Regional Course 2012 – Holistic Foundations for Assessment and Regulation of Genetic Engineering and Genetically Modified Organisms, Tanzania

Organized in collaboration with the University of Dar es Salaam – 23rd April 2012 to 28th April 2012

Venue: Dar es Salaam (University of Dar es Salaam)
Topics include:
  • Overview of genomes, genes and gene expression
  • GE process: creation and detection of GMO
  • Laboratory practicals
  • Biodiversity, ecosystems and ecological impacts of GMOs
  • Future applications of genetic engineering
  • Cultural, social, political issues related to GE/GMO
  • Risk assessment and management
  • Implementation of the Precautionary Principle
  • Policy issues, including capacity building and participation (scientific, enforcement, educational, legal)
  • Cartagena Protocol, WTO and other international agreements
  • Practical risk assessment under the guidance of the Biosafety Assessment Tool
Background
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety seeks to ensure ”an adequate level of protection in the field of the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health, and specifically focusing on transboundary movements”. In order to manage the introduction and development of GMOs as well as trade thereof, countries are required to develop biosafety regulations. However, there is a lack of understanding, expertise and scientific knowledge on the different aspects necessary to perform risk assessment and develop a regulatory system that takes into consideration the ethical, economic and social considerations.
Performing credible biological risk assessments requires multi-disciplinary scientific and social scientific competence that considers the local context of GMO introductions. Each country needs to be able to conduct risk assessment review and understand the different aspects thereof in order to effectively monitor and manage the introduction of GMOs into the environment Moreover, there is a need to assess GMOs in the context of each countries unique cultural, ethical socio-economic and policy frameworks. Such initiatives will require holistic approaches to develop adequate regulation over the use of GMOs.
About the course
The course is designed to provide policy makers, regulators, scientists and NGOs/civil society leaders, specifically from the East, Central and Southern African region, with the necessary balanced and critical knowledge and training in crucial GE/GMO issues. Through lectures, laboratory demonstrations, group work on case studies, and discussions, we offer biosafety capacity building within a holistic framework.
Eligibility and selection process
The course application form must be filled out entirely and with as much detail as possible. The applicant must provide information about the type/level of position they are holding, and state the basis for their interest in the course. In addition, a brief CV is required for consideration. The course will be in English.
Gender and regional criteria are also used in the selection of participants in order to achieve representational balance.
Applications close on 28th  February 2012.
Costs and expenses
Full sponsorship will be given to 40 selected applicants. The sponsorship will cover curricular materials, course-associated travel, visa-fees (other than Indians), accommodation and meals.
The completed form and a brief CV should be returned to courses@genok.org and botany@udsm.ac.tz
For further information you can contact:
Flora Ismail Tibazarwa
Botany Department – University of Dar es Salaam
Email: ismailf@udsm.ac.tz or ismailfar8@gmail.com
or
Katrine Jaklin
Project Manager: GenØk – Centre for Biosafety
E-mail: katrine.jaklin@genok.org

For further information about ODA-countries visit http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/32/40/43540882.pdf

Govt. urged to clarify on Hyped ‘Desi Bt’ Cotton Seeds of (CICR) – VJAS

Nagpur- Dated 1ST January 2012

Vidarbha cotton farmers urged India’s Govt. to come clean on recent reported controversy of Hyped ‘Desi Bt’ Cotton Seeds having developed its own by Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) and Agriculture universities having spent hundred of crores over so called research which has put ICAR in Bt cotton (genetically modified) variety has taken an embarrassing turn with an RTI inquiry by two scientists revealing how the University of Agriculture Sciences (UAS) at Dharwad went ahead brushing aside all precautions to produce an indigenous variety working on a gene originally patented by Monsanto, Kishor Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, a farmers’ advocacy group who are documenting Bt.cotton crop failure and farmers suicides in vidarbha since 2005 informed in a press release today.

