Monday, July 20, 2009

Serving poison on every platter by Devinder Sharma

When it premiered in February this year, the documentary film 'Poison on the Platter' directed by Ajay Kanchan and presented by Mahesh Bhatt, opened to mixed reviews. Devinder Sharma, a food and trade policy expert based in New Delhi, reviews the film against the backdrop of the controversies surrounding Genetically Modified (GM) food in India

Express Pharma

It couldn’t have been better timed. Mahesh Bhatt’s powerful documentary film Poison on the Platter comes at a time when India’s first genetically modified (GM) food crop – Bt brinjal – awaits commercialization. A few more months of sponsored research trials, and an unwanted and unhealthy food crop would be ready for its first serving.

Mahesh Bhatt has awakened the nation to the emerging dangers from consuming GM foods. Piecing together some of the startling cases of food poisoning, which for obvious reasons the GM food industry doesn’t want to talk about, the film does force the people to think. It provides thought for GM food.

While the jury is still not out about the safety of GM foods, the biotech industry is in a tearing hurry to force it down the throat of gullible consumers. After the European Union resisted the take-over of the food chain by the GM industry, especially in the aftermath of the disastrous impact of first the mad cow disease and then the foot-and-mouth disease, the GM industry shifted its focus to developing countries. India, with a lax regulatory regime and an easily manipulative agricultural scientific system, became an easy target.

In fact, India has become the world’s biggest dustbin for GM technology. In addition to Bt cotton, and now with the likelihood of the introduction of Bt brinjal, there are some 56 crops, mostly staple foods and vegetables, are in the advanced stages of research and field trials. And this includes rice, sugarcane, soybean, tomato, cauliflower, bhindi, and potato. Poison on the Platter therefore comes as a timely warning.

What worries me is that like the cigarette industry, which kept the safety data away from public glare for several decades, the Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco), which developed Bt brinjal, too is unwilling to disclose the human safety data citing confidentiality and commercial interests as the reasons. It was only after the courts intervened that the company has been forced to make public the data from research trials. The underlying message is crystal clear. The public must believe the companies. People have no right to know what they are eating.

In a way it is true. The hush-hush manner, in which the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the apex approval authority for genetically altered crops/foods, has been clearing and allowing large-scale field trials of GM crops, is enough of an indication that it is merely a rubber stamp for the biotechnology industry. Throwing all scientific norms of research and evaluation to wind, and not even bothering to analyse the toxicity data for human and animal health, it has been blindly accepting the data presented by the companies.

I wonder how the public can be a silent spectator. After all, the Bt gene in brinjal makes the fruit 1000 times more toxic than the toxins that exists in the normal sprays of Bt bio-pesticides. To say that the Bt toxin in brinjal is safe for human health, when its much-paler bio-pesticides sprays can kill insects, is certainly not palatable. Moreover, brinjal is not only cooked, it is also used raw and the toxin would remain in such cases. As I said in the film, imagine keeping a Bt brinjal in a glass container along with a few shoot borer insects that normally feed on brinjal. You will see that these insects will die. If these insects can die from feeding on Bt brinjal, I wonder what will happen when the same Bt brinjal goes into our stomach.

The company of course claims that 5 to 10 minutes of cooking kills the Bt toxin. Is it 5 minute cooking that is safe enough or do we have to go in for 10 minutes? If this is true, than shouldn’t the GEAC make it mandatory for housewives to keep thermometer in their kitchens? And what will happen if my child for instance eats raw Bt brinjal while playing around? Will he survive? Still worse, do we have adequate medical tests prescribed that can detect the damage done by Bt toxin in the human body?

Besides Bt brinjal, most of the GM crops are being promoted as an alternative to chemical pesticides. That the GM crops reduce the application of chemical pesticides too has been proven incorrect. In China, where Bt cotton was hailed as a silver-bullet for cotton farmers, a Cornell University study has shown that cotton farmers in China growing Bt crop, are actually using more pesticides and therefore incurring losses. In India too, Bt cotton has not reduced the application of pesticides.

In the United States, GM corn, soybean and cotton have reportedly led to 122 million pounds increase in pesticides usage since 1996. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) now admits that yields of GM soyabean and corn have actually fallen. The University of Nebraska and the Kansas University have also made similar conclusions.

Moreover, weed resistance to ‘herbicide-tolerant’ GM crops in the US exists in 15 million acres. At least 30 ‘super weeds’ – which cannot be controlled by any means – have developed in North America. In India, several new pests have emerged on Bt cotton. Reports of failure of Bt cotton, including hundreds of Bt cotton farmers committing suicide, have also poured in. But who cares? The GEAC goes on merrily putting its stamp of approval on company studies.

With the former Science and Technology minister Kapil Sibal repeatedly asserting that the government is “pro-GM crops”, it is quite obvious as to whose interests is it promoting. The entire regulatory system therefore is eyewash, and borders on sham. The only way to see that the government-biotechnology industry nexus does not play havoc with human health is to hold the Minister as well as the GEAC members liable for any mishap. Put them behind bars if any untoward bio-safety accident takes place. Someone has to be held accountable for playing with human safety.

Make the liability clause absolutely stringent and you will see the biotechnology industry closing shop. That is what the essential message from Mahesh Bhatt’s film is.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

'GM food can cause the biggest health crisis' Q&A: Gilles-Eric Seralini
By Latha Jishnu / New Delhi July 17, 2009, 0:12 IST

For a country that doesn’t take much interest in scientists, Gilles-Eric Seralini can probably be termed well-known in India. Seralini is professor of molecular biology at the University of Caen in France, and he hit the headlines here early in 2009 when his analysis of the research data on the country’s first transgenic vegetable, the Bt brinjal, was presented to the Supreme Court. He said the tests conducted by Mahyco, the company producing the Bt brinjal, were simply not valid and raised serious health concerns.

Bt brinjal may be released commercially by year-endHe also flagged several issues which India’s top scientists who sit as the apex regulators on the Genetic Engineering Approvals Committee (GEAC) had overlooked. There are compelling reasons why India cannot afford to ignore Seralini’s findings. He comes with impeccable academic and research credentials and has been a member of two commissions evaluating the environmental and health risks of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Europe. Algeria-born Seralini, 49, is a genial man who speaks softly in halting English and has a sense of humour which can be as unexpected as it is deadly, says Latha Jishnu. Excerpts from an interview conducted last week in Delhi:

You head the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN). Is its expertise and independence recognised globally?
We have undertaken studies for the EU, the directorate of agriculture of the European Commission, Quebec’s ministry of environment, the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, the Carrefour Group; we did studies on transgenic salmon for the University of Montreal, the European Spatial Agency and Greenpeace among others.

