ASHOK B SHARMA Posted: 2009-03-26 19:44:27+05:30 IST Updated: Mar 26, 2009 at 1944 hrs IST
New Delhi, March 26: India’s apex court has sought clarifications from three Union ministries – agriculture, department of biotechnology (under ministry of science and technology) and environment and forests – about government’s regulatory process for genetically modified (GM) crops and its implementation.
The special bench of the Supreme Court consisting of the Chief Justice, KG Balakrishnan, Justice Ashok Ganguly and Justice JM Panchal on Thursday in the course of the hearing acted on two rejoinders to the petition filed by the Convenor of the Gene Campaign, Suman Sahai in September 26, 2008 calling for a direct review of all the approvals for field trials and commercialization of GM crops given by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) and grant of moratorium on GM crop trials until proper regulatory processes were put in place.
The apex court also sought clarifications from US seed multinational, Monsanto’s Indian partner, Mahyco.
Gene Campaign had filed its original petition in 2004 and a year later on the similar lines a public interest litigation was jointly filed by Aruna Rodrigues, PV Satheesh and Rajeev Baruah. The Supreme Court has clubbed both these cases for hearing. The next hearing of the case is slated on April 29, 2009.
The counsel for Aruna Rodrigues and others, Prashant Bhushan said, “The advocate appearing on behalf of the government assured that there are no immediate plans for commercialization of Bt brinjal. The crop is in the process of field trials.”
The counsel for the Gene Campaign, Sanjay Parekh said : “We had filed two rejoinders to our petition last year and the apex court acting on our rejoinders has sought clarifications from the Union ministries of agriculture and environment and forests and from the department of biotechnology (DBT).”
The Convenor of Gene Campaign, Suman Sahai alleged that the field trials of Mahyco’s Bt rice in Jharkhand has violated all biosafety norms. There was a likelihood of genetic contamination of non-GM rice grown in the area. This was unfortunate as the eastern India alongwith Jharkhand was considered to be one of the centre of origin for rice, she said.
India’s approval of GM crops had also raised eyebrows in the countries of its export destination. Russia for instance had imposed a temporary ban on India rice and sought clarification whether GM rice was exported.
The GM loss report– presented by the German Federation of the Organic Food Producers ( Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft, BÖLW) in Berlin – shows that the use of genetic engineering in agriculture does not bring any macro-economic benefits. In fact, the use of GM crops incurs extreme high costs in the entire food chain. These costs are generated by strongly increasing seed prices as well as necessary measures to avoid threatening resistances, the separation of commodity flows, and analyses. Additionally, there are losses (Dazu kommen Schäden) to the tune of several billion US dollar, which where caused in corn and rice by contamination with unapproved GM. Also in farming, the at best marginal cost benefits of planting GM crops pay off only in the short-term. Clear winners from the use of GM seeds are a handful of corporations, first and foremost Monsanto, which secure high profits for themselves from seed patents.
Dr Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein, chairman of BÖLW, sums up: "It is not the farmers or consumers who make a profit from agri-GM – only the seed corporations. It is not understandable why these companies are protected from a comprehensive liability by laws, and why reviews of GM seeds with regards to environmental damages and economic impacts during the approval process are completely insufficient. We demand the inclusion of a comprehensive causer liability and a reform of the EU approval procedure. In light of this state of things, agriculture minister Ilse Aigner must stop the cultivation and resist the EU commission's request to approve now more GM corn varieties."
Christoph Then, an independent critical expert who co-authored the study, explains: "All in all, the losses through contamination with unapproved GM as well as the costs for elaborate separation of commodities add up to several billion US dollars. At the same time, various studies on the economics show that farmers are able to bring in the additional costs for the GM seeds only in exceptional cases very limited conditions. This is also true for Germany and even when the the costs of coexistence are passed on to others." He added: "GM increases the price of seeds enormously; GM seeds prices increase much faster than prices of conventional crops, without an accordant yield increase."
Completed were these statements by Stefan Rother, Frosta AG and director of the Association of organic food producers (Assoziation ökologischer Lebensmittelhersteller): "Our customers expect natural products which are produced without GM. We as enterprises want and must satisfy this. The inadequate regulation framework in the field of GM leads to the situation in which medium-sized enterprises have to bear the risks and costs that are caused by the use of genetic engineering, though we don’t want it."
