Sunday, May 31, 2009

Interview with Marie-Monique Robin 28 May 09 - Laura Stefani - Sloweek

Marie-Monique Robin doesn’t like to stick to comfortable topics. This indefatigable Frenchwoman with 25 years of investigative journalism under her belt has produced an impressive range of hard-hitting books, reportages and documentaries. They include Voleurs d’yeux (Eye Thieves) on organ trafficking, which won her the prestigious Albert London prize in 1995 and Escadrons de la mort, l'école française (Death Squads: The French School), on the links between the French secret services and the Argentine and Chilean dictatorships, which was described by the French Senate as “best documentary of the year” in 2004.

But Marie-Monique Robin is also proud to be the daughter of small farmers. She explains why she decided to dedicate four years of her life to investigating the leading global company in the transgenic industry, Monsanto, which now owns 90% of GMOs grown worldwide (mainly soy, corn, cotton and canola). “I have always been interested in human rights and agriculture. More recently I began to work on the dangers facing biodiversity: here the three issues are interlinked to an incredible extent”. The result of this work was The World According to Monsanto, an investigative book which covers the history, hidden strategies and true objectives of the controversial multinational.

Now published in Italy, it has been translated into 13 languages and the DVD film version has been distributed in 22 countries. In the year since its first publication in France it has unleashed a massive international debate, but no official reaction from the biotech colossus, apart from the creation of a blog which confined itself to denying the points made in the book: yet another, if inadvertent, admission of the credibility and seriousness of Robin’s work.

In the book you show how Monsanto, when it was one of the most important chemical companies in the world, deliberately lied on many occasions, particularly regarding the toxicity of its products, from PCBs (polychlorobiphenyls) to dioxin, and Agent Orange used in Vietnam. It is now genetically manipulating seeds entering our diet. Can we trust them?

Absolutely not. They lied in the past and are continuing to do so, even if their website says things like “we help small farmers to produce healthier food with reduced environmental impact”. In fact none of this is true, just look at Roundup Ready seeds (RR). GM soy, for example, the first GMO launched on the market, now constitutes 90% of all soy grown in the US. It has been manipulated to resist a powerful glyphosate-based herbicide called Roundup which has been produced by Monsanto since the 1970s (since 1988 there has also been a version for home gardens). The multinational maintained that it was a 100% biodegradable herbicide that was completely harmless for humans and the environment. Too bad that it has been found guilty, first in the US and recently in France, for misleading advertising. Last year a confidential Monsanto study was made public where it was stressed that only 2% of Roundup decomposes in the soil, and then only after 28 days! A far cry from the concept of biodegradability. This is a crucial lie, since 70% of GMOs currently grown in the world have been genetically manipulated so they can be sprayed with Roundup.

Can Roundup adversely affect health?

It is very toxic and over the long term can cause cancer, as I show in the book on the basis of several scientific studies, but it also leads to sterility, abortions and genetic malformations. It acts as an endocrine disruptor, altering the male and female reproductive system. In Argentina I have met people living very close to enormous soy plantations which have been sprayed from the air. The immediate effects of acute intoxication are dermatitis, inflammation to the eyes, vomiting and respiratory difficulties. To think that Roundup is the most sold herbicide in the world: Denmark is the only country not to permit it.

What is Monsanto’s position on the possible “side effects” of GMOs?

Very reassuring. According to the company, genetic manipulation has been thoroughly studied and there is absolutely no risk to health. This is not true: it has never been seriously investigated. We have no idea what consequences GMOs may have on human health in 20 years time.

There are 100 million hectares of land growing transgenic crops around the world. 70% of food sold in American shops contains genetically modified organisms and there has been no proper scientific study. How is that possible?

To understand what has happened you need to look at the regulation of GMOs in the US, where everything began. The central revelation in my book concerns the enormous influence exercised by Monsanto within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency in the US responsible for ensuring the safety of foods and drugs released onto the market. The mechanism used, the so-called “revolving doors” situation (where people move to and fro between the private and government sector Ed.), is very common in the US and extensively exploited by Monsanto. It highlights the collusion between industrial lobbies and political authorities. In this specific case, I discovered that the basic document of 1992 that regulates—or rather, doesn't regulate—GMOs, was drawn up by Michael Taylor. This person was a lawyer for Monsanto who entered the FDA just to deal with this issue and later returned to Monsanto as Vice President. The text signed by Taylor is based on the “principle of substantial equivalence”, according to which a GMO is grossly similar to its natural counterpart, i.e. the conventional plant. So it is unnecessary to subject it to any study. This is a massive fraud, because the principle is not based on any scientific data: it was a political decision to favor the interests of multinational companies, as was candidly admitted in an interview by James Maryanski (a microbiologist who worked for the FDA and then moved to the top management of Monsanto, Ed.). What is more, in 1992 they couldn't have carried out tests to support the hypothesis even if they’d wanted to, because GMOs were still being created in the laboratory.

What has been the reaction of the scientific world since that time?

As was later revealed, many FDA scientists and researchers at that time opposed the principle of substantial equivalence and asked for studies to be carried out to prove it. But they were all forced to keep quiet. It's very strange: whenever scientists have decided to start a serious toxicological study on the effects of GMOs, they have lost their jobs. This happened to the biochemist Arpad Pusztai in Scotland and Manuela Malatesta when she was a researcher at the University of Urbino. It is a recurring phenomenon. It is alarming, people wonder, what will happen to me? Monsanto has silenced academics, journalists and anyone who has ventured to criticize or expose them. That’s why I say there is a real problem with GMOs, otherwise there would be transparent and accessible studies.

An equally controversial situation is the question of intellectual property rights for seeds. What is Monsanto’s global strategy?
Their objective is to control the entire food chain using the valuable tool of patents and royalties, otherwise Monsanto would never have entered this market. From being a chemical multinational, the company has transformed itself into the leading seed producer in the world. It has been in the top spot since 2005. Since 1995 it has bought more than 50 seed companies in various countries. Whether in the US, India or South America, it is almost impossible to find a non-transgenic seed because Monsanto first bought the main seed companies and then imposed its patented seeds. This is a crucial development: if a seed is protected by a patent, farmers who buy it have to first sign a contract undertaking not to save part of their harvest for reseeding the next year, as they have always done in the past. Now farmers have to buy new seeds and Roundup pesticide each year, and you can guess who from. As the economist Peter Carstensen, professor at the University of Madison in Wisconsin explains: “The company no longer sells seeds, but leases them out for a season, while always remaining the owner of the genetic information contained in the seed. The seed is no longer a living organism but has become a simple product”. And the market for seeds is huge: don't forget that everything we eat exists because a farmer planted a seed in the earth.

What happens to people who don't respect the contract?

Monsanto has a control agency called the “gene police”. It’s an outrageous system: these are private investigative agencies who go on to farmers’ fields and take samples, they ask farmers to show their invoices for purchases of seed and herbicide from Monsanto and if they are not forthcoming, the farmers get sued. The company always wins in court, because not respecting a contract is considered a breach of Monsanto’s intellectual property rights. They not only win when a farmer has intentionally saved part of the harvest, but even when GM seeds from a neighbor's property, or through chance, are found in the fields of a farmer who doesn't grow transgenic seeds. This happened to Hendrik Hartkamp, a Dutchman who bought a farm in Oklahoma: he was sued and forced to pay a big fine which led to him having to sell his property. The judge’s justification? It's irrelevant how the seeds got there, the farmer is responsible for what is in his fields. So he is guilty … It’s incredible.

But shouldn't seeds be the “heritage of all human beings”?

They used to be. This madness started in the 1980s with the concept of the privatization of life and living things. It all began when a researcher working at General Electric applied for a patent on a bacterium which he had genetically modified. The Patents Office in Washington turned down his application. According to the law, since the bacteria were living organisms they couldn't be patented. He appealed and lost, appealed again and in the end the US Supreme Court pronounced the fateful words: “anything under the sun that is made by man” can be patented. From that moment there was an unstoppable rush, patents were granted for genes, seeds and plants. To give an idea, the patents office in Washington currently grants more than 70,000 patents annually, 20% of which are for living organisms. Between 1983 and 2005 Monsanto alone obtained 647 patents for plants, almost all from the Global South.

A company that patents species selected by humans over the centuries. It seems a form of biopiracy …
Certainly, and following their reasoning there is something that doesn't make sense: Monsanto introduced a gene, in this case the gene giving resistance to Roundup, but in the contract maintains it is owner of the whole plant. It is totally illogical, a complete disregard of the law, which hasn't changed since the 1980s. How can it claim intellectual property rights over the whole plant when it is introduced only a single gene?

At the beginning you mentioned biodiversity. Is it now at risk?

Genetic contamination is causing damage everywhere. The most obvious example is in Canada. Monsanto introduced transgenic Roundup Ready Canola in 1996. As a result of open pollination, conventional canola is now at serious risk and organic canola has completely disappeared. Organic farmers in Saskatchewan have therefore taken a class action against Monsanto to demand damages. In Mexico, Roundup Ready Corn is threatening hundreds of varieties of criollo corn (150 in the region of Oaxaca alone) which have been cultivated for 5000 years. These traditional varieties are considered a staple food and were sacred for the Maya and Aztecs. It is an unstoppable phenomenon which is causing a distinct reduction in biodiversity. And biodiversity is of course a necessary condition for food security.

