitate transfer of the pre-messenger RNA from nucleus to cytoplasm, a transcription terminator, and signal for polyA addition. The insect VIP3A receptor was identified and its ‘death domain’ recognition sequence characterized. Organisms whose cells have nuclei generally have families of receptors with ‘death domain’ recognition sequences, just as the insect VIP3A receptor is a unique member of a family of receptors [11, 12]. The death domain of VIP proteins is a 60 to 70 amino-acid motif, that is present in many proteins and phylogenetically conserved, as I pointed out previously [13] (Death Domains in New Bio-pesticidesSiS 26). The effects of VIP proteins on non-target organisms need to be very thoroughly investigated. USDA /APHIS finding of no significant impact (FONSI) has allowed the unconfined cultivation and use of COT102. The environmental assessment responded to public comment about apoptosis,  but did not discuss the topic extensively [12].

Continuing trangennic treadmill

Syngnta seems to have quickly turned adversity into opportunity. Nevertheless, once the western bean cutworm occupied niche is subdued, another resistant pest will appear to provide further opportunity for enriching biotech corporations in the endless transgenic treadmill [14] (see Glyphosate Resistance in Weeds – The Transgenic TreadmillSiS 46).

The only escape from the transgenic meltdown may well be organic cropping [2].

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Monsanto corn crop 80% failure in South Africa

Posted on 06 April 2010 by admin

Monsanto GM-corn harvest fails massively in South Africa

South African farmers suffered millions of dollars in lost income when 82,000 hectares of genetically-manipulated corn (maize) failed to produce hardly any seeds. The plants look lush and healthy from the outside. Monsanto has offered compensation.

Monsanto blames the failure of the three varieties of corn planted on these farms, in three South African provinces,on alleged ‘underfertilisation processes in the laboratory”. Some 280 of the 1,000 farmers who planted the three varieties of Monsanto corn this year, have reported extensive seedless corn problems.

Urgent investigation demanded

However environmental activitist Marian Mayet, director of the Africa-centre for biosecurity in Johannesburg, demands an urgent government investigation and an immediate ban on all GM-foods, blaming the crop failure on Monsanto’s genetically-manipulated technology.

Willem Pelser, journalist of the Afrikaans Sunday paper Rapport, writes from Nelspruit that Monsanto has immediately offered the farmers compensation in three provinces – North West, Free State and Mpumalanga. The damage-estimates are being undertaken right now by the local farmers’ cooperative, Grain-SA. Monsanto claims that ‘less than 25%’ of three different corn varieties were ‘insufficiently fertilised in the laboratory’.

80% crop failure

However Mayet says Monsanto was grossly understating the problem.According to her own information, some farms have suffered up to 80% crop failures. The centre is strongly opposed to GM-food and biologically-manipulated technology in general.

“Monsanto says they just made a mistake in the laboratory, however we say that biotechnology is a failure.You cannot make a ‘mistake’ with three different varieties of corn.’

Demands urgent government investigation:

“We have been warning against GM-technology for years, we have been warning Monsanto that there will be problems,’ said Mayet. She calls for an urgent government investigation and an immediate ban on all GM-foods in South Africa.

“We have been warning against GM-technology for years, we have been warning Monsanto that there will be problems,’ said Mayet. She calls for an urgent government investigation and an immediate ban on all GM-foods in South Africa.

Of the 1,000 South African farmers who planted Monsanto’s GM-maize this year, 280 suffered extensive crop failure, writes Rapport.

Monsanto’s local spokeswoman Magda du Toit said the ‘company is engaged in establishing the exact extent of the damage on the farms’. She did not want to speculate on the extent of the financial losses suffered right now.
Managing director of Monsanto in Africa, Kobus Lindeque, said however that ‘less than 25% of the Monsanto-seeded farms are involved in the loss’. He says there will be ‘a review of the seed-production methods of the three varieties involved in the failure, and we will made the necessary adjustments.’

He denied that the problem was caused in any way by ‘bio-technology’. Instead, there had been ‘insufficient fertilisation during the seed-production process’.
And Grain-SA’s Nico Hawkins says they ‘are still support GM-technology; ‘We will support any technology which will improve production.’ see
He also they were ‘satisfied with Monsanto’s handling of the case,’ and said Grain-SA was ‘closely involved in the claims-adjustment methodology’ between the farmers and Monsanto.

Farmers told Rapport that Monsanto was ‘bending over backwards to try and accommodate them in solving the problem.

“It’s a very good gesture to immediately offer to compensate the farmers for losses they suffered,’ said Kobus van Coller, one of the Free State farmers who discovered that his maize cobs were practically seedless this week.

“One can’t see from the outside whether a plant is unseeded. One must open up the cob leaves to establish the problem,’ he said. The seedless cobs show no sign of disease or any kind of fungus. They just have very few seeds, often none at all.

The South African supermarket-chain Woolworths already banned GM-foods from its shelves in 2000. However South African farmers have been producing GM-corn for years: they were among the first countries other than the United States to start using the Monsanto products.

The South African government does not require any labelling of GM-foods. Corn is the main staple food for South Africa’s 48-million people.

The three maize varieties which failed to produce seeds were designed with a built-in resistance to weed-killers, and manipulated to increase yields per hectare, Rapport writes.


Vandana Shiva discusses 100,000+ Indian suicides after Monsanto 80% cotton crop failures

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China says has not allowed imported GMO grain seeds for planting

Posted on 02 March 2010 by admin

(Reuters) - China will accelerate development of its own genetically modified (GMO) crops, seeking to secure food security and international competitiveness, an official from the country’s Ministry of Agriculture said.

