|Ban Bt cotton / Indo-U.S. pact latest / Regulatory rows / Bt brinjal (3/6/2006)|
1.ICAR, private sector hold talks
More from Vidarbha - in item 2 - where the government acknowledged the failure of Bt cotton and even gave it as its reason for paying compensation to more than 2 million cotton growers, but which instead of banning Bt cotton is busy hyping it again alongside Monsanto.
OTHER EXCERPTS: Monsanto-Mahyco['s] attempts to get permission for transgenic mustard were met with huge opposition from Punjab where "sarson ka saag'' is a daily staple diet. [item 1]
The U.S. private sector companies that have a major say in the decisions of the Board [the joint board of the Indo-U.S. Knowledge Initiative] are the Monsanto seed company, food giant Wal-mart and Archer Daniels Midland Company. The Initiative has identified biotechnology and transgenic as a major thrust area for which the Indian side is under pressure to create "public awareness.'' [item 1]
1.ICAR, private sector hold talks
Monsanto, Wal-Mart , ITC among those on the Board
NEW DELHI : The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) on Friday had an interface with the private sector in the run-up to the third meeting of the Indo-U.S. Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture Education, Research, Services and Commercial Linkages to be held in Washington D.C. on June 6 and 7.
Under the Initiative, a joint Board has been constituted with wide representation from the private sector on it.
Companies with major say
The U.S. private sector companies that have a major say in the decisions of the Board are the Monsanto seed company, food giant Wal-mart and Archer Daniels Midland Company. The Initiative has identified biotechnology and transgenic as a major thrust area for which the Indian side is under pressure to create "public awareness.''
Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech had recently sought India's permission for field trials of genetically modified brinjal, after its attempts to get permission for transgenic mustard were met with huge opposition from Punjab where "sarson ka saag'' is a daily staple diet.
2.REQUEST TO BAN B.T. COTTON IN WEST VIDARBHA WHERE 540 FARMERS COMMITTED SUICIDE IN LAST KHARIF SEASON DUE COTTON CROP FAILURE [excerpt only]
TO, THE HON'BLE CHIEF MINISTER, GOVT.OF MAHARASHTRA, MANTRALAYA, MUMBAI-400 032
REF: ...THE PAYMENT OF COMPENSATION TO WEST VIDARBHA FARMERS IN THE MATTER OF B.T. COTTON FAILURE IN 3 MILLION HECTOR AREA.
SUB:- REQUEST TO BAN B.T. COTTON IN WEST VIDARBHA WHERE 540 FARMERS COMMITTED SUICIDE IN LAST KHARIF SEASON DUE COTTON CROP FAILURE.
NAGPUR, 3RD JUNE-2006
ON THE BEHALF [of] MORE THAN 4 MILLIOM COTTON GROWERS OF VIDARBHA, VIDARBHA JANANDOLAN SAMITI HEREBY REQUEST MAHARASHTRA HON'BLE CHIEF MINISTER TO BAN MASS TRIALS OF B.T. COTTON IN WEST VIDARBHA WHERE 540 FARMERS HAVE ALREADY COMMITTED SUICIDES DUE DEBT-TRAP AND CROP FAILURE.
WE ARE ATTACHING THE COPY GOVT. G.R. COTTON 1606/3/4A DATED IN WHICH GOVT. OF MAHARSHTRA HAS SANCTIONED RS.200 CRORES TO COTTON GROWERS AS SPECIAL PACKAGE TO THE FARMERS IN ORDER TO STOP ON GOING SUICIDES. AS PER G.R., WE QUOTE "IN WEST VIDARBHA AS B.T. COTTON FAILED TO GIVE YEILD IN KHARIF SEASON 2005-06, GOVT.OF MAHARASHTRA IS GIVING COMPENSATION TO 28.96 LACS COTTON GROWERS OF VIDARBHA @ RS.1000/- PER HECTOR AND MAXIMUM AMOUNT RS.2000/-. MORE THAN 2 MILLION COTTON GROWERS AFFECTED DUE CROP FAILURE WILL COVERED WITH THIS RELIEF AID"
WHEN GOVT. OF MAHARAHSTRA HAS ALREADY PAID RS.200 CRORE AS B.T. COTTON CROP FAILURE, IT WAS EXPECTED THAT THIS GOVT. WILL ASK COMPLETE BAN OF G.M. COTTON SEED BUT PRESENTLY FROM LAST MONTHS ALL MARATHI NEWS PAPERS ,MARATHI T.V. CHANNELS AND ALL INDIA RADIO STATIONS ARE GIVING MASSIVE ADVERTISEMENT'S OF B.T. COTTON SEED...
3.Field trials of Bt Brinjal unjustified, says NGO
SALEM: Speak Out Salem, the activism wing of the Salem-based NGO Socio Economic Environment Development (SEED), has launched a campaign against the proposed large scale field trials by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) and the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The move comes after an agenda was placed in the GEAC meeting on June 1, regarding granting permission for seed production and large scale trials of four hybrids of Bt Brinjal by an MNC.
In this regard, Speak Out Salem has sent a memorandum to the chairperson of the GEAC pointing out that the GEAC has already grossly failed in its proclaimed objective of ensuring safety of the environment and public health and is liable for all the biosafety violations and irregularities that have been brought to notice on the Bt Cotton issue by various research institutions, civil society organisations and even the state governments.
