Anti-GM protest in Delhi (15/4/2008)

1.Anti-GM protest in Delhi - May 6 2008

2.Supreme Court order on GM food items 'a breakthrough'

3.Farmers conclude 4,000-km march against GM seeds

4.Order on GM food import in abeyance

5.Ill effects of Bt cotton 6.Mahavishnu and Mohini

EXTRACT: 'The only ones to benefit from it are a few multinational corporations. At stake is the food security and food sovereignty of nations. It is a shame that a country like India has to waste so much effort in dealing with the problems caused by this technology.' (item 2)


1.Anti-GM protest in Delhi on May 6th 2008
Kavitha Kuruganti

Dear Friends,

The anti-GM battle in India has reached a crucial stage - soon, Mahyco, the Indian avataar of Monsanto, would be walking up to the regulators for permission for the second [and last] year of large scale trials this Kharif [starting June 2008] of Bt Brinjal, the first food crop in India and the first such GM vegetable crop with Bt gene anywhere in the world.

Elsewhere in the world, especially Europe, more countries are clamping bans on GM crops. More regions are declaring themselves GM-Free. In India, the central government is steamrollering ahead, with its support to the biotech industry and showing its lack of vision for Indian farming again and again. Certain state governments are fortunately taking a long term, holistic view on genetic engineering and are appreciating the environmental, human health, political, economic and socio-cultural implications of such a technology on Indian farming and society. However, the Union of India is not upholding even this Constitutional right of state governments and is blindly moving ahead with its approvals of various crop trials and experiments.

Bt Brinjal biosafety is questionable - in fact, we should not forget that the results of genetic engineering itself are very unpredictable and the very process of GE results in different unintended hazardous consequences. With Bt Cotton, the experiences of farmers across the country, as recorded by official sources too, range from newer and increased number of pests and diseases to fatal impacts on livestock, effects on human health and effects on soil with hardly any benefits as claimed by the industry. The stress intolerance of crops like Bt Cotton has also been recorded time and again. In this era of climate change, is this the technology that we want to rest our food and nutrition security on?

The regulators sitting in Delhi have also proven themselves to be unaccountable, unscientific, wedded to conflicting interests and apathetic to the real experiences of farmers on the ground. If we continue to keep silent, more of this undemocratic thrusting down of unwanted, corporate technologies will continue to smother Indian farming as well as all of us - after all, you and I will not have any choices left if Bt Brinjal and other GM foods is allowed in. No systems of labelling will let you know if you are consuming Bt Brinjal or not, in this country.

It is in this context that we invite all right-thinking, pro-farmer, concerned citizens to assemble at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on MAY 6TH 2008, for a one-day dharna. If you want the government to take our message seriously, you should be there to show that you are against GM crops too. Please block the date, plan your travel straightaway and bring as many people as you can to the dharna site. Try to get signatures of people endorsing a NO GMOs message on a long banner and we will join all the banners for display during the dharna. Also carry signature petitions with as many signatures as possible.

Hope to see you in Delhi - remember, if we don't show our concern strongly now, it might be too late later on. Do join us.

Kavitha Kuruganti
For the 'Coalition for GM Free India'

Kavitha Kuruganti
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
12-13-445, Street # 1, Tarnaka
Secunderabad 500 017
www.csa-india.org; www.indiagminfo.org

Phone: +91-9393001550


2.Supreme Court order on GM food items 'a breakthrough'
Protocol for safety tests and impact monitoring inadequate: Gene Campaign
The Hindu (front page), April 13 2008

*GEAC directed to consider toxicity of GM food items *Cultivating GE rice is a 'high risk' area

Thiruvananthapuram: The interim order issued by the Supreme Court on Tuesday directing the government to publicise the results of trials on the safety of genetically modified (GM) food items represents a breakthrough in the campaign for biosafety regulations in India, Suman Sahai, convener of Gene Campaign, said here on Friday.

Talking to The Hindu, Ms. Sahai who is in the city to attend a two-day workshop organised by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, said the order would be a boost for efforts to establish a better regulatory mechanism for GM products in the country.

