Bees Dying at an Alarming Rate Is Glyphosate the Cause? [Video]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ed9b-JIAa1Q

Bees

Bees are dying at an alarming rate, and scientists are doing everything they can to figure out if the main ingredient in Roundup®, glyphosate, is the cause. Monsanto’s most successful product is its Roundup Ready® seeds which have stirred a global commotion about the safety of animals and humans who ingest food that comes from GMO crops like soy and corn. Natural News, conducted a poll where 51 percent of readers expressed their disdain for Monsanto.

Readers polled in the Natural News survey must really care about bees, because they went as far as calling Monsanto “evil,” based on the altruistic motives the corporation claims to practice. People who question Monsanto’s motives point to the company’s pledge on its website that stands in complete opposition to the negative influence that Monsanto has on the global environment, “Benefits: We will use sound and innovative science and thoughtful and effective stewardship to deliver high-quality products that are beneficial to our customers and to the environment.” Monsanto considers its GMO crops such as, soybeans, corn, cotton, and canola to be its high-quality products. These crops are grown from seeds that have been engineered to withstand the toxic ingredient glyphosate.

One study presents evidence that links glyphosate to mutations in animals. Glyphosate found in water at 3 parts per million leads to “morphological changes” in amphibians. GMO soy is particularly exposed to high levels of glyphosate, and the threshold the EPA uses to evaluate the risk of this toxin keeps rising over the years. An article on the site Mother Jones points out that on average GMO soy tested for glyphosate contains an amount that hovers around 11.9 ppm. The maximum amount of glyphosate in GMO soy recorded was 20.1 ppm. The allowed average for the EPA is 20 ppm which is a high level according to Monsanto’s representatives who were quoted in 1999 as saying that a level of glyphosate at 5.6 ppm was dangerous.

Dr. Mae Wan Ho is conducting research to find the cause of cancer in farmers that use Roundup®. This type of study is one of many that has the potential to connect the cause of why bees are dying at an alarming rate to glyphosate. This research found a correlation between Roundup® and illness, “The incidence of numerous disease and adverse conditions has gone up in parallel with the increase in GM crops and the use of glyphosate herbicide since 1994, the first year of commercialization of GM crops.” The most controversial aspect of glyphosate use among farmers is that the EPA has dismissed most of the scientific research on the detrimental effects of Roundup®.

Dr. Don Huber, Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, is known for his research about Roundup’s® hazards. Dr. Huber has several publications on agricultural bioterrorism and supports an increase of research on glyphosate’s effects on humans, animals, and the environment. In his unpublished work titled, “Is Glyphosate a Contributing Cause of Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)?,” Dr. Huber hypothesizes, “The focus on insecticides and their acute toxicity may have resulted in over-looking the direct and indirect chronic effects of glyphosate as a contributing factor to bee colony collapse disorder.”

Even though bees are dying at an alarming rate, Monsanto is not supporting any claim that glyphosate could be the cause. However, many scientists are not backing down to the biotech giant and are building a collection of evidence that links the glyphosate in Roundup® and Roundup Ready® seeds to disease in humans and animals. The most challenging aspect of uncovering the true cause of Colony Collapse Disorder is whether or not scientists who are not funded by Monsanto can overcome the company’s attempt to squash any scientific evidence that does not comply with Monsanto’s mission.

By Reivin Johnson

GM Crops Won’t Solve India’s Food Crisis

http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2013/09/22/gm-crops-wont-solve-indias-food-crisis/

By Shanoor Seervai

Adil Bharucha
Dilnavaz Variava.

Earlier this month, India’s Parliamentpassed a bill aimed at delivering subsidized food to around 800 million people. While well-intentioned, the law is expensive and has raised questions about whether India produces enough food to meet demand.

Proponents of genetically modified food say GM technology will boost production to meet India’s food requirements, but critics argue that it is unsustainable, and that the main challenge is not one of production but distribution.

Dilnavaz Variava doesn’t believe that GM food will address India’s food crisis. She is honorary convener for consumer issues for the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, an alliance of farmers, scientists, economists, non-governmental organizations and citizens who advocate for ecologically and economically sustainable agriculture.

Ms. Variava has worked for a range of organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund India, where she was chief executive, and the Bombay Natural History Society. She has also served on several federal government committees as well as one in Maharashtra for the development of agriculture.

Ms. Variava spoke with The Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time about GM food in India. Edited excerpts:

The Wall Street Journal: Parliament’s passage of the Food Security Bill reflects the urgency of addressing the food security challenge. Would genetically modified food do this?

Dilnavaz Variava: India has enough food grain — almost two-and-a-half times the required buffer stock — and yet 200 million Indians go hungry. The problem of sufficiency is not one of production, but of economic and physical access, which the Food Security Bill attempts to address. Poverty, mounds of rotting food grain, wastage and leakages in the Public Distribution System are the real causes of food insecurity. GM food cannot address this.

WSJ: Is there evidence from other countries that GM food improves food security?

Ms. Variava: Macroeconomic data for the largest adopters of GM food indicate the opposite. In the U.S., food insecurity has risen from 12% in pre-GM 1995 to 15% in 2011. In Paraguay, where nearly 65% of land is under GM crops, hunger increased from 12.6% in 2004-06 to 25.5% in 2010-12. In Brazil and Argentina, GM food has not reduced hunger. In any event, GM does not increase yields, as the Union of Concerned Scientists established through a review of 12 years of GM in the U.S.

WSJ: How does GM food differ in quality from non-GM food?

Ms. Variava: About 99% of all GM crops have either one or both of two traits that make food unsafe: a pesticide-producing toxin (Bt) present in every cell of the plant and a herbicide tolerant trait that enables the plant to withstand herbicides used to kill weeds. While food safety regulators have cleared GM foods as safe, many independent scientists disagree. Their studies point to health risks: allergies, cancer, reproductive, renal, pancreatic and hepatic disorders. They say regulators give safety assurances based on studies which the GM industry conducts for a maximum period of 90 days on lab rats. This corresponds to a human life span of less than 15 years, which is too short for long-term health effects such as organ damage or cancer to manifest.

WSJ: In India, why did the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee call for a moratorium on field trials of GM crops in July?

Ms. Variava: The TEC majority report by five scientists from the fields of molecular biology, toxicology, nutrition science and biodiversity called for an indefinite moratorium on field trials, stating that ‘the regulatory system has major gaps.’ They concluded that the quality of information in several GM applications was far below that necessary for rigorous evaluation. They recommended a moratorium on field trials for Bt in food crops until there was more definitive information on its long-term safety, and for crops for which India is a center of origin/diversity. They also recommended a ban on the release of ‘herbicide tolerant’ crops, which are inadvisable on socioeconomic grounds in a country where farms are small and weeding provides income to millions of people.

WSJ: Does the report take food security into account?

Ms. Variava: Yes, the report notes that although India has a food surplus in production terms, one-third of the world’s malnourished children live here. It does not see GM as the answer to this.

WSJ: Does it make sense to ban even field trials of GM food?

Ms. Variava: Field trials involve open-air releases of GM. Given that rice and wheat survived their supposed destruction after field trials in U.S. and caused import bans leading to losses of millions of dollars to U.S. farmers, field trials are not harmless scientific experiments. Banning field trials makes sense until a strong biosafety and liability regime is in place.

WSJ: Isn’t India taking regulatory steps to promote the safe use of modern biotechnology, for example with the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill?

Ms. Variava: The BRAI Bill appears to be promoting rather than regulating GM. It proposes a single window clearance, with power to clear GM crops dangerously concentrated in the hands of just five people. All its other committees are merely advisory. It will overrule the constitutional powers of state governments over agriculture and circumscribe the Right to Information and legal redressal. It does not mandate long-term studies, assure labeling and post-release health monitoring, or have adequate punitive provisions. There is no mandatory consideration of safer alternatives or preliminary need assessment based on socioeconomic factors. GM crops are input intensive, requiring adequate fertilizers and timely irrigation. With over 70% of India’s farmers being small and impoverished, and 65% dependent on the vagaries of the monsoon, GM is a high cost, high debt and high risk technology for India. The BRAI Bill does not ensure caution for this unpredictable and irreversible technology.