The report was kindly supported by the Foundation Ecology & Agriculture (Stiftung Ökologie & Landbau) and is available at www.boelw.de.
We live in a time of breathtaking technological advances, and we now have the ability to tinker with the genetic code that is the instruction manual for life itself. An uncountable number of “transgenic organisms” or “genetically modified organisms” (that is, organisms whose DNA has been deliberately altered) have been created in the lab, and in some parts of the world there are thousands of genetically-modified food products on sale, with more in development. This form of genetic alteration can result in much more far-reaching genetic alteration than could ever have been brought about by traditional selective breeding. As one commentator put it:
There are now fish genes in fruit, poultry genes in fish, animal genes in plants, growth hormones in milk, insect genes in vegetables, tree genes in grain, and in the case of pork, human genes in meat.
One well-known Buddhist, who was the author of a bill that banned the growing and raising of transgenic organisms in his county, expressed his concerns about this mix-and-match approach to agriculture:
In the early 1990’s I read that scientists were putting insect and animal genes in vegetables. As a vegetarian I was very concerned, because I didn’t want to eat vegetables that had insect and animal genes in them. I felt that this violated Buddhist principles about pure vegetarian food…
I have to admit that I likewise find the idea of putting animal genes into plants disquieting. The human mind has a tendency to like things, like species, to be neatly categorized into boxes, although nature itself is not so fastidious (you have more viral than human DNA in your genome, for example). And there may be safety and other ethical concerns about genetically modified — for example whether someone who is allergic to fish might be harmed by eating a tomato containing fish genes, or whether there would be harmful effects if genetically-modified animals were to escape and mate with their wild cousins are valid questions. However, the idea of “purity” raised explicitly by the author of the quote above and perhaps implicitly in the instinctive shudder many of us feel when contemplating genetic modification simply isn’t in accord with a strict reading of Buddhist ethics.
Vegetarianism in Buddhist practice isn’t fundamentally to do with purity (the idea that you are “polluting” yourself by putting animal products in to your body). Rather it’s to do with reducing the amount of harm we cause and with developing greater lovingkindness. Non-Buddhist ideas of purity and pollution are commonly smuggled in to Buddhist practice, however. It’s almost inevitable that we’ll do this, because the “purity ethic” is deeply rooted in every culture, to the point where we don’t even question it, and we’re bound to have been conditioned by such ideas from an early age.
The fact that a tomato may contain a gene from a fish, or a potato DNA from an insect, doesn’t create any intrinsic problems for a Buddhist vegetarian who doesn’t fall into the trap of the “purity ethic.” Fish or insects may or may not have been harmed at some point in the development of these crops (although you don’t need to harm an animal to extract its DNA), but even if such harm had occurred it’s at a great remove from the actual consumption of the vegetables.
By the way, I’m not arguing here that genetically modifying organisms is a good thing or that we should do it, just pointing out that vegetables containing DNA from animals would still be vegetarian.
by Linn Cohen-Cole ,www.opednews.com http://www.opednews.com/articles/Monsanto-s-dream-bill-HR-by-Linn-Cohen-Cole-090309-337.html
To begin reversing GM contamination will require ending the power biotech companies such as Monsanto exert over our government and through that, over our food.
HR 875, was introduced by Rosa DeLauro whose husband Stanley Greenburg works for Monsanto.
The bill is monstrous on level after level - the power it would give to Monsanto, the criminalization of seed banking, the prison terms and confiscatory fines for farmers, the 24 hours GPS tracking of their animals, the easements on their property to allow for warrant less government entry, the stripping away of their property rights, the imposition by the filthy, greedy industrial side of anti-farming international "industrial" standards to independent farms - the only part of our food system that still works, the planned elimination of farmers through all these means.
The corporations want the land, they want more intensive industrialization, they want the end of normal animals so they can substitute patented genetically engineered ones they own, they want the end of normal seeds and thus of seed banking by farmers or individuals. They want control over all seeds, animals, water, and land.
Our farmers are good stewards. That is who is threatened by Rosa DeLauro's bill (and because of that, we all are). At a time in this country when wise stewardship and the production of anything real - especially good food - is what is most needed, it is our best stewards whom Rosa DeLauro threatens, under the cruelly false name of "food safety."