The official from the Ministry’s biosafety administration office also denied recent media reports that China had already approved imported GMO grain seeds for widespread planting. His remarks were published by state media on Wednesday.

“The Ministry of Agriculture has never approved any genetically-modified grain seeds for planting in the country, and there are no GMO grain crops being planted within the country,” said the unnamed official.

The GMO cotton, soy, maize and rapeseed approved for import into China were “restricted to use as raw materials for processing,” but not for planting, said the official.

But the official also described hopes that China will be a leading player in international competition to create and grow its own GMO crops that are resistant to pests and diseases.

“Accelerating technical research on GMO crops and their application and healthy development will provide a vigorous scientific support for the sustainable development of China’s agriculture,” said the official, in the interview that also appeared on the ministry’s website.

Developing GMO strains was important for both international competitiveness and ensuring China’s food security, said the official.

China approved the safety of the insect-resistant Bt strain of rice and phytase corn last November, opening the door to widespread planting of the GMO grain crops, within about three years. [ID:nSP364484]

A survey conducted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) showed that Bt rice could cut pesticide use by as much as 80 percent and save labour costs for farmers, boosting net income by $72 per hectare.

More than 20 GMO crops have been approved for field trials, including wheat, soybean and rapeseed, according to the CAS report published last month.

China’s largest feed mill, the New Hope Group, said the company was supporting GMO corn, which could help China produce enough grain to meet rising demand for animal protein.

“I think GMO technology is a good thing… It can resolve the problem of grain supply for food, for animal feed and industry on limited farmland,” said its chairman, Liu Yonghao, on Tuesday.

“We have no choice, either we import large quantities of corn or grow GMO corn. I think the government will choose to grow GMO corn,” said Liu.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley and Niu Shuping; Editing by Ken Wills)

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Controversy over GMO food crops in India

Posted on 18 February 2010 by admin

After heavy protests, India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, recently blocked the release of “Bt brinjal” until further notice. This Indian eggplant would have been the first GM food introduced to Indian cuisine for direct consumption by humans. Though the use of GM products is not new to India, Bt brinjal has sparked a heated discussion. Here is more on the controversy over genetically modified crops in India.

 

Today, GM, or “Bt” cotton makes up at least 80 per cent of India’s total cotton production. But eight years after its introduction, the Indian public is adamant about keeping GM food off the menus.Bt cotton is now the most common in many countriesBt cotton is now the most common in many countries

Bt is “proteins that act as an insect repellent,” says Christoph Tebbe, an agricultural expert from Germany. “They are produced mainly by soil bacteria. Genetic engineering has taken the genes that produce this insecticide protein (the so-called Bt toxin) from the bacteria and transferred them to plants, allowing the plants to produce the insecticide proteins themselves.”

Bt – friend or foe?

Using Bt means using less chemical insecticides. The US agricultural giant Monsanto has played a role in India’s Bt crops. On their website they say that farmers will soon have to double output in order to feed the world’s growing population. Advocates say GM technology will have to be used for this.

But many disagree, like Jaikrishna Ranganathan from Greenpeace India, “it’s not true that GM crops can increase yields, so Monsanto’s dreams of feeding the world, it is just not possible. The real technology is sitting in organic and ecological techniques.Scientists are looking for ways to make drought resistent cornScientists are looking for ways to make drought resistent corn India’s crisis right now is because of over-use of fertilizers and fertility losses of the soil, which is serious, and GM crops are not addressing it.”

Critics also argue that Indian farmers are forced further into debt, as they buy expensive GM seeds and technologies. But the director of Monsanto India, Dr. Gyanendra Shukla disagrees.

“If you go through the country, more than 5 million farmers are using this technology,” he says. “No farmer would continue to adopt this kind of technology if they are not economically benefited. From the farmer’s perspective it means cost saving, peace of mind, and higher productivity that translates to higher income.”

GM in use today

Dr Shukla also says Bt corn and oil from Bt cotton seed areGM science could be used to fundamentally change the genetic code of plants. This picture shows purple tomatoes growing in a research gardenGM science could be used to fundamentally change the genetic code of plants. This picture shows purple tomatoes growing in a research gardenalready used for direct consumption and that there is a growing trend, “it is a progression of the technology. The technology started first in the US then it went to cotton. Recently China has approved Bt rice. So, it’s just a question of time. This technology is now in existence for thirteen, fourteen years, so I guess slowly it is coming into other crops.”

Hans-Jörg Buhk from Germany’s Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Consumer Safety says in addition to the largest GM crops, corn and soy, there are already many types of genetically modified food, for example in the US, which are not yet welcomed everywhere. Buhk also points out that “there is an area that consumers seem to pay little attention to: enzymes. Many enzymes we come across every day are used for example in fruit juice purification, in baked goods, in the cheese making process, detergents. All these things are made using genetically modified microorganisms. No one criticizes this, but it creates great savings in energy and raw materials.”

The people will decide

Buhk says that while the creation of Bt crops is not tampering too greatly with the genetic code, fears that this technology could be taken further and lead to unknown problems is understandable. Many experts are convinced that GM science can help feed the world’s growing population. But in the end, consumer acceptance will be crucial – and that precisely is the reason why India has put Bt brinjal on hold for the time being.

Author: Sarah Berning
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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India Says No to Genetically Modified Eggplants

Posted on 10 February 2010 by admin

Eggplant_dsc07800After much debate over balancing the need for independent scientific testing and the needs of poor Indian farmers, the Indian government has decided to put on hold the introduction of genetically modified eggplant in the country. The move hampers the expansion of seed makers including Monsanto Co. in the world’s second-most populous nation [BusinessWeek]. The government said there was no overriding food security argument for GM eggplant, and added that more safety studies needed to be done before the ban could be reconsidered.