A Supreme Court Bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan issued the interim order based on a public interest litigation filed by Gene Campaign, a Delhi-based research and advocacy organisation.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has been directed to consider the toxicity and allerginicity of GM food items. The order asked the government to post the relevant material on the web so that independent experts could examine them.

Contamination hazard

The committee has also been asked to study the isolation distance of experimental fields from neighbouring fields to prevent contamination.

In its petition, the Gene Campaign had alleged that the unregulated release of GM grains and vegetables in the Indian environment was fraught with danger to public health and environment. It sought to prevent the release of GM foods without safety verification by an independent agency.

Persistent demand

'At a time when almost every other country, including the U.S., is revising regulations on GM products, the Government of India has not responded to persistent demand for an overhaul of the regulatory mechanism. The existing protocol for safety tests and impact monitoring in India is extremely inadequate despite growing scientific evidence of the impact of GM foods on public health,' Ms. Sahai said.

'It is a pity that a country like India that is home to the biggest staple food in the world is fooling around with genetically engineered (GE) rice. Cultivating GE rice is a 'high risk' area for India, a major centre of origin and diversity for rice.'

Ban in Mexico

She said Mexico had imposed a ban on not just the cultivation of GE corn, but also research in GE corn.

'Too little is understood about what happens when foreign genes are abruptly pushed into the genetic material of living organisms like plants. The results are intrinsically unpredictable and there exists the potential for damage across generations. India must not cultivate GE rice until a solid body of research is done to understand the implications.'

Like atomic energy

Likening GM technology to atomic energy, Ms. Sahai who has a Ph.D. in genetics and several years of teaching experience in Indian and foreign universities, said, 'The crisis is that we will never be able to guarantee total safety. I cannot see a day when we can remove precautions on GE research.'

She said transparency and facilities for data scrutiny would have to be part of the regulatory mechanism.

Sovereignty at stake

Ms. Sahai termed GE a solution in search of a problem. 'The only ones to benefit from it are a few multinational corporations. At stake is the food security and food sovereignty of nations. It is a shame that a country like India has to waste so much effort in dealing with the problems caused by this technology.'


3.Farmers conclude 4,000-km march against GM seeds
Thaindian News, April 13th 2008

New Delhi, April 12 (IANS) Nearly 150 farmers ended a rally here Saturday after marching through five states opposing the government policy on genetically modified seeds and seeking attention to the plight of peasants in the country. The Bija Satyagraha Yatra (non-violent seed march) that started from Champaran in Bihar March 26 and moved though Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan.

'We started our movement from Gandhiji's favourite Champaran and ended in Rajghat, his samadhi. We strictly kept it a farmers' movement and discussed related issues across our route,' said renowned activist Vandana Shiva.

'Our governments are talking about genetically modified seeds and crops but have forgotten that crops should be promoted as per the local need and climatic condition.

'Bundelkhand is facing drought for last few years but authorities are giving seeds that require lots of water. Farmers are being pushed into seed slavery with growing dependence of genetically engineered patented seeds. They are not good for our soil and health,' Shiva told IANS.

During the 4,000 kilometres of march farmers spread the message of seed sovereignty. They interacted with over 52,000 farmers and distributed 42 quintals of seeds in 32 varieties.

Shiva said instead of GM seeds and crops, India should go for organic farming and help farmers earn better.

'India is facing a food crisis but the government is not bothered about the state of our farmers. While farmers die due to falling incomes, food prices rise because of corporate hoarding and speculation,' she added.


4.Order on GM food import in abeyance
Howraw News Service, 14 April 2008

New Delhi: The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has put in abeyance a notification issued in August 2007 that allows the import of genetically modified (GM) foods into India without its prior permission, reports our special corrsepondent.

The latest notification to this effect, was issued on February 25, 2008. The notification is significant in view of the fears and opposition expressed by several civil society organisations against free import of GM foods, whose biosafety is suspect and yet to be proven, in their point of view.