“It is true that in 2009, the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) had decided to stop the sale of Bikaneri Narma Bt Cotton seed marketed state owned seed corporation MAHABEEJ as an “completely indigenous Bt variety”,having failed to give any positive result . Bikaneri Narma was released for farmers as BN Bt by Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) in 2009. It was reported by CICR Director Keshav Kranthi that DESI Bt.cotton seeds will be available for Rs 200 per 2 kg bag as against Rs 1150 per 450 gm bag of Monsanto’s Bt.cotton seed currently sold by national and multinational companies like Monsanto permitted sed companies like Mahyco, Rasi, Ankur and Nuziveedu. It was called an indigenous Bt “variety” as distinct from the Monsanto hybrid where farmers have to buy fresh seeds each season. Farmers could re-use BN Bt cotton seeds for many years but within year then ICAR’s DDG S K Dutta, having received pressure from Agriculture Ministry stopped commercial sale of Bn Bt in 2009, hence we want Govt. Clarification recent developments and reports which exposes CICR activities as illegal and misleading to fact that Bt. Gen. where officially purchased by ICAR from Monsanto followed by baseless claims and counter claims of CICR Director Keshav Kranthi are mush more humiliating and creating doubts about integrality of CICR’’ Tiwari added.

‘In June 2009 to there was questions raised by vidarbha cotton farmers over CICR Director Keshav Kranthi claims that DESI Bt.cotton seed of CICR is beneficial in drought-tolerant, non-irrigated areas and is also resistant to sucking pests like jassids and aphids and VJAS had urged Indian Govt. to take official stand over this ICAR activity as our experience with Monsanto’s Bt,cotton seed is too bad to believe in any more Desi Bt.cotton seed as GM technology is based on gene which only available in part of America then it is must for Indian Govt. to clarify on the claims of CICR ” Kishore Tiwari further added.

It is reported in June 2009 that the white elephant research institute of Indian council of agriculture search (ICAR) the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur after ten long years of research punctuated with technical delays, is ready with 20,000 packets of desi Bt cotton seeds for distribution to farmers starting next month in four states. CICR also claimed that the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the apex body which clears GM crops, had okayed the Indian strain on May 2 last year this variety will enable farmers to replicate seeds for the next sowing and CICR’s DESI Bt.cotton variety needs very little fertiliser and pesticide, the farmer can save nearly 4,000 per acre in the first year (Rs 1,000 on seeds, Rs 2,000 on pesticides and Rs 1,000 on fertilisers) and about Rs 4,500 per acre every subsequent year since he won’t have to buy seeds. One seed of the desi Bt can produce up to 200-300 seeds which is not possible with Monsanto’s Bt,cotton seed more over Monsanto’s Bt.cotton seeds has been failed in vidarbha’s dry land cotton fields resulting more than 10,000 cotton farmers after Indian Govt. permitted commercial trials of Monsanto’s Bt.cotton seed hence there are serious issues involved in Rs.4000 crore Bt. Cotton Indian market and role of union agriculture ministry to create monopoly of US Gm seed Giant Monsanto, Tiwari said.

Scientific Fraud: Coalition demands immediate stopping of all public sector transgenic research & action against fraudulent scientists

INDIA’S “PUBLIC SECTOR INDIGENOUS GM COTTON” A SCIENTIFIC FRAUD:
 
