GEAC's "no" to Bt brinjal / Bt cotton causes shortfall in Pakistan (5/10/2007)

1.GEAC's no to Sungro's Bt brinjal, yes to everything else
2.GM crops sprout in an Indian village
3.Problems with Bt cotton cause shortfall in Pakistan's cotton target

EXTRACT: "While the rest of the world is stopping GM research because of public rejection of the genetically engineered food, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research merrily continues to encourage agricultural exports thereby jeopardizing the future of domestic farming." (ITEM 2)
1.GEAC's no to Sungro's Bt brinjal; conditional yes for Bt cabbage
Financial Express, October 4 2007

New Delhi, Oct 3 The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has turned down the request of Sungro Seeds Research Ltd for largescale field trials of its six Bt brinjal hybrids.

Sungro Seeds has developed six Bt brinjal, namely – SBJ 1 Bt, SBJ 2 Bt, SBJ 4 Bt, SBJ 6 Bt, SBJ 7 Bt and SBJ 8 Bt. The GEAC, in this context, noted that as these transgenic brinjals were developed by transfer of Bt brinjal event developed by Mahyco and “as Mahyco’s Bt brinjal is still under review, the present request cannot be considered at this stage.”

The 80th meeting of GEAC held on Monday, however, gave conditional approval for multi-locational field trials of two Bt cabbage hybrids (SCB-3 Bt & SCB-7 Bt) developed by Sungro. The GEAC noted that as per decision of the Supreme Court on May 8, 2007, field trials of GM crops with new events was specific to 24 items approved in the period May 1, 2006 to September 22, 2006. GM crops approved during this period was rice, okra, groundnut, potato, tomato, brinjal, castor, cauliflower, mustard and cotton. As Bt cabbage was not listed in the 24 items approved by the GEAC during the period in question, the request for multi-locational field trials cannot be considered without informing the court.

However, the GEAC finally decided that as the government has moved an application for modification of the Supreme Court's order, permission for multi-locational field trials of Bt cabbage can be given subject to the outcome of court's order. The trials would be conducted as per protocols laid down by the court.

The GEAC also approved strip trials of transgenic tomato (cv. Pusa Ruby) developed by National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology in the premises of institutions and companies. It also allowed field trials of Mahyco's Bt rice and Central Potato Research Institute's transgenic potato lines, SP-951.

GEAC order commercial release of Bt cotton hybrids ( 113 Bt, 302 Bt, ACH 21-1) and strip trials of some Bt cotton hybrids. It witheld permission to Metahelix Life Science, Bangalore for largescale field trials of its Bt cotton hybrids, pending receiving of complete biosafety dossier and further directions from the Supreme Court.
GM crops sprout in an Indian village

People and Planet, 4 Oct 2007

Aarkavaadi is a typical Indian village in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. It has a population of 1870, with women very much outnumbering the men. The main source of livelyhood is farming of rice, groundnuts, tapioca and sugarcane. But now some farmers are being approached to grow geneticaly modified cotton. Natasha Garyali sent this personal report from Aarkavaadi.

"This is our first time", said Murgeshan pointing towards a small area where round cotton balls could be seen. In the same breath he adds, "they are paying us to grow it ". Murgeshan is talking about 'Rasi', a company that is supplying Genetically Modified (GM) cottonseeds to the farmers of Aarkavaadi.

The officials from 'Rasi' visited the village few months back and supplied the farmers with the GM seeds and the initial capital needed. Some of the villagers have taken up cotton cultivation. though, at present, only one and half acres of the land in the village is under cotton cultivation.

Chennandurai, is another farmer who has grown cotton on about a third of an acre. He is expecting a yield of about 3 to 4 quintals of cotton. The seeds cost about Rs 18500 (£222) per quintal. These seeds have to be taken back to the Rasi seed company in Salem, since the villagers have no idea on cotton cultivation and separation of cotton from seeds.

As the GM seeds are sterile, the farmers will be forced to go back again to the company for the seeds every year. The impact on the land due to continued cotton cultivation is not questioned by the seed companmy. Another worry the farmers have is the rains, which might spoil the whole crop. Who will pay for their losses then?

Driven into debt

Whether to use the GM seeds or not has been hotly debated around the world, but in this remote village nobody would ever raise a finger.

Well-known activist and journalist, Vandana Shiva, says, "farmers worldwide are turning to genetically modified seeds to increase their crop output and in the process are destroying traditional crops and methods of organic farming". Some farmers have also been driven into steep debt buying expensive seeds.

The seeds must be bought anew every year since they cannot be replanted like organic seeds. They also have to invest in costly irrigation systems and pesticides to accommodate the new system that, she says, often wipes out their savings. She also relates this to the farmer suicides in India and the debt they run into. She argues that bioengineered crops may work in the short term, but they cannot be sustained because they are costly and deprive the soil of moisture and nutrients.

In April 2004, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in India approved another Bt cotton variety of Rasi Seed Company for the central and southern regions. There were reports that the go ahead came without adequate scientific testing. In agriculture research, it is mandatory to hold crop field trails for at least three years before any commercial approval. The approval for Bt cotton from Rasi Seeds Company, has come after just one year of field trials.

Moreover the GEAC, had in 2003, allowed field-testing for Rasi seeds in an area of 100,000 acres, which seemed unprecedented considering that even under the All India Crops Research Projects of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), field experiments are not conducted in such a large area. By allowing such huge field trials, the GEAC had practically given them a license for commercial cultivation.

"While the rest of the world is stopping GM research because of public rejection of the genetically engineered food, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research merrily continues to encourage agricultural exports thereby jeopardizing the future of domestic farming.

But then, who cares for the farmers as long as GM research ensures the livelihood security for a few thousand agricultural scientists" says Devinder Sharma who chairs the New Delhi-based Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security.

Natasha Garyali has made a study of life in Aarkavaadi and reports on South Asia media for Asia Media, a University of South California (UCLA) publication.

Farmers protest

To publicize the demands of thousands of Vidarbha cotton farmers who have committed suicide, a unique protest rally by more than 10,000 cotton farmers from the Vidarbha region of Maharasthra was held this week in honour of Mahatma Gandhi, who was born on October 2, 1869.

The rally kicked off a national highway blockade of non-violent resistance that will start on October 11, 2007 and last indefinitely to press the main demand of the Vidarbha cotton growers - to obtain higher prices for their cotton.
3.PAKISTAN: Shortfall in cotton target likely due to virus attacks

KARACHI: The Cotton target of 14.5 million bales for the 2007-08 season is likely to be missed. It is expected to reach 13.5 to 14.0 million bales for the current season.

This ten percent shortfall of cotton yield is mainly due to mealy bug and cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV) attack and reddening of leaf. The CCLV has no remedy till now.

The recent spell of rains in the Sindh and Punjab cotton growing belts has affected the quality and the volume of the crop, especially of BT cotton, where 90 percent of the crop is at maturity level. About 45% of the total cultivation is BT cotton.

The rains and mealy bug have damaged the standing crop in lower Sindh areas including Mirpurkhas and Sanghar and in Punjab the areas affected are Rajana and Kamalia.

Textile mills purchased 1,459,512 bales from ginners and private sector exporters bought 23,400 bales. Unsold stocks remained at 69,511 bales.
Pressing bales stood at 1,532,423 bales.

Despite good harvest progress continuing reports of pest attacks have influenced a slightly more cautious view of cotton outlook. Pakistan is likely to face a shortfall of around 3.2 million bales due to rains and virus attacks.

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