Evidence of harm from GMOs growing (19/4/2006)

EXCERPT: This is the same company that in February 22, 2002, was found guilty by a US court in Anniston, of poisoning the water supply of the local residents, on all six counts of "negligence, wantonness and suppression of the truth, nuisance, trespass, and outrage".


A Rejoinder Affidavit was filed on the 18th April 2006 in the Supreme Court [in India]. This is a follow-up of the Public Interest Writ Petition, filed last year for a moratorium on Genetically Engineered crops, pending a comprehensive and transparent biosafety testing protocol.

The 'Rejoinder' contains clear and damning evidence from independent world scientists about serious hazards of GM crops to health and biosafety. It effectively destroys the government's stance that GM crops, including those used for animal feed, eg. Bt cotton are safe.

One of the main selling platforms of the biotech industry, for example, is that GM crops are effective against pests and weeds. Scientists have long known that both claims hold little truth based on their knowledge of how 'resistance' occurs in nature. Farmers around the world have reported it for both Bt and herbicide-tolerant GM crops. They were ignored. Now, there is scientific proof that GM crops, both pest and weed resistant crops create a nightmare of super pests and super weeds precisely because of the phenomenon of resistance. Yet various national governments, including the Indian Government, have preferred to be lured by the high claims of the biotech industry and their commercial agenda to profiteer and control farming through patents. The G of I has even ignored the reasons for farmer suicides directly linked to the failure of Bt cotton and has comprehensively ditched farmer interests and public health safeguards to support the biotech industry. So if this fundamental tenet of GE is now proven to be the sham it always was, the Q is:

What is left of this technology and what conclusions must civil society draw from a government that is resolute in its support of the biotech and US commercial agenda?

The evidence against GE on every dimension of biosafety is now so serious that the 'Rejoinder' accuses the Government of "deliberate intent to allow GM contamination in India. The biosafety violations are so extreme that they represent the highest betrayal of India's national interest including national food security".

Transgenic (Bt) cotton is recognised by scientists to be a potentially toxic crop. Therefore, the effects of GM crops are similar to that of pesticides and must be tested accordingly, using stringent safety-testing protocols as required in the Public Interest Writ. It must be stressed that no GM food has been proven safe for human consumption anywhere in the world because the safety testing has simply not been done.

Notwithstanding the serious evidence of biosafety hazards of GE, the Government has concluded an agreement with the US, which will swamp India with GM crops and allow access by multinational biotech corporations to India's rich genetic wealth. The so-called 2nd green revolution to be ushered in by the 'Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agricultural Research and Education', will contaminate India's biodiversity and our food supply in perpetuity. It astoundingly elevates Monsanto, a thoroughly discredited company internationally, to the position of official 'US brand ambassador' to India. Monsanto is the 90% monopoly leader of biotech with the stated dark dream of supremacy over world agriculture, where "NATURAL SEEDS ARE VIRTUALLY EXTINCT and the hope of the industry is that over time, the market is so flooded that there's nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender". This is the same company that in February 22, 2002, was found guilty by a US court in Anniston, of poisoning the water supply of the local residents, on all six counts of "negligence, wantonness and suppression of the truth, nuisance, trespass, and outrage". Outrage, according to Alabama law, usually requires conduct "so outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society."

Monsanto hasn't changed. If Monsanto hid what it knew about its toxic pollution for decades, what is it hiding now? And what does it mean, what are we called upon to believe, when the Indian Government forms an alliance with such a company, with such a track record? This agreement will deliver Monsanto's dark agenda with the active help of the Indian Government! It is a morally bankrupt and ethically deviant policy on GM; a tragically inappropriate tie-up, wholly detrimental to the national interest, which impacts sovereign issues of genetic wealth and IPRs, bio-safety, food security, farmer and consumer rights and public health. The Country now faces the unbelievable situation, which defies the most elementary logic, where Indian policy concerning these issues will be subject to even greater manipulation than at present, by private multi-national biotech corporations that exist to make a profit. The company with its hand firmly on the rudder is MONSANTO! The Rejoinder provides evidence of why and how this will lead to the predicted fait accompli of contamination that is "the objective of a regulatory body, which is manifestly in a conspiracy of collusion and UNTRUTH with the biotech industry". This is a serious charge. It asks for a high level enquiry based on prima facie evidence of the regulatory bodies including the GEAC of misleading the Prime Minister and his cabinet about the hazards of GM.

It is a truism that the goal of health safety-assessment is that a "food should not cause harm when prepared, used or eaten according to its intended use" (Codex Alimentarious guideline 2003). Or, to expand the logic, if a product causes cancer in animals, it should not be put in food. This is in fact the ‘Delaney Amendment’ in the US, which is being used in the case against Monsanto’s Aspartame, (the sweetner also called EQUAL), which has been proven to cause cancer amongst other serious hazards as outlined in the Writ Petition. If GMOs cause cancer in rats, as has been demonstrated along with other significant health risks, then, eminent world scientists are absolutely right to call for stringent, independent and peer-reviewed long-term animal feeding studies to determine the health safety of GM crops. Until then they have called for a global moratorium. This is also the impeccable logic of the Petitioners prayer in the WP. The ‘Precautionary Principle’ is the superior scientific principle and path that must be followed most urgently for GM crops because the spread of GMOs will alter the molecular structure of the world’s food supply in PERPETUITY. Even if, eventually, for the sake of argument, the evidence against GM were to be proved wrong on all dimensions of biosafety, it would still prove to be ‘right action’ based on prudence, for India to apply the precautionary principle in the SHORT TERM in order to be reasonably sure of the biosafety of GM crops. The short term is a mere blip on the horizon of perpetuity and worth every nano-bit of trouble to avoid a disaster of unimaginable and many magnitudes, should even a small part of the evidence be proved right.

Aruna Rodrigues
Co-Petitioners: Devinder Sharma, Rajeev Baruah and PV Satheesh

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