Coalition for a GM-Free India demands immediate stopping of all public sector transgenic research and an independent enquiry and action against fraudulent scientists.
New Delhi, December 30, 2011: 2011 ends with a big blot to the Indian scientific community, as was the case in 2010 too. The much-hyped public sector Bt cotton lines (Bikaneri Narma Bt variety and NHH-44 Bt hybrid) touted as the “first indigenous public sector-bred GM crop in India” developed by Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur (CICR) and University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad (UAS) along with Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) is actually found to have a Bt gene originally patented by Monsanto. The ICAR had to withdraw the production of these ‘indigenous’ GM cotton seeds, based on this development. In effect the Indian biotechnologists, supported with enormous amounts of taxpayers’ money doing research on developing indigenous “biotechnology products” have misled the nation by passing off the Monsanto technology as their own, the Coalition for a GM-Free India stated. The Coalition demanded that the Government stop all transgenic research in the public sector immediately, setup a high-level independent inquiry into the current case as well as all other research projects. It also demanded that this issue be seen as an act of corruption and fraud and severe deterrent action be taken against all the institutions and scientists involved.
In India, the majority of transgenic products in the R&D pipeline are from public sector institutions. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s “network project on transgenics” had a budgetary provision of Rs 100 crores in the XI Plan.
The Bt cotton in question is the Bikaneri Narma (BN) Bt (variety) and the NHH-44 Bt (hybrid) expressing Bt Cry 1Ac protein. The developers CICR & UAS claimed that BN Bt carries the cry1Ac (Truncated and codon-modified) gene which ‘is very similar to the Cry 1Ac toxin expressed by MON 531 event developed by M/s Monsanto as well as event 1 of IIT, Kharagpur’, both of which are already under commercial cultivation. A CICR newsletter (Vol.24, No.2, Apr-June 2008) soon after the GEAC approval for transgenic BN Bt claimed that the development of this Bt cotton was initiated under the World-Bank-funded NATP from 2000 onwards. The Bt cry1AC gene in this instance was supposed to have been developed by the NRCPB of the IARI along with CICR and the transfer into popular cultivars is supposed to be taken up by UAS-Dharwad.
During deliberations in the GEAC about this, the members first gave approval for large-scale field trials (LSTs) during the GEAC meeting on April 2, 2008 and then in the next meeting on 2nd May 2008 reviewed the decision and gave approval for commercialization of BN Bt without conducting LSTs. The rationale was that since the seeds of BN Bt could be saved by farmers, a large scale field trial is tantamount to commercial release! However one year after its much publicized release BN Bt was withdrawn from the market without any explanation and no reports were made available about its performance till then. The same Bt construct was used to develop hybrid Bt cotton, namely NHH 44. YUVA and Hamara Beej Abhiyan, two constituents of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, brought out a report in 2010, on “Performance of CICR’s Bt Cotton in 2009 – a survey report” (available at http://indiagminfo.org/?page_id=238) which showed that BN Bt had failed to perform in farmers’ fields and the claims were belied. The worse thing was that there was no accountability fixed on anyone for this failure. In this report released in October 2010 itself, the Coalition demanded that ‘CICR come out in the open to state exactly what the problem is which made BN Bt seed supply vanish from the market exactly one season after its entry’ (pp.11).
Now it has come to light through an RTI that there is nothing indigenous about this Bt construct used by CICR & UAS and it has Monsanto’s cry1Ac gene. As per news media stories, the NARS appears to be defending this episode by explaining it away as “contamination”.  It is interesting to note that scientists who have rubbished “contamination” concerns expressed by civil society groups and others both for their environmental and IPR implications, are resorting to this phenomenon as their explanation now!
This raises a few pertinent questions:
·       How is it that the regulators who “rigorously” evaluated the product could not correctly identify the gene construct used? It puts to question the capabilities of the regulators.
·
·       Here it must also be highlighted that the then Director of CICR, Dr.Khadi was also a member of GEAC, a clear case of conflict of interest.
·
·       If it is indeed a case of contamination and the seed production had to be stopped given that Monsanto has proprietary rights over the genes and technology, what lies in store for all the other GM crops in the pipeline since contamination is inevitable?
·
·       Is it contamination or is it a scientific fraud related to incapability with regard to indigenous technology?
·
·       Who owns BN Bt cotton and NHH 44 Bt cotton now?  Have the Indian biotechnologists gratuitously gifted these to Monsanto through this action?
·
·       Is this all the country gets after big ticket investments on GM technology ignoring viable and safer mechanisms to deal with pests, diseases and climate threat?
This episode also highlights that the IPR issues related to transgenic technologies and the assumption by the Indian scientific community that they can use technologies patented by Monsanto and its ilk needs a serious re-think.
The Indian regulators, public sector scientists and NARS institutions are intent on promoting GM technologies to the exclusion of any other options despite serious evidence on the biosafety hazards connected with transgenics. In the light of this fiasco, claims about enormous indigenous capabilities (in this field) sound hollow. Such scientific frauds raise the question about how far the biotechnology scientists and regulators will go to force GM technologies into our agriculture and what motivates them. Why should the public be trusting these scientists who do not hestitate to resort to fraudulent practices?
Unfortunately this is not the first case of scientific fraud that the nation is witnessing. Last year witnessed the six premier Science Academies using plagiarized material to recommend and promote the release of Bt brinjal. Despite the report being dismissed by the then Minister for Environment & Forests as lacking scientific rigour, the Academies merely revised the section on Bt brinjal a little and put it back in the public domain claiming that they stand by their conclusions. There was no enquiry into the incident, no explanation about how it happened and no action taken against any entity. A clear demonstration of the contempt in which the scientific community holds the nation and the public, says the Coalition for a GM-Free India. It is interesting to note that Dr P Ananda Kumar of NRCPB is one of the lead ‘protagonists’ in these two scientific scandals. Further, Dr K C Bansal who coordinated the ICAR network project on transgenics till recently is now heading the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (custodian of plant genetic resources of the country!).
“The current UAS-D/CICR/IARI (NRCPB) fiasco proves once again that the Indian scientific community is not averse to scientific frauds and misleading the nation and the people. We do not need this technology force-fed to our farmers and consumers, we have sufficient workable and viable solutions for the agrarian crisis and demand that the government and public sector institutions work on these solutions rather than fraudulently promote GM technology”, said the Coalition.
It should also be remembered by certain political parties advocating public sector GM seeds that an inherently unsafe product does not become safer just because it comes from the public sector. In fact, accountability issues are murkier here, as has been seen in the case of the failure of CICR’s Bt cotton in the field, where large scale field trials have been waived off in favour of public sector GM research!
“All of this is ultimately experimentation happening at the expense of hapless Indian farmers and this is unconscionable. Severe deterrent action at the highest level is called for, in this case. We demand that a white paper be published on the investments made on this front so far by the government. Further, until all questions are answered including the actual technologies being used in the public sector transgenic R&D, IPR issues, future contamination possibilities etc., all funding to public sector transgenic projects should be immediately stopped. These scarce and valuable resources should be utilised for taking proven, safe, farmer-controlled technologies to the farmers”, demanded the Coalition.
For more information, contact:
  1. Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu: 09000699702; ramoo.csa@gmail.com
  2. Kavitha Kuruganti: 09393001550; kavitha.kuruganti@gmail.com

