Govt to reveal ill-effects of Bt cotton to public (1/8/2007)

1.Centre to reveal ill-effects of Bt cotton to public - Financial Express
2.No safety checks for GM seeds - The Statesman
3.'ASSOCHAM report on Bt cotton incredulous' - The Hindu


1.Centre to reveal ill-effects of Bt cotton to public
Ashok B Sharma Financial Express, August 2 2007

Allergenicity: The Supreme Court bench issued notices for making public the protocol for detecting contamination in field trials of GM crops

New Delhi, August 1 The Centre has agreed to place the toxicity and allergenicity data relating to Bt cotton in the public domain. Additional solicitor-general Amarender Saran told the Supreme Court in the course of hearings on a petition filed by Aruna Rodrigues and others calling for a moratorium on GM crops on Wednesday that the government was willing to share bulky data related to toxicity and allergenicity of Bt cotton and that he would also hand over a soft copy to all the petitioners. The data would be placed on the website hosted by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).

The bench consisting of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, justice CK Ravindran and justice Dalbir Bhandari acting on a fresh application filed by Aruna Rodrigues issued notices to the government for making public the protocol for detecting 0.01% genetic contamination in the field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops.

Rodrigues' counsel Prashant Bhushan said, "We had filed an application before the apex court not to allow field trials of GM crops until biosafety committees are set up in states concerned. We have also asked for the removal of CD Mayee as the co-chairperson of GEAC as he is on the board of a global biotech promoter agency - ISAAA. Mayee's holding such dual posts amounts to conflicts of interests. The court has accepted our application and has sent notices to the government."

The petitioner's application had also sought a direction to the government to provide a comprehensive list of the 24 varieties and hybrids that were approved between May 1-September 22, last year under nine listed crops, namely Bt Cotton, transgenic okra, tomato cauliflower, brinjal, rice, castor, groundnut and potato.


2.No safety checks for GM seeds
Anindita Chowdhury
The Statesman, August 2 2007

Kolkata, Aug. 1: The field trials for genetically modified seeds were permitted in the state even though West Bengal is yet to put in place its bio-safety regulatory system.

According to rules framed by union ministry of environment and forest for the manufacture, import, use, research and release of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in 1989 under Environment (protection) Act six competent authorities were required to be set up for advisory, regulatory and monitoring purposes.

The monitoring aspect was left at the state level with two authorities, State Bio safety Coordination Committee (SBCC) and district level committees (DLC). However, in case of West Bengal, the SBCC was set up just a few months back and has till date, held only one meeting.

The DLCs are yet to be formed. "The committee was to be set up long time back but we have finally set it up three months back with the chief secretary as the chairman and the secretaries of other departments and experts as members. We have held one meeting so far and but we still need to form the district-level committees," said an official of the state environment department.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) at the national level authorises large scale production and release of GMO and products and carries out supervision through SBCC and DLC. While SBCC investigates and takes punitive actions in case of violation of DLC, more importantly, it is the smallest authoritative unit to monitor safety regulations in installations.

Incidentally, in a letter to Prof. TK Bose, member, state agricultural commission, Dr KK Tripathi, advisor to the department of biotechnology under Union Science and technology ministry, had contended: "The regulatory system put in place by the government as on date is responsible for overviewing the safety of environment, human, and animal health and has been functioning effectively in regulating the DNA research and GM product commercialisation in the country."

Prof. Bose argues that the permission to Mahyco for conducting field trials for Bt rice and Bt Okra on 11 July, 2006 at North 24-Parganas was illegal since the state government was yet to set up the SBCC and DLC for monitoring purpose.

Although the chief secretary and agriculture commissioner were informed, the absence of experts have raised apprehension of the violation of biosafety protocols for the use of GM crops, particularly after a team from Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidaya reported that the protocols were not adhered to.


3.'ASSOCHAM report on Bt cotton incredulous'
APCDD ridicules survey report
The Hindu, July 31 2007

HYDERABAD: AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity (APCDD), representing civil society groups against genetically modified crops, has challenged the recent Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM)'s survey report on Bt cotton farming and termed it "incredulous."

At a press conference here on Monday, P.V. Satheesh, convenor of the APCDD, said the survey was part of a huge campaign launched by the genetic engineering industry to bamboozle public opinion. The seed major, Monsanto has produced 29 short films to counter the APCDD's film, "A disaster in search of success: Bt cotton in global south", he added.

Wrong priorities

"For Monsanto and the ASSOCHAM, foreign direct investment is far more important than the lives of the farmers lost in the pursuit of Bt cotton that left a trail of Bt-infected toxicity in the soils and plants leading to livestock morbidity."

Releasing the findings of the APCDD's own survey, he said the Bt cotton farmers earned just nine per cent more, a paltry difference of Rs. 380 per acre between Bt and non-Bt and not "additional income of Rs. 7039 crore as claimed by ASSOCHAM." Similarly cultivating Bt cotton was more expensive as farmers have to spend more on pest control than others.

New diseases

The raising of Bt cotton has brought to the fore diseases like "root rot", not seen by cotton farmers before, he said.

The survey also found that genetically engineered seed industry was deliberately closing all non-Bt options to farmers, forcing them to go in for Bt cotton.

The APCDD wanted the Government to promulgate a law to ensure production and distribution of non-Bt seed up to 50 per cent of their trade volume and to ask National Institute of Nutrition to investigate death of cattle after grazing in areas where Bt cotton was grown.

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