So food security is also at risk, but one of the main arguments in favour of GMOs is that they can defeat world hunger. It is claimed that the benefits of these seeds include their moderate costs and high yields. Is this true ?
It is criminal propaganda and I say this quite openly. In fact the opposite is happening: GMOs are leading to hunger, if not death, as is the case in India, where small farmers’ movements condemn the “genocide” caused by introducing Monsanto’s transgenic Bt cotton. It is very expensive, four times as much as the conventional variety, and requires the same use of pesticides and fertilizers. Indian growers who change to Bt incur debts to buy these products and if the harvest is lower than expected, they find themselves in a desperate situation, squeezed by loan sharks. Furthermore it has been shown that yields from transgenic plants are always lower (between 5% and 12%) than those from conventional ones. The idea of ending world hunger was invented by Burson-Marsteller, the large public relations and communications agency. At the end of the 1990s Monsanto was struggling and faced problems on various fronts, particularly from the opposition to GMOs in Europe. So it contacted Burson-Marsteller, which developed a pro-GM publicity campaign to mainly run in France, Germany and Britain. The message they created and have repeated since then? Thanks to GMOs we can build a better world for everyone.

But in spite of all the propaganda, it was soundly defeated on one occasion.
Yes, in 2004, over the introduction of Roundup Ready Wheat in the US and Canada. For the first time in its history it had to drop a product launch. In manipulating the cereal that accounts for almost 20% of crops worldwide and is a staple ingredient in the diet of one in three humans, Monsanto had encroached on a cultural, economic and religious symbol dating back to the birth of agriculture: our daily bread. But it got a long way. In economic terms, opposition in Europe played a key role (in Italy through the efforts of Grandi Molini Italiani, the largest milling group in the country) along with objections from Japan, the main importer of US and Canadian wheat. As a result the large American cereal growers categorically refused to use the GM product and this was decisive. In Canada, for the first time they were fighting together with consumer associations and even Greenpeace, with whom they had previously always disagreed. And to this time there are no transgenic cultivations of wheat anywhere in the world.

Do you think it is too late to turn back?

For Roundup it is very difficult. Argentina has 14 million hectares growing RR soy: it has impregnated and polluted the soil, which is destined for sterility because the herbicide gets rid of all the bacteria and microorganisms, even the useful ones. The first step is to inform people about its effects. After my investigations, various cities in France decided to stop using it. Many citizens’ committees were formed explaining to families what they were using in their gardens. If we could eliminate it we would resolve part of the problem. But at the same time we need to boycott GMOs and support organic agriculture, create a market which enables growers to return to organic methods. It is something that concerns us all because Roundup is served on our plates together with the main course: the meat we eat comes from European farms, from animals fed with US, Argentine or Brazilian transgenic soy. A campaign is now under way in France and Germany to require the labeling of meat, milk and eggs produced by animals given feed containing GMOs. But there isn’t just Roundup, there are many other dangerous pesticide residues on our tables.

But in Italy, as in Europe, there has always been a fairly high level of awareness.

Yes, consumer opposition is clear, but the situation is different at an institutional level, though things have recently been changing. For example, in March the EU Council of Ministers for the Environment supported Austria and Hungary’s refusal to grow Monsanto’s GM corn Mon 810, in opposition to the European Commission\'s request to lift the ban. But the European Community’s problem is EAFS, the European Authority for Food Security: 80% of its members have very strong links to the biotech lobby. Here we come back to the question of a lack of scientific independence and the pressure of experts: a conflict of interest in other words.

Monsanto was supported by the Republican governments of Bush father and son, but also by Bill Clinton’s Democrats. Will it be different with Obama?

Unfortunately Michael Taylor is in Obama’s transition team. While we are talking, the American President is considering making him Director of the Food Safety Working Group. It was Taylor who proposed nominating Tom Vislack as the new Secretary of Agriculture. From 1998 to 2006 Vislack was Governor of Iowa, the leading soy producing state in the US: he always supported the interests of agribusiness and biotechnology. It seems pretty clear that policies will remain the same.

What was the most difficult part of your investigation?

Something I hadn't considered: persuading Monsanto’s victims to give evidence. They were all afraid. It was very strange—usually when you work in the area of human rights, people want to talk and appreciate the interest you show in their story. That didn't happen in this case. They were frightened of the consequences. There were frightened you weren't what you said you were, because sometimes Monsanto sends fake journalists and fake TV crews. I managed to gain the trust of many people because now I am well known and people can check that I really am a journalist.

Translated by Ronnie Richards

Laura Stefani is a freelance Italian journalist specialized in biodiversity and sustainability

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Maharashtra Agriculture University bans field trials

No more GM in Kolhapur fields

THE Maharashtra agriculture university announced it would no longer allow field trials of GM food crops in its field at Kolhapur. The move came in the wake of a protest in March by hundreds of farmers and citizens against an open-air field test of GM corn seeds, produced by seed major Monsanto. The protest led to the constitution of a committee, which resulted in the decision of the ban. The university’s vice chancellor Rajaram Deshmukh said the remains of the GM corn crop would be destroyed.

Protestors in Maharashtra had questioned the safety of the tests and said the university didn’t have the permission to conduct open-air tests. Farmers were angry at the university’s decision to use public money to carry out the tests especially when Monsanto had filed cases against farmers for using their own seeds and not Monsanto’s. Referring to GM free areas in Europe, farmer leader N D Patil asked, “Why has the university not studied the reasons behind such rejections beforetaking decisions regarding field tests?”

He added the decision to conduct field trials should have been routed through the State Biotech Coordination Committee. The state government is yet to constitute the committee. A mandatory district level committee also did not exist. GM field trials involve large sums of money and there is every reason to doubt the university’s commitment, said Diliprao Deshmukh of the Maharashtra Organic Farming Federation.


It is indeed commendable of Vice-Chancellor, Raja Ram Deshmukh, to literally uproot GMO reasearch at Maharashtra Agriculture University. It is also a good idea to approach VCs of other universities to do the same under their jurisdiction.

This brings me back to re-stress education reform in not only the universities with the help of a few vice-chancellors but also in primary and secondary schools where agriculture and food production should be taught as a compulsory subject to each and every student. It is good time to pursue this discussion with central and state government authorities, now that the elections are over and Sharad Pawar is once more appointed as Minister of Agriculture. The key persons to target in this regard should not only be Sharad Pawar and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but also Rahul Gandhi who is being floated as the future prime minister. The same discussions must also be pursued with the opposition parties. It is high time to politicize this issue for the benefit of India and Indian farming.

Shiv Chopra


Indeed it is a great news that MAU has banned GM field trials. We must send emails to them for taking such a great step that would go a long way for the survival of farming and farmers in India. CC of these emails should be addressed to PAU as well.

One of the phrases that is used in Persian which says : GAMOS, GAMOS (be patient, step by step).

May Allah bless MAU.

Rakesh Bhatt

GE crops - safety & higher yields a myth - Aruna Rodrigues.


On the 13th February 2008, during the hearing of the PIL on GM crops, the Chief Justice of India stated that Genetically Modified crops give higher yields.. The Prime Minister and his cabinet believe it, as is evident from the Central Government's policy to promote GM crops in India. This is an astonishing notion, with no factual basis. It would therefore be well to bell this particular cat and several others, by making a start with separating FACT from FICTION with regard to Genetic Engineering (GE) and its products GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). The first casualty is the myth about their improved YIELDS against conventional agriculture. Currently, worldwide, 99.9% of GM crops sown commercially comprise two kinds: First, Bt crops like Bt cotton grown in India, engineered to kill a specific pest, the 'bollworm' (not other pests), thereby protecting the crop; and second, Herbicide Tolerant (HT) GM crops engineered to withstand herbicide spraying against weeds, where the engineered crop will live, but vegetation, beneficial insects and other organisms around it, will die, indiscriminately. This 99.9% is mainly animal feed, comprising cotton, corn, and soy along with canola, (mustard oil seed). They provide sheer volumes and lucre for Monsanto and the industry. None of these GM crops are engineered for higher yields. They are straightforwardly, 'pesticidal' (Bt) or herbicide tolerant (to kill weeds). This is the science and the fact. On the other hand, higher yields are conferred by traits in the parental lines that make up the GM crop; these parental lines are the result of farmer inputs over 10,000 years of agriculture. The Intellectual property is rightfully theirs. It must be remembered that billions of $s have been spent by the GE companies experimenting on 'traits', unsuccessfully. This represents a huge investment of resources that could be better utilised elsewhere because dozens of traits have been successfully launched using conventional and high-tech conventional breeding techniques. Genetic engineering has conspicuously failed to match these successes.

Myth No.2: Less pesticide, herbicide use, better economics with GM crops

It is not within the scope of this article to analyse the Industry claims of the success of Bt cotton in India on the basis of lower pest attacks of the bollworm and therefore higher output. What can be said straight off is that scientists' warnings of 'resistance' (a response of nature) to both Bt and Ht crops, with super bugs, super weeds and also insect shifts filling an ecological gap, are very much in existence globally, and are growing with each passing year. Quite contrary to what GM companies are saying therefore, worldwide, herbicide and insecticide use have not gone down with the adoption of GM crops. The experience of the US, Canada & Argentina are amply documented and are clear pointers to the dangers for India if we go down this path. US government data shows a 15 fold increase in herbicide use by 2005, (over a 10 year period), with the adoption of GM herbicide crops in the US. First quarter sales of Monsanto's herbicide RoundupReady are up by just under 50%. This is a good business to be in: you sell a HT GM crop; but spraying goes up because farmers don't have to be too careful. The crop won't die. Remember it is resistant; after a few years when resistance sets in with super weeds, then the progression is to fiercer spraying and eventually moving on to the next, more lethal class of herbicides. So farmers get trapped on an herbicide treadmill.