Disappointed with farmer’s Package 4 more vidarbha killed themselves :farm widows blockade NationalHighway protesting the relief package

Nagpur-15th dcmber2011

The shocks of rejection of farmers main demand to give hike to support price in cotton ,soya and paddy has reported four suicides in vidarbha ,identified as

1.Ankush Raut of Wadki in Yavatmal

2Ashok Bhongale of Bhamada in Yavatmal

3.Ramrao Kamble of Gaul in Wardha

4.Shayram Thege of Kesarwada in Bhandara

As per media reports published here taking toll to 722 in year 2011 alone,Kishor Tiwari, president of Nagpur-based Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, (VJAS), activist group working for cotton farmer rights in a Press release today.

Most of major cotton centre town are completely closed to support ‘Bandh’ called giving by opposition parties and hundreds of farm widows blockade N.H. Tuljaput –Nagpur highway at Arjuna 160 k.m. away from Nagpur .there are violent protest of farmers reported all round vidarbha .farmers of vidarbha region are demanding hike in cotton procurement price to @ Rs.6000/- in order to compensate the losses incurred by them and cash compensation @ Rs.20,000 per hector but state has announced Rs.2000 crore for nearly 90 lakh hector which will peanut hence there is demand to revised the relief package ,tiwari added.

Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, (VJAS), has welcomed initiative taken by Maharashtra DF Govt. to appoint committee to sort out issue of dry land farmers which are victims of Agrarian crisis and needs income base incentive to stop their on going suicides and such steps are must and should taken without delay,Tiwari said

Maharashtra DF Govt. today most waited announcement of giving Rs.2000 crore relief package for 40 lakhs hector crop loss compensation is another eyewash as earlier vidarbha farmer packages of year 2005 and 2006 has dashed hopes of more than 5 million farmers who are facing severe economical crisis due to massive crop failure who are demanding the bailout package and hike in MSP of cotton ,soybean and paddy as this will trigger another spiral of farmer suicides having failed to address the basic issue of price and future sustainability of dying agrarian community ,Kishor Tiwari, president of Nagpur-based Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, (VJAS), activist group working for cotton farmer rights in a Press release today.

‘It was most expected that after CM indicated earlier that bankrupt financial condition of Maharashtra can’t even give Rs.1000/- per hector to 5 millions farmers against the demand of Rs.10,000/- and the cotton farmers of western vidarbha will get nothing as administration has shown minimum crop failure in this region and now out 70 lakh hector area under cultivation of cotton, soya and paddy whop will get what that god know?. Farmers and all parties including congress NCP that MRP hike in cotton ,soya and paddy and cash compensation in line with sugarcane growers of western Maharashtra but once again Govt. has mad mockery of agrarian crisis and announced such penny relief which is nothing but hoax’Tiwari added.

‘we are demanding long term solution to agrarian crisis not any package which are mostly contractor driven and designed to rehabilitation of the ill managed politician runs cooperative banks. our farmers are working for handful MNCs who are manufacturing Gm seed, fertilizer and pesticides and revival of own agriculture is must which is not being done ’ Tiwari said.