And now Monsanto wants its own employee, Michael Taylor - the man who forced genetically engineered rBGH on us (unlabeled so us, unaware) when the Clintons placed him over "food safety" in the 90s - back in government, this time to act with massive police power as a "food safety tsar" from inside the White House. HR 875 would give him immense power over what is done on every single farm in the country and massive police state power to wield over farmers and punishments to break them at will.
The following quotes show Monsanto and its biotech ilk are not "stewards" at all. Their inhuman focus on profit has led to inhuman, insane, sickening products that require intense corruption of democracy and science institutes and media, to foist them on country after country which don't want them.
It is our farmers who stand between us and this outrage which masquerades as science, as food, as normal business, as government. And it is or farmers who need not only protecting and but actual freeing from government intrusion, control and harm.
Vegetarians and vegans do not identify with farmers who raise animals but what is at stake here is critical for all of us. "First they came for the Jews" is an apt reminder of what matters in standing with each other because the overwhelming bureaucratic burdens, the recording over every single thing done on a farm, the warrantless inspections, the end of farmers markets, the criminalization of seed banking, the ten years in prison for stepping out of line in any way, will next be applied not to animals breaking out of fence onto a neighbors' farm, but for such things as not spraying pesticides on an organic farm to eradicate earthworms (now listed as an invasive species) because the government's "food safety tsar" has deemed it necessary. It is totalitarian control (and HR 875 epitomizes it) which we stand against, and now it is aimed with ferocity at farmers with animals. Stopping it now keeps all farmers safe.
Rosa DeLauro and Stanley Greenburg have a great deal to account for in attempting through a mislabeled bill with hidden intent to wipe out our farmers and harm all of us. HR 875 gives Monsanto greater power and opens doors wider to the following ... GM and non-GM crops cannot coexist
·"OK, we know that cross-pollination will occur but we’ve got thirty years of experience to say we know how far pollen will travel. And therefore what we’ve done is we’ll grow a GM crop at a distance away from a non-GM crop, so the people that want non-GM can buy non-GM, and the people that want GM can buy GM. The two will not get mixed up. Everybody will have the right to choose."
Paul Rylott, Seed Manager for Aventis CropScience, and later chief spokesperson for the agricultural biotechnology industry in the UK, "Matter of fact”, BBC2 Eastern Region, broadcast 12 October 2000
·"Global incidents of genetic contamination from genetically modified (GM) crops are on the rise, while the companies responsible ignore the consequences. Since 2005, the GM Contamination Register has recorded 216 contamination events in 57 countries since GM crops were first grown commercially on a large scale in 1996. While companies claim they can control the use of GM crops, the reality is very different."
·"If some people are allowed to choose to grow, sell and consume GM foods, soon nobody will be able to choose food, or a biosphere, free of GM. It’s a one way choice, like the introduction of rabbits or cane toads to Australia; once it’s made, it can’t be reversed."
Roger Levett, specialist in sustainable development, “Choice: Less can be more",Food Ethics, Vol. 3, No. 3, Autumn 2008
"The hope of the industry is that over time the market is so flooded [with GMOs] that there’s nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender." Don Westfall, biotech industry consultant and vice-president of Promar International quoted in, “Starlink fallout could cost billions”, Toronto Star, 9 January 20
·"The industry is in reality making serious efforts, whether legally or illegally, to contaminate the cultivated species all over the world."
Devinder Sharma, trade policy analyst, “The great genetic scandal”, Center for Alternative Agricultural Media, 1 August 2002
·"[Dale] Adolphe [of the Canadian Seed Growers Association] said it's ironic that even as public protests and opposition to GM food products seem to grow and even as new regulations and controls are put in place, the total acreage devoted to GM crops around the world is expanding. That may be what eventually brings the debate to an end, said Adolphe. 'It's a hell of a thing to say that the way we win is don't give the consumer a choice, but that might be it.'"
Adrian Ewins, quoting Dale Adolphe of the Canadian Seed Growers Association in
Biotech wins by giving consumers no choice", The Western Producer, 4 April 2002
·"People will have [GM] Roundup Ready soya whether they like it or not."