What is the biggest problem with GMOs?
You may not be aware that 99.9 per cent of edible GMOs are designed to contain toxic pesticides whose effect on the human body and the environment are not known. At CRIIGEN, we believe there should be transparency on the development of GMOs. This is the biggest problem. Everything is kept confidential by the biotech companies whose data governments accept without validation. We need many more tests on the environmental and health-safety aspects of GMOs and it should be assessed independently. We want science to be used for the benefit of people, not companies.

Are the tests on GMOs inadequate?
No government anywhere has asked a company to do more than 90-day tests on GMOs. It’s unbelievable that such tests are considered adequate for food that is given to babies and old people. Most companies also keep their test data secret, especially blood analyses of animals fed on GMOs. This is not science; we are still living in the Middle Ages. No tests have ever been conducted by companies of the pesticides associated with GMOs on human cells. The blood analyses are performed only on rats and are kept unbelievably confidential.

I must congratulate India on making the Mahyco data on Bt brinjal public. (This came about as a result of the Supreme Court case and a campaign launched by Greenpeace India). I must also congratulate Mahyco for tests conducted on three mammals but it did the tests for only two doses against three mandated in the OECD protocol (India claims to be following this protocol).

What is the most dangerous finding from your analyses of the Mahyco data?
The dossiers submitted by Mahcyo raise serious concerns. They are not signed by the researchers who did the tests, which means these can be considered invalid. But most significant, Bt brinjal has been modified to produce an unknown chimeric insecticide toxin. In the toxicity tests on target and non-target insects, this chimeric toxin was not used. Instead, an improper Cry1Ac toxin was used because this control was easier. Also, Bt brinjal is resistant to antibiotics, at least the well-known kanamycin.

How serious a health risk is that?
Antibiotic resistance, you must be aware, is recognised as a major health problem because of the growing genetic resistance to antibiotics, both in the environment and humans. You simply should not consider commercialising a food item that is resistant to antibiotics. Besides, several biotechnology companies have already developed transgenic plants without this marker gene.

So why is Mahyco unable to do so with its Bt brinjal?
It is possible that Mahyco bought an old unused GMO technology from Monsanto (The US biotech giant is the parent company of Mahyco).

Are there other concerns with Bt brinjal?
Bt brinjal appears to contain 15 per cent less kcal per 100 gram. It also has a different alkaloid content and 16-17 mg per kg of Bt insecticide toxin that is poorly characterised for side-effects. Significantly, rats fed on the Bt brinjal had diarrhoea, suffered liver weight loss while other animals, too, showed significant biological changes.

Given all these risks why is it that the GEAC did not bring it to the attention of the government?
I think the GEAC has not gone through the data on Bt brinjal. I have received mails from the GEAC asking me, “Why do you call it chimeric toxin?” So I had to point out the page and paragraph where it was mentioned in the Mahcyo dossiers! They should scrutinise the data carefully, go through it table by table to discover what lies hidden in these figures, and not go by the conclusions of the company.

What should India do?

It should seek absolute transparency on GMO testing. GEAC and Mahyco must respond to the concerns raised on the side effects of Bt brinjal and the results should be available for public scrutiny. Also, GEAC should compel Mahyco to compare Bt brinjal with the same variety of brinjal, and not any variety that the company finds appropriate as it has done so far. This is not proper science because it masks the real effects of the Bt toxin. Most important, the regulators must insist on full transparency in the blood analyses of animals fed on Bt brinjal. The best way would be to set up an independent testing facility. This way India will become the symbol of not only good science but also the source of good food for the rest of the world.

Should GMOs be banned altogether?

GMOs should be tested like drugs. This means full life-cycle tests on rats and other mammals. That’s the only way one can assess their safety for human consumption. As for the environment, remember that once it is out in the open, you cannot confine it. In India, it will be the end of your rich biodiversity. I understand that there are 2,000 varieties of brinjals in this country. You risk contaminating all of these. Let me give you an example: A tiny quantity of sterile GM maize producing a vaccine for pigs in the US has contaminated 500,000 tons of soya.

Even Europe is under US pressure on GMOs
In spite of that, GM crops account for only 0.05 per cent of the acreage in Europe (100,000 hectares in Spain), while it is 18 per cent of US agriculture which produces 96 per cent of the world’s edible GMOs. The European approach is that we don’t know enough about this technology so long-term assessments must be made of the environmental and health impact. The EU also stands for transparency and counter expertise, meaning independent scientific tests. I believe that the world is headed for the biggest health crisis ever because of the lack of transparency. It will make the financial crisis seem like a blip.

GM Crops are the Highway to Genetic Holocaust More Lethal than Nuclear Holocaust

Tuesday 7 July 2009, by Sailendra Nath Ghosh

According to a report in The Hindu of April 13 last, the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice issued three welcome directives to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee while giving a verdict on a PIL petition filed by the Convenor of Gene Campaign, Ms Suman Sahai, an internationally famous Indian geneticist. The directives to the GEAC are that it must (i) consider the toxicity and allergencity of the proposed GM crop; (ii) study the requirement of isolation distance of the experimental field from other fields to prevent contamination; and (iii) post the relevant data on the web so that independent experts could examine the data obtained from the experiments. Pursued in letter and spirit, these could be safeguards against the misuses that the GMO producers are now indulging in, in large parts of the world.

The hon’ble Chief Justice, again, in his speech at the seminar at Chandigarh on “Law and Environment” organised by the Asia-Pacific Jurists Association, warned against corporates “making a fast buck at the cost of nature” and advised the shelving of projects which appeared suspicious from the ecology angle. These were wise sayings indeed and were in accord with the “precautionary principle’ which is basic to good science.

Genetic modification is variously known. It is called “transgenic engineering”, “horizontal gene transfer technology”, and also “recombinant DNA technology”. To call it a “suspicious” project, in 2009, is, however, a gross underestimate. It is the most dangerous technology that mankind has ever known. It is more lethal than nuclear bomb manufacturing technology. Man, even after manufacturing nuclear weapons, can keep these bottled up. But once the products of transgenic genetic engineering are released, their chain reactions are unstoppable.

This brings us to the basics of this technology. Transgenic engineering, by definition, is implanting the gene of an organism into the genome of an unrelated species – for example, the gene of a pig into a tomato, the gene of a snake into an orchid. Since every organismic species has its own natural defence mechanism, the implantation of a foreign gene requires a carrier which can pierce through the target organism’s defence barrier. Commonly, viruses, or combinations of viruses or of infectious bacteria are the vehicles for this kind of gene implantation. Can such atrocious violation of the natural order produce any beneficial result?