There is little evidence that GMO eggplant would cause harm to people eating it, but the crop is consumed very often in India, and some scientists and regulators argued that they needed more proof that long-term consumption wouldn’t cause a problem. “It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach and impose a moratorium on the release of Bt Brinjal till such time independent scientific studies establish, to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals, the safety of the product” [Daily News and Analysis],said the environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, who delivered the announcement.

The eggplant had been genetically modified by introducing a gene called cry1Ac from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. The gene instructs the plant to produce a protein toxic to certain insects, so the GM eggplants would have been able to fend off common borer pests. The Bt was sourced from Monsanto, which already sells Bt corn and Bt cotton seeds in the United States. In the 1990s, Monsanto triggered a huge debate in India by introducing genetically modified cotton.

Alhough the GM eggplant (or brinjal, as it is called in India) was cleared by a federal agency, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the government put the roll-out on hold. Ramesh also said the national bureau of plant genetic resources had found that India’s diversity rich regions were likely to be affected by the introduction of Bt Brinjal due to gene flow [Daily News and Analysis]—the tendency of crops to cross-breed and share genetic traits with other plants.

Related Content:
80beats: Genetically Modified Tomatoes Can Last 45 Days on the Shelf
80beats: GM Corn & Organ Failure: Lots of Sensationalism, Few Facts
80beats: GM Corn Leads to Organ Failure!? Not So Fast
80beats: New Biotech Corn Gives Triple Vitamin Boost; Protesters Unmoved
80beats: Germany Joins the European Mutiny of Genetically Modified Crops
DISCOVER: “Frankenfoods” That Could Feed the World
DISCOVER: Genetically Altered Corn, and how GM corn not intended for humans got into the food supply

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Organic Exchange Responds to GMO vs Organic Cotton Controversy

Posted on 28 January 2010 by admin

organic exchange photo
Credit: Organic Exchange

Non-profit organization Organic Exchange has published a response to the headline-grabbing “organic cotton fraud” news, that major retailers–including H&M, C&A, andTchibo–are knowingly selling genetically modified (GMO) cotton from India as organic cotton. The news was initially published in the German edition of the Financial Times, on Friday January 22, 2010, the article states “not every product that is labeled as organic cotton is truly organic.” OE weighs in on the controversy, and shows us where the contamination of GMO material in certified organic cotton is possible:

Organic Exchange states that while GMO contamination in organic cotton is growing in India–where it is estimated that up to 70% of conventional cotton is produced using GMO seed–this is also true for all other regions that grow both organic and GMO cotton. OE expands on the threat of GMO to the organic cotton industry, below.

Contamination can occur at the farm where GMO and organic crops are grown too close together and cross pollination takes place. The resulting seed on the fringes of the organic cotton crop may then contain the BT gene, which is the most common GMO variety.Organic farming standards deal with this by setting ‘buffer zones’ which specify the distance required between organic and conventional fields. There is no doubt that in India that the widespread use of GMO poses a threat to the integrity of the organic cotton industry, but it is an issue that it being taken seriously by all stakeholders.

 

Accidental Contamination Possible During Cotton Processing 

Opportunities also exist for accidental contamination to occur as the majority of organic cotton is processed in the same machinery as conventional/GMO cotton. However, current product integrity standards require each production plant to be fully cleaned out before a run of organic cotton starts, and there are strict requirements to keep the organic fibre physically separated and independently tracked, so that there is no chance of commingling or confusing with conventional fibre.

 

OE brings up a point that is often overlooked: “‘organic’ is not a purity claim,” it refers to the how the crop is grown, organically, more below.

GMO Contamination: Outside of Farmer’s Control?

In some cases, a very small amount of contamination may occur due to factors outside of the farmer’s control. Certifiers conduct tests on plant, seed or soil to ensure that any pesticide residues and/or GMO’s are below a fine tolerance, and do not indicate deliberate fraud or carelessness on the part of the farmer.

APEDA Sanctions Certifiers, Shows System of Checks and Balances

The FT article also infers that certain certifiers knowingly certified cotton as being organic when they knew that GMO seed had been used. In fact this was not the case. APEDA, the organisation that regulates organic production in India, sanctioned two certifiers for non-conformities in their certification processes rather than for fraud and both these companies immediately made the needed changes and the sanctions were subsequently lifted. In all systems there is a set of checks and balances, and the fact that APEDA uncovered problems is a much an indication that the monitoring system is working as it is an indication of the problems themselves. It is important to support the continued improvement of regulations, certification and enforcement.

The Organic Exchange concludes that the controversy comes down to one of intent. Organic farming techniques are still beneficial, and should not be discouraged simply because there is a risk of contamination by GMO. Brands and retailers are also becoming more involved with their supply chains to ensure claims on their final products. What do you think of the organic cotton controversy? Tell us in the comments section, below.

Thanks to Céleste Lilore of Restore Clothing, for tipping us to the news on Organic Exchange.

More Organic Cotton
H&M Caught in “Organic” Cotton Fraud
Top 10 Buyers of Organic Cotton (You Won’t Believe Who’s No. 1)

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Obama USDA Poised to Take Away Our Right to GMO-Free Food

Posted on 21 January 2010 by admin

Don’t believe Monsanto’s green-washing. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), aren’t meant to feed the world or survive the evermore frequent droughts and floods brought on by global warming – they’re designed to sell Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup and the patented “Roundup Ready” genes now spliced into millions of acres of corncottonsoycanolasugar beets and alfalfa. A 2009 study showed that, in 13 years, Roundup Ready crops increased herbicide use by 383 million pounds.