Monsanto spokesperson in Britian, Ann Foster, “The politics of food", Maria Margaronis, The Nation, 27 December 1999
* "The US Department of Agriculture claims to know where the maize — banned from all food use globally and only recently approved for US exports — is located. Aventis, the French firm which developed the genetically modified maize sold throughout the US maize belt in 1999 and 2000, says it knows, also. So do I: StarLink maize is everywhere."
US agricultural journalist Alan Guebert, "Another contamination scandal dents US biotech hopes", Farmers Weekly, 8 December 2000
·"It's important for countries around the world to adopt a uniform standard of acceptable levels of contamination."
Biotechnology Industry Organization spokesperson, Lisa Dry quoted in, "Engineered DNA found in crop seeds", Rick Weiss, Washington Post, 24 February 2004
·"In 2006 it was discovered that 30% of the entire US long-grain rice supply had become contaminated by experimental GM rice varieties unapproved for human consumption. Not only was this a public safety disaster, but also cost the rice industry over $1 billion. The contamination source? 'Controlled' field trials."
The Soil Association, “Government to defy critics with secret GM crop trials",Today's News, 17 November 2008
·"If they can’t prevent it there, there is little chance they will avoid it in the field."
Dr Brian Johnson of English Nature, after sugar beets genetically modified to resist one company’s herbicide accidentally acquired GM genes resistant to another company’s herbicide, despite being grown in greenhouses. “Stray genes highlight superweed danger", New Scientist, issue 2261, 21 October 2000
·"Cross-pollination of the environment is an issue, and that has to be addressed. And for those countries that have very small landmass, there’s no way they can segregate GM crops from conventional crops or from organic crops, and so the likelihood of cross pollination exists."
Prof Patrick Wall, until 2008 the Chairman of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the EU Agency mandated by the European Commission to advise on the safety of genetically modified food and animal feed for the European Union, in an interview: "We cannot force-feed EU citizens with GM food", 2 December 2008
·"The cultivation of genetically modified maize [in Spain] has caused a drastic reduction in organic cultivations of this grain and is making their coexistence practically impossible."
Conclusion of research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics: “An impossible coexistence: transgenic and organic agriculture", Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, 30 June 2008
·"Mexican plant biologist, Ignacio Chapela, and his student David Quist, were the target of attack for their painstaking research that established the spread of transgenes in the centre of origin of maize. Such genetic contamination would ultimately destroy the world's available genetic purity and in the very hotspots of diversity. The National Biodiversity Commission of Mexico accepted the findings. ‘It is confirmed. There is no doubt about it,’ Jorge Soberon of the Commission was reported as saying. Two separate teams found transgenic DNA in around 10 per cent of crop plants sampled in Oaxaca province, describing it as ‘the world's worst case of GM contamination’."
Devinder Sharma, trade policy analyst, “The great genetic scandal”, Center for Alternative Agricultural Media, 1 August 2002. Quist and Chapela's findings were further confirmed by a study published in 2008, see "Modified genes spread to local maize.
In the picture above, film maker Mahesh Bhatt talking about nature's bounty, before the screening of his documentary film "Poison on the platter" at Bangalore on Mar 7, 2009. Along with him is Sangita Sharma, director of the Annadana Soil and Seed Savers, which along with Coalition for GM Free India, hosted the film launch at an impressive ceremony in Bangalore.
The film launch drew a wide cross-section of Bangalore's society. Among those who attended were MLAs, senior bureaucrats, former vice-chancellor of the agriculture university, agricultural officials, army officers, film stars, theatre personalities, senior editors, principals and teachers of city colleges and schools, general managers of hotel chains, NGOs and young students from colleges among other citizens. As witnessed in the previous launches, the film opened to a packed house, and drew a loud round of applause. And it generated so much of concern that people clamoured for multiple copies of the DVD for screening at various places.
