Monday, September 27, 2010

Ramesh trashes academies’ report on Bt brinjal

Absolutely scandalous, leading science institutes hand in glove with GM industry. Consumers are blissfully unaware of such catastrophic decisions taken on their behalf re their foods. Check this link "Gutter Science: Inter-Academy Report on GM Crops", sums it up starkly and crisply. In a shocking revelation "Six Indian science academies had earlier this week approved the limited release of GM brinjal for cultivation in a joint report that contained 60 lines of plagiarised text, a near verbatim reproduction of an article in a biotechnology advocacy newsletter which itself had lines extracted from an industry-supported publication" to quote the

It turns out that important parts of the report have been copied from the reports from the industry and an article by a biased scientist.
India Today and a host of leading media unravel this below. Those interested, please find enclosed the academy report for reference.

Sangita Sharma

Ramesh trashes academies’ report on Bt brinjal

NEW DELHI: Virtually trashing the report by six top academies which favoured “limited release” of genetically modified brinjal, the Environment Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh today said it does not give a larger scientific view and focused only on findings o f a scientist.

Endorsing views of an advocacy group that alleged that the report was plagiarised, Mr Ramesh said, “I had asked the academics to give the broader scientific view. But it is nothing else but the views of one scientist (Anand Kumar) which I had already kno wn much before the moratorium was placed on the release of the Bt brinjal.”

Clearly unhappy over the report which he had sought from the country’s leading academic institutes, the Minister said, “I do not want the six top science academics to tell me Anand Kumar’s view. I already know that.”

Mr Ramesh, who had imposed moratorium on release of Bt brinjal on February 9 citing lack of consensus among various stakeholders, said, “I have not heard since then a single state government in the country wanting its revocation”.

“Even the most aggressive anti-NGO state in India, Gujarat, did not want Bt brinjal,” he added, making it clear that unless there is consensus on the issue in the society and states agree for its release, the moratorium on GM food will continue.”

The Indian Academy of Sciences, Indian National Academy of Engineering, Indian National Science Academy, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, National Academy of Medical Sciences and National Academy of Sciences (India) were asked by Mr Ramesh and Mr K Kasturirangan, Member, Planning Commission in March to submit a report on GM crops.

“It is appropriate now to release Bt Brinjal for cultivation in specific farmers’ fields in identified states,” said the report of the six science academies on Bt brinjal which was submitted to the Government recently.

However, levelling allegations of plagiarism against the academies, advocacy group ‘Coalition for GM Free India’ had said that the report was a biased, political position paper.

“Rather than a rigorous scientific review that it is supposed to be, it is absolutely scandalous that the six top science academies used plagiarised material in their attempt to promote Bt brinjal,” said Ms Kavita Kuruganti on behalf of the coalition.

According to the advocacy group, the academics had heavily relied on an article “Bt Brinjal: A Pioneering Push” in Biotech News — a publication of the Department of Biotechnology written by Kumar, a vocal supporter of Bt brinjal and developer of GM crops himself. - PTI

Bt brinjal: Academies copied report
India Today, New Delhi September 26, 2010

India's top science academies have done the unthinkable. They have copied and quoted extensively from an
industry lobby report to give a clean chit to the controversial genetically modified (GM) brinjal.
Key portions and data in the much touted Inter-Academy Report on Genetically Modified Crops have been
lifted straight from a report of a lobbying group funded by seed companies, including Monsanto and Mahyco.

In March, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had asked the six science academies - the Indian Academy of
Sciences, the Indian National Academy of Engineering, the Indian National Science Academy, the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the National Academy of Medical Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences (India) - to give an unbiased scientific assessment on the feasibility of transgenic crops and the proposed regulatory mechanism for GM food. They submitted the report to Ramesh this week, recommending the commercial release of Bt brinjal.