GM crops are a hard-nosed business for biotech corporations, based on patents and profits, which farmers must pay for. Without patents, this business would die. This is the litmus test of 'who really benefits from GM crops'. In the killing fields of Vidharbha for example, about 70% of farmer suicides represent Bt cotton farmers, reeling under both crop failures and the unbearable burden of higher input costs, a fact attested by the Tata Institute for Social Sciences and the Mumbai High Court. The deeper goal is however insidious, and much more serious: nothing less that the control over third world agriculture and the world's food supply by a handful of private Transnational Agri-business Corporations. Why our Government should allow this, or fall for it, is the mystery.

Last month, Transnational GE companies staged a walk out of the IAASTD (International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development), refusing to participate, because the report substantially downplays the contribution of genetic engineering to agriculture and promotes alternatives. The IAASTD is the agricultural equivalent of the 'Climate Change' IPCC (International Panel for Climate Change), formed to provide a global assessment of how agricultural technology can help developing countries.

Myth No. 3: GM Crops are safe

GM crops are not safe; there is growing proof of their hazardous impacts on human and animal health and on the environment with each passing year. You simply cannot feed people toxic food. The accepted science with regard to genetic engineering is expressed clearly by David Schubert, Professor, Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at the prestigious Salk Institute, in his affidavit for the Supreme Court:


This is why genetic contamination is an outstanding issue. Contamination is certain because it is a biological fact and IRREVERSIBLE. GMOs will change the molecular structure of our food in perpetuity. The largest impacts will be felt on the biodiversity, threatening those very traits that nature supplies, and which may hold the answers for our future food security and global survival: traits for drought and disease resistance; high-yielding traits that GE corporations rely on to engineer their genetic manipulations. This is the central problem.

Myth No 4: GM crops have been tested as safe for human consumption

At a time when other countries are getting tougher about GM crops, India is relaxing norms; pushing ahead with reckless haste. India generally follows the US regulation on GM and borrows wholesale from it. It will come as a surprise to the reading public that the US FDA does not approve any GM crop as safe for human consumption. Members of the European Parliament have called for a Community response to the threat posed by the introduction of "invasive alien species and alien genotype;" "--- to ban the introduction of genetically modified organisms and evaluate the potential threat to biodiversity posed by their introduction." Yet India is trail-blazing with this hazardous technology, with a staggering range of every conceivable GM vegetable, grain and oilseed, in effect, all our food, such as no government anywhere has contemplated. We are the first country to undertake large-scale pre-commercial trials of Bt brinjal; Bt Bhindi (okra) in field trials is also a universal first. China has backed off from commercialising GM rice. We have not.
Incomprehensibly, Bio-safety decisions by the Indian Government are based on secretive Industry studies by the very crop developer that will benefit from its introduction. The Government also astoundingly accepts Industry demands of confidentiality or CBI (Confidential Business Information), overriding PUBLIC SAFETY. This is of course unconscionable; it flouts every ethical norm and yardstick of objectivity. It works only to sanction fraud. Where does this leave India as a supposedly functioning democracy and the health and future quality of life of its people? On the other hand, a German court, in a decision involving a Bt corn, which had passed the approval process in the EU 10 years ago, forced Monsanto to publish its dossier on a 90-day rat feeding study. When leading independent scientists subjected the study to hard scrutiny, Monsanto's own data showed the GM corn variety to be toxic. This February, the new French President, Sarkozy banned another variety of Bt corn (also for animal feed), the ONLY GM CROP grown on French soil. The provisional High Authority on GMOs found "a certain number of new negative scientific facts which notably impact fauna and flora". The UK does not grow any GM crops; Poland and Scotland have moratoriums. Ireland, Wales, and Cyprus are moving toward declaring themselves GM-free. In the US, four district courts have ruled that the USDA has acted illegally, for not conducting proper environmental impact assessments, even calling the "USDA'S REGULATORY HEEDLESSNESS ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS" and "an unequivocal violation of a clear congressional mandate." As a result of this landmark judgement commercial sales of GM alfalfa are banned nationwide.

Monsanto and our Government

It is very relevant to cite Monsanto's 100 year-old track record of how it serves society:

*This is the company that said Agent Orange and PCBs were safe (of Bhopal infamy).

*This is the agri-business giant that now makes GMOs. It owns Terminator technology in partnership with the US government, fudges, bribes and falsifies data to show its GMOs are safe.

*It bribed 140 Indonesian officials to get Bt cotton approved without an environment impact assessment and tried to bribe Canadian government officials to get its GM Bovine Growth Hormone approved without further study.

*The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected four key Monsanto patents related to GM crops that the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) challenged because the agricultural giant is using them to harass, intimidate, sue - and in some cases bankrupt - American farmers.

*The Alabama Court Judgement in February 2002 best describes the sort of business that Monsanto is in. Court documents revealed that the company withheld evidence about the safety of their PCBs because "---We can't afford to lose one dollar of business---". Residents of the town were being poisoned by their factory. Monsanto was found guilty on six counts including OUTRAGE which according to Alabama law is conduct "so outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society."

We must be judged by the company we keep. The RTI data provided to GreenPeace proves just how cosy the relationship between the Regulators (the GEAC & RCGM) and the GM Biotech industry is; the Regulator's approvals mortgage India's farming livelihoods and systems, her biosafety and the health of her citizens. The Indian Government has gone one further with the enactment of an agreement with the USA, called the KIA, (Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture) which will give Monsanto access to India's genetic resources. What I and three co-petitioners asked of the Supreme Court, in view of the sheer weight of the evidence against GM crops, and the way they are approved in India, was a ban on the release of GMOs in line with the Precautionary Principle, especially in our food crops, which must not be contaminated: until we have in place a transparent system functioning under a tough and rigorous biosafety protocol, which will ensure openness to scrutiny by the international scientific fraternity and civil society. This is not just rational and scientific; it is a firm basis in law that is appropriate and reasonable.

Our Food and Biodiversity will be Contaminated Irreversibly without Hope of Restoration

The gravest threat is to global ecological damage from the twin threats that face our world: First, of 'climate change' and with it, the unique risks of genetic engineering and its products GMOs. 'Climate Change' after years of cover-up and disinformation is now headlined every day. In theory at least, there can be a ROLLBACK if we act decisively. ON THE OTHER HAND, THE GREATEST DANGER POSED BY GE IS THAT GLOBALLY, WE ARE BEING SUBJECTED TO THE SAME SPIN AS CLIMATE CHANGE WAS FOR YEARS. This time however, every action that releases untested GMOs, takes us to the brink. Today, in India, we stand 'on the brink' like no other nation. The crisis we face requires a profound reassessment of just who we are as a people and what we stand for. Grappling with the honest issues of the debate and making decisions based on such an assessment is one thing. Committing our country to the disastrous and irreversible consequences of this technology based on scientific facts being covered-up and the fiction being promoted as the truth is completely unacceptable. In my book, given the magnitude of the sell-out of India's national interest, this is treasonable.

Aruna Rodrigues is the main Petitioner to the SC in a PIL filed in 2005. This article is based on the evidence submitted in Court, which includes statements of leading world scientists prepared for the Court.

Don't be fooled by the 'Biotech Myth'

Grand Forks Herald
Published Monday, November 24, 2008§ion=Opinion

By Kristine Mattis

GRAND FORKS — The new presidential administration would do well to ignore the not-very-impartial advice of Art Brandli (“Obama must lead on biotech,” Page A4, Nov. 15).
Biotechnology may have produced exponential economic growth for large agribusiness corporations such as Monsanto, Cargill, DuPont and Dow, but it has done little to help people.
There exists a world food crisis, but as Francis Moore Lappe and others have noted, we do not have a world food shortage. We have a problem of growers forced to produce monocultures for export while not being able to feed themselves and their own communities.
We have enormous distribution problems and tremendous waste. The United Nations recently estimated that at least 50 percent of food produced ends up as garbage, while billions of people around the world go hungry.
A three-year study by the University of Kansas showed that genetically modified soybeans produce 10 percent less yield than their non-GM counterparts. So, even if there were shortages, biotechnology is not the solution.
Moreover, the safety claims of biotechnology are dubious at best. GM foods do not undergo comprehensive health studies before being released to the market. Dr. Arpad Pusztai of the United Kingdom conducted the world’s most thorough research on the health effects of GM foods. He found evidence of autoimmune problems, allergic reactions, underdeveloped organ growth and cancer resulting from the ingestion of genetically modified food.
Is it any wonder that farm animals and wildlife feeding on agricultural crops avoid GM crops at all costs?
Furthermore, genetic modification of crops has the potential to alter the genes of, and consequently the health of, entire ecosystems. Pollen from GM plants can travel far and wide, creating a “genetic pollution.” GM crops also create a seed dependence for farmers, which often ruins their prosperity and their lives. More than half a million farmers in India have committed suicide as a result of losing their livelihoods to the endless cycle of dependence on seeds and chemicals that biotechnology produces.
Finally, the unknown and potentially irreversible consequences of such technology are innumerable. GM crops are treated with extreme caution in Europe. Starving nations on the African continent even have banned the import of GM food aid from America.
Another biotech example, recombinant bovine growth hormone, was introduced by Monsanto in 1994 to increase milk production in cows, even though America was already producing far too much milk. Monsanto hoped increased milk production would drive down milk prices, thereby putting small dairy farms out of business while huge agribusiness corporations could absorb the costs and take over the market.
But the real results of rBGH use were not just financial. It produced severe impairment and infection in dairy cows. That infection and the antibiotics used to treat it are passed down to the milk consumer. Other health effects from ingesting dairy products made from rBGH: higher risk of colon, prostate and breast cancers, possible role in pediatric bone cancer and implication in lung cancer.
No wonder countries such as Canada, New Zealand and all of the European Union have long ago banned rBGH from even being introduced.
President-elect Obama should be curtailing the use of biotechnology and implementing the precautionary principle within our current regulations. The rest of the Western world is light years ahead in consumer protection and the use of sustainable agriculture, while the American government remains under the influence of agribusiness giants who are on a mission to control the entire world’s food supply to the peril of us all.

