Indian biotech industry up against the wall (7/11/2006)

ROBERT VINT COMMENT: In the face of global mass opposition to GM crops from farmers, consumers, development and environmental organisations the advocates of biotechnology are increasingly showing signs of insanity.

This article (below) by C Kameswara Rao of the "Foundation for Biotech Awareness and Education" is in response to the burning of a rice trial by 400 Indian farmers and the landowner - who had not been informed in advance that it was a GM crop.

Rao states that "rice pollen are viable only for about five minutes during which they cannot be carried over more than a few meters and after that period they cannot 'contaminate' any other rice variety" - he says this at a time when most of America's rice exports are being returned home because rice across six states has been contaminated by GM trials.

He claims that Monsanto (Mahyco) did not need to inform the landowner about the nature of the trial crop. He believes that GM crop trials should be carried out secretly behind high-security fences under 24-hour surveillance and that GM seeds should be stored in bomb-proof bunkers. It is fairly obvious that he also advocates mass 're-education' of the entire population.

Why not instead develop the kinds of seeds farmers and consumers want?

GM WATCH COMMENT: Robert's suggestion that C Kameswara Rao's article can be put down to lunacy under duress may be overly charitable.

C Kameswara Rao has previously claimed that GM opponents are a "miniscule minority" who "indulge in violence" and "create public suspicion and fear and serve diverse vested interests" via "misinformation, disinformation and facts used out-of-context".

And everything he claims in his piece below is consistent with such a perspective but, somewhat typically, he makes his case through exactly the means he attributes to others!

Take, for instance, his claim that, "In the event of Golden Rice, research laboratories, trial fields and even scientific workers were attacked, striking such a fear that led to hiding a handful of prototype Golden Rice seed in a bombproof bunker in an unspecified place in Switzerland."

In monitoring the GM debate for GM Watch over the past 8 years, we've never previously come across a single reference to any of these multiple attacks Kameswara Rao claims struck such terror into the developers of Golden Rice.

Curious that.

And on top of the disinformation, we get the facts out-of-context.

When, for instance, he says that Danish anti-terror laws were deployed against Greenpeace, he doesn't explain that this gave rise to considerable controversy because their actual crime was the hanging of a banner on a corporate headquarters!

Likewise, when C Kameswara Rao says a French court of appeal convicted 49 activists for destroying GM maize, he fails to mention that an earlier court ruling found their actions justified because "the unbridled distribution of modified genes... constitutes a clear and present danger for the well-being of others".

But most ludicrous of all are his claims that India's GM trial conditions are not being violated because (a) the trials are supposed to be monitored and (b) Monsanto's partner Mayhco says they're sticking to the rules.

There's been repeated evidence that the monitoring is either non-existent or dysfunctional and that the likes of Mayhco are totally failing to stick to the rules. So much so, in fact, that trial crops are being harvested and sold on into the food chain!!

And, according to a recent article in the Indian Express, the problems with adequate monitoring are admitted to even "in the minutes of the meetings of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the apex regulatory body for GMOs".

But C Kameswara Rao is admitting nothing, preferring to project corporate fantasies from within his reality-proof bunker.

C Kameswara Rao Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education, Bangalore, India krao@vsnl.com,
www.fbae.org, www.fbaeblog.org

A few years ago activists, allegedly belonging to the Karnataka Rytha Sangha, the State farmers' organization, burned Mahyco's trial Bt cotton fields in Karnataka, India.

On October 28, 2006, in Rampura village in Karnal, Haryana State, the Bharatiya Kissan Union (BKU), a farmers’ organization, using some 400 local farmers torched Mahyco's Bt rice under field trials. Mahyco suffers a loss of Rupees one million, and needs to restart the process.

A BKU leader threatened to burn all such fields in the country where trials are underway, and said that 'On Friday (October 27), we got a tip-off from Hyderabad that such tests were underway in Karnal'. In all probability the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, an active anti-biotech group, could be the source of the tip-off. BKU seems to have also sent a team to Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh), where similar trials are going on in a field.

A source considers that 'it's plain and simple misinformation that led to this'. But this is a case where ignorance is no bliss.

Though the Police were informed of the threat to burn the crop an hour in advance, they seem to have reached the field an hour after the damage was done.

The destroyed rice crop was a Bt transgenic with Cry 1Ac gene, to control the shoot-borer disease, where conventional measures have larg

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