Ushering in the Second Green Revolution - International conference in New Delhi (26/7/2004)


PV Satheesh of the Deccan Development Society has warned how, unperturbed by the problems already inflicted on the country by GM cotton, "the powerful industrial lobby in India has been instrumental in a process that might completely dismantle the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests and hand over the control to an industry dominated committee in the name of a fast track approval".

Satheesh was referring to the proposals of the 'Task Force on Application of Biotechnology in Agriculture' under MS Swaminathan.

Now a major conference has been announced that is to deliberate on the Task Force's recommendations.

Who is organising the deliberations?

The very industry lobby that Satheesh warned about:

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), which is besotted with the vision of India as one vast genomic valley.

In partnership with:

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Application (ISAAA) - a U.S.-based, GM promotion and 'transfer' agency with multi-million dollar funding from Bayer, Cargill, Dow, Monsanto, Novartis, Pioneer, Syngenta, in addition to foundations and Western governmental funding agencies. ISAAA's board of Directors has contained leading biotech industry executives.

And the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) headed by the green revolution scientist with a talent for dressing up the industry lobby's agenda in the rhetoric of village india, women's empowerment etc..

1.Ushering in the Second Green Revolution - International conference in New Delhi
2.Swaminathan Panel Recommendations on Biotechnology Flawed and Dangerous

1.International Conference on Agricultural Biotechnology
Ushering in the Second Green Revolution
August 10-12, 2004, New Delhi

Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in partnership with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Application (ISAAA) and the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) is organizing an International Conference on "Agricultural Biotechnology-Ushering in the Second Green Revolution" as per the following schedule:

Day & Date August 10-12, 2004
Venue Federation House, FICCI, Tansen Marg, New Delhi

The conference will feature international experts from across the globe including from the FAO who will share global and country experiences and best practices on agricultural biotechnology. Speakers include Prof. MS Swaminathan, Chairman, MSSRF, Dr. Clive James, Chairman, ISAAA and other experts from Argentina, Brazil, China, the EU, Philippines, Spain and North America. This conference is organized to deliberate on the recommendations of the "Task Force on Application of Biotechnology in Agriculture".

2.Swaminathan Panel Recommendations on Biotechnology Flawed and Dangerous

Press Release from Greenpeace India. Date: 6 May 2004

6 May, 2004, Bangalore: Criticizing the sweeping recommendations of the Task Force on Application of Biotechnology in Agriculture, Greenpeace today stated that the report assumes that genetically engineered crops are the way forward for Indian agriculture, ignoring the fact that the debate on GMOs as the 'future' of agriculture continues to be a heated one, both domestically and internationally, because of the long-term
economic and environmental risks.

The 28-page report, prepared by a task-force led by Mr. M.S. Swaminathan, submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture is problematic on at least three counts: Firstly, it suggests a dangerous non-scientific approach to regulating gene constructs. Secondly, it threatens India's native varieties and valuable exports such as organic and basmati rice - the report fails to recognize that co-existence between genetically engineered and non-engineered plants is impossible.

Third, and most importantly, the report fails to recognize that biotechnology is essentially unregulatable. "The Navbharat illegal Bt cotton scandal is a clear demonstration of the fundamental inability of the government to regulate GMOs," says Dr. Ashesh Tayal, scientific advisor for Greenpeace India. "Moreover, it is a devastating example of how impossible it is to recall GMOs once they are released into the environment."

The task force proposes a dangerous non-scientific approach to biotechnology regulation when it proposes to regulate only the gene construct, rather than the various crop varieties that receive the gene. They propose that once a gene construct is approved, it can be used in any other crop plant, from maize to brinjal, without further evaluation. Even in the very pro-biotechnology United States scientists recognize that new genes function differently in different species and environments, that their impacts may vary drastically & that they must be regulated on a case-by-case basis. With this proposal, the task force revealed its true pro-biotechnology colors - its main aim is clearly to strip away regulation of biotechnology, rather than improve it.

The task force's most dangerous conclusions revolve around the assumption that co-existence is possible between genetically engineered crops and traditional varieties and organic agriculture. Swaminathan and his colleagues propose to protect basmati rice from genetic engineering at the same time that they encourage the genetic engineering of other rice varieties.

However, experiences from the rest of the world clearly show that coexistence is impossible. Organic rapeseed growers in Western Canada have sued Monsanto because they can no longer produce an organic crop, due to constant threat of contamination. Traditional varieties of maize in isolated mountain valleys in Mexico have become contaminated with US GMO maize. "Co-existence is not only impossible," says Dr. Doreen Stabinsky of Greenpeace International, "but by pretending it is possible, the task force threatens sectors of great importance to India - its basmati rice exports and its organic agricultural sector. This is a foolish and short-sighted report."

Additionally, the panel recommends that the Ministry of Agriculture (which is also producing GMOs), be appointed the regulating body for all GMOs! The panel is also startling in its suggestion of using the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) as the optimal model on which the new Agricultural Biotechnology Regulatory Authority (ABRA) should be structured - considering that the AERB is widely recognized as suffering the most notorious lack of transparency and accountability.

The Report of the Task force on Application of Bio Technology in Agriculture may be downloaded from here:

For further information, please contact:
Dr. Ashesh Tayal, Scientific Advisor Greenpeace India: +91 98455 35404
[email protected]
Dr. Doreen Stabinsky, Greenpeace International, in Bangalore on 6th May:
080 - 51154861 [email protected]
Namrata Chowdhary, Media Officer, Greenpeace India: +91 98108 50092

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