Mattis is a graduate student in Earth System Science and Policy at UND..

Beware, saving seeds may soon be outlawed by Devinder Sharma

If you are a farmer, beware. Your right to save seed and replant it the next year will soon be taken away. It has happened in the United States, which officially does not bar farmers from saving seed, but unofficially does nothing to safegyuard Farmer's Right over his seed. In fact, in the days to come the US is going to witness a test case that will, if it goes the industry way, take away farmer's right to save seed by indirectly penalising him for not paying the 'technology fee' or royalty.

The lawsuit that is coming up for full trial at St. Louis, which also happens to be Monsanto's headquarters, on Aug 10, 2009, will have a bearing not only on the American farmers but farmers elsewhere, including India. So far, Indian seed laws have allowed farmers to save, sell and exchange seed unless it is branded, this right will sooner or later be taken away. The Seed Bill 2004, which is still pending before Parliament, in a way is a step forward. The seed industry is not taking it lying down. There is tremendous pressure to disband the Plant Varieties Protection and Farmers Rights Authority (PVPFRA) or make it useless.

At the same time, the recent amendments to the patents law allows for biotech patents, which makes the PVPFRA redundant. I have always been saying that policy makers and civil society activists in India must learn to look ahead while formulating laws. Let me illustrate. India is one of the places of origins of rice. We have thousands of rice strains, despite the erosion of genetic diversity witnessed especially over the past few decades. We can list these varieties under the PVPFRA and feel that our rice is 'protected'. But with Syngenta seeking patents over 30,000 genes of rice (from a total of 37,500 genes rice has), the control over rice plant goes into the hands of th Swiss seed company.

What is the use of 'protecting' rice varieties under PVPFRA? Shouldn't our lawmakers looked ahead, and prepared the law/Act in the light of the developments taking place in genomic research and the changing IPR regime?

Anyway, we will talk about this in subsequent blogs. Let us first try to understand what is at stake in the lawsuit that is coming up for full trial in America. This commentary (excerpts of which are being published here) has been provided by James M. Harrington, founder of Harrington Practice, a patent litigation law firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.

Mon May 25, 2009 at 09:14:33 PM PDT

Near the sleepy North Carolina town of Harmony, a mile or two off I-77 about an hour's drive north of Charlotte, Robert Trivette farms about 200 acres of soybeans. Small by modern standards, this farm has been his for some four decades, and it has provided him and his wife, Jennifer, with enough to live on, to raise a family and to survive but not to thrive.

Bob is at an age, 60, when most men are beginning to dream of retirement. Like most farmers, he worries about drought, about the pernicious pigweed that threatens the soy crop, about pests, and about whether his ancient tractor and combine will make it through another season. But these days, Bob is worried about an enemy of an altogether different character. After all, he's the defendant in a major lawsuit over his farming practices--a lawsuit that threatens his way of life.

In that suit, our law firm is defending Bob Trivette pro bono publico--"for the public good," meaning free of charge--and we need your financial help. This is the first in a series of diaries that will introduce the public to Bob Trivette, a man who is fighting for all of us.

Regular readers of this (HarringtonPractice's diary) and other liberal websites know Bob Trivette's enemy all too well. He's fighting against the Monsanto Company. And Monsanto is spending all that it can to destroy Bob, in order to make an example of him, and ultimately in the pursuit of ever-expanding hegemony over the world's food supply.

About ten years ago, Robert Trivette decided to upgrade a portion of his soybean crop, about 20 acres' worth, to the latest thing in farming: Monsanto's exciting new Roundup Ready® soybean technology. Monsanto promised a revolution in farming. Rather than fighting weeds with specific, often toxic and highly regulated herbicides, Monsanto's genetically engineered seeds grew into plants that would resist Monsanto's broad-spectrum herbicide, glyphosate, which it sold under the name Roundup.

Spraying his crops with Roundup would kill the weeds and leave the healthy soybean plants behind. Although Roundup Ready seed was more expensive than conventional seed, Monsanto promised greater yields, less chemical expense, and an easier time in the fields. But these advances, to the extent that they came about at all, came at a heavy price.

Monsanto's innovations weren't limited to the laboratory, of course. Along with Roundup Ready technology, Monsanto instituted a unique new scheme for selling crop seeds. Instead of saving a small portion of one year's crop for replanting next year, as they had done for thousands of years, farmers would be required to buy new original seed stock from Monsanto each year.

In order to enforce this requirement, Monsanto required each farmer to sign a "technology agreement," which prohibits the farmer from using the seeds he bought for more than a single crop, from saving any of that crop for replanting the next year, and from selling the original seeds or the crop to any other farmer. The farmer is required to submit to the jurisdiction of Monsanto's home courts in St. Louis for any disputes. Some later agreements have required the farmer to allow Monsanto's investigators to come on his property and test his crops at any time.

If the farmer violated the agreement, he would have to pay a huge penalty--in some cases up to 20 times the price of a bag of soybeans for each bag he saved. Although the courts have struck that penalty down, they regularly impose penalties of more than $100 per bag for a commodity that usually costs $30-$35 per bag. Monsanto's licensing regime requires the cooperation of farmers. Since not every farm can be inspected,

Monsanto coerces that cooperation by coming down hard on those farmers it believes skirt its rules. It maintains a hotline for anonymous reporting of violators. It sends out teams of investigators, who surreptitiously surveil farmers in their daily work, correlating sales records and farm sizes, showing up unannounced and threatening fines and criminal charges against their targets. They demand an extortive payment from every farmer they "catch," promising that consulting with a lawyer or challenging Monsanto's authority will result in much greater pain and suffering.

In that respect, Monsanto is little better than a criminal gang--better only because Monsanto, at least, has the authority under federal law to enforce its patent rights...but the Corleones and the Sopranos never had the assistance of the federal courts, either. In reality, Monsanto cares very little about the truth in pursuit of its aims.

In 2006, Monsanto's investigators approached Bob Trivette at his farm. For about an hour, they quizzed him about his farming practices and his use of Roundup Ready. They decided he was guilty of patent infringement, and they offered him a choice: pay them $100 for every bag of seed they thought he saved, or Monsanto will sue him and make it five times worse. Oh, and if he contacted a lawyer, the deal was off.

For Bob, based on the investigators' "calculations," that price would have been about two years' worth of his farming income. He couldn't pay it. So when Monsanto sued him in early 2007, he turned to our law firm for help.

For the last two years, our law firm has been fighting Monsanto on Bob Trivette's behalf, and we have done so, to date, without charging him one penny for our services. Our firm is small--only three attorneys and one support staff member--and taking on a patent infringement case, some of the most complicated litigation around, for no money at all, was a serious commitment of a major portion of our firm's resources.

We took on his case because of our sympathy for him as an individual, but we are fighting today not just for Bob, but for all farmers, and by extension, for all of us. As a patent attorney, I believe that the limited monopolies granted by patents foster innovation by rewarding it financially. But Monsanto's tactics have strayed far from the kinds of healthy, competitive practices our economy needs, into territory previously reserved for mobsters and racketeers.

We head to a full trial in St. Louis on August 10, 2009, and your help is urgently needed to make victory possible. Although we will take no professional fees for any part of our representation of Bob Trivette, we need to pay the out-of-pocket expenses of our trial team for the two weeks the trial is expected to take.

For more background on Monsanto's business practices, we recommend reading Don Barlett and James Steele's excellent article in Vanity Fair's May 2008 issue, "Monsanto's Harvest of Fear."

Posted By Devinder Sharma to Ground Reality at 5/28/2009 06:50:00 AM

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Doctors Warn: Avoid Genetically Modified Food By Jeffrey M. Smith

On May 19th, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) called on “Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM (genetically modified) foods when possible and provide educational materials concerning GM foods and health risks.” They called for a moratorium on GM foods, long-term independent studies, and labeling. AAEM’s position paper stated, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. They conclude, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation,” as defined by recognized scientific criteria. “The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.”

More and more doctors are already prescribing GM-free diets. Dr. Amy Dean, a Michigan internal medicine specialist, and board member of AAEM says, “I strongly recommend patients eat strictly non-genetically modified foods.” Ohio allergist Dr. John Boyles says “I used to test for soy allergies all the time, but now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it.”

Dr. Jennifer Armstrong, President of AAEM, says, “Physicians are probably seeing the effects in their patients, but need to know how to ask the right questions.” World renowned biologist Pushpa M. Bhargava goes one step further. After reviewing more than 600 scientific journals, he concludes that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are a major contributor to the sharply deteriorating health of Americans.

Pregnant women and babies at great risk

Among the population, biologist David Schubert of the Salk Institute warns that “children are the most likely to be adversely effected by toxins and other dietary problems” related to GM foods. He says without adequate studies, the children become “the experimental animals.”

