GEAC and animal deaths / Going GM-free in Karnataka (30/3/2007)

1.GEAC and animal deaths
2.Keeping GM free in Karnataka, India


1.GEAC and animal deaths

(Thanks to Kavitha Kuruganti of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture for much of the following information)

The Andhra Pradesh Animal Husbandry Department's Additional Director recently stated to a delegation from the AP Goatherds & Shepherds Union and the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, as well as on camera to a national media channel, that the Animal Husbandry Department would recommend to the Agriculture Department that it prohibit the sale of Bt Cotton seeds until the animals deaths/illnesses linked to Bt Cotton was investigated properly and some conclusions arrived at.

India's apex GM regulatory body, the GEAC seems to have discussed this issue in their 75th meeting on the 14th of March.

There are a number of points of interest in the minutes of that meeting. A section at the beginning of the minutes appears to show that the GEAC does not even get to see the biosafety data that has been submitted for GM trials it has approved. The minutes make clear that it is asking for the rlevant documents from the DBT - Departmenty of Biotechnology - now!

Towards the end of the minutes is the discussion on animal deaths. Here they admit that the DBT study had not moved forward at all even though it was requested more than 6 months ago. The GEAC are therefore setting up a team to come to Andhra Pradesh to look into the matter.

The Co-Chair of the GEAC, incidentally, is Dr. C. D. Mayee who is also a board member of the GM evangelising ISAAA, a lobby group with prominent industry figures on its board and financially backed by the very companies that file applications before the GEAC. Earlier this year, Mayee propagandised for GMOs at an ISAAA media event held in India to launch the ISAAA's GM promoting annual global review.

C D Mayee's son, Dr Hrishikesh Mayee, reportedly has as his father-in-law a Director of Ankur Seeds, Mr Vijay Kashikar. Ankur Seeds is one of the Bt Cotton companies permitted by the GEAC to sell its GM seeds to farmers.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[extracts from the minutes]

Decision taken in the 75th Meeting of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee held on 14.3.2007

...In respect of Bt cotton expressing new gene events and other new GM crops under various stages of field trials, the Committee requested DBT to make available the requisite information related to pollen flow studies and MLT data expeditiously to the Member Secretary, GEAC.

...The Committee had also requested [more than 6 months ago!] DBT to sponsor a study to assess the problem [regarding sheep mortality following consumption of Bt cotton leaves] at Warangal district with the help of local veterinary hospital. Member Secretary, RCGM informed that in the absence of any proposal from the concerned institutions no study has been initiated so far.


2.Week of Rice Action 2007 Kicks off in Karnataka, India
Programme launched at Belthangady Taluk in Karnataka:
Mithabagilu Village declared GM Free; Seed Savers honoured
By Usha S and Sridhar R

27th March 2007 - Belthangady, Karnataka - The Week of Rice Action (WORA) 2007 was launched amidst much excitement and joy, with traditional songs and dance in the Mithabagilu Village of Belthangady Taluk, at the foot of the Western Ghats in Karnataka yesterday.

Farmers from two districts came together in this village to celebrate rice culture and share their experiences in conserving rice seeds. The programme was jointly organised by Nagarika Seva Trust-Karnataka, Thanal-Kerala and Mithabagilu Grama Panchayath, to raise awareness about the importance of rice and rice culture among the people and decision makers.

Usha S. from Thanal introduced the celebrations and said: "This programme is being organized in 13 countries all over Asia to highlight the importance of rice culture to Asia and to take action to protect this culture from threats especially from genetically engineered rice varieties and hybrid rice."

The celebrations were then inaugurated with the traditional rice ritual accompanied with the call of "Poli Poliyo" (prayer for prosperity) by Sri K Sundar Salian, President of the Agriculture and Industries Standing Committee of the Dakshina Kannada Zilla (District) Panchayath. Also present were Sri Nammalvar, a farmer-scientist and leader of the Tamil Nadu Organic Agriculturist Movement, Prof B M Kumaraswamy an economist, Sri Somanath Nayak (NST), Sri Krishna Prasad (Sahaja Samrudha-Karnataka), Smt Kusumavathi (President, Mithabagilu Grama Panchayath), Sri Lakshmeesha Tholpady(Barathiya Kissan Sangh) and other dignitaries from the Panchayaths, Krishikare Vedike, Mahila Jagruthi Vedike, Parisara Okkoota and Agriculture Department officials.

Sri Nammalvar spoke about the spread of the organic farming movement in Tamil Nadu and how this change in agricultural practice was helping the farmers there.

Sri B K Deva Rao a seed saver from the Mithabagilu Village and his family were awarded The Week of Rice Action 2007 Citation for their efforts in conserving 52 varieties of traditional paddy seed varieties for the last 10 years. Another 15 organic farmers, seed savers and Seed Bank heads from several other villages in the two districts were also honoured for their selfless work in protecting and conserving the traditional varieties of seeds and the local knowledge.

A booklet on "Biotechnology Engineered Hunger" by Prof B M Kumaraswamy, translated to the local language was also released at the function by Sri Sundara Salian.

Three sessions followed the inaugural function. Prof Kumaraswamy spoke about the unethical science behind biotechnology and GM seeds. Sri Nammalvar spoke about rice culture in India and how it was threatened by the green revolution and introduction of high input varieties. Sri Krishna Prasad shared the experience of seed conservation in Karnataka and the importance of it in conserving traditional varieties and knowledge.

After the sessions, the vil

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