The Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education (FBAE) is based in Bangalore, India. A good indication of its influence and effectiveness as a lobby group is the way in which the Government of India, in countering Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the Supreme Court of India, has drawn on submissions from the FBAE in arguing both against a GM moratorium, in general, and in defending GM mustard field trials conducted by the University of Delhi, in particular.
The FBAE describes itself as
A non-profit movement for promoting sustainable development through biotechnology
It also describes itself as 'grass-root'. In reality, though, FBAE is closely linked to major biotechnology business interests.
According to information on its website, the formation of the Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education (FBAE) was announced at a Press Conference in Bangalore on January 16, 2001. The press conference was addressed by 'Dr S Shantharam, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, and Dr C. Kameswara Rao , Executive Secretary of the FBAE'.
Dr Rao is the former head of the Botany Department at Bangalore University and a 'Consultant, Biotechnology & Medicinal Plants'. Dr Shantharam, meanwhile, left the IPRI and took up employment with Syngenta International - the world's largest agricultrural biotechnology corporation - in March 2001, ie within a matter of weeks of the launch of the FBAE. And by June of that year he was representing Syngenta at the Biotechnology Industry Organisation's annual convention in the USA (Biotechnology on Parade : BIO 2001 San Diego, CA June 2427, 2001, See also here)
At the Inaugural Workshop of the FBAE, held on January 18 2001, Dr Shantharam became a member of the FBAE Steering Committee established 'to guide the Foundation through the further course of action'. Although he is listed as: 'Dr S Shantharam, Basel, Switzerland' and Basel is where Syngenta International has its headquarters, the FBAE website does not appear to have anywhere identified Dr Shantharam as an employee of Syngenta.
As well as being one of the two people who announced the formation of the FBAE at the press conference, Dr Shantharam also gave the 'presidential address' at the FBAEs inaugural workshop two days later. The FBAE has also undertaken contractual work for Syngenta, according to its first annual report .
While employed by Syngenta (March 2001 - June 2003), Dr Shantharam was head of Stakeholder Relations and Technology Communications. He also served as their Biotechnology Regulatory Compliance Manager, and led Syngentas communications efforts for its Golden Rice and Rice Genome projects.
Dr Shantharam has also, since July 1 2003, been a senior advisor to the Sehgal Family Foundation . The Founder and Chairman of the Foundation is Dr. Suri Sehgal, the Founder and Chairman of Proagro Seed Company Ltd., India - the company that first sought to commercialise GM mustard in India.
The President of the FBAE is identified as:
Dr Sharan Angadi
Occupation: Dy. General Manager, 47 yrs,
Nunhems Seeds India Pvt. Ltd.
Dr Angadi was on FBAE's initial Steering Committee and was also FBAE's first Vice President (see 'Office Bearers' in FBAE's first annual report)
Nunhems Seeds is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bayer CropScience, the agricultural-biotechnology subsidiary of the German based pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer AG.
Dr. Angadi was previously deputy general manager - research for Nunhems Proagro Seeds. The Proagro group, which comprises Proagro Seed Company and Hybrid Rice International and Nunhems Seeds, are all part of the activities of Bayer CropScience in India.
ProAgro sought to commercialise GM mustard in India. This GM mustard incorporated the controversial barnase and barstar genes as part of a 'proprietary know-how of its German parent, Bayer CropScience'. (Why is Proagro's product controversial?) The same construct is also part of the the University of Delhi GM mustard.
Both Dr Angadi and Dr Shantharam were on the FBAE's initial Steering Committee, as was Dr Villoo Patell , the CEO of the well-known Indian biotechnology firm AvesthagenGo to a Printer Friendly Page