WSJ: What would economically and environmentally sustainable agriculture for India look like?

Ms. Variava: A World Bank commissioned study found that agro-ecological approaches and not GM provide the best solution to the world’s food crisis.In March 2011, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food also reported that small scale farmers could double food production within 5 to 10 years by agro-ecological farming.

An Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India study for West Bengal found that organic farming could increase net per capita income of a farmer in the state by 250%, lead to wealth accumulation of 120 billion rupees ($1.9 billion), generate exports worth 5.5 billion rupees ($87 million) and create nearly two million employment opportunities over five years.

In Andhra Pradesh, Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture was started in 2005-06. It promoted ecologically and economically sound agriculture with state government and World Bank support. About 10,000 villages with one million farmers practice non-pesticidal management on over 3.5 million acres. Pesticide use in the state has decreased by more than 45%. Net income increases were 3,000 to 15,000 rupees per acre, in addition to meeting a household’s food needs.

Shanoor Seervai is a freelance writer based in Bombay. Like India Real Time on Facebook here and follow us on Twitter @WSJIndia.

ప్రజలకు నిర్ణయాధికారం కావాలి: Ramanjaneyulu

(ఆంధ్రజ్యోతి, హైదరాబాద్ సిటీ )

ఆంధ్రజ్యోతి: అంతర్జాతీయ జీవ వైవిధ్య సదస్సు వల్ల ఏమైనా ప్రయోజనముందంటారా?

జీవీ రామాంజనేయులు: అభివృద్ధి చెందిన దేశాల్లో జీవ వైవిధ్యం పెద్దగా కనిపించదు. అభివృద్ధి చెందుతున్న దేశాల్లో ఎక్కువగా కనిపిస్తుంది. దీన్ని వాణిజ్య అవసరాల కోసం వాడుకుంటుండటంతో ముప్పు వాటిల్లుతోంది. ఈ ప్రమాదం నుంచి బయటపడే ఉద్దేశ్యంతోనే దాదాపు 193 దేశాలు కలిసి జీవ వైవిధ్య సదస్సును నిర్వహిస్తున్నాయి. ప్రస్తుతం నగరంలో జరుగుతున్న సీఓపీ-11లో కార్టెజెనా బయోసేఫ్టీ ప్రొటోకాల్ గురించి చర్చ జరిగింది. జన్యు మార్పిడి పంటల వల్ల ఉత్పన్నమవుతున్న సమస్యలను గురించి చర్చించిన సదస్సు సామాజిక, ఆర్థిక విషయాలను దృష్టిలో పెట్టుకోవాలని అభిప్రాయపడింది. ఈ పంటల వల్ల జీవ భద్రతకు నష్టం వాటిల్లుతుందని ఒప్పుకుంటే దానికి ఎవరు జవాబుదారీతనం వహించాలనేది ప్రశ్న. ఒకవేళ విత్తనాలను ఎగుమతి చేస్తే అక్కడ నష్టానికి ఎవరిని బాధ్యులను చేయాలనే సమస్య. ప్రస్తుతం బయో డైవర్సిటీ ఆతిథ్య దేశమైన భారతదేశం వచ్చే రెండేళ్లు అధ్యక్ష పదవిలో ఉండనుంది. అంటే ఇక్కడ జరిగిన నిర్ణయాల అమలు పట్ల శ్రద్ధ వహించాల్సి ఉంటుంది. బయో డైవర్సిటీ సదస్సు మూలంగా పెద్దగా ప్రయోజనాలేవీ ఉండే అవకాశం లేదు.

ఆంధ్రజ్యోతి: గతంలో జరిగిన నిర్ణయాలేవైనా అమలు జరిగాయా?

జీవీ: 2010 సీఓపీ జపాన్‌లో జరిగింది. అక్కడ జరిగిన కొన్ని నిర్ణయాలు ఇప్పుడిప్పుడే ఆచరణలోకి వస్తున్నాయి. జన్యుమార్పిడి పంటల విషయంలో ఆర్థిక విషయాలను సైతం పరిగణనలోకి తీసుకోవాలనేది గతంలో జరిగిన నిర్ణయమే. వాటిని ప్రస్తుతం సీరియస్‌గా అందరూ అంగీకరిస్తున్నారు. ఎక్సెస్ బెనిఫిట్ షేర్ గురించి చర్చ జరిగింది. వాణిజ్యం కోసం జీవ వైవిధ్యాన్ని వాడుకుంటే అప్పటి వరకు వాటిని కాపాడిన వారికి ఎలాంటి ప్రతిఫలం అందించాలనే అంశంపై కూడా ఈ సదస్సులో చర్చ జరిగింది.

ఆంధ్రజ్యోతి: సీఓపీలో జరిగే నిర్ణయాలు అమలు చేయడంలో స్థానిక చట్టాలు అంగీకరించకపోతే?

జీవీ: ఎక్కడ ఏ నిర్ణయం జరిగినా స్థానిక ప్రజల భాగస్వామ్యంతో జరగాలి. ప్రజలకు నిర్ణయాధికారం కావాలి. గ్రామస్థాయిలో బయో డైవర్సిటీ మేనేజ్‌మెంట్ కమిటీలు ఉండాలి. అవేవీ లేకుండా, ఎవరితో చర్చించకుండా,ప్రజల భాగస్వామ్యం లేకుండా నిర్ణయాలు తీసుకోకూడదు. ప్రస్తుతం జీవ వైవిధ్య సదస్సు అలాగే నిర్వహిస్తున్నారు. ఎలాంటి ఒప్పందాలైనా ప్రజలదే నిర్ణయాధికారం కావాలి. కేంద్రం, శాస్త్రవేత్తలది కాదు. దేశంలో బీటీ వంగ విషయంలో మాత్రమే ప్రభుత్వం ప్రజాస్వామ్యయుతంగా వ్యవహరించింది. ఇక అన్ని విషయాల్లో ప్రజల అభిప్రాయాలతో సంబంధంలేకుండానే నిర్ణయాలు తీసుకుంది. రాష్ట్రంలో జన్యుమార్పిడిపై జరుగుతున్న ఫీల్డ్ ట్రాయిల్స్ ఇందుకు ఉదాహరణ. అందుకే ఈ సదస్సును వ్యతిరేకిస్తూ ‘పీపుల్స్ బయో డైవర్సిటీ ఫెస్టివల్’ను నిర్వహిస్తున్నాం.

ఆంధ్రజ్యోతి: జీవ వైవిధ్య నష్టానికి కారణాలేంటి?

జీవీ: జీవ వైవిధ్యాన్ని కాపాడుకోవడమంటే సమస్యకు మూలాల్ని వెతకడం. బయో డైవర్సిటీ సదస్సు సందర్భంగా పిచ్చుకలు, రాబందులు అంతరించిపోతున్నాయంటూ భారీ హోర్డింగులు పెట్టారు. కారణమేంటో చెప్పలేదు. అందుకు ప్రభుత్వ నిర్ణయాలు, విధానాలే కారణం. జన్యు మార్పిడి విత్తనాలు, క్రిమి సంహారక మందులు, సెల్‌ఫోన్ టవర్లు పక్షుల మనగడను ప్రశ్నార్థకంగా మార్చాయి. వైవిధ్యాన్ని రక్షించే పంటల్ని ప్రోత్సహించాల్సింది పోయి… అనువుగానివి వేసి రైతులు ఆత్మహత్యలు చేసుకుంటుంటే, అడవుల్ని విధ్వంసం చేసి మైనింగ్‌లకు అనుమతిస్తున్నారు. సోంపేట లాంటి ప్రాంతాల్లో బీల భూముల్ని కాపాడాల్సిన ప్రభుత్వాలే… పవర్ ప్లాంట్‌ల పేరిట ప్రైవేటు వ్యక్తులకు కట్టబెడుతున్నాయి. ఇలాంటి ప్రాజెక్టుల మూలంగా జీవ భద్రతకు ముప్పు వాటిల్లుతోంది.