But it turns out that the academies have relied heavily on data generated by USbased GM lobby International Service for the Acquisition of Agri- biotech Applications (ISAAA). They have recommended the commercial release of Bt brinjal and the lifting of the moratorium imposed on it by Ramesh.
Earlier, science and technology minister Prithviraj Chavan had plagiarised from reports by the same ISAAA in a letter to cabinet colleague A. Ramadoss while defending Bt brinjal. This was exposed by M AIL T ODAY in February this year.
The report in question currently has copied most of the data and information in support of Bt brinjal from an ISAAA report The Development and Regulation of Bt Brinjal in India and an article Bt Brinjal: A Pioneering Push by Dr P. Anand Kumar in Biotech News - a publication of the Department of Biotechnology.
Both were published in 2009. Being a developer of GM crops himself, Kumar is a vocal supporter of Bt brinjal.
The academies have declared Bt brinjal safe by copying the following paragraph verbatim from Dr Kumar's article: " Bt brinjal ' Event EE- 1' has been subjected to a rigorous biosafety regulatory process encompassing all aspects of toxicity, allergenicity, environmental safety, socio- economic assessment etc.
"Studies on food and feed safety have been conducted on rats, rabbits, fish, chickens, goats and cows. Similarly, environmental impact assessments to study germination, pollen flow, invasiveness, aggressiveness, weediness, and effect on non- target organisms were also carried out." The data that has been lifted from the industry
document relates to key issues.

The copied portion says: "It (brinjal) is an important cash crop for poor farmers who transplant it from nurseries at different times of the year to produce two or three crops, each of 150 to 180 days' duration."
Again, on losses caused by pests, an entire paragraph has been lifted from the ISAAA report: "Brinjal Shoot and Fruit Borer (BSFB) causes significant losses of up to 60 to 70 per cent in commercial plantings. Damage starts in the nursery, prior to transplanting, continues to harvest and is then carried- over to the next crop of brinjal. BSFB damages brinjal in two ways.

First, it infests young shoots during the vegetative phase, which limits the ability of plants to produce healthy fruitbearing shoots, thereby reducing potential yield."
Another piece of data used to justify Bt brinjal has been lifted from the industry report: "Farmers usually spray twice a week, applying 15 to 40 insecticide sprays, or more, in one season depending on infestation levels."
Figures relating to the financial cost of insecticide spray by farmers too come from the industry document. The similarities in the ISAAA report and the Inter-Academy report go on without anyone getting a hint about the source of the data. No references or citations have been given, as is normal with any scientific document.


NOTE: David Andow, the author of the new report, is Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Insect Ecology at the University of Minnesota, specialising in: ecological risk assessment of biological stressors, such as invasive species and GMOs; insect resistance management, gene flow and its consequences, and non-target species effects; and science policy associated with GMOs. He's also the Coordinator of the International Project on GMO Environmental Risk Assessment Methodologies (GMO ERA Project)

Bt brinjal unsafe, says new report
Indian Express, September 26 2010

New Delhi: After a period of lull, the debate over genetically modified crops, specifically the use of Bt brinjal, is suddenly heating up once again. A day after it became known that a report by six top science academies had recommended an immediate release of Bt brinjal, people opposed to GM crops on Saturday produced a counter report - from an American scientist - with diametrically opposite conclusions.

What is more, these people slammed the report by the six academies as being "shoddy" and "without sufficient arguments and supporting evidence", and went on to allege that parts of the report pertaining specifically to Bt brinjal had been plagiarised from an article by a GM-crop developer that had appeared in a biotechnology magazine in December last year. The author of the article in question, P Anand Kumar, a project director at the Delhi-based National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, rubbished the allegation.

“I happen to be a member of the National Academy of Sciences. I was asked to submit my inputs for the inter-academy report. I gave my views. Obviously, my views are the same that I had expressed in the magazine article. Where is the question of plagiarisation?” he asked.

The counter report has been authored by David Andow of the Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota, United States. It was released by Aruna Rodrigues, the lead petitioner in the Supreme Court case seeking a ban on genetically modified crops. Rodrigues claimed that Andow was an acknowledged international expert on the environmental risks of genetically engineered crop plants. She said she herself had asked the scientist to produce the report.

This report finds faults with the clearance granted to Bt brinjal by the Genetic Engineering Approval (now Appraisal) Committee (GEAC), India's top regulatory body on genetically modified products, in October last year. Anand Kumar happens to be a member of GEAC. The GEAC decision, however, was overturned by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh in February and the introduction of Bt brinjal had been put on hold.

The report by the American scientist says that the expert committee, on whose recommendation GEAC had given its clearance, had relied on “dubious scientific assumptions” and had either ignored or inadequately evaluated environmental concerns.

"The potential advantages of hybrid Bt brinjal seem marginal and uncertain for most Indian farmers, and the environmental risks (including socioeconomic risks) to Indian farmers and consumers remain very uncertain. Several significant environmental risks have not been considered and nearly all of the others have been inadequately considered," the report says.

The inter-academy report, however, had claimed that the safety of Bt brinjal for human consumption had been established "adequately and beyond reasonable doubt" and recommended that the limited release of Bt brinjal could be done almost immediately.


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