During the Bush administration, the movement to stop GMOs was making progress. Reflecting public concern over GMOs, in 2007, a Federal court ruled that the Bush USDA’s approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa violated the law because it failed to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa and the development of “super-weeds.” The court banned the planting of GM alfalfa until USDA completed a rigorous analysis of these impacts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice affirmed the national ban on Roundup Ready alfalfa planting, but Monsanto is appealing. They’re taking organic alfalfa farmers all the way to the Supreme Court!

Barack Obama, despite promising us “change we can believe in,” is unfortunately turning out to be just as pro-GMO as the preceding Bush and Clinton administrations, packing the USDA and other government bureaucracies with Monsanto men and biotech cheerleaders such as former Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack, named “Biotech Governor of the Year” in 2001, now serving as USDA Secretary. Vilsack, notorious for flying around in a Monsanto company jet during one of his previous election campaigns, is now busy trying to get the court-ordered ban on Roundup Ready alfalfa lifted by issuing a new draft environmental impact statement (EIS) that denies or downplays the obvious environmental and human health hazards of GM alfalfa.

Alfalfa is the fourth most widely grown crop in the U.S. and a key source of dairy forage and hay. The first perennial crop to be genetically engineered, GM alfalfa can regenerate itself from its root-stock. It is open-pollinated by bees, which can cross-pollinate at distances of several miles, spreading Monsanto’s patented, foreign DNA to non-GMO and organic crops. Widespread GMO-contamination of organic alfalfa is inevitable if the Obama Administration successfully distorts science and ignores public opinion and allows Monsanto’s GM Roundup Ready alfalfa to be planted across the U.S.

Mounting evidence shows damage to animals and humans from unlabeled and untested Frankenfoods. Consumers who ingest GM alfalfa are likely risking their health; since even the USDA’s EIS admits that, “acute toxicity in mice was observed.”

According to the EIS, consumers who ingest foods with residues of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide may experience “general and non-specific signs of toxicity from subchronic and chronic exposure to glyphosate includ[ing] changes in liver weight, blood chemistry (may suggest mild liver toxicity), liver pathology, and weight of the pituitary gland.”

The EIS warns that, “Based on upper estimates of exposure … infants consuming fruit and all age groups consuming vegetables may be at risk of adverse effects associated with acute exposure to glyphosate [the active ingredient in Roundup] residues.”

Consuming milk and meat from animals fed crops that are genetically engineered is also risky. In Europe, where farmer and consumer rejection has kept GMO crop acreage to a bare minimum, massive quantities of GMO-tainted animal feed is imported from the U.S. and a survey of 60 samples of 12 different milk brands sold in stores in Italy demonstrated the presence of GM maize sequences in 15 (25%) and of GM soybean sequences in 7 samples (11.7%).

Most consumers, especially organic consumers, are determined to avoid Roundup Ready alfalfa, and meat and dairy products derived from animals ingesting Roundup Ready alfalfa, but according to the EIS, we don’t have that right because, “At the present time, there is no policy regarding the unintended presence of GE (genetically engineered) material in organic products or food, consistent with the fact that the NOP (National Organic Program) is a process-based program for certifying a farm or production system as organic, and not a product-based program that tests or certifies individual products as organic.”

We must stop the Obama administration from taking away our right to grow and consume organic and GMO-free food. The “change we believe in” is a healthy and sustainable future based upon organic food and farming and a green economy.

Follow Ronnie Cummins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/OrganicConsumer

source: huffingtonpost.com

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The Health Hazards of GM Corn

Posted on 09 January 2010 by admin

A study demonstrates the toxicity of three genetically modified corn varieties from the American seed company Monsanto, according to the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering.

“For the first time in the world, we’ve proven that GMO are neither sufficiently healthy nor proper to be commercialized … Each time, for all three GMOs, the kidneys and liver, which are the main organs that react to a chemical food poisoning, had problems,” said Gilles-Eric Séralini, an expert member of the Commission for Biotechnology Reevaluation.

The researchers based their analyses on the data supplied by Monsanto to health authorities to obtain the green light for commercialization, but they draw different conclusions after new statistical calculations.

Sources:

http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Safety/gmo/the_health_hazards_of_gm_corn_0901100909.html

Organic Consumers Association December 11, 2009

Truthout December 2009

Int J Biol Sci 2009

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Monsanto’s own study has come back to bite them.

And rightly so—they clearly concealed the results of this study, massaging the data until they could slide it by as supporting the safety of their product.

It took an independent team of researchers to reexamine data and get the truth out.

Isn’t it interesting that every time Monsanto conducts scientific research on its own products, the conclusions are that they are safe? But each time independent scientists study them, all kinds of horrific side effects are uncovered.

Some former Monsanto employees report that anything that interferes with advancing the commercialization of their biotechnology is pushed aside.

One former Monsanto scientist said he knew of several fellow Monsanto researchers involved in feeding studies who have all (secretly) switched to organic milk.

What does that tell you?

If You Plant It, They Will Come

The United States has planted more GM crops than any other country every year since 1996, when GM crops were first made available commercially.

It’s bad enough that the United States allows GM crops to be grown at all—and it’s even worse that we grow two-thirds of the GM crops worldwide.

By far, corn is the crop taking up the most acreage.

The 2007 U.S. corn crop was one for the record books at 13.1 billion bushels of production, eclipsing the previous high set in 2004 of 11.8 billion bushels, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The 2007 production level was up 24 percent from 2006[i].