ఆంధ్రజ్యోతి: జీవ వైవిధ్యాన్ని కాపాడడానికి ఏం చేయాలి?

జీవి: జీవ వైవిధ్యాన్ని కాపాడడానికి ప్రభుత్వం ప్రత్యేక శ్రద్ధ వహించి దీర్ఘకాలిక కార్యక్రమాన్ని చేపట్టాలి. వైవిధ్య పంటల్ని ప్రోత్సహించాలి. రైతులకు ఆర్థిక భద్రత కల్పించాలి. పర్యావరణానికి, జీవ వైవిధ్యానికి నష్టం చేకూర్చే ప్రాజెక్టులను నిలిపివేయాలి. పర్యావరణాన్ని కాపాడే పరిశోధనలను ప్రోత్సహించాలి. అప్పుడే జీవవైవిధ్యాన్ని గుర్తించినవాళ్లమవుతాం. ప్రజలు సైతం జీవవైవిధ్యాన్ని కాపాడడం తమ బాధ్యతగా స్వీకరించాలి.

Farming is crying for investment: MS Swaminathan

http://www.thehansindia.info/News/Article.asp?category=1&subCategory=5&ContentId=91461

The whole country is grateful to you for the Green Revolution you have ushered in the 1960s. Even after that thousands of farmers have been committing suicide. Where did we go wrong?
There are several major issues confronting farmers and farming in our country. From the days of Green Revolution the number of farmers has increased. The population has grown. When the Green Revolution was announced by Indira Gandhi in 1968, the population was 40 crore. Now we have 120 crore, three times increase. The average farm size has been coming down. The prime farm land is going out of agriculture. Real estate is occupying tremendous prime farming place.

The children of farmers do not want to take up farming. Weather conditions are becoming uncertain, may be due to global warming or other reasons. There is no really good marketing system which provides the farmers assured and remunerative prices for their produce except crops like rice, wheat which the government of India and state governments buy through Food Corporation of India or State Food Corporation.

That is why the National Commission on Farmers recommended several steps. One recommendation was assured and remunerative price, what I called C2+50 per cent. Production cost plus 50 per cent profit. That is the minimum the farmers should get. Go to a pharmaceutical company for which the Hyderabad is famous. They get 500- 600 per cent margin. At that time the farmer was getting 15 per cent margin. Then I intervened. Now they are getting 25-25 per cent. The farmer should have profit and surplus to invest.

The smaller the holding the greater is the need for marketable surplus and income. Without that they would not be able (to sustain). That is why I want value addition. The farmers are themselves value addition to the country. Go to villages. The landless labourers are the worse now. We have to take a relook at the farming and farmers. After all, they are the citizens of this country. The various Krishi Bhavans and State (agriculture) departments call the farmers are the beneficiaries. It is utter nonsense. We are the beneficiaries.

They are the victims. Is it not?
Yes. There should be greater social status for the farmers. We should encourage more young kisans and women farmers. Their number is increasing. We should tell the service sector to enter rural areas. Otherwise, we will find more farmer suicides in the villages. With the food security bill, which makes availability of food grains to all citizens a fundamental right, the importance of agriculture will increase. It should be a democratic right and not a political patronage.

In the context of Andhra Pradesh, you must have seen Jayathi Gosh recommendations. Had we implemented those recommendations in toto, do you think the farmer suicides would have been prevented? 
Andhra Pradesh farmers were praised long ago by Royal Commission on Farmers as the best in the world in 1925. Like Punjab farmers ,they(the Andhra farmers) are in the forefront. Farming is life giving profession. The Sun light, green plants and the farmer who converts them are the real forces. The people who are in life giving profession are taking their own lives, there is something radically wrong in the society. The problem was dealt with in a superficial way. There were packages. Chief Minister Package and Prime Minister Package. The Prime Minister announced a package for Vidarbha. It did not work because they were not developed in consultation with farmers. You should know where the shoe pinches.

I myself come from a joint family. My father died very young. My uncle looked after me. There should be some social protection. If a farmer commits suicide others are not concerned. There should be social protection. The Gram Sabhas should be ever vigilant. They know the farmers are highly indebted and they know that they are taking loans from money lenders. You have to move on different fronts. There should be packages for giving insurance for cow, crop etc.
Now the social structure is becoming more selfish with the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution has become greed revolution.

Do you think in their enthusiasm to produce more the farmers are using more manures and fertilisers and incurring more losses?
Farmers can produce much more. The potential actually is very high. The rice production can be increased by 50 per cent not by the new technology, but through proper use of manure and water management. If I am a farmer and produce more, I will get less money. The more you produce, the lesser (money) you get. Management, monsoon and marketing are fundamentals for the survival of the farmer.

When Chandrababu Naidu was the Chief Minister, he argued that more and more people should turn away from farming and take to other vocations. He was misunderstood and he had yet to recover from that.
In our country it is unfortunate that we are worried about production. Rice production. Milk production. Jowar production.

The farming should increase in its totality. Marketing, valuation, processing etc. There are not many jobs in farming. Once we improve post-harvesting technologies in processing and marketing etc farming would become remunerative. Suppose there is a labour shortage. Young people should come together and purchase a tractor and give it on hire to other farmers. Likewise, a commerce graduate and an agriculture graduate should come forward and establish an Agriculture Transformation Centre, which is essentially a service centre.

The farmers need not bother about applying manures, pesticides etc. These centres can perform such tasks. We need new management methods to make small farms viable.

I heard you saying FDI in farming is good. The foreign investors like all investors look for profit. How do they invest? Is it going to be through corporations? 
Foreign investment comes if they have a market opportunity. If I am a foreign investor, I will expect reasonable return on my investment. It should be small-farmer-oriented. They should bring their produce in April and get money for it immediately. The farmer does not have holding capacity. It is a great opportunity to transform the rural economy.

How will they invest? Will they invest through corporation and go for corporate farming?
They should take up contract farming. Like in Punjab, the contract farming is the best method. Just as Kurian so successfully did in Gujarat, bring the milk in the morning and take the money in the afternoon. The farmer does not have holding capacity.

The fear expressed by the leftists and others is that the farmers would become labourers in their own farms. That is what corporate farming does, is it not?
We should not encourage corporate farming. It encourages jobless growth. It would be highly mechanised. In our country we need a job-led growth. We need a model of combination of production by masses on mass production technology. Decentralise services like storage and marketing, warehousing and other value additions. Andhra Pradesh can make much more money by marketing rice, rice husk, the brawn and straw.

They called it baroka as they are doing it in Myanmar. It needs investment. But investment should be for farmers and they should not be thrown out.
Indira Gandhi could experiment in Phokaran because of our food production. Food self sufficiency can ensure national sovereignty. Without that you cannot have independent foreign policy.

Do you think there should be some mechanism to control foreign investment? Should there be any government agency between the foreign investor and the farmer?
Foreign investment or national investment, it should be controlled by a code of conduct and ethics — a Code of ethics. The bottom line is that it should be beneficial to the farmer. They constitute two-thirds of our population. With the national food security bill a historic transformation will come. Then everybody should be provided home grown food. Then the attention on the farmers will increase.