5.Ill effects of Bt cotton
Dr Sudhir Kumar
Press Release, Save Farmer Movement, 11 April 2008

Genetically Modified Crop B.T Cotton has been found hazardous not only for farm animals like buffalo, cow, sheep, goat, etc., but for human beings as well. For the last 4-5 years milk yielded from farm animals, who are being fed whole seeds and seed oilcake of BT Cotton, has come under scanner as it has been proved toxic and disease causing for humans. Reputed biotechnologist and geneticist of the city and national coordinator of Kisan Bachao Andolan, Dr Sudhir Kumar Kaura based on his team's extensive scientific field studies, communicated to the press that ill effects of BT cotton on human and farm animal health can now be clearly spotted in rural as well as urban areas of Hisar District. As reported in Andhra Pradesh and some other states, BT Cotton has also caused untimely deaths; decline in milk quantity and quality; serious reproductive failures and problems including pseudo-pregnancy in thousands of farm animals in Hisar district. Incidentally, in January this year, through an international press release (published at http://www.i-sis.org.uk/BTAllergyNorthIndia.php), Dr Kaura was first to report cases of skin itching and allergy like symptoms in farmers, farm labourers and farm animals in Sadalpur village of Hisar District. Later on, such symptoms were reported in every part of cotton belt in north India. Farm families in the district have collectively incurred economic loss of millions of rupees on account of human and animal diseases and untimely animal deaths due to BT Cotton. According to Dr Kaura, the problems due BT Cotton can be regarded as an epidemic.

Dr Kaura, who has himself studied, researched and worked in a reputed university based genetic engineering laboratory for over 10 years in a row, and other top agricultural and management institutions including IIM, Ahmedabad and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), elaborated that in fact BT Cotton is genetically engineered to produce a deadly pesticide called BT Toxin with in each and every part of the plant against American Bollworm, a major insect pest of cotton crop, and related insects. Like any other insecticides, if any animal comes in direct contact of this plant and /or plant part or eats any raw or cooked part of the plant, the animal can die immediately or it may exhibit symptoms of poisoning like going off feed (inability to feed), reduced intake of feed, suffocation, breathing difficulties, unexplained weakness, etc. Milk of farm animals, eating BT Cotton, is deadly for animals'' offspring as well as humans of all age groups, as it has been found to cause increased death rate in infants, general debility, allergy, unexplained health problems, fever, decline in immunity, weakness, etc. in laboratory and field conditions. In some preliminary studies, many human and animal subjects have shown relief from disease symptoms when BT Cotton was omitted from feed or food sources.

Dr Kaura says that government functionaries like state agri-universities, ICAR, agricultural and health ministry, and agri-scientists are well aware of the deadly nature and other health compromising effects of BT Cotton but they pose as if they are unaware of the facts and field reports probably under pressure of their superiors who are in turn controlled by politicians. Due to apathy of government over this issue, farmers, and public is paying a very heavy price indeed in terms of their health and capital loss. Dr Kaura has appealed to farmers to immediately stop grazing animals in BT Cotton fields and desist from using BT Cotton seeds and seed oilcake in the animal feed. He has also appealed to farmers across India to boycott this deadly and poisonous synthetic crop.

While nearly all scientists of India have chosen to remain dumb on this issue of human survival in spite of knowing research and field positions, a senior agri-scientist of national repute Dr M S Narwal has shown courage to speak against genetically modified (GM) Crops in his appeal to international community of agri-scientists. He released his appeal early this month in which he had appealed to all agricultural scientists of the world to kindly help farmers in coming out of vicious circle of dangerous genetically modified (GM) crops like BT Cotton because reports have been coming for the last about 10 years which say these crops are harmful for humans, animals, ecology and environment alike and manufacturers and promoters of these globally controversial GM crops have not been able to counter these reports and findings yet. Dr Narwal is a Senior Scientist in the discipline of Pearl Millet Breeding, who is on rolls of a state funded agricultural university and is a former President of Teachers'' Association of CCS Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar, Haryana State, India.