The vidarbha agrarian is result of wrong policies promoted by state and situation of cotton growers in west Vidarbha has worsened when ban of cotton export imposed last year and massive crop failure this year .

“There is a need for state government’s intervention in this regard. The government should provide at least Rs 6,000 per quintal. The chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had promised that he would talk with the union government for better support price for the raw cotton. However, nothing has been done in this regard,” Tiwari alleged.

Tiwari continued, “The government did not concede our demand of providing food security to desperate, distressed and marginal farmers even. The government needs to behave sensibly and responsibly to address farmers’ woes and prevent the prevailing spate of suicide in the killing fields of Vidarbha.” If the cotton growers do not get better price this season, the situation will assume drastic proportions, he cautioned.

VJAS has urged Govt. of India to send team of expert to assess the Bt. Cotton crop damage in Maharashtra and west vidarbha in particular where cotton farmers are killing themselves .VJAS has been demanding hike in cotton MSP Rs.6000/- per quintal and relief package to dying cotton farmers of region, Tiwari added.

Alarming rise in Farmer Suicides in A.P. – does the government care?


Fact-finding visits from Raitu Swarajya Vedika show disastrous situation

Urgent action demanded from the government

 

As reports from various districts are showing a spate of farmer suicides, organizations that are part of the Raitu Swarajya Vedika alliance have been conducting fact-finding visits to suicide-affected families and concerned villages in a few districts. The data collected from news reports in just 6 districts – Adilabad, Khammam, Karimnagar, Medak, Mahbubnagar and Anantapur – shows 90 suicides in only the past one month. Since this not an exhaustive compilation, the real numbers even in these districts are certainly much higher, and there are several other districts which are equally affected. While the state-wide number of suicides this year might be significantly higher than the past, the lack of response from the state government has been astonishing. Though there were many clear indicators for the past two months, the government did not take any actions to support the farmers or mitigate the situation.

 

The glaring aspect from all the fact-finding visits is that the farmers have concluded that there is no one to help them get out of the distress situation – and there is absence of any extension system or support from the government. Fact-finding visits in these six districts have shown that there is a serious crop failure in a few crops – predominantly cotton in several districts, maize and paddy in a few places, and groundnut in Anantapur. In one case in Utnoor Mandal, Adilabad district, 5 acres of cotton yielded less than 1 quintal in the first harvest, and the farmer ended up with a loss of Rs.50,000. Most of the suicides happened in rain-fed areas where high-input commercial crops were grown. It should also be noted that there were many suicides even in districts like East Godavari and Krishna in the past few months – especially of tenant farmers cultivating paddy.

 

The distress was not a result only of this year’s failure but accumulated from the previous years. All the families were already in debt before the season, and were pushed into further debt reaching about Rs.1 lakh or more. Most of the loans were from informal sources and not from banks, leading to more harassment and higher interest rates. Many of the farmers had taken land on lease, but did not have any Loan Eligibility cards despite the scheme introduced by the AP government last year. Furthermore, the costs of cultivation have increased enormously in the past 3 years, including fertilizers, pesticides, seed and labour.

 

Government responsibility

The gross neglect of the farmers by the successive governments is responsible for the continuing crisis in agriculture. The National Crime Records Bureau statistics shows that A.P. continues to be one of the worst states in farmer suicides, with 2525 suicides during 2010. As per government figures, only 30% of all agricultural loans in A.P. are from banks and other institutions, and the rest are from moneylenders and dealers. The reach of crop insurance is also negligible in the affected families. This year, the cotton-sowing area in A.P. increased to 47 lakh acres covering 25% of the total area – so a distress situation for cotton farmers was expected but the government did not take any measures to address the situation.

 

In particular, the government has completely failed the farmers in the rain-fed areas by not providing any support systems and incentives for sustainable cropping systems – leaving the farmers to take up high-cost commercial crops like cotton as the main option. With this high degree of mono-cropping, the ability to withstand vagaries of climate through diversified systems has been lost.

Meanwhile, even when suicides are committed by farmers, the government is not implementing existing G.O.421 to provide timely support and ex-gratia payments to the families. In most of the cases which were visited, no officials from revenue or agriculture department had visited the family to initiate the process of ascertaining the farmer suicide and eligibility for compensation.

 

It is the express duty of the government to ensure the basic survival of all its citizens, especially farmers who are the backbone of the rural economy.