The Bangalore launch ceremony provided a peep into the rich vegetable biodiversity heritage that stands threatened from the introduction of GM crops. A beautiful splash of colourful vegetables, including four varieties of lady finger, twelve varieties of tomatoes, seven varieties of capsicum, three varieties of water melon, six varieties of zuccinis, were displayed along with a spread of salads. Mahesh Bhatt was pleasantly surprised to see the colourful array of vegetables. "This seems to be from an unreal world," he quipped. Sangita replied: "Sir, this is the real world. What you are currently living in is the unreal world. "
Bhatt confided that he had never seen such a wide diversity in vegetables. He wouldn't believe that there could be a purple capsicum and a variety of a miniature capsicum in chocolate colour. There were red chillies, more than half a feet long, that Mahesh Bhatt was intrigued to see. He thought they were painted. This variety is called Cayenne, very spicy and used in Mexican food.
Annadana's field team from Auroville had specially brought the vegetables for display, along with educational material.
After the launch ceremony, the guests were treated to an organic splendour. Vegetables were brought from Auroville and Sangita's farm. The rest of the ingredients like organic oil, cane sugar, rice and ragi millet, called organic lifestyle products, were supported by Iskon.
The Times of India news report below captures the essence. Reports have appeard in several newspapers but I have access to only this newspaper. I am therefore reproducing the report below. A day after the launch, the film was screened at a farmers event in Tumkur (Karnataka). The film is also being shown in Sarosh Institute of Hotel Management, Mangalore on tuesday, Mar 10. Says Krishna Prasad, director of Sahaja Samrudha: "This film has come as an important advocacy tool. We will take the message to the masses."
The Bangalore event also marked the launch of a My Right To Safe Food campaign. Mahesh Bhatt formally launched the campaign by releasing a booklet on My Right to Safe Food. It simplifies the complex and scientific issue for the man on street, and also addresses some frequently asked questions. Also displayed were a set of posters on safe food and the hidden dangers of GM foods, what we would lose if we don't raise our voice now. The packet with the booklet also contained a set of stickers, very striking and thought-provoking. If you are keen to get these stickers and put it on your car or elsewhere, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviews by Devinder Sharma after the screening of "Poison on the Platter" and launch of "My Right to Safe Food" in Bangalore - 7th March 2009
Here is the TOI news report:
Say no to GM food, for it's poison: Bhatt
Bangalore: The long-drawn debate on commercialization of genetically modified food has intensified just as the government is set to hit the last nail in the coffin. Food policy analyst Devinder Sharma says genetically modified Bt Brinjal is likely to enter the market in May.
Noted film-maker Mahesh Bhatt released his documentary `Poison on the platter' and launched a My Right Safe Food campaign in the city on Saturday. The film looks at the history of GM food and its health impact in different parts of the world. In 1989, over 10,000 persons were disabled after L Tryptophan, a genetically modified drug, was introduced in America. Most suffered memory loss, muscle weaknesses, leathery skin and other symptoms. Studies attribute around 100 deaths to the epidemic.
The movie also focuses on the impact on mice on which companies like Monsanto conducted tests. Most developed serious immunological problems and liver and kidney disorders. Ignorance about the technology is also highlighted in the form of vox pop interviews on the streets of various metros.
Bhatt said: "This conspiracy is not possible without the tacit support of the watchdogs. The government needs to have a mother's heart. It cannot feed unsafe food to citizens without their knowledge.''
Kannada film-maker Nagathahalli Chandrashekhar said Karnataka, which is rich in biodiversity and native varities of brinjal like Udupi Mattagulu, has a lot at stake. Director Ajay Kanchan said the technology is more dangerous than nuclear disasters and terror attacks.
Portraying the inconvenient truth
The movie features Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living foundation. It discusses consequences of introduction of GM food and the people's right to say no to it. Leading molecular biologist Pushpa Bhargava, who was appointed by the Supreme Court to advise the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, talks in detail about loopholes in the approval process and faulty safety data submitted by MNCs.