The next question is: Will the gene or genes implanted in a species remain confined to the targeted species? Science is clear on this issue. “The very cellular mechanisms that enable the foreign genes to ‘force-integrate’ into the genome can also mobilise these genes to jump out.” Which means, the foreign genes can re-insert into other sites of the targeted organism and also jump out to re-integrate into other organisms by secondary, tertiary, quarternary transfers. Thus, it is a demonic technology. This is tearing apart the genome of every species of the plant and animal kingdom. This is Genetic holocaust. Certainly it is more lethal than nuclear holocaust. In nuclear-bomb-devastated Hiroshima, after 60years, blades of grass have started growing. But the effects of transgenic engineering are Irretrievable and will last till eternity.

There is a world of difference between genetic engineering—of the type that Borlaung did in the 1960s—and the transgenic engineering that is now being pushed through.

It is because of this that the highly venerated Nobel Laureate in Medicine, George Wald, eminent Professor of Biology, Harvard University, had, at the very beginning of this concept, warned against its pursuit with the following trenchant words:

Recombinant DNA technology faces our society with problems unprecedented not only in the history of science, but of life on Earth. It places in human hands the capacity to redesign living organisms, the products of three billion years of evolution. Such intervention must not be confused with previous intrusion upon the natural order of living organisms: animal and plant breeding....... All the earlier procedures worked within single or closely related species....Our morality up to now has been to go ahead without restriction to learn all that we can about nature. Restructuring nature was not part the bargain...this (new) direction may be not only unwise, but dangerous. Potentially, it could breed new animal and plant diseases, new sources of cancer, novel epidemics.

To hide this hideous character, the companies selling GM products try to allure the farmers by falsely advertising their higher productivity, their lesser requirement for pesticides, hence their supposed environment-friendliness. Some other companies indulge in advertisements about their higher herbicide tolerance.

Its deceptive appeal is so great that even the most enlightened people often get deluded. During a PIL hearing on GMOs, at least one honourable judge out of a three-member Supreme Court Bench headed by the Chief Justice, permitted himself the expression: “GM foods, capable of dramatically increasing productivity, could be the answer to hunger and poverty in India...GM seeds could possibly be a means to eradicate hunger and poverty. Poverty is probably more than dangerous than the side-effects of GM seeds.” (As reported by the Delhi edition of The Times of India of May 1, 2009)

If the honourable judge takes the trouble of making enquiries about the experiences of the people of Argentina, and the farmers of South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and our country’s BT. Cotton growers, he will hasten to revise his own opinion. Brief mention of a few experiences from different countries where “poverty alleviation through GM crops” were tried, would be revealing.

i) Argentina, which was a country that used to produce a surplus of diverse and health-giving food for eight times its population, is now, thanks to its widespread use of GM soya crops, having to import milk, lentils, peas, cotton etc and “communities all over the country are suffering the effects of agrotoxins”.

ii) The use of GM cotton in South Africa, GM sweet potato in Uganda, GM. maize and sweet potato in Kenya—all showed lower yields, proliferation of super-weeds, compulsive use of many times more of pesticides/ herbicides, soil toxicity, and emergence of newer and newer diseases of both mankind and cattle.

iii) In our country itself, the limited use of GM cotton—named B.T. cotton after the bacillus thuringiensis—led to farmers’ suicides due to higher costs and lower yields

iv) The three-year farm-scale evaluation of three spring-sown GM crops—oilseed rape, beet and maize—in the UK by the Royal Society conclusively showed their damaging effects on biodiversity, which is the very basis of sustainability of agriculture. The Royal Society had made it very clear that it would not focus on key questions such as gene flow, transgenic contamination, creation of ‘superweeds’ and ‘superpests’ and would observe only the impact of managing GM herbicide-tolerant crops on farmland biodiversity.

v) In the USA itself, studies showed that in most field trials, the GM crops called “Round-up ready” soyabean showed lower yields than the conventional varieties. Still, the clout of GMO producing companies—Monsanto, Novartis, Du Pont etc.— is so strong that they are being allowed to experiment with many GM crops with impunity.

However, it is worth noting that Maxico has imposed a ban on not only the cultivation of GM corn but also on its research. The anti- GM sentiment in the countries of European Union is so strong that Monsanto, the leading GMO producer, had to discontinue its transgenic wheat and barley seed-making and seed-selling business in Europe as far back in 2003. It had also to withdraw from its kind of research in plant pharmaceuticals.

A question can yet be asked: if GM crops are so unsafe, why are the Americans, who are eating some GM crops for a decade or more, not falling ill on a mass scale? The answer is: hardly anybody dies immediately after eating a GM crop. Apart from acute toxins and allergens, other harmful effects are likely to appear in the longer term, just as the carcinogenous effects of tobacco became apparent after years of smoking. There is no doubt, however, that the health standards of US citizens are fast deteriorating. A review paper by Nathan B. Battalion of Jonathan Campbell’s publication 50 harmful effects of Genetically Modified foods says: “Whereas in 1900, cancer affected only one person in the USA, it is now one out of two men, and one out of three women.” While water, air and food pollution made their contributions to this increase throughout the century, it is the acceleration of use of chemicals as antibiotics, pesticides, weedicides, herbicides that led to galloping increases in “systemic, whole body immune system breakdowns”.

GM crops are inevitably linked with multiplying uses of chemicals in the above forms. According to the review paper mentioned in the preceding para, scientists have found that random combinations of chemicals (mostly pesticides) can cause one thousand times more cancer than the sum of the individual chemicals indicated in separate tests. Even more startling was the fact that some chemicals which were earlier thought to be harmless by themselves, proved lethal in combinations.

In a word, GM crops are fraught with famine, hunger, disease and death.

After these pointers, it is necessary to point out how the Supreme Court’s salutary directives mentioned at the outset may be scuttled.

1. It is common knowledge now that, in the USA, the decision making positions in the FDA (Food and Drug administration), which is supposed to be authority to allow or disallow the cultivation of GM crops have been usurped by persons linked with GMO producer companies. In India, how many among the members of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee are, or would be, really independent and endowed with holistic understanding would need to be probed. As of today, men like Dr P.M. Bhargava, the founder-Director of India’s Centre of Molecular Biology Studies, has no voice there, even though his pointers tally with people’s experiences. Genuine environmentalists have now no place on GEAC. Who will decide the composition of the GEAC?