The experience of actual GM-fed experimental animals is scary. When GM soy was fed to female rats, most of their babies died within three weeks—compared to a 10% death rate among the control group fed natural soy. The GM-fed babies were also smaller, and later had problems getting pregnant.

When male rats were fed GM soy, their testicles actually changed color—from the normal pink to dark blue. Mice fed GM soy had altered young sperm. Even the embryos of GM fed parent mice had significant changes in their DNA. Mice fed GM corn in an Austrian government study had fewer babies, which were also smaller than normal.

Reproductive problems also plague livestock. Investigations in the state of Haryana, India revealed that most buffalo that ate GM cottonseed had complications such as premature deliveries, abortions, infertility, and prolapsed uteruses. Many calves died. In the US, about two dozen farmers reported thousands of pigs became sterile after consuming certain GM corn varieties. Some had false pregnancies; others gave birth to bags of water. Cows and bulls also became infertile when fed the same corn.

In the US population, the incidence of low birth weight babies, infertility, and infant mortality are all escalating.

Food designed to produce toxin

GM corn and cotton are engineered to produce their own built-in pesticide in every cell. When bugs bite the plant, the poison splits open their stomach and kills them. Biotech companies claim that the pesticide, called Bt—produced from soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis—has a history of safe use, since organic farmers and others use Bt bacteria spray for natural insect control. Genetic engineers insert Bt genes into corn and cotton, so the plants do the killing.
The Bt-toxin produced in GM plants, however, is thousands of times more concentrated than natural Bt spray, is designed to be more toxic, has properties of an allergen, and unlike the spray, cannot be washed off the plant.
Moreover, studies confirm that even the less toxic natural bacterial spray is harmful. When dispersed by plane to kill gypsy moths in the Pacific Northwest, about 500 people reported allergy or flu-like symptoms. Some had to go to the emergency room. ,
The exact same symptoms are now being reported by farm workers throughout India, from handling Bt cotton. In 2008, based on medical records, the Sunday India reported, “Victims of itching have increased massively this year . . . related to BT cotton farming.”

GMOs provoke immune reactions

AAEM states, “Multiple animal studies show significant immune dysregulation,” including increase in cytokines, which are “associated with asthma, allergy, and inflammation”—all on the rise in the US.

According to GM food safety expert Dr. Arpad Pusztai, changes in the immune status of GM animals are “a consistent feature of all the studies.” Even Monsanto’s own research showed significant immune system changes in rats fed Bt corn. A November 2008 by the Italian government also found that mice have an immune reaction to Bt corn.
GM soy and corn each contain two new proteins with allergenic properties, GM soy has up to seven times more trypsin inhibitor—a known soy allergen, and skin prick tests show some people react to GM, but not to non-GM soy. Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50%. Perhaps the US epidemic of food allergies and asthma is a casualty of genetic manipulation.

Animals dying in large numbers

In India, animals graze on cotton plants after harvest. But when shepherds let sheep graze on Bt cotton plants, thousands died. Post mortems showed severe irritation and black patches in both intestines and liver (as well as enlarged bile ducts). Investigators said preliminary evidence “strongly suggests that the sheep mortality was due to a toxin. . . . most probably Bt-toxin.” In a small follow-up feeding study by the Deccan Development Society, all sheep fed Bt cotton plants died within 30 days; those that grazed on natural cotton plants remained healthy.

In a small village in Andhra Pradesh, buffalo grazed on cotton plants for eight years without incident. On January 3rd, 2008, the buffalo grazed on Bt cotton plants for the first time. All 13 were sick the next day; all died within 3 days.

Bt corn was also implicated in the deaths of cows in Germany, and horses, water buffaloes, and chickens in The Philippines.

In lab studies, twice the number of chickens fed Liberty Link corn died; 7 of 20 rats fed a GM tomato developed bleeding stomachs; another 7 of 40 died within two weeks. Monsanto’s own study showed evidence of poisoning in major organs of rats fed Bt corn, according to top French toxicologist G. E. Seralini.

Worst finding of all—GMOs remain inside of us

The only published human feeding study revealed what may be the most dangerous problem from GM foods. The gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function. This means that long after we stop eating GMOs, we may still have potentially harmful GM proteins produced continuously inside of us. Put more plainly, eating a corn chip produced from Bt corn might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives.

When evidence of gene transfer is reported at medical conferences around the US, doctors often respond by citing the huge increase of gastrointestinal problems among their patients over the last decade. GM foods might be colonizing the gut flora of North Americans.

Warnings by government scientists ignored and denied

Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had warned about all these problems even in the early 1990s. According to documents released from a lawsuit, the scientific consensus at the agency was that GM foods were inherently dangerous, and might create hard-to-detect allergies, poisons, gene transfer to gut bacteria, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged their superiors to require rigorous long-term tests. But the White House had ordered the agency to promote biotechnology and the FDA responded by recruiting Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney, to head up the formation of GMO policy. That policy, which is in effect today, denies knowledge of scientists’ concerns and declares that no safety studies on GMOs are required. It is up to Monsanto and the other biotech companies to determine if their foods are safe. Mr. Taylor later became Monsanto’s vice president.

Dangerously few studies, untraceable diseases

AAEM states, “GM foods have not been properly tested” and “pose a serious health risk.” Not a single human clinical trial on GMOs has been published. A 2007 review of published scientific literature on the “potential toxic effects/health risks of GM plants” revealed “that experimental data are very scarce.” The author concludes his review by asking, “Where is the scientific evidence showing that GM plants/food are toxicologically safe, as assumed by the biotechnology companies?”

Famed Canadian geneticist David Suzuki answers, “The experiments simply haven’t been done and we now have become the guinea pigs.” He adds, “Anyone that says, ‘Oh, we know that this is perfectly safe,’ I say is either unbelievably stupid or deliberately lying.”

Dr. Schubert points out, “If there are problems, we will probably never know because the cause will not be traceable and many diseases take a very long time to develop.” If GMOs happen to cause immediate and acute symptoms with a unique signature, perhaps then we might have a chance to trace the cause.

This is precisely what happened during a US epidemic in the late 1980s. The disease was fast acting, deadly, and caused a unique measurable change in the blood—but it still took more than four years to identify that an epidemic was even occurring. By then it had killed about 100 Americans and caused 5,000-10,000 people to fall sick or become permanently disabled. It was caused by a genetically engineered brand of a food supplement called L-tryptophan.

If other GM foods are contributing to the rise of autism, obesity, diabetes, asthma, cancer, heart disease, allergies, reproductive problems, or any other common health problem now plaguing Americans, we may never know. In fact, since animals fed GMOs had such a wide variety of problems, susceptible people may react to GM food with multiple symptoms. It is therefore telling that in the first nine years after the large scale introduction of GM crops in 1996, the incidence of people with three or more chronic diseases nearly doubled, from 7% to 13%.

To help identify if GMOs are causing harm, the AAEM asks their “members, the medical community, and the independent scientific community to gather case studies potentially related to GM food consumption and health effects, begin epidemiological research to investigate the role of GM foods on human health, and conduct safe methods of determining the effect of GM foods on human health.”

Citizens need not wait for the results before taking the doctors advice to avoid GM foods. People can stay away from anything with soy or corn derivatives, cottonseed and canola oil, and sugar from GM sugar beets—unless it says organic or “non-GMO.” There is a pocket Non-GMO Shopping Guide, co-produced by the Institute for Responsible Technology and the Center for Food Safety, which is available as a download, as well as in natural food stores and in many doctors’ offices.

If even a small percentage of people choose non-GMO brands, the food industry will likely respond as they did in Europe—by removing all GM ingredients. Thus, AAEM’s non-GMO prescription may be a watershed for the US food supply.

International bestselling author and independent filmmaker Jeffrey M. Smith is the Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology and the leading spokesperson on the health dangers of GMOs. His first book, Seeds of Deception is the world’s bestselling book on the subject. His second, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, identifies 65 risks of GMOs and demonstrates how superficial government approvals are not competent to find most of them. He invited the biotech industry to respond in writing with evidence to counter each risk, but correctly predicted that they would refuse, since they don’t have the data to show that their products are safe.

The American Academy Of Environmental Medicine Calls For Immediate Moratorium On Genetically Modified Foods has the press release and their position paper on GMOs can be accessed at

Wichita, KS - The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) today released its position paper on Genetically Modified foods stating that "GM foods pose a serious health risk" and calling for a moratorium on GM foods. Citing several animal studies, the AAEM concludes "there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects" and that "GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health."

The AAEM calls for:

A moratorium on GM food, implementation of immediate long term safety testing and labeling of GM food. Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community and the public to avoid GM foods. Physicians to consider the role of GM foods in their patients' disease processes.

More independent long term scientific studies to begin gathering data to investigate the role of GM foods on human health.

"Multiple animal studies have shown that GM foods cause damage to various organ systems in the body. With this mounting evidence, it is imperative to have a moratorium on GM foods for the safety of our patients' and the public's health," said Dr. Amy Dean, PR chair and Board Member of AAEM. "Physicians are probably seeing the effects in their patients, but need to know how to ask the right questions," said Dr. Jennifer Armstrong, President of AAEM. "The most common foods in North America which are consumed that are GMO are corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed oil." The AAEM's position paper on Genetically Modified foods can be found at

AAEM is an international association of physicians and other professionals dedicated to addressing the clinical aspects of environmental health. More information is available at

Tell Congress Not to Force GE Crops on Other Countries

The Oakland Institute Reporter

An Action Alert from Center for Food Safety (

A Note from the Oakland Institute

The 2008 food crisis and growing hunger, which threatens nearly one billion people worldwide, has been framed as a crisis of demand and supply. Thus the solutions offered primarily focus on boosting agricultural production through technological solutions like genetic engineering (GE).