 

We demand immediate action from the government on the following:

 

(1)    Immediately declare a disaster package for all the farmers who have suffered crop failure, and provide them compensation of Rs.10,000 per acre. This alone can prevent further suicides.

(2)    The Chief Minister should give public assurance to the farmers that the government will support the farmers and ensure that they come out of distress. The government machinery, especially the agriculture and revenue departments from state-level to village-level should be geared up to the task of addressing farmers’ distress and preventing further suicides.

(3)    Initiate steps to provide sufficient bank credit to the farmers, and remove from the clutch of moneylenders and local dealers.

(4)    Provide effective crop insurance and credit to majority of farmers including tenant farmers.

(5)    Initiate a comprehensive plan for rainfed areas to sustain agriculture in the face of climate variations – including proper implementation of the existing drought plans

(6)    Promote sustainable agriculture that will reduce costs of cultivation and increase crop diversity

(7)    Pro-actively implement G.O.421 for the families affected by farmer suicides, and time-bound payment of ex-gratia and loan settlement payments.

 

On behalf of Raitu Swarajya Vedika, an alliance of more than 40 organizations and unions across A.P. which has come together through the Kisan Swaraj Yatra in 2010, to work for dignified livelihoods for all agricultural communities; rights over land, water and seed; and sustainable agriculture.

 

 

Dr.G.V. Ramanjaneyulu                 (Ph: 9000699702)                                             S. Jeevan Kumar (Ph: 9848986286)

Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA)                                                               Human Rights Forum (HRF)

 

K. Sajaya (Ph: 9948352008)                                                                           Ashalatha (Ph: 9490119242)

Caring Citizens Collective                                                                              Anthra

 

Kiran Vissa (Ph: 9701705743)                                                                       D.Narasimha Reddy (Ph: 9010205742)

AID-India                                                                                                             Chetana Society

Should we encourage biopirates to expand their business in India?

An appeal for your URGENT support
Should we encourage biopirates to expand their business in India?
06 August 2011
Dear Friends,
As you are aware, the environmental release of the first ever Genetically Modified Food (Bt Brinjal – eggplant) in India, promoted by M/s Mahyco (an Indian subsidiary of US TNC Monsanto), was stayed by a February 2011 decision by then Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh who ordered a moratorium on the product’s environmental and commercial release. This decision was the outcome of public opinion gathered in a series of nation-wide public consultations that he held and based also on a variety of scientific evidence and legal analysis. Fundamentally, Mr. Ramesh held that per the Precautionary Principle not enough was known of the environmental, public health, economic and social consequences of GMO foods. Therefore it was prudent to postpone the decision until there was absolute certainty that GMOs subserved the common good.
Moratorium decision on Bt Brinjal sidestepped biopiracy issue:
In addition to concerns over the public health and environmental implications of GMOs, Environment Support Group raised a serious concern that in promoting Bt Brinjal, Mahyco/Monsanto, along with it collaborators (University of Agricultural Sciences -Dharwad, Sathguru Consultants, Cornell University and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University; collaborators under the ABSP-II project funded by USAID) had fundamentally flouted laws protecting biodiversity in India. The specific charge made was that these agencies had accessed at least 9 local varieties of brinjal in developing the Bt Brinjal product and all this was done without any prior permission from the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Board, Local Biodiversity Management Committees, as required per the Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992 and the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. Therefore, the action of bringing the Bt Brinjal product to a final decision of commercial release constituted an act of biopiracy: a very serious crime that is cognisable, non-bailable and additionally involves large fines. It was also submitted to the Minister that such actions seriously compromised and denied economic and social benefits to local communities under the Access and Benefit Sharing Regime.
Mr. Ramesh chose to sidestep this critical issue while ordergin moratorium on the release of Bt Brinjal.
ESG complaint against biopiracy:
Environment Support Group, however, pursued the case, and filed a complaint before the statutory Karnataka Biodiversity Board on 15 February 2011 (copy attached). The Board took cognisance of this complaint, proceeded to investigate it thoroughly, issued notices on all agencies involved in promoting Bt Brinjal and also held hearings. In their defence, Bt Brinjal promoters Mahyco/Monsanto have absolutely denied violation of biodiversity protection laws while others, such as University of Agricultural Sciences – Dharwar have claimed that these laws do not at all apply to them. Based on this evidence, the Board has repeatedly requested the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) to take appropriate action in accordance with law. NBA, however, has dithered on taking a decision on this critical complaint – for over a year now.
Monsanto now wants India’s onions:
Perhaps encouraged by weak regulation by NBA, Monsanto Holdings has now applied for accessing a variety of onions grown in India for potential hybridisation, commodification and commercial release. A copy of the application made by Monsanto is enclosed. As we understand, NBA has forwarded Monsanto’s application to relevant State regulatory authorities and applicable Biodiversity Management Committees (at Panchayat/Nagarpalika levels) with the demand that the application be cleared no later than 27 August 2011.
It is a matter of very serious worry that NBA which has failed to demonstrate urgency in dealing with complaint of biopiracy against Mahyco/Monsanto, has wasted no time at all in processing Monsanto’s application to access onions.
It is imperative for NBA to enforce India’s biodiversity protection laws and also act in conformance with the Public Trust Doctrine, Precautionary Principle, Principle of Intergenerational Equity and the Polluter Pays Principle and other applicable laws. We fear that such lax behaviour on the part of a key regulatory agency encourages businesses to continue their business-as-usual approach, untrammelled by any fear of punitive action for violating India’s biodiversity protection laws and for compromising India’s sovereign control over its biological resources.
Demand decisions in NBA meeting on 9th August 2011:
With this in view, we wish to demand that NBA in its meeting scheduled on 9th August 2011 must take a categorical decision on the charge of biopiracy against those promoting Bt Brinjal product based on comprehensive investigation and reporting by the Karnataka Biodiversity BoardPending adjudication of this matter, no fresh application for accessing India’s biological resources must be entertained from any agency being investigated for biopiracy. Such a norm is critical to safeguard ongoing investigations and protecting biological wealth of India, and is an approach that is in consonance with various Supreme Court decisions, most recently evidenced by banning mining by all in light of widespread illegal mining in Bellary.
If you wish to support this demand, kindly sign on the petition (enclosed) by providing your name, full address, and organisational affiliation (if any), no later than 11 pm on 8th August 2011. Kindly leave the subject as is to help us to process your endorsement.
To further assist you in endorsing this petition we have also made it accessible online at:http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/monsanto_biopiracy/
We seek this support from you so that India’s biological resources are protected and conserved to ensure ecological, food, economic and social security of present and future generations.
Thank you for your cooperation and support.
Yours sincerely,
Leo F. Saldanha
Bhargavi S. Rao