Everyone is stealing germplasm: Dr. Hampaiah, Chairperson, AP Biodiversity Board

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/everyone-stealing-germplasm

Author(s): Latha Jishnu

Date: Sep 15, 2012

When agronomist Ralladoddi Hampaiah was advisor to the Russian government, he discovered how easy it was to take genetic resources out of India. And also how easy it was to bring in such material—bypassing quarantining regulations and other critical formalities. He once took 100 seeds of maize for testing to Russia from Delhi, and at Moscow airport he was grilled thoroughly about the seeds, their origin and certification. On his return from Russia, he brought in an enormous quantity of seeds, all of 15 kg, but was waved through customs! No questions asked. That was in 1993 before the international convention on biodiversity came into being. But not much has changed since then, although India has passed its own laws on biodiversity conservation and has regulatory systems in place, says the man who is now chairperson of the Andhra Pradesh State Biodiversity Board. Coming to the post after a long innings with private seed companies, most of it with Pioneer Seeds, a multinational owned by DuPont, Hampaiah has a clear understanding of how the industry works. Everyone is stealing germplasm, alleges the official who has been in the news for several controversial actions, including a case against Monsanto. In a freewheeling conversation with Latha Jishnu, Hampaiah says biopiracy is a major concern, but shortage of funds and experts are hampering the work of state boards. Excerpts:

RALLADODDI HAMPAIAHWhy do you say our bio-resources are going out of India? We have laws to safeguard them.

It is not lack of laws but lack of understanding. Many of our ministries and departments don’t know the value of our germplasm. Till the mid-1990s, everything was exchanged freely. Look at the number of multinational companies (MNCs) that came to India because of our germplasm. It is all readymade for whoever wants to pick it from either the agriculture universities or research institutions in the country. Important germplasm resources we have are of sorghum, pearl millet, rice, cotton….Andhra Pradesh has a wealth of biodiversity and that may be the reason why we have hundreds of MNC operating in the state.

Is it all brazen theft?

No, the regulations also enable our germplasm to be taken out legally. Under Section 40 of the Biological Diversity Act, valuable material can be exported openly as “normally traded items”. It allows the Centre to exempt some items from the required permission from the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) for use of biological resources. All kinds of germplasm are being sent out as “normally traded items”.

Who is sending out our germplasm?

Seed companies, pharmaceutical industry, researchers, just about everyone is stealing. The small seed companies steal from the big ones and the big ones get it from research institutions under various ploys after signing MoUs with them or with universities. No one declares the origin of the material. Other countries are particular about their genetic resources. In 1993, even before the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was signed, I realised the difference in the way we treat our germplasm and other countries do. I took some 100 maize seeds to Russia when I was advisor to the government and they asked me for certification and other information. It was the same when I took out 15 kg of maize from Russia. The DNA of all the material is coded and registered and they follow the rules strictly. When I brought the seeds to India—and it was only to make a point—I was waved through customs. The plant quarantine officials were not present. So just to see how the system worked, I took the seeds to Faridabad where the office is located. They were taken aback and pleaded with me to take the seeds away quietly.

What is the way out?

Government should insist on a certificate of origin from NBA for all such items in addition to the phytosanitary certification. Every department should be sensitised to the value of our bio-resources, specially the customs. They have a major role to play.

Given these constraints, what have you done to protect biodiversity in Andhra Pradesh in the past six years?

We have taken a number of measures to spread awareness among the people by forming biodiversity management committees at the village-level and written to NBA about the trade in genetic material through the “normally traded” route. The regulator had no clue at the time about this. We had also filed a case for benefit-sharing against Monsanto for stealing the bacterium bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) from Mahanandi village in Kurnool district. (Bt is the most widely used bacterium in genetic modification of crops). Analysis of the soil shows that the bacterium comes from this area. We were claiming one to two per cent of sales revenue earned from the sale of Bt cotton (seeds) as royalty.

Are you saying Bt cannot be found anywhere else? What happened to the claim on Monsanto?

We have proved up to 99 per cent that Monsanto took Bt from Mahanandi. It did not contest this. But the case was not legally tenable because the notice to the US MNC was sent too late, in 2007. The germplasm was taken in 1992 and our regulation (BDA) came into force in 2002. The lawyers said the claim will now have to be fought in US courts.

Are there any other cases of biopiracy that you can cite?

Hundreds. In the case of Bt cotton, the germplasm was taken from Acharya Ranga Agricultural University in Hyderabad. What was used is a top quality variety called Narasimha. Unfortunately, the variety came into the public domain in 2004 when the registration period (18 years) ended. Similarly, so much rice germplasm has been taken away from the Directorate of Rice Research in Hyderabad which is a huge repository of our indigenous varieties. Nowadays MNCs are signing MoUs with it.

In the case of the Ongole bull, reports say the government gave a conservation award to a farmer for exporting its semen to Brazil at a time when Brazil is being accused of biopiracy. Doesn’t this undermine the board’s credentials?

No, that is not correct. The farmer was awarded for selling an Ongole bull to a Gujarat buyer for a big amount, Rs 35 lakh. Promoting this breed is a good example of conserving local biodiversity and creating awareness. I agree these bulls are taken to Bhavnagar for onward export to Brazil and other countries. But the problem is that the trade in Ongole bulls is huge. In a recent fair in Panama, a bull was on offer with a base price of Rs 3 crore. I have seen fancy catalogues of cattle fairs even in Australia where the Ongole bull is a prized breed.

At a recent fair in Panama, Andhra Pradesh’s Ongole bull was offered for `3 croreAt a recent fair in Panama, Andhra Pradesh’s Ongole bull was offered for Rs 3 crore (Photo: Guna Sekhar Pera)So what is the Andhra Pradesh board doing about it? After all Ongole bulls have been traded for over a 100 years and are now an international breed.

I spoke to the CBD executive secretary Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, a Brazilian, about this issue. He said we should have a cut-off date—1993 when CBD was established—otherwise, it would become too messy if we delved too far into the past. Now, another breed, the Punganur cow (from Punganur in Chittoor district), is becoming important and we want to create awareness about it.

What can the board do about conservation?

Spread awareness and ensure fair benefit-sharing from the use of bio-resources as we did in Amarchinta village in Mehboobnagar district. We found that a local company was sending big shipments of neem leaf to Japan but was paying the villagers just Rs 20 per kg. We helped the local biodiversity management committee to get a much better price of Rs 100 per kg for the neem. But I must admit that if the Japanese buyer had not insisted on a certificate of origin and forced the local exporter to come to us we would not have come into picture.

The focus seems to be just plants. What about other species?

What can we do without funds? So far, we were getting just a sustenance allowance and had no place even to sit. There is little we can do on awareness and capacity building at the grassroots. Only now, on account of the Conference of Parties to CBD in Hyderabad in October we are getting Rs 8 crore.

That’s a huge sum. What do you plan to do with it?

We have been granted six hectares so we will start building an office and museum.

దిగుబడులకు బీటీ దెబ్బ: జి.వి. రామాంజనేయులు

http://www.andhrajyothy.com/EditorialShow.asp?qry=2012/aug/26/edit/26edit3&more=2012/aug/26/edit/editpagemain1&date=8/26/2012

ముఖాముఖి

జన్యుమార్పిడి పంటలపై మరిన్ని పరిశోధనలు, సరైన నియంత్రణ వ్యవస్థ లేకుండా ఫీల్డ్ ట్రయల్స్‌కు అనుమతించకూడదని పార్లమెంటరీ స్థాయీ సంఘం చేసిన సిఫార్సులపై దేశవ్యాప్తంగా చర్చ జరుగుతోంది. ఈ నేపథ్యంలో జన్యు మార్పిడి పంటలకు సంబంధించిన అంశాలపై పరిశ్రమవర్గాలు చెబుతున్న దానికి, పరిశోధనలలో తేలుతున్న నిజాలకు మధ్య చాలా వ్యత్యాసం కనిపిస్తుంది. ఈ నేపథ్యంలో జన్యుమార్పిడి పంటలకు సంబంధించిన వాస్తవాలు, భ్రమలపై అధ్యయనం చేస్తున్న ‘సెంటర్ ఫర్ సస్టేయనబుల్ అగ్రికల్చరల్’ సంస్థ ఎగ్జిక్యూటివ్ డైరక్టర్ జి.వి. రామాంజనేయులుతో ఈ వారం ముఖాముఖి..