2. Since transgenic engineering is gunshot-like violence that pierces the nuclear membrane of the cell, should not the GEAC’s every decision be reported to the Parliament and debated before any trial of GM crop in the field is allowed?

3. For the first time in history, the GMO issue has brought about a new nexus—the academic-industrial-military complex. (Earlier, it was industrial-military complex.) Hence the scope for free unbiased debates on the scientific technological level is getting virtually shut out. Prestigious science journals like Science, Nature, New Scientists, Lancet have now come to be dependent on corporate advertisements and sponsorship, often of the whole series of pro-biotech (read pro-GMO) articles. They are now refusing to publish papers by scientists which confirm the early whistle blower’s predictions. Only the involvement of farmers in open debates can clinch the issue. If the debates are limited to the position-holding experts, the Supreme Court’s expectations are likely to be belied.

4. As a result of widespread and mounting consumer rejection of GM crops in the countries of European Union, the US agribusiness is now seeking to profit more from Africa, Asia and Latin America—all in the name of ‘poverty alleviation” and “fighting hunger”. If they can monopolise the seed market and the market for its concomitant agrochemicals, these will be the richest business corporates in the world. Hence they will seek control the research institutes and the Faculties in the Universities by lavish funding. A recent study by the Third World Network—Africa, after offering evidences to show that the GM projects are inappropriate for poverty alleviation, have concluded that “their claim is a public relations strategy to reduce public resistance to GM products and that their carefully crafted and well-funded campaigns are designed to recruit GM advocates: “Politicians have latched on to biotechnology to illustrate their otherwise absent commitment to the poor. Academics have found another fad. Corporations try to sell their (GM producers’) products. Scientists have projects that need funding. The result of all this unjustified publicity is muted debate.”

5. Apart from the above ways of controlling scientific and technological manpower, questions will be raised about the “unfeasibility” of maintaining distance from non-GM crop-growing fields for preventing contamination. A famous case in Canada may be mentioned here. The University of Manitoba sought to establish the distance that genetically modified pollen could travel. They found that wheat pollen would stay airborne for at least one hour. They related it to wind speed. If you had a 35 kilometres per hour wind speed, how far can it travel? Canola pollen stays airborne for nearly three hours. So, if there is 35 kph wind, how far should be isolation distance? If your pollen gets into a whirlwind, it could travel over 60 km! In our country, the problem can be even greater. Hence maintaining safe contamination-free distance will be more problematic.

The solution is to ban GM research and GM cultivation altogether. As the great scientist-philosopher Heisenberg said, demonic technology-based enterprises should never be allowed.

Armchair politicians would ask: is there any way to increasing food production without using GM seeds, without the use of chemical fertilisers? In our country, there are numerous examples where organic farming, aided by Eathworm culture (vermiculture), yields much more, both quantitatively and qualitatively, than these anti-natural methods ever can.

A book titled Organic Farming Source Book, which was originally published a decade and half back, is being republished by the Other Book Store, Mapusa, Goa. The stories narrated there are living proofs of the truth that bounteousness is in-built in Nature. We need to know how to harness it.

A Postscript

India is home to a vast reservoir of biological—hence genetic wealth. This is the foundation of the country’s food and nutritional security. Preserving the wild relatives of crop plants in the vicinity is the surest means of infusion of healthier germplasms—and hence of crop improvement and abundance. Selection by farmers and cross-breeding, if necessary, is a superior alternative to any kind of genetic engineering, which invariably reduces diversity. As for transgenic engineering, it should never, never be allowed.

The author is one of the country’s earliest environmentalists and a social philosopher.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

50 Reasons to Protect Infants from Vaccines by Jagannath Chatterjee

I have known Jagannath, an associate from Orissa who has been campaigning not only against GM foods but against vaccines too. I was staggered when during a one hour intense interview with him in Hyderabad, he revealed the most startling facts which are stated below. Yes, this site is for safe foods but as a consumer i feel you have right to be informed on the health of your lovely children and loved ones!

Jaganath went through personal traumatic trials with these notorious vaccines and is determined to share his findings by informing and educating millions, challenging scientists, doctors, policy makers, medical fraternity who either threaten him, or sympathise with him or it goes on deaf ears.

In his words "I wish to also define this "harm". Vaccines consists of bacteria and viruses that are cultured in animal tissues and serum. This is the prime source of contamination. You talk about "pure vaccines". There is no such thing as a pure vaccine, the term is an oxymoron. There have been attempts to replace Thiomersal by 2Phenoxyethelene, another very dangerous neurotoxin. But the results, as informed to me, are "not encouraging". So mercury continues to be pumped into infants. Along with that goes live and genetically modified bacteria and viruses, contaminated serum, heavy metals like mercury and aluminum, carcinogens like formaldehyde and monosodium glutamate, antibiotics that ought not to be injected without skin prick tests and God alone knows what else.

This study points out that vaccines are a matter of "trust".

Doctors are instructed not to report vaccine damage. This was publicly admitted by the IMA when it blew the whistle on the OPV and the cases of paralysis caused by it. The government had instructed physicians not to report damage.

Personally I would request you to pose as a ordinary non medical person and take a vaccine damaged child to a pediatrician. You will yourself realise how the system works. I have taken many such children to doctors and have received open threats. A doctor, Dr P... M...., who is a office bearer of the Indian Academy of Pediatricians openly challenged me that, "no doctor will "dare" certify that this child is vaccine damaged." That is the system for you. In case of the OPV the IMA has pointed out that the vaccine surveillance system reports only up to 5% of cases.

There are no official studies comparing vaccinated versus non vaccinated children. Activists have all along been shouting for such studies. The findings of independent studies can be found here;

This scientific study says the whole issue needs further probe

Jagannath's views on vaccines strengthen immunity.

Vaccines have nothing to do with strengthening immunity. A strong immunity would reject the invasion by way of vaccines. Hence adjuvants are used to "put the immune system on hold" so that the body is forced to accept the intruder. You will find allergies in all vaccinated children. This very fact reveals that the vaccines severely affect the immune system. How the vaccines affect the immune system is described here by Dr Rebecca Carley, a medico legal expert on vaccines. Her article was deleted from the WHO website, where it once appeared;

This article was actually here in the CDC website before it was pulled out;

Regarding 30 vaccine "shots" that I have mentioned (not 30 vaccines), the IAP recommends 24 shots without the consultation of parents and 5 vaccines (Hep A, Varicella, Pneumococcal, Meningitis, Japanese Encephalitis) (6 shots I think or maybe more) after consulting. Thus the figure of 30 shots is correct, the actual may be more. All these vaccines are being routinely given to children by private practitioners.