A big player promoting GE as the panacea to world hunger is the United States. During the G-8 Summit, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack warned that failure to take immediate steps to reduce hunger will cause fresh social unrest. He thus urged the G8 to back the use of science in agriculture, including genetically modified organisms, to boost productivity. (Financial Times, 2009) On his return from Italy, much to the delight of biotech companies such as Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto, he pledged to bring a "more comprehensive and integrated" approach to promoting agricultural biotech overseas. (Des Moines Register, 2009).

Similarly in a joint essay, former Executive Director of the UN World Food Program, Catherine Bertini, and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman, hailed plans for a new Green Revolution that includes biotechnology, as holding "great promise." They advocated for prioritizing food and agriculture in the U.S. foreign aid. Recognizing that their plans might generate resistance, the authors wrote, "Although there is the potential for conflict over a hunger initiative on the issue of introducing more GM crops, this conflict is more likely to be with Europeans than with Africans or Asians, both of whom are increasingly inclined to accept the technology." (Bertini & Glickman, 2009)

This thinking, that developing countries can be arm twisted into accepting GE crops, is reflected in a new multi-billion dollar U.S. aid bill. Global Food Security Act (SB 384), also known as the Lugar-Casey Act, revises the 1961 Federal Assistance Act to direct more money towards GE research as part of U.S. foreign aid programs. (PANNA, 2009) The bill is now before the Senate after passing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March 2009 on the basis of hastily conducted, industry-friendly research that was funded by the Gates Foundation. A similar bill is expected soon in the House of Representatives.

A recent report from the Oakland Institute, Voices from Africa: African Farmers & Environmentalists Speak Out Against a New Green Revolution in Africa, clearly outlines African resistance to plans for a technological agricultural revolution in Africa, particularly the misguided philanthropic efforts of the Gates Foundation's Alliance for a New Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and presents African solutions rooted in first-hand knowledge of what Africans need. To learn more, download a copy of the report at

Also visit and join today, Voices From Africa at, a new online clearinghouse to share information on and promote alternatives to the New Green Revolution in Africa.

It is time that we demand the U.S. government stops bullying other countries and that they hav policy space to develop agriculture as they deem fit for their environment, farmers, and national needs.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

GMOs not sole answer to global hunger by Chege Mbitiru

Monday, May 11, 2009

A group of thinkers, mostly scientists, meet in Rome on Friday at the invitation of the Vatican. For four days, they will discuss not what’s good for the soul, but the stomach and mother earth.

Specifically, the gathering will discuss viability of genetically modified foods. The conference demonstrates the interest the issue is generating, sometime acrimoniously.

The conference comes soon after two announcements: production of a maize strain containing three vitamins, a first, and a failed court case in Germany over a genetically modified maize strain. It’s a product of Monsanto, a US biotech company.

Monsanto, L’Enfant terrible to anti-GM brigades, fights to maintain its near total monopoly of GM products. It wanted German Agriculture minister Ilse Aigner’s ban of one of its maize strains lifted. A German court said No! last Tuesday.

The European Food Safety Authority considers the strain safe. However, Ms Aigner said it harms some insects.

Late month, PNAS, the journal of the US National Academy of Sciences, reported European creators of the 3-Vitamins maize saying their methods surpass conventional one in nutrient yields. A supposed beneficiary would be the usual suspect of human ills, sub-Sahara Africa.

Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, defended the Rome conference. He said GM protagonists use “a lot of propaganda.” He added: “And for exactly that reason, some scientific clarity is needed.” However, the Vatican isn’t seeking data to justify a magisterium, or ruling.

Essentially, to produce genetically modified foods, scientists engineer genes in order, in the case plants, for them to acquire specific traits. The traits can be against weed, insects, to produce additional nutrients like vitamins or to withstand certain weather conditions.

The genetically modified plants don’t reproduce. Whoever makes them owns a patent, now glorified to “intellectual property right”. The foods nobody is jumping up and down against are also modified, but through selective breeding.

To a farmer, seeds for both types cost money. The main difference generally is that a farmer can save seeds from most conventionally modified plants harvest for replanting.

Producers of genetically modified foods talk a great deal about feeding the world. However, cumulatively, food shortages don’t exist in the world. For example, has anybody ever heard the UN World Food Programme complaining about food shortages? It complains about lack of money to buy it. That goes for the hungry. They’ve got no money.

For Monsanto et al to proclaim from mountains tops about feeding the world, is rubbish. Growing food for sale yes! Creators of the 3-Vitamins maize say their operation is humanitarian.

Presumably, someone somewhere will dish out free seeds to farmers in sub-Sahara Africa. More rubbish.

From an economic point of view, the hungry will remain hungry, with or without genetically modified food. It’s up to governments to rid their countries of causes of poverty and to fight monopolies like Monsanto.

Sahara Desert
Logically, development of genetically modified food is valid. If scientists can develop a rice strain that would flourish in the Sahara Desert, what’s wrong with that? However, of what use if only a few can afford to buy the rice?

There’s a catch, however. Genetically modified foods are relatively new phenomenon. Most of their effects on other organisms or the environment, remain mostly obscure. That shouldn’t cause worries though.

Drugs doctors prescribe are scientific concoctions of all types of organisms, chemicals, metals, ad infinitum. However, these drugs are tested to as high a degree of safety as is possible. That’s what needs be done with genetically modified foods. Away with hullabaloos!

L’Osservatore Romano newspaper recently offered advice on GM foods debate saying, among other things, it should be “faced without dogmatism and with common sense and responsibility…” That’s reasonable.

Copyright 2009 Nation Media Group (NMG) Limited
Source: The Daily Nation


Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Full List of pesticides in: 47 Fruits & Veggies

Some interesting findings whether we have a list in India and has anybody done any work to test pesticide levels...

An extremely illuminating report from Centre for Science and Environment - New Delhi

which deals with the situation in India .....

Read pages from 41-60 ..

headlines are:

1. we have scant regulation

2. very high levels of pesticides are acceptable as per our laws compared to other countries

3. many bodies are authorized to test but not take action , so we have reports of high pesticide contamination but no action

4. Our children are the most affected

5. Only one total diet study in kanpur ( by a few interested scientists )has been conducted to date , in comparison to some western nations where it is conducted every quarter ! from environmental working group

They also provide the methodology of how ( ) they arrived at the list, and the effects and how to reduce them (

The Full List of pesticides in: 47 Fruits & Veggies
Source (

1 (worst) Peach 100 (highest pesticide load)
2 Apple 93
3 Sweet Bell Pepper 83
4 Celery 82
5 Nectarine 81
6 Strawberries 80
7 Cherries 73
8 Kale 69
9 Lettuce 67
10 Grapes - Imported 66
11 Carrot 63
12 Pear 63
13 Collard Greens 60
14 Spinach 58
15 Potato 56
16 Green Beans 53
17 Summer Squash 53
18 Pepper 51
19 Cucumber 50
20 Raspberries 46
21 Grapes - Domestic 44
22 Plum 44
23 Orange 44
24 Cauliflower 39
25 Tangerine 37
26 Mushrooms 36
27 Banana 34
28 Winter Squash 34
29 Cantaloupe 33
30 Cranberries 33
31 Honeydew Melon 30
32 Grapefruit 29
33 Sweet Potato 29
34 Tomato 29
35 Broccoli 28
36 Watermelon 26
37 Papaya 20
38 Eggplant 20
39 Cabbage 17
40 Kiwi 13
41 Sweet Peas - Frozen 10
42 Asparagus 10
43 Mango 9
44 Pineapple 7
45 Sweet Corn - Frozen 2
46 Avocado 1
47 (best) Onion 1 (lowest pesticide load)

Note: We ranked a total of 47 different fruits and vegetables but grapes are listed twice because we looked at both domestic and imported samples.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Could Monsanto Be Responsible for One Indian Farmer's Death Every Thirty Minutes?

Over 1,500 farmers in the agricultural Indian state of Chattisgarh have committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure. The state was hit hard by falling water levels.
Sources:Sustaine Lane April 17, 2009

Bharatendu Prakash, of the Organic Farming Association of India, said that, "Farmers' suicides are increasing due to a vicious circle created by money lenders. They lure farmers to take money but when the crops fail, they are left with no option other than death."Mr. Prakash added that the government needs to take up the cause of the poor farmers just as they fight for a strong economy.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Genetically modified plants and foods are, from my perception, one of the largest threats that we have against the very sustainability of the human race and a healthy future existence on earth. Let’s face it, how long can your descendants survive if there isn’t any food to eat, and Monsanto’s “suicide gene” starts spreading to other native plants so they won’t reproduce naturally?

Although Monsanto claims this is impossible, is their shortsighted focus on profits is blinding them to the very real threats that their technology is posing to the viability of life on earth? And that’s over and above the unimaginable, direct harm their “scientific marvels” bring to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet, such as these Indian farmers.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, more than 182,900 Indian farmers took their own lives between 1997 and 2007. It estimates 46 Indian farmers commit suicide every day. That equates to roughly one suicide every 30 minutes!

And although some will argue that natural events are to blame, such as lack of rain, the fact many believe the situation can be traced directly back to the unconscionable tactics of Monsanto, which is driving these farmers into very desperate actions.