(Sudhir Kumar Kaura)
National Coordinator

6.Mahavishnu and Mohini
By P. Sankara Narayanan
Organiser, April 20 2008

Farmers and environmental activists staged a protest on February 22 against genetic engineering (GE) field trials of Bt brinjal being conducted at Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) in Coimbatore. They began the protest by pasting a plaque titled 'now owned by Monsanto', below the nameplate of the university at the entrance. R. Selvam, secretary, Erode Organic Farmers’ Collective, alleged that the field trials of Monsanto Mahyco, the world’s largest producer of genetically-manipulated organisms (GMOs), were being conducted by the university to fulfill mandatory field trials required before commercial release. Shri Selvam said: 'There are documented health risks generated by GE foods. But, the university is planning to thrust GE foods down our throats. Is TNAU functioning for local farmers and society or an international company?' He said there should be a gap of 50 metres between a Bt brinjal field and a tomato field. The adjoining field at the university did not conform to this. He claimed that the crops grown as part of the experiment should be burnt after being weighed, but they were being dumped into a nearby well.

Vice-Chancellor C. Ramasamy said: 'All the field trials are being done with the approval of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. Even a single experiment cannot be conducted without the concurrence of the bio-safety committee.' But there is no independent regulator to certify Ramasamy's assertions. Rejecting allegations of ulterior motives in the tie-up with Monsanto, he said: 'We will welcome good technology from anybody.' But technology without conscience is worse than no technology. During the division of amrut between asuras and devas, there was only one Mahavishnu. But in this GE issue, there are several Mahavishnus (Monsanto, Cornel University, USA, WTO and Central Government) behind the scene. Poor Ramasamy is the only Mohini to get thoroughly exposed.

The Vice-Chancellor termed the protest a 'criminal activity'. This brings an old joke to my memory. A raja and a rani were sitting on the balcony of a palace. Rani opened the rind of an orange and offered the pulp to raja. The rind was thrown away. A beggar picked the rind and ate it. Rani became furious, brought the beggar to court and gave severe lashings. In spite of the lashings, the beggar laughed. A surprised rani asked him why he was laughing? The beggar told: 'I only ate the rind to get this punishment; but raja took the pulp. I felt pity for raja. That is why I laughed.' If mere protest is a criminal activity, how to describe the ‘criminal conspiracy’ hatched between a Monsanto Mahavishnu and a Ramasamy Mohini?

WTO court in 2006 ruled that Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Luxembourg had no legal grounds to impose their own unilateral import bans on GM food. 'Europe guilty!' shouted the US press. In fact, the US has mostly won a lot of new enemies. Rather than going away, as the biotech companies and Washington fervently hoped, the opposition to GM foods seems to have been growing since 2004 when the case was brought to the WTO. Europe, its member-states, and its consumers all rejected the ruling, making the WTO look even more out of touch and incompetent to rule on issues about the environment, health, and consumer choice.

Individual European countries who dislike being told what to eat or grow by the EC as much as by the WTO said they will resist any attempts to make them accept GM. Hungary had declared that it is in its economic interests to remain GM-free, and Greece and Austria had affirmed their total opposition to the crops. Italy had called the WTO ruling 'unbalanced' and Poland’s Prime Minister had pledged to keep the country GM-free. Local government was even more opposed: more than 3,500 elected councils in 170 regions of Europe had declared themselves GM-free.

There is little the WTO, the EC or the US could do in the face of this coalition of the unwilling. If the US again tries to impose its GM products on Europe—as it did in the 1990s, sparking the whole debacle—the attempt will backfire. It is now clear that the real reason the US took Europe to the WTO court was to make it easier for its companies to prise open regulatory doors in China, India, South-East Asia, Latin America, and Africa, where most US exports now go. This is where millions of tonnes of US food aid heads, and where US GM companies are desperate to have access.

There lies the criminal conspiracy between Monsanto Mahavishnu and Ramasamy Mohini.

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