Corn has exploded as a result of our dependence upon high fructose corn syrup, as well as its use in ethanol, although corn-based biofuel appears to be on the decline due to its excessive carbon footprint.

United States Rather Slow to “Get It”

The US is painfully slow to wise up about the damaging effects of GM corn.

Germany recently banned the GM corn variety called MON 810, which had been the only remaining GM crop permitted in that country. MON 810 had already been banned in Austria, Hungary, Greece, France and Luxembourg.

What do they know that we don’t?

We are still reserving tens of millions of acres for genetically modified corn!

The Scientific Studies Couldn’t Be Clearer

Biology professor Bela Darvas of Hungary‘s Debrecen University discovered that Monsanto’s Mon 810 corn is lethal to two Hungarian protected species and one insect classified as rare. Now Monsanto refuses to give Darvas any more Mon 810 to use in his studies.

They also refused his request for Mon 863, another GM variety.

So, not only has MON 810 been shown to cause serious damage to animals, but it may also wipe out protected plant and insect species.

A mountain of evidence now exists about the troubling effects of GM corn:

  • Rats fed GM corn have kidney, liver, and blood abnormalities whereas rats fed non-GM corn had normal organs and blood.
  • GM corn has led to serious reproductive problems in mice. Mice fed Monsanto’s GM corn showed lower fertility and had offspring with lower body weight.
  • An Italian study in 2008[ii] found significant disturbances in the immune function of mice fed GM corn.
  • Another study showed that mice fed bt corn (bt stands for “bacterial toxin”— engineered to manufacture a natural bacterial toxin) sufferedmultiple immune system responses, “as if they were eating the pure bt toxin alone.”
  • Several US farmers reported sterility and fertility problems among pigs and cows fed GM corn.
  • In Germany, twelve cows that had eaten GM corn mysteriously died.
  • In feeding trials with chickens, twice the number of chickens died when fed GM corn as those fed non-GM corn.

Adding to the potential devastation is the fact that corn is a wind-pollinated plant, which means it can spread from one acre to another. While growers of GM food often say their crops will be contained and unable to contaminate nearby fields, from an environmental perspective, contamination between GM and non-GM crops is generally acknowledged to be unavoidable.

What can stop windstorms, tornadoes or other weather from blowing GM pollen or seeds onto non-GM crops?

Not a whole lot.

The environmental impact of GM crops may be worse than the health impact. Genetic pollution is self-propagating. It is altering our biosphere in ways that could outlast climate change and nuclear waste.

You can’t “recall” genes from the environment—just like putting the genie back in the bottle.

Although Monsanto doesn’t believe (or admit) this is a possibility, their shortsighted focus on profits is blinding them to the very real threats this technology is posing to the viability of the human race.

Monsanto’s influence in the government is legendary. Consequently, policy makers have not heeded the warnings to do long-term safety testing.

How Genetic Modification is Actually Executed

The making of a GM seed isn’t the highly precise operation you might expect.

According to Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette, once a gene is identified that creates a protein that they want, it is shot into the DNA with a “gun.”

They don’t care where the gene ends up…as long as it attaches somewhere.

This blasting creates all manner of problems. In fact, collateral damage is a given—5 percent of the surrounding genes can be disrupted! The DNA is sometimes truncated, sometimes mutated, creating proteins that are different and predictablyunpredictable.

Is it any wonder, then, how genetically modified foods carry with them so many unintended and devastating consequences?

According to Jeffrey Smith, the most common result of GM is surprise side effects. These side effects come in four main categories:

  1. Allergenic
  2. Toxic
  3. Carcinogenic
  4. Anti-nutritional

To bump up the desired GM effects, developers have been inserting what’s called a “promoter,” which has been derived from a virus. A promoter acts like a switch to turn on the gene it’s attached to. And the promoter’s action is not confined to the gene it rides in on—it’s been known to turn on other genes around it, permanently, at high volume.

It can turn on an allergen, a toxin, a carcinogen—we don’t know—it’s genetic roulette.

The promoters could switch on dormant viruses, producing super-diseases. One pesticide-tolerant gene called “the liberty link” could turn your body into a pesticide factory for life. The viral gene might transfer to your body a permanent suppression of your viral defenses.

We just don’t know.

And the reason we don’t know is that the government refuses to demand the rigorous testing of these GM products BEFORE permitting them into your food supply.

A Bad Gut Feeling

GM industry representatives falsely claim that when you eat a genetically modified food, the DNA is destroyed by digestion.

Researchers have now proven this is false.

British researchers demonstrated that GM DNA from crops can find its way into human gut bacteria, creating health risks. The concern is that the antibiotic marker genes inserted with the GM material could cause a person to be resistant to antibiotic medicines.[iii]

The study by Newcastle University in the UK was conducted on 7 human volunteers who, in the past, had their lower intestines removed and now use colostomy bags. After eating a meal containing GM soy, researchers were surprised to find that a relatively large proportion of GM DNA survived the digestive process.

In 3 of the 7 volunteers, they found bacteria had taken up the herbicide-resistant gene from the GM food at a very low level.

And this was after only one GM meal.

Not only that, but researchers also found “Roundup ready” gut bacteria from past GM soybean consumption. This was NOT from the current experiment—it was evidence that similar gene transfer had occurred in the past, from prior consumption of GM “Roundup ready” soy. (Roundup ready is the term used to mean soy that was engineered to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup.)

Michael Antonio, a senior lecturer in molecular genetics at King’s College Medical School in London, said this study was significant because the researchers demonstrated that you can get GM plant DNA in your gut bacteria, which was previously considered impossible.