Jagannath has been accused of lying and misleading the public. To the contrary he states" I am trying to educate parents about the dangers from vaccines, a fact that is being increasingly admitted by even pediatricians. Their first reaction has been not to vaccinate their own children and relatives. There are many pediatricians today who are not vaccinating beyond the IPV as far as their own children and relatives are concerned. I would appeal to them to extend this facility to their patients also, infants who have no voice to protest, but they do protest by persistently crying and trying to make it known that they do not wish to be vaccinated".

My sincere gratitude for the in depth research shared by Jagannath, he raises alarm bells by educating all of us. When a nephrologist paid me a visit with his family to outsource organic produce, i saw the horrific implications of a polio vaccine on his beautiful daughter aged 5, who could barely walk, lost her ability of co-ordination of her muscles and speech, I was gutted and appalled. Just not fair.

In solidarity

Sangita Sharma

Note: I have been corresponding with the Union Health Minister and his department on this subject since 2006. Neither the Minister nor the Ministry have any answer to these points. Even when Dr Abdul Kalam, then President, raised the subject based on my inputs there was no sincere attempt to clarify the position. I have since then continuously educated the doctors on the subject. I have also written to the current President, Vice President, PM, Sonia, the NHRC, NCPCR, CM's of various states, MP's of various political parties and all the medical institutions I can think of. I have also written to the WHO, GAVI, UNICEF & PATH, premier institutions that promote this highly controversial medical intervention . Doctors sympathetic to the cause opine that unless the public realise the dangers from vaccines it will be very difficult to stop this industry sponsored menace. You will agree that there should be a public debate on vaccines, otherwise the unfortunate children do not stand a chance.