Environment Support Group


[Environment, Social Justice and Governance Initiatives]
1572, 36th Cross,
Banashankari II Stage,
Bangalore 560070. INDIA
Tel: 91-80-26713559-61
Voice/Fax: 91-80-26713316
Email: esg@esgindia.org
Web: www.esgindia.org
Petition to National Biodiversity Authority:
Shri M.F.Farooqui, IAS.,
Chairman,
National Biodiversity Authority,
(Full Addl. Charge)
&
Additional Secretary,
Ministry of Environment and Forests,
Government of India,
5th Floor, TICEL Bio Park,
Taramani, Chennai – 600 113
Tel: 91-044-2254 1805
Fax: 91-044-2254 1073
8th August 2011
Dear Shri. Farooqui,
As you are aware, Environment Support Group has filed a complaint against M/s Mahyco/Monsanto and their collaborators in promoting Bt Brinjal in violation of India’s Biological Diversity Act, 2002 and Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992. This complaint has been pending adjudication by the National Biodiversity Authority for over a year now, notwithstanding comprehensive investigations that have been undertaken by Karnataka State Biodiversity Board.
The Authority which has not found the necessary time and resource to adjudicate the matter with due dispatch, has now proceeded to process an application from Monsanto Holdings to access onions in India for hybridisation and possible commercial release. Such double standards is not an healthy indicator that the Authority is independently and rigorously implementing Biological Diversity Act in order to protect our biological resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
When the Authority meets on 9th August 2011, it is imperative that it takes a decision on the pending complaint of biopiracy against M/s Mahyco/Monsanto and its collaborators. Such action is imperative on the part of the regulatory Authority and will build public confidence that it is not dithering in taking a correct decision due to extraneous pressures.
We also demand that pending adjudication of this matter, no application must be processed for accessing biological resources of India from any of the agencies being investigated on grounds of biopiracy. Such a policy is consistent with best practices employed by the Government of India and also with various Supreme Court decisions – most recently in banning mining by all as a measure of taking action against widespread illegal mining in Bellary district of Karnataka.
We hope that the Authority will take appropriate decisions with due dispatch to safeguard India’s biodiversity and the wider public interest.