బీటీ విత్తనాల వల్ల అనేక ప్రయోజనాలు ఉన్నాయని కంపెనీలు ప్రచారం చేస్తున్నాయి. కాని పరిశోధనలలో తేలుతున్న నిజాలు వేరే విధంగా ఉంటున్నాయి..?
బీటీ విత్తనాలు కరువు పరిస్థితులను కూడా తట్టుకొని నిలబడతాయని.. దిగుబడి ఎక్కువ వస్తుందని.. ఈ పంటలకు కలుపు మందులు వేయాల్సిన అవసరం లేదని.. పురుగులు ఎక్కువ రావనే ప్రచారం జరుగుతోంది. కాని ఈ ప్రచారం నిజం కాదు. బీటీ విత్తనాల వల్ల దిగుబడి బాగా పెరిగిందనేది పూర్తి అవాస్తవం. ఉదాహరణకు బీటీ పత్తిని తీసుకుందాం.

2001 నుంచి 2005 దాకా మన దేశంలో పత్తి దిగుబడి 78 శాతం పెరిగింది. దీనిలో కేవలం ఆరు శాతం విస్తీర్ణంలో మాత్రమే బీటీ విత్తనాలను వేశారు. ఇదే విధంగా 2006-11 సంవత్సరాల మధ్య చూస్తే- మొత్తం విస్తీర్ణం 80 శాతం పెరిగితే- దానిలో దిగుబడి రెండు శాతం పెరిగింది. ఈ రెండింటి «ఆధారంగా చూస్తే దిగుబడి పెరగటానికి బీటీ విత్తనాలు మాత్రమే కారణం కాదని అర్థమవుతుంది. అదనంగా సాగు కిందకు వచ్చిన భూమి పెరగటం మొదలైన ఇతర కారణాలు చాలా ఉన్నాయి.

వాస్తవానికి ప్రపంచవ్యాప్తంగా బీటీ విత్తనాలు వేసిన ప్రాంతాల్లో దిగుబడులు తగ్గిపోతున్నాయి. ఇక బీటీ విత్తనాలు పురుగులను తట్టుకుంటాయని చేస్తున్న వాదనలో కూడా నిజం లేదు. పురుగులు బీటీ విత్తనాలను తట్టుకొనే శక్తిని పెంచుకున్నాయి. మన ఆంధ్రప్రదేశ్ ఉదాహరణనే తీసుకుంటే- గులాబీ రంగు తొలిచే పురుగును బీటీ పత్తి విత్తనాలు తట్టుకోలేకపోతున్నాయని మోన్‌శాంటోనే ప్రకటించింది. ఇదే విధంగా బీటీ విత్తనాలు కాయి తొలిచే పురుగులను కూడా తట్టుకోలేకపోతున్నాయి.

బీటీ పత్తికి సంబంధించి కంపెనీలు గుజరాత్‌ను ఒక రోల్ మోడల్‌గా ప్రచారం చేస్తూ ఉంటాయి. గుజరాత్‌లో నిజంగానే బీటీ పత్తి విజయం సాధించిందా?
గుజరాత్ ప్రభుత్వ నివేదికల ఆధారం చూస్తే పత్తి సాగు చేసే ప్రాంతం దాదాపు 45 శాతం పెరిగింది. అదనంగా సాగులోకి వచ్చిన ప్రాంతం 43 శాతం పెరిగింది. వీటికి తోడుగా హైబ్రీడ్ పత్తి వేసిన ప్రాంతం కూడా పెరిగింది. ఈ కారణాల వల్ల గుజరాత్‌లో దిగుబడి పెరిగింది తప్ప- బీటీ విత్తనాల వల్ల మాత్రమే కాదు. ఇక్కడ మనం ఒక విషయాన్ని తప్పకుండా చెప్పుకోవాలి. చాలా సార్లు జన్యు మార్పిడి పంటల వల్ల కలిగే ప్రయోజనాలను ప్రచారం చేసేవారు- తమ వద్ద ఉన్న సమాచారాన్ని పూర్తిగా అందించరు. తమకు అనుకూలంగా కనిపించే కొంత సమాచారాన్ని ఇస్తారు. దీనిని చూస్తే- అంతా సజావుగా ఉన్నట్లు అనిపిస్తుంది. కాని ఇది నిజం కాదు.

బీటీ వంకాయ ఫీల్డ్ ట్రయల్స్‌కు సంబంధించి పెద్ద వివాదం నడుస్తోంది కదా. దీని వెనకున్న కథ ఏమిటి?
బీటీ వంకాయ విత్తనాల వల్ల కలిగే దుష్ఫరిమాణాలను జాగ్రత్తగా అధ్యయనం చేయకుండా అనుమతించవద్దని ప్రభుత్వం ఏర్పాటు చేసిన నిపుణుల కమిటీ సిఫార్సు చేసింది. ఆంధ్రప్రదేశ్‌తో సహా పది రాష్ట్రాలు బీటీ వంకాయ ఫీల్డ్ ట్రయల్స్‌ను అనుమతించబోమని ప్రకటించాయి. అయితే మనం ఇక్కడ ఒక విషయాన్ని గమనించాలి. జన్యు మార్పిడి పంటల వల్ల వచ్చే లాభనష్టాలను సమీక్షించటానికి మన దగ్గర సరైన నియంత్రణా వ్యవస్థ లేదు. ఉదాహరణకు బీటీ పత్తినే తీసుకుందాం. దీని లాభనష్టాలను 2005లో చివరి సారి సమీక్షించారు. ఆ తర్వాత ఎప్పుడూ మళ్లీ సమీక్ష జరగలేదు.

బీటీ పత్తి వల్ల అనేక దుష్ఫరిణామాలు ఏర్పడుతున్నాయని ఈ లోపులో అనేక పరిశోధనలు వచ్చాయి. ఉదాహరణకు వరంగల్ జిల్లాలో బీటీ పత్తి ఆకులు తిని పశువులు మరణించాయని కొన్ని పరిశోధనలు చెబుతున్నాయి. ఇలాంటి వాటిని ప్రభుత్వం వెంటనే పరిగణనలోకి తీసుకోవాలి. చాలా సార్లు ప్రభుత్వం ఈ చర్యలు తీసుకోదు. పైగా జన్యుమార్పిడి పంటలపై పరిశోధనలకు పెద్ద ఎత్తున నిధులను కేటాయించి, తామే పరిశోధనలు చేస్తామని ప్రకటిస్తోంది కూడా. ఈ మొత్తం వ్యవహారం వెనక పెద్ద పెద్ద కంపెనీల లాబీయింగ్ కూడా ఉంటుంది.

మన కన్నా ముందే కొన్ని దేశాలలో జన్యు మార్పిడి పంటల పరిజ్ఞానం ప్రవేశించింది కదా. వారి అనుభవాలేమిటి?
ప్రపంచంలో పన్నెండు దేశాల్లో మాత్రమే జన్యు మార్పిడి పంటలను వేస్తున్నారు. వారి అనుభవాలు కూడా అంత సంతృప్తికరంగా లేవు. అమెరికాలో తాజాగా చేసిన పరిశోధనలలో- ఈ పంటల వల్ల దిగుబడి బాగా తగ్గుతోందని తేలింది. అంతే కాకుండా ఈ పంటలను తట్టుకొనే చీడ పురుగులు తయారయ్యాయి. వీటిని సూపర్ వీడ్స్ అని పిలుస్తున్నారు.