1. There is no scientific study to determine whether vaccines have really prevented diseases. Rather disease graphs show vaccines have been introduced at the fag end of epidemics when the disease was already in its last stages. In case of Small Pox the vaccine actually caused a great spurt in the incidence of disease before public outcry led to its withdrawal.
2. There are no long-term studies on vaccine safety. Very short-term tests are carried out where the vaccinated subjects are checked against another group who are given another vaccine. Technically the tests should be carried out against a non-vaccinated group. No one really knows what protocols are followed at such industry-sponsored trials.
3. There has never been any official attempt to compare a vaccinated population against a non vaccinated population to know what vaccines are doing to the children and the society. Independent private studies (Dutch & German) have revealed that vaccinated children suffer much more than their un-vaccinated counterparts.
4. The child receives not one but many vaccines. There are no tests to determine the effects of multiple vaccines.
5. There is no scientific basis for vaccinating infants. As per senior doctors quoted by the Times of India, "Children suffer from less that 2% of vaccine preventable illnesses but 98% of the vaccines are targeted towards them." The vaccine pioneers who have recommended abundant caution before vaccinating the population have never advocated mass vaccinations.
6. Children are vaccinated simply because parents can be frightened to forcefully vaccinate their children. Vaccinating infants is the most profitable business both for the manufacturers as well as the doctors.
7. Infants, who are advised ONLY mothers milk till the age of six months and beyond because their fragile system will not tolerate anything else are given 30 extremely toxic vaccine shots, including booster doses, an act that defies both logic and science.
8. The Government of India has come out with a quarter page advertisement in The Hindu warning parents not to vaccinate beyond the Government approved vaccines. Parents have been advised against vaccinating in private clinics and hospitals.
9. The Orissa Chapter of the Indian Association of Pediatricians has admitted in a letter to the CM, Orissa, that private clinics and hospitals are ill equipped to store vaccines and warned parents not to vaccinate upon the advise of private practitioners and hospitals.
11. Vaccines contain heavy metals, cancer causing substances, toxic chemicals, live and genetically modified viruses, contaminated serum containing animal viruses and foreign genetic material, extremely toxic de-contaminants and adjuvants, untested antibiotics, none of which can be injected without causing any harm.
12. The mercury, aluminum and live viruses in vaccines may be behind the huge epidemic of autism (1 in 10 worldwide as per doctors in the USA, 1 in 37 as per a private study by doctors in New Delhi), a fact that (vaccines cause autism) has been admitted by the US Vaccine Court.
13. The CDC of USA, the vaccine watchdog, has publicly admitted that its much-publicized 2003 study denying any link between vaccines and autism, is flawed. The Chief of CDC Dr Gerberding has confessed to the media (CNN) that vaccines can cause "autism like symptoms". The Autism epidemic is found only in those countries that have allowed mass vaccinations.
14. In the year 1999, the US Government instructed vaccine manufacturers to remove mercury from vaccines "with immediate effect". But mercury still remains a part of many vaccines. The vaccines with mercury were never recalled and were given to children up to the year 2006. "Mercury free" vaccines contain 0.05mcg of mercury, enough to permanently damage a infant. As per an American Academy of Pediatricians study: "Mercury in all of its forms is toxic to the fetus and children and efforts should be made to reduce exposure to the extent possible to pregnant women and children as well as the general population."
16. In a reply to then President Sri Abdul Kalam, the Health Ministry informed, "mercury is required to make the vaccines safe". To the author's query that "what are these vaccines that it requires the second most dangerous neurotoxin, mercury, to make them safe?", there was no reply.
17. Mercury used in vaccines is second in toxicity only to the radioactive substance, Uranium. It is a neurotoxin that can damage the entire nervous system of the infant in no time.
18. Mercury accumulates in fat. The brain being made mostly of fat cells, most of the mercury accumulates there giving rise to the peculiar symptoms of the autistic children.
19. The mercury used in vaccines is ethyl mercury. According to Indian doctors this is an industrial toxin and is 1000 times more toxic than the usual methyl mercury.
20. The aluminum present in vaccines makes the mercury, in any form, 100 times more toxic.
21. As per an independent study aluminum and formaldehyde present in vaccines can increase the toxicity of mercury, in any form, by 1000 times.
22. As per a Tehelka article on Autism, if one considers the WHO limit for mercury in water, they are receiving 50,000 times the limit. The limits set, incidentally, are for adults and not infants.
23. Autism in India has emerged as the most rapidly growing epidemic amongst children. As per a private study done by doctors in New Delhi, from 1 in 500 it has steadily climbed to 1 in 37 today. As per Indian doctors, "You can go to any class of any school today and find an autistic child."
24. Autism is a permanent disability that affects the child physically, mentally and emotionally. It makes the child loose social contact. It impedes both the physical and mental growth of the child. It destroys the brain causing severe memory and attention problems.The majority of symptoms displayed by autistic children match symptoms of heavy metal poisoning.
25. According to vaccine researcher Dr Harris Coulter, vaccines cause children to become pervert and criminal. Majority of the school shootings by the children in the USA have been committed by autistic children. Vaccines can cause more harm that even the medical community privately acknowledges.
26. Autistic children also suffer from severe bowel disorders. As per Dr Andrew Wakefield, this is due to the vaccine strain live measles virus in the MMR vaccine. Nearly all children become fully autistic after the MMR shot. As per a recent study the MMR vaccine has an adverse effect on the vital mucosal immune system. The very basis of trying to prevent childhood Mumps and Measles has been questioned in this study.
27. The DPT also causes children to regress giving rise to fears that multiple live virus vaccines are an important cause behind autism. If three live viruses can cause so much harm we can well imagine what today’s five and seven viruses vaccines will do to children.
28. Before the autism epidemic, it was already well known that vaccines have caused the cancer epidemic in today’s society. Both the Small Pox and the Oral Polio Vaccine are made from monkey serum. This serum has helped many cancer causing monkey viruses, 60 found so far (SV 1 to SV60), to enter the human blood stream. As per recent revelations these viruses continue to be in the vaccines.
29. It is also known that it is the use of green monkey serum in vaccines that has led to the transfer of the Simian Immune deficiency Virus (SIV) from monkeys into humans. The SIV and the HIV that causes AIDS are very similar.
30. Not only AIDS, a blood cancer in infants (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) that is affecting children in thousands may also be primarily due to the extremely toxic nature of vaccine ingredients injected directly into the blood stream.
31. Infantile jaundice and also infantile diabetes is also scientifically connected to the toxic vaccines.
32. The live polio viruses used in the Oral Polio Vaccine has caused Vaccine Attributed Paralytic Polio in more than 1,25,000 children (up to the year 2006) as per doctors of the Indian Medical Association and the Jana Swasthya Abhiyan. The OPV has also let loose a new strain of polio in both India and Africa. The OPV is banned in the USA & European countries.
33. Vaccines contain serum from not only chimpanzees and monkeys but also from cows, pigs, chickens, eggs, horses, and even human serum and tissues extracted from aborted fetuses.
34. Deaths and permanent disability from vaccines is very common and known by the medical community. They are instructed by the Government to keep quiet and not to associate such cases with vaccines.
35. Many doctors argue that diseases during childhood are due to the body exercising its immune system. Suppressing these diseases causes the immune system to remain undeveloped causing the various autoimmune disorders like diabetes and arthritis that have become epidemics today.
36. Vaccines suppress the natural immunity and the body does not have natural antibodies anymore. The mothers milk therefore does not contain natural antibodies and can no longer protect the child against illnesses.
37. By stimulating humoral (blood related) immunity alone vaccines have caused an imbalance in the whole immune set up leading to an alarming increase in auto immune disorders. This is acknowledged by the immunologists themselves.
38. In the USA vaccine adverse effects are recorded and the Government offers compensation of millions of dollars to victims (the most recent case in its Vaccine Court may have received upto $200 million in damages). The Indian Government simply refuses to acknowledge that vaccines can cause deaths and permanent disability.
39. It has been scientifically proven that vaccines cannot prevent disease. Vaccines try to create humoral (blood related immunity) whereas it has been found that immunity is developed at various levels, humoral as well as cellular. We still do not know enough about the human immune system and therefore should not interfere with it.
40. In the USA parents are informed about vaccine after effects and their consent has to be taken before vaccinating their children. In India the Government assures the population through massive advertising campaigns that vaccines are extremely safe. Parents refusing to vaccinate are threatened by the administration.
41. THERE IS NO SYSTEM OF TREATMENT TO TREAT A VACCINE DAMAGED CHILD. The parents have to run from one hospital to another. The Government turns a blind eye and refuses to even acknowledge the vaccine connection. Attempts by private practitioners worldwide to treat vaccine damaged children by flushing out heavy metals and toxins from the body have been frowned upon and discouraged.
42. Senior medical doctors have challenged even the vaccines recommended by the Government of India. The BCG vaccine for tuberculosis has been extensively tested in India as long back as 1961 and found to be totally ineffective. The OPV is causing polio and other neurological and intestinal disorders in tens of thousands of Indian children. The Hep-B vaccine introduced recently is not meant for children at all, it is a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease that should be targeted only at promiscuous adults. The tetanus vaccine contains both aluminum and mercury besides the tetanus toxoid. The doctors themselves avoid giving the DPT to their children and relatives as per a survey amongst US health care professionals. The measles vaccine is a vaccine that regularly causes severe adverse effects and the health workers I have interviewed want it out.
43. The pediatricians are introducing dubious vaccines in India, which are being opposed by the doctors, politicians, and public in American and European countries. The Rotavirus vaccine, Hib vaccine, HPV vaccine and the various multi virus vaccines being introduced without any kind of testing is only because the vaccine manufacturers and the doctors administering them want to ensure a good income from them. They care two hoots about medical ethics and the fate of the children who will receive these vaccines. Vaccines containing nano particles and viruses and also plant based genetically modified vaccines are being opposed by honest doctors worldwide.
44. Various independent studies, notably the Dutch and the more recent German study, comparing vaccinated with unvaccinated children have found that vaccinated children are prone to asthma, dermatitis, allergies, hyperactivity etc. The death rate amongst vaccinated children is much more than the unvaccinated ones.
45. Vaccines, being a mass medical program which is accepted without question, becomes the perfect launching pad for bioterrorism. The powerful countries can spread lethal epidemics by just polluting the vaccines with bio warfare agents. The USA has handed over vaccine research to a bioterrorism research unit called the BARDA which functions under the Pentagon. A warning to this effect has been sounded by the Vice President IAP in a letter to the DGHS.
46. Besides "investigating" into the small pox virus, it is reported that a "weapons grade" bird flu vaccine has already been devised by the Pentagon to be used as biowarfare agents.
47. Vaccines have also been used to ensure population control. A batch of the tetanus vaccine has been used in many Asian countries to make the female population sterile. This was done by introducing a hormone that by inducing antibodies would abort the foetus when it is formed. In India, Saheli, a NGO fighting for the rights of women filed a PIL against this when the fact surfaced.
48. Mercury, a part of vaccines, is known to interfere with the endocrine system and induce sterility in both males and females.
49. Through a new Public Health Bill that is being drafted the Government of India is planning to introduce forced vaccinations and threaten anti-vaccination activists with steep fines and jail terms. This is obviously at the instance of foreign (read US) vaccine giants who are shifting base to India reeling at the tremendous opposition to vaccines in US and European countries. The Govt of India is planning a "vaccine park" at Chennai where these vaccine MNCs will set up base. This itself is an act of bioterrorism which ironically the proposed bill seeks to oppose.
50. As per the IOM, USA, vaccine research for a probable link between vaccines and autism should not be conducted. The Institute of Medicine in its last report on vaccines and autism in 2004 said that more research on the vaccine question is counterproductive: Finding a susceptibility to this risk in some infants would call into question the universal vaccination strategy that is a bedrock of immunization programs and could lead to widespread rejection of vaccines. The IOM concluded that efforts to find a link between vaccines and autism "must be balanced against the broader benefit of the current vaccine program for all children". What does this add up to? Infants should be sacrificed in order to perpetuate an unscientific procedure?

