The GM cowboys working for farmer Bush and Monsanto (2/7/2006)

The demands for the rapid introduction of GM into India that are reported below - 'Spread biotech in agriculture rapidly' - arose out of a workshop that provides a classic illustration of US/biotech industry lobbying activities c/o third parties.

The workshop was, we are told, "organised by Federation of Farmers' Associations (FFA-AP) in association with Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU)." And if a farmers' group and a university in Andhra Pradesh sound like independent entities, bear in mind that the head of the Federation of Farmers' Associations, Chengal Reddy, has had a long association with Monsanto and has even said he would like to see the FFA become the operational arm in Andhra Pradesh of The Indian Crop Protection Association (ICPA) - the trade body of the leading agrochemical companies in India.

It's also worth noting that the workshop's co-organiser - the Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU) - was selected for a visit by George Bush during his nukes and biotech endorsing trip to India back in the spring. The Deccan Chronicle noted at the time, "According to Vice-chancellor Raghuvardhan Reddy, US will set-up a $100 million Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on agricultural biotechnology and ANGRAU will also benefit from this initiative." This ran under the heading, "Farmer Bush reins (sic) in ANGRAU ranch."

ANGRAU's Vice Chancellor also turns out to be one of the speakers endorsing "agricultural biotechnology" at the workshop, as was the US-based pro-GM lobbyist, CS Prakash, whose long and dubious association with Monsanto and its PR people is well established, as is his role as a GM ambassador on behalf of the US State Dept.

The other main speaker seems to have been "Dr Sujatha Sankula, Director (Biotechnology Research Programmes), at the Washington-based National Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy" (NCFAP). The science journal Nature describes NCFAP as "a pro-GM industry group." Its GM propagandising is backed by the Biotechnology Industry Organisation, Monsanto, the biotech-industry funded Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI), and the biotech-industry trade group CropLife America. It's also said to receive money from the US Department of Agriculture.

Of course, there's no reason why a group of people enjoying the support of the US government and the biotech industry shouldn't get up and call for the rapid adoption of GM crops, but it would be nice if they were a mite more open about their vested interests in GM crop adoption.

When it comes to their actual claims, they appear to range from the absurd to the unsupported.

CS Prakash tells us that while GM is "just one tool in the toolbox", it is also "an end-all solution for all the problems for agricultural sector"!!! Extravagant claims are the norm for Prakash, he was previously reported in the Tanzanian press as saying that GM "doubles production". In the Philippines he told a press conference that, "most genetically-modified crops have longer shelf life". For resource poor farmers these are enticing claims, they just happen to be completely untrue. (Prof Channapatna Prakash, the great deceiver)

Prakash's attack on organic agriculture - "almost superstitious and not science based" - is equally predictable. His claim that GM crops are "a 'scale neutral' technology, benefiting small and rich farmers alike", is particularly contemptible given the misery that GM cotton has brought to small farmers in parts of India, not least Andhra Pradesh where Prakash was speaking. A recent study showed farmers growing GM cotton in Andhra Pradesh invested more money than non-GM cotton growers but got less yield and far less income in return. (New study exposes Monsanto's Bt cotton hype)

Small farmers, faced with the problems of debt, are particularly vulnerable in such circumstances, which is why GM cotton has so badly exacerbated the problem of debt-related suicides amongst small farmers in areas like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, where literally hundreds of farmers have taken their lives as a result of the poor performance of the expensive Bt cotton seeds. (BT COTTON - THE MAIN KILLER OF FARMERS IN VIDARBHA - ONCE AGAIN ACTIVE: VJAS URGES GOVERNMENT TO STOP GM SEED PROMOTION)


'Spread biotech in agriculture rapidly'
The Hindu, June 4 2006

Hyderabad , June 3

Speakers at a workshop have called for rapid spread of biotechnology (Bt) in agriculture to increase productivity and nutritional quality and achieve sustainable agriculture in India.

Dr Sujatha Sankula, Director (Biotechnology Research Programmes), at the Washington-based National Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy, said the acreage of Bt-driven crops in the US had gone up to 12.3 crore acres in 2005 from five million in 1996. This, she said, showed the increasing acceptability there, including genetically modified crops.

She gave a presentation on "Crop Bt in the US - A case to understand why India cannot miss the BT train" at the international workshop on "Fostering the next green revolution - Role of biotechnology in advancing Indian agriculture" held here. The workshop was organised by Federation of Farmers' Associations (FFA-AP) in association with Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU).

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