2. http://www.thestatesman.net/page.news.php?clid=9&theme=&usrsess=1&id=246452 Tribals oppose introduction of Bt Brinjal variety
Statesman News Service BHUBANESWAR, March 9: Tribal women knocked on the doors of houses around Bhubaneswar today displaying huge cut-outs of Bt Brinjal asking residents to oppose the introduction of Bt Brinjal varities in the state. They visited many houses in Chandrashekarpur, Sahid Nagar, Bapuji Nagar, Nayapally, MLA colony and OUAT colony. They were assisted by Pradyut, the co-ordinator of the campaign against Bt. Brinjal. Orissa Nari Samaj (ONS), a federation of 54 block level organizations spread across 12 districts of the state, organised the protest. Pradyut said that unless consumers woke up and protested along with farmers the movement could not be successful. The challenge to the consumers posed by the ONS was: “If you don't want to be a lab-rat, register your protest against Bt. Brinjal. Awake, Act, Act Now." The Orissa Nari Samaj alleged that the state agriculture minister had promised that Bt. Brinjal would not be allowed in the state, but that there had been back-door attempts to carry out trials by the OUAT. Orissa Nari Samaj and THREAD, another NGO which has spearheaded the movement against Bt. Brinjal since 2005, alleged that the vegetable was dangerous. Orissa Nari Samaj asked: "Who is sponsoring the trial? If Monsanto or American institutions sponsor the trial, then one can not expect any truth from it. Why should Orissa take up this trial when we don't have any problem in our brinjal cultivation, which has over 350 varieties? Who will benefit from this trial? Is OUAT aware that the bio-diversity of Orissa will be affected if Bt. Brinjal is even tested here? Can they guarantee that they will ensure non-contamination by cross-pollination? Orissa Nari Samaj and THREAD, which is spreading organic farming in the state on a large scale, are concerned that high wind velocity during the summer will increase the chances of cross-pollination. Mr G John, the executive director of THREAD, questioned the need for the trial when farmers are completely dependent on the income from varieties of native brinjals which have produced no side effects. A recent French study suggests that Bt. Brinjal produces a protein which induces resistance to Kanamycin, a common antibiotic, ONS activists said. "Rats fed on the brinjals suffered from diarrhoea, weight loss and increased water-consumption. In cows fed with Bt Brinjal, the composition of their milk changed," they alleged. "It is time that all consumers take note of this issue and speak out against these crops. They should reject all genetically-modified crops sneaking silently into our food systems." Orissa Nari Samaj demanded a clear policy on GM and supported the declaration of the state as a GM-free organic agricultural state.
Thank you for your support extended to make this launch an eventful and successful one.
I have enclosed article links with reviews of the film and for the launch. We have received good coverage in almost all of the print media throughout India. Healthy coverage also in the local Kannada dailies.
The biodiversity displayed by Annadana was for a purpose that should Genetic Modified (GM) foods come in, we lose this fraction of biodiversity and more! Mahesh Bhatt, Ajay Kanchan and many others could not believe the biodiversity displayed, they thought it was unreal as they had never seen 12 varieties of tomatoes ranging the most unusual colours, 9 of capsicums, 6 of okra, 4 of brinjals, 4 varieties of watermelon, 5 of zuchinnis, brocolis and more......
In India, there are 56 crops undergoing GM trials which is why the urgency to raise our voice against GM crop trials and GM FOODS. We must demand a BAN on GM foods. Both organic and conventional crops will soon disappear completely with the onslaught of GM crop trials. Do not think for a moment that you are safe eating organic foods after GM foods are released. Once the GM gene is released into our environment, we are headed for a major catastrophe.
Our next action - We now strive towards an education awareness programme to fulfill requests pouring in for screening of the film in schools, institutes, hospitals, hotels, armed forces, IT companies and industry. Overall we have recieved a healthy response, please continue to support this endeavor with an urgency. Our Right to Safe Food rests with us.
Should you wish to screen the film at gatherings, schools, institutes, forums, assembly please do not hesitate to contact me. Please write to email@example.com. Copies of the DVD's will be available with us shortly.
Please bear with us, as we are in the process of making copies. We would appreciate that as your contribution to the cause and enable us to equip those who may not be able to afford the DVD, each copy should cost us Rs 100 only.
Kannada translations as in sub titles suggested for the film "Posion on the Platter" by several is an extremely good idea. This has been put forward to the film director Ajay Kanchan and we will revert back on this.
Please view the links.... Ground Reality: Say no to GM food, for it's poison: Bhatt By Devinder Sharma Food policy analyst Devinder Sharma says genetically modified Bt Brinjal is likely to enter the market in May. Noted film-maker Mahesh Bhatt released his documentary `Poison on the platter' and launched a My Right Safe Food campaign in ... Ground Reality - http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.com/