దీనికి తోడు పేటెంట్స్ పేరిట మొత్తం విత్తన మార్కెట్ అంతా కొన్ని కంపెనీల చేతిలోకి వెళ్లిపోతుంది. ఈ ప్రక్రియ మన దేశంలో కూడా ప్రారంభమయింది. ఉదాహరణకు మన దేశంలో బీటీ పత్తి విత్తన మార్కెట్‌లో 98 శాతం మాన్‌శాంటో చేతిలోనే ఉంది. ఇక్కడ ఇంకో ఆశ్చర్యం కలిగించే విషయాన్ని చెబుతాను. బీటీ విత్తనాలకు సంబంధించిన అంశాలలో కంపెనీని ప్రభుత్వం నియంత్రించాలి. కాని పరిస్థితి ఆ విధంగా లేదు. చాలా సార్లు కంపెనీయే ప్రభుత్వంపై కేసులు పెట్టింది.

ఈ పరిస్థితిని చక్కదిద్దటానికి ఉన్న మార్గాలేమిటి?
ప్రత్యామ్నాయ వ్యవసాయ పద్ధతులపై ప్రభుత్వం శ్రద్ధ చూపించాలి. పరిశోధనలకు నిధులను కేటాయించాలి. పరిశోధనాశాలలకు అవసరమైన మౌలిక వసతులు కల్పించాలి. వీటిన్నింటితో పాటుగా నియంత్రణ వ్యవస్థను కట్టుదిట్టం చేయాలి. ఈ విత్తనాలకు సంబంధించిన అంశాలలో కొందరిని బాధ్యులను చేయాలి. ప్రస్తుతం ఈ పద్ధతి లేకపోవటం వల్ల ఇటు ప్రభుత్వం కాని, ఈ విత్తనాలను అనుమతించిన రెగ్యులేటర్ కాని, తయారు చేసిన కంపెనీ కాని బాధ్యత తీసుకోవటం లేదు. దీని వల్ల సామాన్య రైతులు నష్టపోతున్నారు.
– ఇంటర్వ్యూ : సి.వి.ఎల్.ఎన్. ప్రసాద్

Deepak Chopra and Vandana Shiva Talk Seeds and GMOs

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alison-rose-levy/deepak-chopra-and-vandann_b_1376136.html

When meta-physician, Deepak Chopra and food champion and ecologist, Vandana Shiva met before a live audience at his Love in Action series atDeepakHomeBase,
they had a good laugh over the Bullshit Award. Yes, that’s right. Monsanto gave a Bullshit Award to Shiva. To Shiva, whom Forbes Magazine called one of the seven most powerful women on earth, that was an unintended compliment. To get the joke, it helps to recognize the value of cow dung (the Indian down-on-the-farm name for bullshit.)

Cow dung is the original recyclable material. It helps fertilize the fields that grow the grass, which the cows, that produce the dung, feed upon. Their grazing helps our dehydrating planet retain moisture in the earth, contributing to global water supplies. Cow dung use cuts down on the excess nitrogen produced by chemical fertilizers, which contribute to climate change. In a pinch cow dung can be burned for fuel (lowering fossil fuel use) or to help build or insulate a home (lowering fuel use and providing low cost shelter.) As an added gift, those grazing cows produce the butter, milk, yogurt, and cheese that people eat as well.

By surveying the versatile ecology of cow dung, even urban dwellers, like me, can see the earthy pragmatism embedded in the Indian worship of cows (and indeed all life) as sacred. That’s why Chopra and Shiva laughed at the would-be insult.

But before anyone rushes in to take for themselves alone the newly perceived value of cow dung, let’s recognize it as just one part of a teaming, living ecology that supports human life by helping to:

    • Feed more people

 

    • Promote self-sufficiency

 

    • Create more jobs

 

    • Harvest more energy

 

  • Maintain the earth’s climate and ecological balance

 

Time has tested and proven the value of cow dung, and the natural cycle to which it belongs. Acting in ways that attune with nature’s processes and cycles is not about having the right to label a product “natural.” It is about following nature as the supreme guide to creating and maintaining life. Otherwise, we risk undermining and destroying the baseline conditions for life, the two Indian scientists maintain. (Shiva originally trained as a physicist.) In different ways, they express the utter urgency to make the right choices now.

As opposed to the life proliferating activities of cow dung, GMO seeds are “terminator seeds designed to be sterile, in a deliberate creation of food scarcity for profits,” says Shiva, who has worked with and defended the rights of farmers to store seeds for three decades.

Whether or not GMOs hold up to the Monsanto claim of feeding more people, (a claim that Shiva disputes, countering that 80 percent of food is grown on small farms, rather than mass industrial ones) Monsanto defines success very differently than Shiva does.

Rather than seek to promoting life through promoting food cultivation, Monsanto acts to:

  • Obtain the exclusive intellectual property rights to the earth’s seeds
  • Modify seeds genetically with pesticides and herbicides
  • Build planned obsolescence into traditional crops
  • Sue farmers who maintain the centuries old ecological cycle by collecting seeds from each new crop

In the U.S., where long time industry executives hold powerful positions in key governmental regulatory agencies, the USDA and FDA are pursuing pro-GMO policies. But how well have those worked in India? There, Vandana Shiva reports that they have resulted in the suicide of a quarter of a million Indian farmers. When in the aftermath of being forced into industrial agriculture, Indian farmers lost their independence, livelihoods, food, and farms, they committed suicide, she says, by drinking what remained: the chemical pesticides produced by industrial giants.

The technological science so highly prized in our civilization has another side.

“Yes, it has given us important tools,” Chopra acknowledges, before he goes on to enumerate the ugly side of “fragmented science,” such as global warming, ecological destruction, mechanized death, nuclear weapons, GMOs, and pesticides. “Together they are risking our extinction as a species,” he says.

Beyond the specific health impacts Chopra enumerates, including “cancer, hormonal disorders, weight gain, allergies, and propensity to infections,” lies a more pervasive problem. “What is happening in our body is also happening in the body of Mother Earth. Because many of the chemicals and processes were originally developed for military aims, their purpose is destructive.” Using them in life proliferating activities, like food farming, amounts to “declaring war on the land,” Chopra points out.

Vandana Shiva tallies the impacts of technological science on the living systems on which humans depend.

“Pollinators are disappearing. We have a migration of birds, a loss of planetary water, changing weather patterns. We have created a war on life.”

Bt brinjal has no history of safe use

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/bt-brinjal-has-no-history-safe-use

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Author(s): Latha Jishnu
Issue: Mar 19, 2012

Jack A. Heinemann, professor of molecular biology and genetics at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, has expertise in genetic engineering, bacterial genetics and biosafety. As director of the University’s Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety (INBI) since 2001, has contributed in no small measure to a better understanding and management of emerging biotechnologies.

INBI, says the academic, has special responsibility for developing tools that improve safety assessments of genetically modified organisms. These tools are aimed at helping government regulators and scientists with other specialities to access the best available and latest research and apply it to hazard identification. In an interview to Latha Jishnu, Heinemann explains why he was taken aback by the way Mahyco’s Bt brinjal data was assessed by the GEAC, the regulator, and its experts committees.

Jack A. HeinemannJack A. HeinemannWhat, according to you, are the most serious of the shortcomings/misrepresentations in the developer’s data? 

I can’t answer this question for all dossiers. At best I could answer it only for those I’ve seen. If you mean the Bt brinjal data, I don’t know where to begin. I think the most disappointing aspect of that dossier was that every experiment I personally reviewed seemed to have some significant flaw, or was only half finished, leaving effectively nothing to support the conclusions of safety. It had the semblance of authority, but lacked the substance.

Were you taken aback by the findings of your evaluation? Did you expect better monitoring by the Indian regulator and the expert bodies appointed by it given the agriculture profile of the country where farming is essentially a livelihoods issue rather than a commercial proposition?

