Some excellent articles and press releases c/o Gene Campaign in India.
"the GM potato is far away from commercial release. Its promoters appear to be jumping the gun deliberately, in order to pressure the agencies for its release citing a human suffering angle. The emotional button for Bt cotton was the farmers' suicides in Andhra Pradesh and the need to give them a cotton variety that would cut down the heavy expenditures on pesticides and, by inference, stop them killing themselves due to debt burdens. We know now that the Bt cotton has practically failed in almost all the locations it was grown."
Mostly excerpts with urls for full text:
*The idea of Genetically Modified Basmati Rice
*PERFORMANCE OF BT COTTON IN INDIA: DATA FROM THE FIRST COMMERCIAL CROP
*BT COTTON INEFFECTIVE AGAINST INCREASING PINK BOLLWORM
*SPLICE OF LIFE: GM POTATO COULD COME A CROPPER
The idea of Genetically Modified Basmati Rice
Basmati rice and Darjeeling tea are perhaps India's most easily identifiable products in the area of food. Basmati is highly prized, and it is a high-end, expensive product in the international market. Like Champagne wine and truffles from France, consumers treat it as a special luxury food. Given its premium nature, every single grain of Basmati finds a market today.
Given the widespread rejection of GM foods in the EU, does it make sense to taint this premium product with the GM label and jeopardize an assured market? Yet, the Indian Government's research program is working on a genetically modified Basmati!
Read the complete article by Dr.Suman Sahai at
PERFORMANCE OF BT COTTON IN INDIA: DATA FROM THE FIRST COMMERCIAL CROP
Suman Sahai and Shakeelur Rahman
The economics of cultivating Bt cotton is clearly not in favour of farmers. The seed is about four times more expensive than the good local hybrids... As Table 4 shows, the investment per acre is much higher for Bt cotton than for non-Bt cotton varieties. The Bt cotton farmer had to invest on average, Rs. 983 more per acre than his non-Bt counterpart.
Yield /acre of Bt cotton was lower than non-Bt cotton and the cotton was of poorer quality thus fetching a lower price per quintal. Added to this was the higher investment in Bt cotton fields. The net result was significantly poor results from Bt cotton...
Net profit from Bt cotton was lower per acre compared to non-Bt cotton in all types of fields (low to high yielding). In fact, 60 % of the farmers cultivating Bt cotton were not even able to recover their investment and incurred losses averaging Rs. 79 per acre. ...Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of the farming families surveyed (98%) said they were not interested in growing Bt cotton again.
...The major efforts of the company were directed towards broadcasting taped messages extolling the virtues of Bt cotton rather than any tips on cultivation.
Full text: http://www.genecampaign.org/btcotton.html
Press release: http://www.genecampaign.org/cotton.html
BT COTTON INEFFECTIVE AGAINST INCREASING PINK BOLLWORM
Aug 8, 2003, New Delhi
Pink bollworm is emerging as a major pest in the cotton belt, specially in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat according to field observations so far. The toxin in Bt cotton is proving to be ineffective against pink bollworm and does not kill it, it kills only the green bollworm said Dr. Suman Sahai, Director of Gene Campaign on her return from consultations in Hyderabad. This consultation was held with scientists, farmers, NGOs, representatives of the seed industry and cotton traders, to take stock of the current scenario with respect to Bt cotton.
There was a growing concern expressed about the future of Bt cotton varieties in the situation developing with pink bollworm. Scientists confirmed that the incidence of pink bollworm was on the rise and the pest attack was getting stronger every year. Substantial savings in pesticide use could not be expected in such a situation despite the Bt toxin in Bt cotton since farmers would have to continue to spray to control pink bollworm.
Probably the most important reason for the increase in pink bollworm populations is the spread of the illegal Navbharat 151 variety over the last few years. Because of the constant exposure to Bt toxin without any implementation of refuges, the green bollworm is under pressure, creating a favourable space for the pink bollworm to multiply. Farmers and breeders have created their own Bt cotton varieties by crossing the Navbharat 151 with locally adapted cotton varieties. These varieties have spread to many states through an informal sales network Cultivation of a variety of illegal Bt cotton is now widespread.
The Gene Campaign field study on Bt cotton had found that the Monsanto Bt cotton was indeed vulnerable to pink bollworm and the farmers had been spraying heavily after 60 to 70 days to try to control the pest. Dr. Sahai said that scientific literature reports that field populations of pink bollworm harbour three genetic mutations that confer resistance to Bt toxin, so bollworm with any of the two mutant genes are resistant. Resistant bollworm moths mate with each other rather than with susceptible individuals so the offspring are fully resistant to Bt toxin. It is therefore clear that Bt resistance would persist and spread in the pink bollworm population. This is posing a serious challenge to the cotton scientists and their strategy of Bt pest management.
SPLICE OF LIFE: GM POTATO COULD COME A CROPPER
TIMES OF INDIA, JUNE 21, 2003
There was a startling statement in the press a few days ago that a GM potato variety would be available in India within six months. Curiously, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has not even received an application to consider approval for the GM potato in question. The chairman of the GEAC has expressed his displeasure at premature pronouncements being made in the press about the release of transgenic crops.
So what is the status of the GM potato? Is it six months away? What is India's policy on GM crops? First we had the mess with Mahyco-Monsanto's Bt cotton that was approved despite several questions about its quality, then its subsequent failure in the field. Then we had GM mustard, which is in limbo, and now the premature announcement of the GM potato. Decisions in India are ad hoc and taken whimsically in the absence of a sound policy framework. The net result is great confusion.
First, the GM potato is far away from commercial release. Its promoters appear to be jumping the gun deliberately, in order to pressure the agencies for its release citing a human suffering angle. The emotional button for Bt cotton was the farmers' suicides in Andhra Pradesh and the need to give them a cotton variety that would cut down the heavy expenditures on pesticides and, by inference, stop them killing themselves due to debt burdens. We know now that the Bt cotton has practically failed in almost all the locations it was grown. The emotional button being pressed for the GM potato is that malnutritioned children susceptible to blindness and that this potato will solve this problem and bring smiles to their little faces. What is not explained is how the potato supposedly with enriched protein will cure night blindness, which is brought about by vitamin A deficiency.
In fact, the premature announcement made a specific reference to the fact that as soon as the potato was cleared, it would be given free to millions of schoolchildren across the country. This is even more worrisome than the fact that at the moment the GM potato is only an experiment, not a product. If the GM potato is improved to the extent that the protein content rises significantly, and it is judged to be safe, we could discuss its merits then. At the moment it will do nothing for schoolchildren except expose them to an untested food, which could have harmful effects.
This talk of feeding GM potatoes to schoolchildren is sheer adventurism. If there is such an urgent need to save these children, food supplements can be added to their school meals. This will be a safer and more certain path to nutritional enhancement than rushing untested GM potatoes to them. Nutritional enhancement by food supplements is easy to do in schools and has an established tradition.
As it stands today, even the science done on the GM potato is inadequate and we are talking about an incompletely tested product. One thing is clear to everyone that the increase in protein in the GM potato is negligible and will make no real difference nutritionally. This has been emphasised by scientists working at the Central Potato Research Institute.
Full text: http://www.genecampaign.org/toi.html
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