Monsanto’s Role in Farmers’ Suicides

Over the past decade, millions of Indian farmers have been promised radically increased harvests and income if they switch from their traditional age tested farming methods to genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton seeds. So, they borrow money to buy GM seeds, which need certain pesticides, which requires more money. And when rain fall is sparse, the GM crops fare far worse than traditional crops – a fact that these farmers oftentimes don’t learn until it’s too late and they’re standing there with failed crops, spiraling debts, and no income.

Monsanto has been ruthless in their drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops, and it gives us a very clear picture of what could be in store for the rest of the world’s small farmers if they’re allowed to continue.

Making matters worse, these GM seeds also contain “suicide genes” that render the seeds from this year’s crop useless. They simply won’t grow, so you cannot save them to plant for your next season’s harvest – a traditional farming method that’s been used since the dawn of farming itself. This means farmers are forced to buy the patented seeds and fertilizer again and again, every year.

But that’s not all.

Bt resistant pests and Roundup tolerant superweeds are on the rise, rendering the two major GM crop traits useless as well. The evolution of Bt resistant bollworms worldwide have now been confirmed and documented.

The end result is that farmers are left with all of the downsides and none of the intended benefits.

So, while drought may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for some farmers in India, it’s the globalization model of agriculture promoted by companies like Monsanto and Cargill that is the underlying cause of the problem.

In the video above, renowned physicist and anti-globalization activist Vandana Shiva describes how farmers are essentially tricked into a corner they cannot get out of. In a 2006 interview with Democracy Now! she said:

“A few weeks ago, I was in Punjab. 2,800 widows of farmer suicides who have lost their land, are having to bring up children as landless workers on others' land. And yet, the system does not respond to it, because there's only one response: get Monsanto out of the seed sector--they are part of this genocide -- and ensure WTO rules are not bringing down the prices of agricultural produce in the United States, in Canada, in India, and allow trade to be honest.

I don't think we need to talk about free trade and fair trade. We need to talk about honest trade. Today's trade system, especially in agriculture, is dishonest, and dishonesty has become a war against farmers. It's become a genocide.”

This latest round of mass suicides in India should be a wake-up call to us all -- that the industrial agriculture model is literally killing the farmers of our world.

I see it as a call to become more vigilant than ever, and speak out against corporations that exploit farmers and the earth for their own selfish and greedy goals. If we don’t, they will succeed – whether intentionally or unintentionally – to create unspeakable suffering for our children, grandchildren and future generations.

Vigilance Requires Paying Attention to Details

Since the 1980s, Monsanto has become the world leader in genetic modification of seeds and has won 674 biotechnology patents, more than any other company. What does this mean for you and your family’s health? Well, many of you probably don't realize just how ubiquitous GM foods now are.

We’re not just talking about cotton to be used for clothing and other products here; we’re talking about some of the most commonly consumed foods on the market.

Farmers of GM fruits and vegetables across the world have not started committing suicide yet due to failed crops, but the prevalence of these foods are a massive, potentially genocidal, experiment – and you and your children are the guinea pigs.

Did you know that genetically modified foods are so prevalent in the United States that if you randomly pick an item off your grocery store's shelves, you have a 75 percent chance of picking a food with GM ingredients?

It’s true. At least seven out of every 10 food items have been genetically modified!

The potential health ramifications of these world-wide experiments with our food supply are frightening to say the least. If you care about the health and future of your family, I strongly urge you to pay attention to the details, and refuse the destructive shenanigans of companies like Monsanto by buying only non-GM foods.

The True Food Shopping Guide is a great tool for helping you determine which brands and products contain GM ingredients. It lists 20 different food categories that include everything from baby food to chocolate.

Additionally, here are four simple steps to decrease your consumption of GM foods as much as possible:

* Reduce or eliminate processed foods in your diet. The fact that 75 percent of processed foods contain GM ingredients is only one of the many reasons to stick to a whole foods diet.
* Read produce and food labels. Conventionally raised soybeans and corn make up the largest portion of genetically modified crops. Ingredients made from these foods include high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn flour and meal, dextrin, starch, soy sauce, margarine, and tofu.
* Buy organic produce. By definition, food that is certified organic must be free from all GM organisms, produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs. Additionally, grass-fed beef will not have been fed GM corn feed.
* Look at produce stickers. The PLU code on stickers for conventionally grown fruit consists of four numbers, organically grown fruit has five numbers prefaced by the number nine, and GM fruit has five numbers prefaced by the number eight.

Organic India Making a Dent

Last November I visited thousands of these Indian farmers. These farmers had escaped the clutches of Monsanto, thanks to the efforts of Organic India that taught them how to grow crops organically.

Organic India has helped over 150,000 farmers change back to time-honored methods that are producing high quality plants and herbs. They have also constructed a number of hospitals and clinics to serve these farmers, and have helped tremendously to restore their dignity.

Information is Power

To further guide you in understanding the problems associated with GM foods, I strongly recommend reading the incredible series Seeds of Doubt, written by staffers at the Sacramento Bee.

And, last but not least, I urge everyone to watch the video The Future of Food. Forward the link to this video widely among your friends, family and acquaintances. This in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind genetically modified foods is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. It will help you understand how and why the genetic engineering we allow to be unleashed today is a very real threat to ALL future generations.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

GMO Moratorium: The way forward for Europe

GMO Moratorium: The way forward for Europe
Posted by Amar Singh Azad -

The participants of the 5th European Conference of GMO-Free Regions “Food and Democracy” call for an EU-wide moratorium on the authorization and the commercial planting of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In the wake of six EU member states banning the planting of MON810 and in light of the rapid increase in GMO-free regions in Europe, there has never been a better moment for a moratorium than now.

This moratorium should be used to:

• rethink EU legislation and strengthen regional self-determination;

• redefine risk assessment according to the precautionary principle while
considering socio-economic impacts; and

• support GMO-free, diverse agriculture and ensure food sovereignty.

We call upon agro-chemical companies to no longer abuse the problem of world hunger in order to justify the introduction of GMOs. Practical experience belies this misleading propaganda, which we consider to be false and unethical.

The participants of the 5th European Conference of GMO-Free Regions conclude in
the closing session of “Food and Democracy” that:

• GMO-free agriculture and food are in accordance with the will of the majority of citizens in Europe; and

• sustainable food production which eschews the use of genetic engineering is the best strategy for farmers and consumers, both today and tomorrow.

We are grateful to the citizens of Switzerland, who point the way for all of Europe with their democratic decision to instate a moratorium on the cultivation of GMOs.
This final declaration was adopted by the 250 participants from 28 countries

Supreme Court asks Govt to respond to biosafety concerns of GM crops

Political parties too express concerns over transgenic crops.
By: ASHOK B SHARMA on: Thu 30 of April, 2009 13:02 GMT

http://anypursuit. com/news/ tiki-read_ article.php? articleId= 216

New Delhi: India’s apex court on Thursday directed the government to respond to the proposals for setting up of an independent laboratory for carrying out relevant health and bio-safety tests of genetically modified (GM) crops and formation of a committee to address the problems of regulation for ensuring safety of GM crops.

The special bench of the Supreme Court consisting of the Chief Justice, KG Balakrishnan, Justice P Sathasivam and Justice JM Panchal observed that the government need to respond to the issues of health, environment and bio-safety raised in the two separate writ petitions – one filed by Aruna Rodrigues, PV Satheesh and Rajiv Baruah and the other by the Gene Campaign.

The next hearing of the case is slated in the last week of August, this year.

The counsel for the petitioner, Aruna Rodrigues and other, Prashant Bhushan said : “We had argued that the field trials and commercial release of GM crops, particularly, Bt brinjal should not be done unless and until proper regulations for ensuring safety aspects are put in place.”

Advocate Sanjay Parekh representing Gene Campaign said : “There are various problems relating to the field trials of GM crops, particularly the disposal of the residues. He submitted to the Supreme Court that an expert committee be set up to examine the legal framework governing the research and use of GMOs in India with a specific terms of reference. He argued that an expert committee be formed same as it was done for hazardous waste. The Supreme Court in 1997 had ordered a high powered expert committee chaired by MGK Menon for regulation of hazardous waste.

Though India has so far approved only one GM crop – Bt cotton – for commercial cultivation, the there is growing debate in the country about the health and environment safety of transgenic crops. Recently there had been cases of sheep mortality on account of grazing over Bt cotton fields.

With parliamentary elections in process in the country, several political parties have expressed concerns over GM crops in their poll manifestoes. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its election manifesto has said ; “No genetically modified seed will be allowed for cultivation without full scientific data on long-term effects on soil, production, and biological impact on consumers. All food and food products produced with genetically modified seeds will be branded as GM Food”. It also said that BJP on coming to power would provide special marketing assistance for organic produces.

The major Left party – CPM – assured that it would scrap the India-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture which is intended to promote GM crops in the country. The CPI (ML) said that no GM crop should be introduced in the country and there should be an immediate halt to field trials of GM crops. The Communist Party of India (CPI).favoured organic farming and demanded a moratorium on GM crops until all pending issues relating to the safety aspects are resolved. It also demanded scrapping of the India-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture.