This is the first clear evidence that antibiotic marker genes can jump to the bacteria in your stomach and increase your risk for an antibiotic-resistant infection.

The Mission to Exterminate GM From Our Food Supply

There are two strategies the non-GM movement is working on to rid our food supply of GM products:

  1. Labeling all foods for their GM/non-GM status
  2. Educating the public so that it will choose non-GM foods over GM foods.

The labeling campaign is making progress, thanks to the persistence of Jeffrey Smith and the Institute for Responsible Technology, an organization whose goal is to end the genetic engineering of our food supply and the outdoor release of GM crops. If you would like to sign the petition to President Obama in support of mandatory labeling of GM foods, click here.

But don’t wait for the labels to protect yourself and your family.

Nearly all GM foods can be avoided by steering clear of four basic food products:

  1. Corn
  2. Soy
  3. Cottonseed
  4. Canola

Additionally, avoid the following produce that is commonly GM by purchasing only organic varieties:

  • Zucchini
  • Crookneck squash
  • Hawaiian papaya
  • Sugar derived from sugar beets (new GM crop as of 2009)

For more specifics, the Institute for Responsible Technology has compiled an excellent Non-GMO Shopping Guide that you can download for free.

According to Jeffrey Smith, when people are educated about GM foods and provided a choice of products to buy, surveys show that at least 90 percent will opt for non-GM.

Therefore, between labeling products and a massive education campaign, GM foods will become a thing of the past. Once the tipping point is reached, the demand for non-GM products will be so fierce that market forces will smother the GM market once and for all.


[i] “2007 corn crop a record breaker, USDA reports” (January 11, 2008) USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service http://www.nass.usda.gov/Newsroom/2008/01_11_2008.asp

[ii] Finamore A, Roselli M, Britti S, Monastra G, Ambra R, Turrini A and Mengheri E. “Intestinal and peripheral immune response to MON 810 maize ingestion in weaning and old mice” J Agric Food Chem (16 Nov 2008) Summary athttp://www.responsibletechnology.org/utility/showArticle/?objectID=2470

[iii] “Would you like frankenfries with that?” (July 17, 2002) Greenpeace Internationalhttp://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/gm-genes-found-in-human-gut

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India’s GMO Scandal – Bt Brinjal Approval Rigged By Devinder Sharma

Posted on 30 November 2009 by admin

By Devinder Sharma

30 November, 2009
Devinder Sharma Blog

Now it can be told. The environmental clearance by an Expert Committee (called EC-II) set by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to accord approval to the controversial genetically modified crop — Bt brinjal — was actually rigged. This was never in doubt, except that this time Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for GM Free India has very meticulously joined the dots to bring out this shocker.

As a consumer, you need to understand how you are likely to be served poisonous food by a bunch of people (who operate in the name of scientists) whose only job is to promote the commercial interests of the private seed and biotech companies. The conflict of interest of most of the members of the EC-II comes out clearly in this exposure.

The entire regulatory system has in fact become subservient to the US interests. The Indian Council for Agricultural Research is now completely in the hands of the US Artificial Insemination Department (USAID), and so is the Department of Biotechnology. And if you think the Ministry for Health and Family Welfare is any better, you just have to walk into the corridors of the ministry. You can hear the whispers clearly.

Ever since the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture, Research and Marketing (KIA) was put into place (almost the same time the Nuclear treaty was signed), the ICAR does exactly what the USAID wants it to do. The outgoing Director General Dr Mangla Rai is merely a figure head, an Indian face for the American operations.

Let me share with you some excerpts from the damming report. Sorry, even the excerpted portions of the report are pretty long.

IS THIS WHAT INDIANS SHOULD BE TRUSTING?
The story of the Expert Committee that recommended Bt Brinjal for commercial cultivation in India

On October 14th 2009, the apex regulatory body for GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in India – the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) under the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF), gave a go-ahead for the commercial release of Bt Brinjal, the first ever such Genetically Modified (GM) food crop anywhere in the world with the toxin-producing Bt gene in it. The GEAC based its decision, with some dissenting voices recorded, on the recommendations of an Expert Committee (referred to hereafter as EC2, specifically referring to this expert committee on Bt Brinjal, as opposed to EC1, another Expert Committee constituted in 2006-07).

EXPERT COMMITTEE 2 ON BT BRINJAL

When independent reviews of Mahyco’s biosafety data started coming in, in the month of January 2009 (after the data was put up on the Indian regulators’ official website in October 2008 after a protracted Right To Information struggle and after the Supreme Court passed orders to this effect), the GEAC in its meeting on 14th January 2009, decided to set up an Expert Committee (a Sub-Committee, as it was called at that time). The decision in this 91st meeting of the GEAC was recorded as under:

“5.1.4 After detailed deliberations, the Committee decided to set up a Sub-committee comprising of representatives from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, NIN, ICMR, CFTRI, CCMB, IIVR, NDRI, CFIE, MoEF, DBT, TNAU and UAS Dharwad with the following terms of reference:

- to review the adequacy of the biosafety data on Bt brinjal

- to review the adequacy of the toxicity and allergenicity protocols

- to suggest further studies, if any, based on the review of the international practices in biosafety assessment and representations received by the GEAC

- based on such reviews make suitable recommendations for consideration of the GEAC”.

On February 10th and 11th 2009, many faxes were sent from civil society groups across the country asking GEAC to review the mandate for the Sub-Committee and to remove conflicting interests in the committee.

As per an Office Memorandum dated 29/5/2009, the GEAC constituted an Expert Committee consisting of 16 members, headed by Prof Arjula R Reddy, Vice Chancellor of Yogi Vemana University, Hyderabad and currently also the Co-Chair of GEAC.