Attention had also been called on the violations in a Bt Brinjal field trial in Andhra Pradesh.
It is surprising that the GEAC wants to consider giving further permission to large scale field trials of genetically modified crops in the country, the memorandum said.
Studies on adverse health effects of GM crops were so disturbing that some countries have been forced to stall their research.
The field trials of Bt Cotton in India has already led to contamination of the cotton chain, the memo said.
"This is an unprecedented situation. Given this situation, we demand the GEAC to take a precautionary approach in further research and release of Genetically Modified Organisms, especially in food crops, and stall the release of Bt Brinjal seeds," the memo from the wing said.
"even though cotton is a non-edible crop, it had had an adverse impact on people who were engaged in its production and processing.
"In these circumstances, what will be the impact of Bt Brinjal on the health of people who will be forced to consume it, for no safety has been ensured," the memo said.
In our country, both the scientific community and the farmers have done a lot of work on Brinjal to improve its productivity and control the pests, through IPM, NPM, organic farming, biodynamic farming, etc.
The results are highly encouraging and these methods are inherently safe unlike the GMOs.
In this situation, it is unwarranted for the GEAC to be in such a hurry to give permission to the Bt Brinjal hybrids.
A Supreme Court case, regarding introduction of GMOs, biosafety procedures, etc., is pending and it is a legal impropriety on the part of the GEAC to be in such a hurry to approve GM food crops. Speak out Salem has decided to create awareness among farmers about the dangers of genetically-modified crops and motivate them to resist field trials.
4."Event-based" clearance for GM crops likely in India
NEW DELHI - In what could expedite release of new genetically modified (GM) crops into the market, the Union Government is considering `event-based' clearance against the existing system of approving each individual hybrid or variety.
An 'event', in biotech parlance, basically refers to a specific gene construct that can be incorporated in a number of existing hybrids or varieties. For instance, Monsanto's `Bollgard' is an event involving a series of steps developed by it for inserting cry1Ac (a foreign gene isolated from a soil bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis) into a parental cotton line. This 'event' - representing a stable genetic transformation of the parent cotton host can be replicated across other hybrids/varieties by backcrossing them with 'Bollgard'.
In the current system of commercial release approvals, every GM hybrid/variety has to undergo a minimum three years of official trials, irrespective of whether it incorporates an existing or new 'event'.
This includes one year of multi-locational trials for generating bio-safety data monitored by the Department of Biotechnology's Review Committee for Genetic Manipulation (RCGM), followed by two years of large-scale field trials under the aegis of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). Along with this, the company owning the hybrid has to supply seeds to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), which conducts independent tests for assessing its agronomic performance over a two-year period. In the third year, the GEAC also allows the company to carry out seed multiplication to enable commercial release in the subsequent year.
In case of an 'event' introduced for the first time in the country, the genetically transformed crop has to additionally go through one year of lab-level data generation and greenhouse trials, and another year of contained open field tests under RCGM supervision. That makes it a total of five years.
The proposal under consideration now is to do away with the multi-stage clearance mechanism for GM crops incorporating existing events, whose bio-safety, environmental and agronomic suitability has already been demonstrated before. "In such cases, we would only ascertain whether the said event is present in the particular hybrid, there is adequate expression of protein produced by the gene and the crop is morphologically the same even after transformation. All this can be done through simple DNA fingerprinting and a one-year confirmatory field experiment in any State Agricultural University. Once this basic data is known, the GEAC will register the hybrid for commercial release," officials told Business Line.
5.Food Bill to cause bifurcation in GMO regulation
NEW DELHI, JUNE 2: Bifurcation of responsibilities relating to regulations of genetically modified (GM) crops and food is on the anvil. The Food Standards & Safety Bill 2005, if passed by Parliament will result in a sea change in the countrys regulations.
The Bill, which was held up for a review by the House panel, was recently re-introduced in Parliament. It proposes setting up of an independent food authority, which will regulate all laws also relating to GM foods. In response to this development,the environment ministry has said that it will regulate only living modified organisms, thereby meaning only GM crops and animals.
The present regulator, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), which is under the environment ministry, has, however, said that it will continue to regulate GM food until the rules are amended. According to the guidelines and rules of 1989 under the Environment Protection Act, GEAC is authorised to regulate GM food too.
Recently, it had passed an interim decision on imports of GM soyabean oils. The amendment to 1989 rules can be done through a simple notification by the ministry. Food processing industries minister Subodh Kant Sahai said, "The food standards and safety legislation aims at an unified law relating to the food industry to be administered by a single authority." The NGOs had not shown much opposition to this proposed legislation as they had done in the case of an independent regulator for GM crops and food as proposed by Swaminathan and Mashelkar panels.
However, the proposal for setting up of an independent Food Authority has moved fast with the re-introduction of the Bill in Parliament. Not much work has been done for setting up of an independent regulator for GM crops and food, replacing the GEAC.
Mr Sahai said, "The Prime Minister will decide to which ministry the proposed Food Authority will be attached." But it seems clear that this authority would be under food processing ministry.
The health ministry, which administers the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act and Rules, is now busy finalising the rules relating to labelling of GM food. To allow time for finalisation of labelling norms, the commerce ministry has kept on hold its laws relating to mandatory labelling of imported GM products, till July 7, 2006. Mr Sahai said, once the Food Standards and Safety Bill is passed by Parliament, the rules relating to labelling of GM food would be reviewed and administered by the independent food authority.
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