Yes, I expected more attentiveness to the details, and for the regulator to exercise a greater distance from the data. At the very least, I would have expected the regulator to ask for clarification and data wherever the claims being made were based on assumption and reasoning rather than data.

You say that “the developer reports that a leucine residue at position 766 has been replaced by a serine residue in planta”. What does this mean and what are the consequences?

This means that the gene used in the plant is different from the gene in nature. It is different in several ways and this is just one of those ways. While this one particular amino acid change might sound insignificant, serine is very different from leucine. For example, plant cells often link arrays of sugar molecules to serine residues and these arrays can be structurally variable, affecting many different properties. In particular, the kinds of properties we would be concerned with are those that might affect the immune response of people or wildlife. These structural changes can also interfere with detection of the product after it enters the food chain. Lack of traceability reduces consumer choice and makes it more difficult to recall a product if it is later found to be unsafe.

Again, I quote from the report: “What appear to be small differences can be physiologically and immunogenically important. The change from leucine to serine at position 766 is of interest to the biosafety investigator because only the latter can be O-linked glycosylated by the addition of N-acetylgalactosamine through a side chain hydroxyl group (Mitra et al., 2006).”  How serious are the implications?

We don’t know. No one can say without proper testing. That is the purpose of pre-market risk assessment, to identify molecular changes which might cause adverse effects. Once they are identified, then they can be evaluated through testing. Since developers keep complete control of these products, it would not even be possible for independent scientists such as those in INBI to even attempt testing. Only the regulator can insist on that testing.

You say: “Taken together, PV-LEBK04 has at least 10 different DNA elements that have been taken from different species, including soybeans, viruses, plasmids isolated from different species of bacteria, and many of which have also been extensively and separately subject to in vitro modification after being taken from their natural sources.” What does this mean for a consumer?

What it means is that in many different ways the Bt brinjal has no history of safe use. It is exceedingly unlikely that this diverse combination of genetic elements has come together in nature much less in plants that potentially could be the source of a significant amount of food someone eats. Thus, by international consensus and agreement, the Bt brinjal should benefit from credible safety testing.

Does this poor regulation stem from lack of expertise with the monitoring bodies? For instance, this inability to understand the finer points of a vector/plasmid map. In a case of research fraud in Bt cotton, scientists of public research laboratories passed off a genome sequence as their original DNA construct. The vector map went unchallenged.

This is not something I can answer. The question should be directed at the regulator. But I would ask both the senior managers of the regulatory authority and the minister what pressures are being placed on the regulator and whether these pressures are consistent with expectation that the regulator serves the broader public interest and is precautionary.

Is there a readiness on the part of regulators, specially in the US and Europe, to accept the developer’s data unquestioningly?

In my opinion, some regulators I have worked with seem to be less critical of the data from industry than I experience when I try to publish a scientific paper which has almost no impact on public health or the environment. This strikes me as strange. Not that the standard of review shouldn’t be high for academic research. What is strange is that it does not appear to be as high on a regular and uniform basis for research used by regulators. Most importantly, the requirement that the work and materials be available for independent replication of the results is blocked by proprietary secrecy. Really sound science can be, and is, regularly replicated by other scientists with no strings attached.

Other independent scientists have also pointed out huge shortcomings in the developer’s data and in the evaluation by the ECs. Yet, our regulators have done little to rectify the position. How can INBI help in such a situation?

INBI’s founding mission is to assist civil society and the public to find answers to questions raised by biotechnology. We particularly work with those who have limited or no access to research grants or private funding, essentially those who would be asked to live with any adverse consequences of a biotechnology but not receive the financial benefits. With our limited resources, this is how we try to help. We have no power of compulsion. We can only make the case to the public or to the political decision-makers who, if they agree, can then change policy or legislation to effect better review.

Has INBI been instrumental in strengthening biosafety regulation elsewhere? 

INBI’s work on a variety of corn called LY038 was used by many governments around the world. In the end, the product was pulled from pre-commercial development because some of these governments insisted that the developer answer some of the outstanding safety questions we raised. See  Europe balks at GE corn in NZ and Authority ignored corn risk – expert

INBI has participated in the development of international biosafety guidance documents under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and made submissions to Codex Alimentarius. We have directly worked with training of officials, such as in Solomon Islands. With our partners Third World Network and GenOK-Centre for Biosafety in Norway, we conduct biosafety courses for regulators, civil society leaders, scientists, industry, journalists and decision-makers from developing countries. Through this activity we reach 50 people a year. INBI was also the major partner in production of the Biosafety Assessment Tool, a free to the public risk assessment mentoring website – The Biosafety Assessment Tool

Would you agree with the perception that the large majority of scientists are determined to gloss over the biosafety aspects of transgenic crops because they believe it is the magic bullet for all the problems of agriculture?

I could not possibly say what other scientists think. However, I find convincing the sociological research that shows that independent science is under threat from a network of public-private funding systems and the entrepreneurial aspirations of public universities and government departments. All too often these aspirations also lead to contractual obligations between public institutions and the companies, creating conflicts of interest. I review and discuss this research in my book, Hope not Hype: The Future of Agriculture Guided by the International Assessment on Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development. It can be downloaded free at http://bch.cbd.int/database/record.shtml?documentid=100891

How does INBI manage to provide such a service without charging any fees? 

We work weekends and evenings!  All those working in INBI do so because we believe in the mission. We are public researchers working in a good public university and allied with other like-minded researchers in similar situations. While this work does not pay the bills, it does build our own competence and helps to focus us on the science that is important. The work has attracted some of the best students I’ve ever had, because they want to make a difference, not just make money. We benefit too. Not directly, but because we think it makes our other work better. So far, our employers agree!

The right to food: Joan Mencher

VIKHAR AHMED SAYEED

Interview with Joan Mencher, an anthropologist who has worked in India for long on issues such as agriculture, ecology and caste.

 K. MURALI KUMAR 


Joan P. Mencher: “Indian scientists should focus on sustainable agriculture with an emphasis on reform from below.”
 

JOAN P. MENCHER is a Professor emerita of Anthropology from the City University of New York’s Graduate Centre and Lehman College of the City University of New York. She is the chair of an embryonic not-for-profit organisation, The Second Chance Foundation, which works to support rural grass-roots organisations that work with poor and small farmers in India and the United States on issues of sustainable agriculture. She has worked primarily in South India, but also in West Bengal briefly, on issues relating to ecology, caste, land reform, agriculture, women, and so on over the past half a century. She has published widely both in the U.S. and in India on all of these subjects, primarily in academic journals. She has also, for several years, been a consultant with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank for their India operations. Excerpts from an interview:

Can you start off by discussing briefly your work in India? You are an anthropologist. So how did your engagement begin and what have been the academic areas that your work has extended to in this period?

After finishing my PhD research in anthropology, for which I researched on a slum in New York City, I got a Fulbright scholarship to come to Kerala to do research on child rearing and family life. That was the first time I came to India, in 1958, and even had a chance to meet Jawaharlal Nehru, who encouraged American students to visit India so that they would get a chance to observe India directly. I came from America when McCarthyism was at its peak, and as an American researching in Kerala, I also had to constantly prove my research credentials to the Marxists in Kerala.

I was in India for almost two years, until 1960, and then I went and came back in two years. This time I was looking at ecological issues and the differences between Tamil Nadu and Kerala and looked at how changes in ecology affected agriculture and social life. From then on I began to do other kinds of things. My most intensive work has been in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, but in 1963 I first spent about four to five months in West Bengal, and then I have kept coming back and forth for 50 years and have researched on various aspects, including women and agriculture, in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. I also began to publish about caste this time. Caste was always there while I was working in Kerala, but I began to be acutely aware of the issues in Tamil Nadu. I have also written extensively on the problems with the Green Revolution and the efficacy of land reforms in India.

In your view, what were the main problems with the Green Revolution?