Glyphosate based herbicides cause’s birth defects and cancer: Greenpeace Science report

Herbicide tolerance and GM crops download the report

PRESS RELEASE –

Promotion of Herbicide tolerant GM crops can lead to increased use of these herbicides in India.

New Delhi, India – August 4, 2011: A new report launched by Greenpeace, a global environmental organization, states that use of glyphosate based herbicides can pose risk to human health as well as environment(1).  Introduction of herbicide tolerant GM crops which are under field trial stage in India can lead to widespread and intensive usage of these herbicides. The report was launched by Sri. Basudeb Acharia, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing committee on Agriculture, here today.

The report, ‘Herbicide Tolerance and GM crops-Why the world should be ready to round-up Glyphosate’, is a compilation of literature from across the globe on the impacts of Glyphosate. It states that scientific studies show that Glyphosate can cause serious health effects like human birth defects, abnormalities in vital reproductive hormones as well as blood cancer. There is a marked increase in use of this herbicide due to increased use of herbicide tolerant GM crops which is primarily manufactured and marketed by Monsanto.

The report also talks about the environmental impacts of glyphosate on aquatic life forms, soil invertebrates like the earth worms and higher life forms.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many herbicides sold throughout the world. Glyphosate-based herbicides are used widely for weed control because they are non-selective; glyphosate kills all vegetation. Monsanto has also come up with herbicide tolerant GM crops in soya bean, maize and cotton which form the majority of the GM crops grown in USA, Brazil and Argentina, the only 3 countries in the world where GM crops are grown extensively. The company is now trying to introduce herbicide tolerant GM maize in India. Presently GM maize field trials are allowed in 11 locations across 8 states in the country (2)

According to Kapil Mishra, sustainable Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace India, “While the government of India has permitted large-scale field trials of Monsanto’s herbicide tolerant maize crops across India, it’ is important to know the ill effects that these crops and the associated chemical pose to human health and the environment. It is shocking that open field trials of such risky crops are being permitted without any safety study being conducted independently.” He also opined that government should take note of the two pronged strategy by Monsanto to double its profit through sale of seeds and their own herbicides risking ecological and human safety.

 

In the past a taskforce set up by the government and headed by Dr Swaminathan had categorically stated that India should not permit herbicide tolerant GM crops as they would lead to loss of employment in the agriculture sector especially for women whose survival depends on manual weeding. . The report also has reccomended the government to avoid GM crops where ever viable alternatives exist.(3)

 

Basudeb Acharia, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing committee on agriculture, emphasizing on the importance of sustainable farming to ensure food security and livelihood security said that  “There is a serious concern on the socioeconomic impacts of GM crops. One cannot label destructive farming as progressive science and force it down the throat of millions.” He further stated that “On the one hand we have seen how these GM crops are leading to monopoly of the companies like Monsanto in the seed sector on the other hand such technologies like herbicide tolerant GM crops will destroy the rural livelihoods dependent on agriculture”

 

The report has been launched in the first week of the parliamentary monsoon session in a bid draw attention to the proposed BRAI (Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India) bill which will be introduced in this session. The bill has not been put in the public domain and once enacted is expected to allow easy approval of GM crops such as Bt brinjal as well as herbicide tolerant GM maize.

The speakers demanded that in the wake of more and more evidences coming out against GM crops, Government of India should immediately stop any kind of release of GM crops, be it for commercialization or field experimentation. They also urged the government to do public consultations on BRAI before it is tabled in the parliament as it is going to have a serious impact on food and farming in the country.

 

END – –

Contact:

Kapil Mishra, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India – kapil.mishra@greenpeace.org
+91 9818066041

Pari Trivedi, Media Officer, Greenpeace India – pari.trivedi@greenpeace.org,
+91 7503893981

Notes to Editor:

1-       Report: Herbicide tolerance and GM crops: Why the world should round up glyphosate, is a report created by Greenpeace and GM Freeze, UK, that  is based on about 200 scientific studies recently published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. It presents the current scientific evidence of the harm caused by glyphosate
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/agriculture/2011/363%20-%20GlyphoReportDEF-LR.pdf

2-      Map – http://www.greenpeace.org/india/Global/india/image/BRAI/Maize%20map.jpg

http://www.greenpeace.org/india/Global/india/image/BRAI/Maize%20table.jpg

3-      http://agricoop.nic.in/TaskForce/tf.htm