Interestingly enough, the Terms of Reference for this Committee were:

- to review the findings of the data generated during the large scale trials ;
- to review the biosafety data of Bt brinjal in light of the available scientific evidence, reports from international/national experts and representations from NGOs and other stakeholders;
- to make appropriate recommendations for consideration of the GEAC based on the above review.

One could argue that this new ToR itself is a departure from the decision taken in the January meeting of the GEAC, with regard to the rationale for the constitution of the committee. Further, it has to be noted that the large scale trials’ findings along with findings from pollen flow, soil impacts and crossability studies were put in the public domain only on November 16th 2009, a full month after the Expert Committee came up with its recommendation and this did not go through any independent analysis or review.

On and around the 30th of July, soon after the office memorandum was put up in the public domain, civil society groups once again wrote to the GEAC pointing out to the need to change the mandate of the Expert Committee as well as the inclusion of conflicting interests in the constitution of the Expert Committee (Annexure 1). In addition, on 2nd September and on 11th October 2009, in email communications sent to the Hon’ble Minister for Environment & Forests, these issues have been raised with him too, to update him and seek his intervention.

It has to be noted here that an earlier Expert Committee (EC1) set up in 2006 also presented similar issues for the country, when a GM crop developer was asked to head that Committee. It was only in the second meeting of this EC1 that the GM crop developer was replaced by another scientist.

“EC 2 DESIGNED TO APPROVE BT BRINJAL”

The EC2 had 16 members including the following:

Prof. Arjula R. Reddy, Vice Chancellor, Yogi Vemana University, Hyderabad and Co-chairman, GEAC (Chairperson of the EC2).
Dr Vasantha Muthuswamy, Former Chief (BMS), ICMR, New Delhi: Member
Dr. B. Sesikaran, Director, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad: Member
Dr. Lalitha R. Gowda, Scientist, CFTRI, Mysore: Member
Dr. N. Madhusudan Rao, Deputy Director, CCMB, Hyderabad: Member
Dr. C. M. Gupta, Former Director, Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow: Member
Dr S. B. Dongre, Director (F&VP), Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSA), New Delhi – (Representative of MoH&FW): Member
Dr. Dhir Singh, ADG (PFA), FSSAI – (Representative of MoH&FW): Member
Dr. K. Satyanarayan, Scientist G, ICMR, New Delhi: Member
Dr. Dharmeshwar Das, Director, Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar: Member
Dr. A. K. Srivastava, Director, National Diary Research Institute, Karnal: Member
Dr. Dilip Kumar, Director, Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai: Member
Dr. Mathura Rai, Director, Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Varanasi: Member
Dr. P. Anand Kumar, Project Director, NRCPB, IARI, New Delhi: Member
Dr. K. K. Tripathi, Adviser, DBT, New Delhi: Member
Dr R Warrier, Director and MS GEAC: Convener

A re-look at the EC2

Prof Arjula Reddy, the Chair of the Committee:
In a phone conversation to Dr Pushpa Bhargava, Prof Reddy is supposed to have told Dr Bhargava, sometime in the first week of October (?):

- that eight of the tests that Dr Bhargava said should be done on Bt Brinjal and with which Prof Reddy agreed, had not been done;
- that even in the case of tests that have been done, many have not been done satisfactorily and adequately;
- that he (Prof Reddy) was under ‘tremendous pressure’ to clear Bt Brinjal and had calls from ‘Agriculture Minister, GEAC and industry’.

Attached is a note/affidavit from Dr Bhargava on this matter (Annexure 2). Prof Reddy has also been quoted in a Tehelka article on Bt Brinjal recently in the following manner:

When asked if there was any proof Bt brinjal was safe, he replied, “What we require is long-range research done over many years. That does not exist (for Bt brinjal).” Then why give the clearance if the required research is absent? “All the approved protocols by the government has been fulfilled by the developers and the public institutions [that participated in the safety assessment].”

Source: Uber Gene, Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 44, Dated November 07, 2009 at
http://www.tehelka.com/story_main43.asp?
filename=Ne071109uber_gene.asp

However, these views are not reflected in the final report of the EC2, indicating that Prof Reddy succumbed to pressure.

2. Dr K K Tripathi, Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation, Dept of Biotechnology.

A complaint is pending against Dr K K Tripathi with the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) (complaint dated 6/6/09 from Nuziveedu Seeds, and Central Vigilance Commission Complaint No. 780/09/6, being examined in the Commission – Annexure 3), for “abuse of power”. This complaint, filed by Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd, points out that Dr Tripathi has been exercising undue discretionary powers to promote interests of certain companies of his choice (Mahyco specifically) and harm others. The CVC complaint lodged points out the following:

“The RCGM, MEC and GEAC are independent committees meant to act as checks and balance for each other and prevent any one individual from influencing their decision. However, the presence of one person (Dr. K K Tripathi) on all three committees and in the capacity of Member Secretary on two key committees besides his administrative powers as Advisor DBT, has given him a chance to manipulate the decisions in these committees to further his vested agenda by misinforming and misrepresenting facts in these committees”.

Dr Tripathi was also part of the EC2! It violates any principle of fair inquiry to have him in this committee when investigations are pending against a complaint for his excessive favouring of Mahyco when the EC2 was considering a Mahyco application for Bt Brinjal commercialization!

Further, Dr Tripathi was the one who signed off on various protocols and permission letters for testing Bt Brinjal’s biosafety and efficacy and obviously thought this was adequate and appropriate, while the Expert Committee was supposed to be reviewing the concerns expressed on these very protocols and studies!