I think the main thing was the damage done to the soil because of the use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers. The crop patterns also changed significantly from diverse cropping to mono-cropping during the time of the Green Revolution. The agricultural methods led to a much more excessive use of water. It was really quite striking how this could happen. It also ended up favouring large farmers. I remember farmers telling me that they did not want to use artificial fertilizer, that they did not believe in it, but they did not have a choice because everybody around them was using it and they were using pesticide too and so all the bugs were coming to their lands. It took away choice from many of the farmers. In rain-fed areas, many of the farmers continued to grow [crops] in the old pattern, but in irrigated areas they could not.

Even the cropping pattern changed significantly. In one of my early studies in India, in a village in Tamil Nadu they were rotating ragi with rice and they were also growing other coarse grains. It certainly led to a switch to rice and away from coarse grains, which were so much more nutritious. It’s beginning to come back with its health values beginning to be recognised.

Certain changes in agricultural methods took place in the U.S. before the Second World War when the government adopted a corporate model of food governance. Why has this model been emulated in India?

AJIT SOLANKI/AP 

A farmer sprays fertilizer in a paddyfield on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Indian agriculture should go back to an ecologically sound approach based on local food production, says Joan Mencher.
 

Well, to answer that complicated question, let me briefly start off by discussing how research in agricultural universities in America has been compromised, and its connection with India.

When agricultural universities were first established in the United States, the land was given to the universities and all the research at that time was financed by the State governments and not the federal government. When food corporations became more and more powerful, they began to pay for most of the research. Slowly, over time, most of the research done in America was supported by corporations rather than by the state, which means that any independent research was totally compromised. All the research began to serve an agenda of profit. The research was not supposed to benefit farmers but was supposed to help investors make more money.

The change in American agriculture started even before the Second World War. It was during that time that Dow Chemical, Dupont, and so on were making poison gases for the American government. When the War ended they shifted into making chemicals for agriculture. They started making fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides for agriculture. There were more companies in the beginning but slowly they consolidated and consolidated to form fewer companies. So this is something that didn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that took place over 50 years. And these ideas came to India through the Green Revolution.

In the 1960s, there was a bad time in India when the country went through a drought, and America offered aid, but India had to concede several things in order to get the aid. Several young scholars from India, the brightest in Indian agricultural studies, were sent to America to get educated and brainwashed at the same time. Even Indian agricultural universities were influenced by this model and began to teach a similar corporate syllabus. Two generations of agricultural scientists began to think in certain ways because of the brainwashing they got in America. There is a continuing alliance between agricultural universities in India and these American universities.

All these people began to be influenced by a certain ‘modern’ pedagogy. Well, modern means you don’t get dirty and you use machinery. Modern means you have many more machines and fewer people involved in agriculture. There is a certain belief in ‘growth’, ‘modernity’, or ‘progress’ in shaping policy, while the world faces economic collapse, unemployment, and [there is] a worldwide food deficit. The food deficit is being used as a rationale to deprive farmers of their autonomy and traditional assets and knowledge. People both in the West and in rural India are being manipulated to accept corporate approaches by myths like ‘individualism works best’, that all forms of ‘socialism’ in farming do not work, and the belief that private industry is the only mechanism that can solve today’s major food security problems.

What were the main processes that changed the face of Indian agriculture?

There were three processes that destroyed the traditional face of Indian agriculture. First, the Green Revolution; second, the 1991 liberalisation of the Indian economy; and third, the George Bush-Manmohan Singh summit in July 2005 [U.S.-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture], which really gave free entry to large American food corporations into India.

But there are people trying to revive ways of traditional forms of agriculture. One of the important things to be aware of is that large corporations are spreading the idea that anyone who tries to oppose all these scientific innovations is anti-science, anti-technology, [and] anti-modern, whereas I would argue that what they are calling modernity is not modernity and, furthermore, they ignore the much more complicated discipline of eco-science completely. Colleges have a big deal of knowledge about what works, but they do not support ecological sciences. Even eco-sciences are often pressured to do absolutely simple research. Eco-scientists are testing only one part of a thing when they do research on it without understanding the larger implications of such work. It’s the synergy between various parts that matters. Research in the ecological sciences needs to be improved.

What are your current concerns?

My current concerns are with issues of sustainable agriculture and alternative agriculture. Two things I have been concerned about are: one, the destruction of our environment, the total pollution of our environment through pesticides, herbicides, GMOs [genetically modified organisms]; and the other, corporate control, with companies getting more and more powerful.

I remember reading in a publication that one of the public relations men for Monsanto had the gall to say, “When we can control land, water and the sea, we can feed the world.” I was so shocked by this. The implications that one or a few companies could control the entire humanity’s food are just terrifying. I see it as really, really frightening.

It’s not that many large corporations control the food system in the world, I think it is four or five. What’s interesting about them is that they have interlocking directors so that people who sit on the board of one sit on the board of another. Even in India, after this treaty was signed by Bush and Manmohan Singh, between India and the United States, the way these companies have been allowed freedom in India is scary. One of the things I was impressed with earlier [before the liberalisation of the Indian economy since 1991] was that India had import substitution; India had kept out unbridled corporate power. I think that once liberalisation started, it broke the back of Indian industry in many ways. It broke the autonomy; once you are part of a large corporation you don’t have autonomy – maybe you make more money but you don’t have autonomy. India’s economy started growing at a much faster rate but who benefited from this? It still has not reached people who are poor; the agricultural labourers did not receive any of this benefit.

I want Indian agriculture to go back to an ecologically sound approach based on local food production, imitating nature instead of fighting natural processes, while increasing healthy food production by focussing on small family farms as well as medium-sized and cooperative farms. A recent study by IFAD [International Fund for Agricultural Development] noted the greater efficiency of production and the higher growth potential of small-holder farms, but there is an unstated belief among agricultural planners that getting rid of all family farms is good.

What should Indian agricultural scientists and economists focus on right now?

Indian agricultural scientists and economists need to pay more attention to poor farmers. They should not decide that a one-hectare farm is small. They should focus on small farms. I hope that agriculture departments will encourage small farms and give them money for alternative agriculture. Agriculture needs to be seen as tied to the human right to food, land, seeds and water. There must be support for NPM [Non-Pesticidal Management], water harvesting, SRI [System of Rice Intensification] rice, WSHGs [Women Self-Help Groups] and farmers with a range of holdings. There should be diversification of crops.

They should totally focus on sustainable agriculture with emphasis on reform from below. And they should combine it with poverty alleviation. Do not let traditional knowledge of agriculture disappear. Use it, don’t sell it to companies. Use it for the welfare of the community. Another is helping people to help themselves.

 

Sustainable smallholder agriculture: Feeding the world, protecting the planet

What promise will Rio herald for agriculture?” A conversation with Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda

As the international community prepares for Rio+20 in June 2012, Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chief Executive Officer of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANPRAN),  will speak with Naga Munchetty, international journalist and television presenter, on the prospects for elevating the role of agriculture in the climate talks.  Dr Sibanda will present her views on what global policy and investment changes are needed to ensure that smallholder farmers in developing countries can play a central role in meeting the multiple challenges of increasing their production to ensure food security while preserving the natural environment and coping with the effects of climate change.

At the centre-stage event, Dr. Sibanda will discuss the ways in which smallholder agriculture is impacted by resource scarcity and climate change – and how farming can and must become environmentally friendly.

A leading supporter of the Farming First campaign, Dr Sibanda advocates a holistic approach to sustainable agricultural development. At FANRPAN, she coordinates policy programmes aimed at making Africa food-secure. Since 2009, she has led “No-Agriculture, No-Deal” global  campaign that has mobilized African civil society organizations to push for  the inclusion of agriculture in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations. Recently, Dr Sibanda joined some of one of the world’s most influential thinkers and provocative voices as a member of the Guardian Global Development advisory panel as one of the world’s most influential thinkers and provocative new voices on the future of agriculture.