1.INDEPENDENT ENQUIRY DEMANDED ON BT COTTON (India)
2.NEW STUDY RAISES FEARS OVER LONG TERM IMPACTS OF GM CROPS (UK)
EXCERPT: "The effect of growing this GM crop on a commercial scale and over longer time periods could be devastating. The Government must heed this warning, refuse to approve GM oilseed rape, and instead focus on supporting farmers to sustainably produce the kinds of food that people really want to eat." (item 2)
1.INDEPENDENT ENQUIRY DEMANDED ON BT COTTON
Press Release, 28 September 2005
Contact: DR. SUMAN SAHAI
Phone: - +91 11 29556248; 98-110-41332
Email: [email protected]
Gene Campaign said today that the story of Bt cotton is getting murkier by the day. Dr Kranthi, a scientist from the prestigious cotton research institute in Nagpur publishes a paper providing the scientific data that provides evidence that Bt cotton is not very effective in India, then writes an article in a newspaper recanting pretty much all that he has said in the scientific publication! Not only does he deny his earlier findings and assertions, he springs to the defense of his boss, the DG of ICAR , absolving him of any responsibility in the questionable decisions taken to release Bt cotton. If there has been any pressure on Dr Kranthi to revise his views as published in Current Science, this must come out in a careful enquiry. It is highly unusual for a scientist to present another view of his data in a newspaper article after publishing a scientific paper.
Gene Campaign demands a full fledged enquiry on all aspects of Bt cotton.
* Given that there are several contradictory reports on its performance
* several reports of the failure of the Mahyco- Monsanto MECH Bt cotton varieties
* rampant proliferation of illegal varieties to the extent that spurious Bt seeds being sold on the market often do not even contain the Bt gene
* the fact that the burden of expensive and risky Bt cotton is increasing the misery of farmers already crushed under the burden of debts
* that despite corroborated reports of failure, Monsanto has refused to pay any compensation to farmers who have suffered losses and GEAC has not taken any action in this regard.
Asking for a panel of independent experts involving a cross section of stakeholders, not just selected scientists, Gene Campaign director Dr Suman Sahai said the contradictory situations that have arisen around Bt cotton must be investigated thoroughly. A time bound enquiry process of six months, headed by a respected scientist must include farmers, consumers, academicians, scientists and NGOs who should examine the available information to come up with a status report on Bt cotton. This must be presented to Parliament and made widely available. Farmers and other citizens have the right to know what exactly is happening with respect to Bt cotton, who has suffered losses, what is the efficacy of the technology and take a decision on whether this technology is good or not, for the farmers in the longer term.
Dr Suman Sahai said that it is criminal on the part of the government and regulatory agencies to continue to pretend that all is well with Bt cotton, when there is so much evidence that it is not. It is also shameful that the GEAC continues to release Bt cotton varieties without taking any action on the spread of spurious Bt cotton that is obviously failing and causing immense suffering to farmers. Nor has GEAC taken up the question of compensation to those farmers who have suffered losses, even after the AP govt's ban on the Mahyco-Monsanto Bt cotton.
The GEAC also needs to explain why it is promoting Bt cotton as a hybrid in this country which will result in farmers being forced to buy fresh seeds every year, when it is known that true breeding varieties from which farmers can save seeds for subsequent crops are much more effective against bollworm that the hybrids (mentioned also by Kranthi) . China promotes true breeding varieties , not hybrids therefore the performance of Bt cotton is far better there than here.
Kranthi and his group had provided scientific data in a paper published in Current Science ( July 25, 2005) which explains why Bt cotton hybrids in India were unstable and unpredictable, the result of faulty technology in which gene expression is variable, showing declining levels of Bt toxin . Bt expression was found to be lowest in the economically most important part of the cotton- the boll itself.
The publication said that since Bt cotton does not provide adequate protection, farmers must use chemical pesticides to protect their crops. This is in consonance with the findings of many groups including Gene Campaign, that the Mahyco-Monsanto cotton failed to protect against bollworm, that farmers had to use chemical pesticides, and that savings on pesticide were therefore not significant.
Dr. Suman Sahai
2.NEW STUDY RAISES FEARS OVER LONG TERM IMPACTS OF GM CROPS
Immediate release: Wednesday 28 September 2005
More Information: Clare Oxborrow 020 7566 1716/ 07712 843 211 (m)
A follow-up study to the UK Governments GM crop trials has found that growing GM oilseed rape crops has negative impacts on farmland biodiversity in following years. The findings are yet another blow to the biotech industry.
The research  which has been published today in the Royal Society's journal Biology Letters, found that the immediate impacts on farmland wildlife found in the Farm Scale Evaluations persisted for at least two years. Growing GM oilseed rape led to significantly lower weed seedbanks two years later. Weed seeds are an important source of food for farmland birds and any reduction is likely to have a negative impact on their populations - especially affecting survival over the winter and during the breeding season.
The results also showed that growing GM beet led to a reduced seedbank in the following year. Although the results showed that growing GM maize lead to an increase in the weed seedbanks compared with growing conventional maize, they are of little value because the weedkiller used on the conventional maize in the FSE, Atrazine, has now been banned in Europe. GM maize has not been compared with new conventional maize growing methods.
Friends of the Earths GM Campaigner Clare Oxborrow said: "This study rings alarm bells about the long term impacts of growing GM crops on farmland wildlife. Even if GM oilseed rape is only grown for a short period of time, the negative impacts are likely to be felt for a number of years. This is yet more evidence that GM oilseed rape should
not be approved for commercial growing. The effect of growing this GM crop on a commercial scale and over longer time periods could be devastating. The Government must heed this warning, refuse to approve GM oilseed rape, and instead focus on supporting farmers to sustainably produce the kinds of food that people really want to eat."
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