3. Dr Mathura Rai, Director, Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (IIVR)

He/IIVR is part of the ABSP II project (more details in Annexure 4). This project is funded by USAID, which in turn gets funded by Monsanto for certain projects and funds Monsanto for certain other projects. ABSPII is “supporting Mahyco in gaining regulatory approval for the technology”… says a project document on the official website (http://www.absp2.cornell.edu).

USAID funding of this project goes expressly into activities like: “Support Mahyco’s efforts to complete regulatory approval”!

Dr Mathura Rai also acted as the lead investigator, so to speak, on the large scale trials of Mahyco’s Bt Brinjal in the past two years. He directly supervised all the trials as recommended by the Expert Committee (EC1 led by Dr Deepak Paintal/Dr C R Babu) and generated findings.

He not only did these studies even though he is part of ABSPII but he also reviewed his own findings by being part of the Expert Committee set up “to review findings from large scale trials and other biosafety tests”! Incidentally, the EC2 itself is called the “Expert Committee to review the findings of Large Scale Trials and other related biosafety studies on Bt Brinjal”…

4. Dr Ananda Kumar, Project Director, NRCPB, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Delhi

Dr Ananda Kumar is a Bt Brinjal developer himself. Given that his own product is in the pipeline of development and commercialization, his inclusion in the Expert Committee once again violates principles of fair inquiry and brings in conflicting interests.

Amongst the 16 members of the Committee, both the above (Dr Mathura Rai and Dr Ananda Kumar) are agriculture scientists and both are involved in Bt Brinjal development and were made part of this Expert Committee!

In the above context, it may be noted that the Expert Committee has denied that India is a Centre of Origin of Brinjal, even though the crop developer also accepts this fact along with other agencies like National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources!

5. Dr Dilip Kumar, Director, Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai

The Central Institute of Fisheries Education had taken up a Mahyco-sponsored study on Bt Brinjal and the Director was now sitting in the Expert Committee to review his Institute’s findings amongst other findings!

6. & 7. Dr Vasantha Muthuswamy and Dr B Sesikeran, Director, National Institute of Nutrition.

These two members played a lead role in the recasting of regulatory guidelines for safety assessment of GM foods in India, with the funding of USAID under the South Asia Biosafety Programme (SABP). Dr Muthuswamy is a GEAC member while Dr Sesikeran is an RCGM member.

On the grounds of harmonizing the Indian regulatory regime with Codex Alimentarius guidelines, this exercise not only ignored all the many important tests and procedures being prescribed by Dr Pushpa Bhargava, the Supreme Court observer in the GEAC and others, but threw out many tests that were hitherto being conducted in India.

Incidentally, the ABSPII, (funded by USAID) “works collaboratively with the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS) and the South Asia Biosafety Program (SABP)1” (funded by USAID). The official website states the following in this context:

“ABSPII will identify and support other USAID initiatives to promote safe and effective agricultural biotechnology in Africa and Asia. For example, successful commercialization of bio-engineered crops will depend upon satisfactory biosafety regulation”.

USAID, meanwhile, states that one of its roles is to “integrate GM into local food systems”.

Also interesting to note is a KIA Board Meeting (5th Board Meeting of Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, the bilateral deal signed along with the Indo-US nuclear deal, to bring in the so-called second green revolution into the country) expressly refers to the fact that “guidelines are being drafted for the safety of GM foods for the Government of India” under a section titled “related activities undertaken by other US agencies”.

Dr Muthuswamy and Dr Sesikeran were key members of the drafting committee for the new guidelines. It is of little surprise then that the EC2 report repeatedly resorts to comments like “as per the recently adopted guidelines, such studies do not form part of safety assessment” or that something is “not required” as per the new guidelines.

Thus, with USAID’s interference through the SABP project, unscientific safety testing guidelines and processes have become the criteria for the safety assessment of Bt Brinjal and GM crops rather than rigorous scientific risk assessment and hazard identification. Further, a scientific evaluation of Bt Brinjal is not about conformity to guidelines (newly adopted or otherwise) even as the EC2 report takes a recourse to this often.

8. & 9. Dr Dhir Singh and Dr S B Dongre, “representatives of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare”

These two members of the EC2, drawn from the Food Safety and Standards Authority, were expressly designated in the EC2 as “representatives of the Ministry of Health &Family Welfare”. From conversations with the FSSA Chairperson and one of these members, it is gleaned by civil society members that these members carried a brief of being present in the EC2 as “observers” and did not take part in the deliberations.

In effect, this implies that no health-related questions were being asked on behalf of the public by any Health Ministry representative in the Expert Committee!

10. Dr C M Gupta, Former Director, Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow

Dr Gupta, who is also a GEAC member, did not attend both the meetings of EC2.

11. Dr Ranjini Warrier, Member-Secretary, GEAC &Convenor, EC2

It is to Dr Warrier that various communications were sent by many civil society groups about the constitution and mandate of the Expert Committee, right from February 2009. It is obvious that no notice was paid to the objectionable processes being run and that justified demands from citizens were not taken on board.

EXPERT COMMITTEE &SUBSEQUENT PROCESSES

The Expert Committee met twice, on July 30th and August 31st 2009 reportedly for a few hours each, and came up with its 105-page report. In these two meetings, thousands of pages of biosafety dossiers of Bt Brinjal in addition to independent reviews and other feedback were apparently perused by the Committee for finalizing its report!

The GEAC did not address the issues raised by civil society groups about the constitution and mandate of this Expert Committee.

This is just a portion of the report that I am sharing with you. For a complete version, please write to Kavitha Kuruganti at kavitha.kuruganti@gmail.com

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