The above points are not exhaustive.

For a more detailed article please write to me at

Jagannath Chatterjee

Sunday, July 12, 2009

India shouldn’t accept Europe-rejected GM crop: scientists

New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) Two European scientists visiting the capital Friday warned India against accepting genetically modified (GM) crops and foods technology rejected by European nations.

“I hope India won’t adopt what was discarded by Europe. If it accepts commercialisation of GM foods, it will be the only market apart from North America where it is produced in bulk. The people of this country will just end up as lab rats since this would be the first time GM organisms would be in foods for human consumption,” leading French geneticist Gilles-Eric Seralini told reporters here.

Within the next one year, the Indian market may open its doors to Bt brinjal, a genetically modified version of the common vegetable. While government officials claim the crop won’t be released without adequate safety assurance, campaigners and scientists have asserted that the safety precautions are unreliable.

Nuclear genetics expert, Michael Antoniou said: “The only responsible use of genetic engineering is in a contained, clinical, laboratory set-up. GM in agriculture is like playing god and when man tries to play god, it does not work.”

“The extreme complexity with which genomic regulation works has not been understood by the best of geneticists, and it should be remembered that GM organisms in the environment cannot be recalled. Precautionary approach is the only way forward with this technology.”

Seralini is chairman of the department of molecular biology in University of Caen, France, and Antoniou is from the department of medical and molecular genetics at King’s College, London.

The duo were here to present papers at a two-day national workshop on ‘GM crops or food and health implications’ organised by the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainet and Greenpeace India.

They jointly criticised Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh’s recent comments that he supported GM crops but not GM foods.

“The impact of the GM foods has a direct impact on our health but introducing GM organisms into soil or air contaminates the core genome and poses hazard on biodiversity and plants,” they said.

“Around 99 percent of GM organisms in farming are actually sponges of pesticides - they are either engineered to produce a pesticide or to tolerate a pesticide,” said Seralini, who is also the president of the scientific council of the CRIIGEN (Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering).

India is one of the six top countries for cultivation of GM crops.

Now the Bt brinjals are in the final stages of approval from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), a government agency. After Bt brinjal, there are 25 kinds of rice, 23 kinds of tomatoes, many types of groundnut, pigeon peas, potato, mustard, sugarcane, soy and okra awaiting GEAC approval.

Seralini had recently analysed, for the first time, bio-safety data of Bt Brinjal provided by its developer Mahyco and found that this GM organism is unsafe for human or animal consumption. This data was made public only after pressure mounted from public health and environment activists.

While emphasising that “transparency is crucial”, Seralini shared that there was a conscious attempt by the company to hide or pass off results of the blood analysis on tested animals as “normal”.

“The rats, goats, and rabbits on whom the trials were conducted showed difference in blood coagulation, glucose levels, disturbed functioning of liver, kidneys - this was kept confidential,” he said.

The duo held that these tests misrepresented the truth and the data was insufficient. The results, they pointed out, were lacking because tests were conducted over a 90-day period unlike the requisite long-term tests adopted before clearing drugs for commercial usage - two years in case of testing on rats.

“Other tests, like if the reproductive patterns are affected or tests to see how the intestine reacts, are crucial - these are disregarded since the developer has financial interests and is the one that conducts the safety tests,” they said.

The two jointly urged the the government and minister for environment and forests as well as the minister for health and family welfare to intervene and freeze approvals till sufficient data is collected and proper labelling regulations imposed.

Friday, July 10, 2009

European geneticists caution India against GM crop by Ashok.B Sharma on - Fri 10 of July, 2009 12:57 GMT

Scientific papers expose health and environment hazards
European geneticists caution India against GM crops
Mahyco's Bt brinjal unsafe for human consumption

Two leading European geneticists have cautioned India not to accept genetically modified (GM) crops and food. They said that these products were rejected in Europe and were being willfully dumped in India by the multinational corporations as they could not find enough market in Europe.

The chair of the department of molecular biology in the University of Caen, France, Prof Gilles-Eric? Seralini shared with the mediapersons on Friday the findings from his latest path breaking research on the adverse impact of herbicides like glyphosate. Results from his research show that this popularly used herbicide is also a part of the package for herbicide tolerant GM crops like Roundup Ready Soybean. The inert ingredients of Roundup Ready Soybeans can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. Such cases have already occurred in Argentina were Roundup Ready Soybeans are extensively grown.

Seralini’s papers have been published in two leading scientific research journals and one such paper has been referred in Scientific American. His findings are relevant, in the context, as the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in India is in the process of approving several herbicide tolerant GM crops for field trials.
Another European geneticist, Prof Michael Antoniou , reader in the department of medical and molecular genetics in King’s College, London said : “The only responsible use of genetic engineering is in a contained clinical laboratory setup. The extreme complexity with which genomic regulation works has not been understood by the best of geneticists and it should be remembered that GMOs released in the environment cannot be recalled. Precautionary approach is the only way forward with this technology.”
Seralini and Antoniou are presently in India addressing conferences of health experts, environmentalists and agriculture scientists.

The new Indian minister of state for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh after assuming his office had expressed apprehensions about health and environmental hazards of GM crops and assured to take necessary action before final approval for its commercial release.

Seralini, who is also directly associated with the France-based Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN), said : “99% of all GM crops are actually sponges of pesticides – they are either engineered to produce a pesticide or to tolerate a pesticide. This is the case with insect resistant crops like Bt cotton, Bt brinjal and herbicide tolerant crops like GM corn. Given such a technology, the adverse effect on human and animal health is often neglected by developer seed companies and regulatory authorities and this is unacceptable since we are dealing with an irreversible technology.”