The political parties from South India, particularly the PMK of the former Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss has called for a ban on GM crops. Field trials of GM crops should not be permitted without long-term safety tests. Agriculture universities should not be allowed to carry out research on GM crops with private sector. Research priorities should be shifted towards upholding the traditional methods and for providing safe food while safeguarding country’s sovereignty.
The AIADMK has called for “no promotion of GM seeds” while another southern party MDMK has called for a ban on GM seeds.
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Monday, May 4, 2009

News Alert -Boycott Kellogg’s For Using Genetically Modified Sugar in its Cereal Products

Greetings from "My Right to Safe food"

Kelloggs products from US in addition to GM Corn also uses GM Sugar. In your respective capacities, please circulate this information to your wide network of friends - through emails, sms, or media alerts "Avoid buying Kellogs products", should you wish to safeguard your health and that of your children.

In solidarity

Sangita Sharma

Boycott Kellogg’s For Using Genetically Modified Sugar in its Cereal Products

May 1, 2009 in Mr Green Archive
Wednesday, April 29, 2009 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has called for a boycott of the Kellogg Company, also known as Kellogg’s, after the company refused to sign a pledge refusing to use genetically modified sugar in its cereal products.

Sugar from genetically modified sugar beets hit the U.S. market for the first time this year, making the beets the first genetically engineered crop to enter the U.S. food stream since the widespread introduction of modified corn and soy in the 1990s. The sugar has been modified by the Monsanto Corporation to be resistant to the company’s signature herbicide, Roundup.

“These GE sugar beets do not provide any environmental, nutritional or food quality benefits whatsoever,” the OCA said. “They are created by Monsanto to withstand massive doses of herbicides and keep farmers on a never ending pesticide treadmill that is bad news for rural communities, the environment and consumers. The bottom line is that there are numerous options to GE sugar beets.”

More than 73 food producers and retailers have signed a pledge not to use genetically modified sugar in their products. When asked by the OCA to make such a pledge, however, Kellogg’s said it had no intention of doing so. While the company will make sure not to use modified sugar in any of its European products — the European Union has not approved sugar from the beets for human consumption — Kellogg’s insists that U.S. consumers do not care if their food is genetically modified.

“However, poll after poll have demonstrated that Americans want GE foods labeled and restricted,” the OCA said.

The OCA said that it decided to launch a Kellogg’s boycott only after the company refused to heed more than 15,000 letters asking the company not to use the modified beet sugar. In addition, the company clearly has the logistical ability to avoid genetically modified sugar, since it is already doing so for its European products.

Sources for this story include:;

Potent feedback on article published by Devinder Sharma "Who controls agricultural science in India?"

Having covered Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana for The Tribune newspaper for a number of years , I think I agree with you all completely. The scientists have been feeling they were not allowed to work freely. There were immense pressures from all quarters. The fact that research in this university that heralded the country into the era of green revolution suffered due to incapable scientists getting plum postings by pleasing their political masters. The latter too wanted incapable people as they could only prove to be the yes masters. Their incapability and insecurity did not allow the capable scientists to work. Instead such circumstances were created for them that they could not do anything productive and ended up frustrated. Many of them even left India so that they can get conducive environments. But now research institutes abroad are also ailing as is evident from Mr Devinder Sharma's write up.
Kanchan Vasdev
Senior Staff Correspondent
The Tribune

On Sun, May 3, 2009 at 10:41 AM, satheesh periyapatna wrote:
I think you would all be interested in an initiative of the Deccan Development Society in collaboration with the International Institute for Environment and Development, UK called ADARSA - ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRATISING AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH IN SOUTH ASIA. We are working with more than 35 networks in South Asia on this. The ADARSA initiative would go many steps ahead of the question of who controls agricultural research in India. We believe that farmers especially the small and the marginal, adivasis, dalits and women should be at the control ofagricultural research. Otherwise current agresearch is a puppet in the hands of neo liberal forces and the scientists willingly or unwillingly have become pawns in their hands.

Therefore the initiative would like to demonstrate that if we either hand back the reins of agricultural research in the hands of the excluded, a significant and explosive perspective that would alter the course of life sapping, suicide-motivating agriculture and move it towards life affirming, hope generating farming that had formed the food, farming and cultural history of South Asia for millenia.

For any more details on this, please visit our website:

deccan development society
pastapur village, medak district, andhra pradesh
Those are exactly my observations from my visits to India during the last two years. For instance, while attending the International Conference on Toxicology at GAD Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (October 15-17, 2009), I was horrified to observe both local and some NRI scientists to convey that India cannot survive on growing purely organic food, i.e.: without the use of pesticides and GMOs. Similar statements were made by the vice-chancellor and other university authorities. Since I was also an invited speaker at this conference I contradicted them without the opportunity for a follow-up discussion at or after the conference. Apparently, the same situation prevails at other Indian centers of higher learning. These are the institutions which are listened to by the current IMF-imbued policy advisors to the Gandhi-worshiping politicians in both the state and central government(s) of India while the chemical companies laugh all the way to their banks.

Shiv Chopra
Who controls agricultural science in India?" By Devinder Sharma

Walk into an agricultural university or an agricultural research institute being run by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and you come back dismayed. Gone are the days when agricultural scientists were somehow free and independent to plan their research priorities. When at least you could sit with them and have a free discussion on what was happening in their own laboratories. You could talk to them about the politics prevailing in the university, and how a particular scientist was being benefitted for what he was doing, and so on.

Gone are those days. Today, when I walk into an institute or even meet some of these scientists outside at a conference/workshop , I can see their level of discomfort, the uneasiness that settles in the moment you try to find out what is happening in their universities, forget about their laboratories. They are tight-lipped, and if I may say so they are simply terrorised.

And when in the US, a group of 25-0dd scientists wrote that now well-known letter saying they were no longer being allowed to conduct any meaningful research, I wasn't surprised or shocked. What actually came to my mind after having read that letter was that how could these scientists muster the courage to say this now. Nevertheless, I think it was very admirable on the part of these scientists to call a spade a spade, and this should inspire more scientists to come out of the GM shackles that is keeping their mouth shut. After all, for how long can you keep a good scientist in a box? For long can you bar a scientist from doing any meaningful research?

I wish someone in India also demonstrates the same kind of courage.

It all begins at the top. The entire research system is so well entrenched in the hands of these biotechnology companies that nothing moves without their tacit approval. We are aware the Chairman of the Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board (ASRB), Dr C D Mayee, is also on the board of ISAAA in India. The biotechnology industry therefore has made it openly clear that they have in the past and will in future be overseeing all the selections to the top posts being made. And once this is done, it is easy to ensure that the scientifc community in the university and ICAR institutes fall in line.

Isn't it strange that when Mulayam Singh's government appoints thousands of police personnel, the next government removes them saying that these were political appointees. This didn't happen only in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab too has been faced with a similar controversy. I wonder when will a similar question be asked about all the appointments that Dr C D Mayee made in his tenure as the chairman of ASRB?

Such is the terror psychosis that prevails that you cannot aspire to be a professor what to talk of being the head of a department or a dean or director or a vice-chancellor in a university unless you join the GM chorus. Some of these scientists can go to any extent to demonstrate their loyalty. I remember the former vice-chancellor of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, had in a debate with me said that if we have accepted Microsoft, what is wrong with Monsanto. I still wonder what is the correlation.

Once the management of the institutes has been adequately managed, these centres become an open field for the company officials. I am amazed at the way the private company officials, move around in the corridors of not only the ICAR but also the universities and institutes. You have to see the easy access and the confort levels with which these company officials operate. Sometimes I wonder whether these company officials are on a deputation with the university. No wonder, you don't hear of many examples of a revolving door in India. Who needs a revolving door when the university doors have been opened to private companies.

Take the case of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). It is loaded with scientists who are actually the cheerleaders for the biotechnology industry. And when Dr Pushpa Bhargava, the Supreme Court nominee to the GEAC, began to ask questions that challenged the unscientific cover the GEAC had very conveniently provided to the companies, the GEAC actually wanted him to be removed from the committee?

I thought any apex committee with good intentions would have drawn from the experience of Dr Pushpa Bhargava and set its own house in order. In fact, Dr Bhargava tells me an interesting story that should tell you for whom is the GEAC actually working for. Although I have been saying for quiet long now that GEAC is basically a rubber stamp for the industry, but still let us listen to what Dr Bhargava says. He only substantiates what I have been saying.

The Bt cotton varieties approved by the GEAC were all hybrids. The Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI) at Nagpur, has recently developed a non-hybrid Bt cotton which means the gene is now in a variety from which the farmers can save seed and replant the next year. In case of hybrids, farmers have to buy seed for every sowing since the hybrid vigour is lost in the second generation. The CCRI application for aproving this variety had come before the GEAC several times, and yet it was not being taken up.

Dr Bhargava says that he finally asked the GEAC chairman as to why it was not being taken up. The chairman replied that this will invite objections from them. Who is them, Dr Bhargava asked, and replied, you mean Monsanto. The chairman is reported to have said yes.

With the appointment of top administrative and scientific positions being overseen by these companies, and with the GM regulatory system virtually in their pocket, these companies have nothing to fear. That is why they are not even remotely concerned at the political stand against GM crops taken by every major political party except for the Congress. If you read the election manifesto of the political parties, it seems very clear that the majority is against the unbriddled introduction of GM crops in the country, and yet the industry is only feeling amused. They know for sure that with the agricultural scientists rallying faithfully behind them, they have nothing to fear.

While agricultural scientists never get tired to swear in the name of GM technology, I wasn't amazed when I asked at a recent workshop if any one of them had heard of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), I was only faced with blank faces. Ironically, India is a signatory to the IAASTD, and yet our agricultural scientists do not know anything about it.

Posted By Devinder Sharma to Ground Reality at 5/02/2009 11:28:00 AM