He said that his findings based on the dossiers of Mahyco on biosafety of Bt brinjal showed that it was unsafe for human and animal consumption. His study noted, “The parameters affected in animals fed with Bt brinjal are in blood cells or chemistry, but in different manners according to the period of measurement during the study or sex. In goats, the prothrombin time is modified and biochemical parameters such as total bilirubin and alkaline phosphates are also changed, as well as feed consumption and weight gain. For rabbits, less consumption was noted and also prothrombin time modification, higher bilirubin in some instances, albumin, lactose dehydrogenase and the hepatic markers alanine and aspartate aminotransferases. Sodium levels were also modified, as well as glucose, platelet count, mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration and haematocrit value. In cows, milk production and composition changed by 10%-14%.”

“Rats which were GM-fed had diarrhoea, had higher water consumption, suffered from decrease in liver weight as well as decrease in the relative liver to body weight ratio. Feed intake was modified in broiler chickens with glucose in some instances. Average feed conversion and efficiency ratios are changed in GM-fed fish. All that makes a very coherent picture of Bt brinjal to be potentially unsafe for human consumption. It will be also potentially unsafe to eat animals who have these problems. These differences are most often not reported in the summaries of different experiments, but are present in the raw data, ”the study added.

According to the study, these differences were, when discussed, disregarded often on the grounds that they were within the range of a wide “reference” group. The reference group represents a wide range of brinjal types and is not a strict comparison. Other reasons for disregarding the differences were that they did not show linear dose response or time response, or that they were only present in either males or females, but not both. Such declarations that the differences seen were not of biological relevance and unsubstantiated by the data presented from the feeding trials.
Clear and significant differences were seen to increase food safety concerns and warrant further investigation. Bt brinjal cannot be considered as safe as its non-GM counterpart, the study concluded.#

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Into Africa, Monday, July 6, 2009

Neo-Colonisation has taken birth. India which once was self sustainable in food grains has now becoming a food importing country! India has so much of barren cultivable land, so many mouths to feed, hunger rampant...yet under the mask of overcoming food security and advancements, the policy makers find new greed driven ploys to acquire land in foreign countries, driving not only the poor locals to hunger, thereby creating civil unrest but also import food back to our own country and export from there.

This kind of encouragement for more Indian companies to enter into mainstream agriculture by acquiring thousands of hectares of land in Africa, Madagascar, so that they can contribute to foreign countries local demand and generate food security is nothing but a hogwash.

Sangita Sharma


Rahul Bedi reporting from New Delhi

INDIAN AMBITION: India is engaging in a global race to invest in African land for crops, while building deeper links by backing infrastructural and industrial projects

ONCE THE jewel in Britain's colonial crown, India is fast becoming a coloniser as it acquires vast tracts of land across Africa to lucratively farm food crops for local consumption, for import back home and for export.

Backed by federal government loans, cheap credit and preferential import tariffs, some 80 private Indian companies have over the past two years acquired or leased thousands of hectares in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and Mozambique's Zambezi Valley to grow rice, sugar cane, maize, pulses, oilseeds, tea and even flowers, vegetables and fruit.

Some Indian investors were cultivating the biofuel crop jatropha in West African countries as part of India's overall strategy of crop outsourcing, at great profit.

Indian agricultural experts said that unlike earlier, when governments and Tai pans colonised and acquired land for profit, the 21st-century impetus was driven by escalating shortages in emerging economies such as India and neighbouring China, where rising incomes were generating higher demands for food.

Currently, India's annual food grain production of 230 million tonnes is barely enough to meet local demand, but with its burgeoning population this requirement is likely to grow to 240-250 million tonnes by 2020-25.

However, adverse environmental changes triggered by global warming, rapidly shrinking land holdings and swift urbanisation of agricultural land has been adversely affecting output. This is expected to fall appreciably, necessitating supplementary supplies from alternate, overseas sources such as Africa.

Over half the $4.15 billion (€2.94 billion) in foreign direct investment by the government in New Delhi in turbulent Ethiopia in 2008 has aided numerous Indian conglomerates to invest in agriculture and floriculture in Africa's second most populous nation.

In early June, Bangalore-based Karuturi Global Ltd signed an agreement with Ethiopia to grow palm trees (for oil), rice and sugar cane on some 300,000 hectares of land. Flowers like roses and gladioli would be exported to EU countries, significantly boosting company profits. Karuturi's Gambella Agriculture Project, launched jointly by Ethiopia's agricultural minister Abera Dersea and Indian ambassador Gurjit Singh, is expected to provide direct and indirect employment to over 25,000 locals over the next three to five years.

"We are encouraging more Indian companies to enter into mainstream agriculture so that they can contribute to local demand and generate food security," Singh declared.

In January, India's Varun Agriculture SARL signed a deal with 13 landlords in Madagascar's Sofia region for 170,914 hectares to grow rice, corn, maize, wheat, pulses, fruits, vegetables and other local produce for domestic use, for import to India and export elsewhere.

Such proliferation has been questioned, with food policy experts charging the Indian government with practising "neo-colonialism" and of sponsoring "exploitative" deals with poor African states that would exacerbate their food insecurity, triggering civil strife.

"I call them 'food pirates' on a land grab spree," said Devinder Sharma of the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security, based in a Delhi suburb. Africa's elite, he declared, were willing to compromise on national security as long as it brought them profits, cautioning that outsourcing of food production would mean starvation for ordinary Africans. "The environmental cost of intensive farming like exhausted soil from over-fertilisation and over-exploitation of water resources would be the liabilities left behind for the host country."

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), to the fore in facilitating India's burgeoning business partnership with Africa, believes the proliferating agricultural activity has been a positive "force multiplier" for indigenous corporate houses. It dismissed charges of India being an "exploiter" and "coloniser".

India, however, is one of the newer and more modest nations to engage in this latest bout of "colonialism". According to a report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, 15-20 million hectares of land across Africa were recently sold for $20-$30 billion to a handful of investors from China and Gulf Sheikhdoms, both of which face worse land and water shortages than India.

India is also challenging China's growing economic influence across Africa by investing heavily in building up the continent's infrastructural, industrial and human resource capabilities in return for access to vast, untapped reserves of oil, gas and minerals.

India has in recent years developed close relations with the 53-member African Union and various regional organisations, not only by extending credit and expanding trade but also by building defence and military links.

India plans on doubling to $5.4 billion its credit line to African countries to kick-start several initiatives centred around augmenting food and energy security, trade, industry, financial services, employment, information technology, railways and the health and educational sectors. Annual bilateral trade between India and African states totals around $30 billion. This remains around half of China's trade of $56 billion with Africa - estimated to double to $100 billion by 2010.

India has identified Africa as part of its wider strategic interest and is concerned about China's encroachment on what it perceives to be its "wider sphere of influence" along the African rim of the Indian Ocean Region.