2017: Parliamentary Standing Committee Report on GM Crops

Here is the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests on GM crops, presented to the RS Chair on 25th of August. This is A UNANIMOUS REPORT, AND 11 OF THE 31-PARLIAMENTARIANS COMMITTEE ARE FROM THE BJP.

http://164.100.47.5/newcommittee/reports/EnglishCommittees/Committee%20on%20S%20and%20T,%20Env.%20and%20Forests/301.pdf

The main gist of what they are saying is carried in these media reports:

http://www.livemint.com/Politics/2RGPg3LZuIz8n4ZwQbGU7L/Govt-told-to-examine-GM-crops-impact-before-rollout-decisio.html

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/parliamentary-panel-flags-severe-loopholes-in-existing-field-trial-system-of-gm-crops/articleshow/60225365.cms

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/claims-on-bt-cotton-need-to-be-probed-panel/article19562829.ece

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/gm-crops-only-after-biosafety-socio-economic-evaluation/1/1034196.html

What we need is a biosafety authority

What we need is a biosafety authority

The BRAI Bill fails to address concerns surrounding GM crops at a time when opposition to GM is growing
www.livemint.com/Opinion/t2I1lGspz7MIFQ6ixw15bL/What-we-need-is-a-biosafety-authority.html

First Published: Sun, Aug 11 2013. 07 08 PM IST
When Bt cotton was introduced, the biosafety tests conducted before commercialization claimed that contamination is not a major issue. Photo: Mint
When Bt cotton was introduced, the biosafety tests conducted before commercialization claimed that contamination is not a major issue. Photo: Mint
Updated: Sun, Aug 11 2013. 07 08 PM IST
A draft law to create a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) has been tabled in Parliament. If approved, it will replace the existing Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1989 rules and BRAI will replace the genetic engineering appraisal committee (GEAC) as a regulatory body.
The BRAI Bill fails to address the concerns surrounding genetically modified (GM) crops in India at a time when opposition to GM is growing in the country. There are two key assumptions on which the Bill is based: one that modern biotechnologies (read GM) are essential for improving agriculture, and two, their safety can be easily ensured by following certain protocols and be regulated.
Let’s see how true the assumptions are.
Almost 17 years after the introduction of the first GM crop in the world, only four crops—soybean (47%), maize (32%), cotton (15%) and canola (5%)—account for 99% of GM crops under cultivation globally. Only five countries (the US, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India) account for 90% of the total GM cropped area. The rest of the world seems to be improving agriculture even without GM.
In the past 17 years, there have been umpteen reports and research papers that highlight various biosafety problems of GM crops. In India, the first and only GM crop, Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton was introduced in 2001 with the promise that it will reduce farm distress by reducing expenses on pesticides. After 11 years, we still find that 68% of the farmers’ suicides are from four major cotton growing areas. The use of pesticides initially came down due to reduction in bollworm infestation but increased again because of rising sucking pest attacks. There have been several other problems such as skin allergies to agricultural workers during the stage when the bolls burst, and a fall in soil fertility due to the impact on soil microorganisms.
When Bt cotton was introduced, the biosafety tests conducted before commercialization claimed that contamination is not a major issue. But when the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, released its version of Bt cotton, it was found to be contaminated with Mahyco Monsanto’s proprietary trait and had to be withdrawn from the market. The contamination, in hindsight, was inevitable. Given that India is a centre of origin, and a major centre of diversity for important food crops such as rice and brinjal, such contamination risks cannot be simply wished away.
The parliamentary standing committee on GM foods and the technical expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court have both pointed out these problems and have suggested a ban on further field trials and commercialization of GM crops till an improved regulatory system is put in place.
Instead of addressing these issues, the BRAI Bill only dilutes the current regulatory system, overriding the role of state governments in decision-making, and bypassing citizens’ right to information by including a clause on confidentiality of commercial information. India being a signatory to the Nagoya—Kuala Lumpur supplementary protocol on liability and redress is mandated to establish a strong liability and redress mechanism. But the penal clauses for erring in this Bill are extremely weak.
The BRAI Bill in its current format will do more harm than good. We must conceive of an alternative regulatory regime around GM crops with the primary mandate of protecting our health and environment from the risks of modern biotechnology. Such a regime should be based on the precautionary principle and must lay down protocols for independent testing, post-marketing monitoring, and rigorous assessments of long-term health and environmental impact of all GM crops.
Ramanjaneyulu G. V. is an agricultural scientist working with Centre for Sustainable Agriculture. Comments are welcome at otherviews@livemint.com

Hematotoxicity of Bacillus thuringiensis as Spore-crystal Strains Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2Aa in Swiss Albino Mice

The biosafety data submitted by Mahyco on bt cotton also carried similar results…the animal morbidity in AP, Maharashtra after feeding on bt cotton leaves also had similar symptoms….unfortunately indian scientific system never researched upon this.
http://gmoevidence.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/JHTD-1-104.pdf

In conclusion, results showed that the Bt spore-crystals   genetically modified to express individually Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2A can cause some hematological risks to vertebrates, increasing their toxic effects with long-term exposure. Taking into account the increased risk of human and animal  exposures to significant levels of these toxins, especially through diet,our results suggest that further studies are required to clarify the mechanism involved in the hematotoxicity found in mice, and to establish the toxicological risks to non-target organisms,especially mammals, before concluding that these microbiological control agents are safe for mammals

GM food harms pigs: New Research by Judy Carman

A groundbreaking new study [1] shows that pigs were harmed by the consumption of feed containing genetically modified (GM) crops.

GM-fed females had on average a 25% heavier uterus than non-GM-fed females, a possible indicator of disease that requires further investigation. Also, the level of severe inflammation in stomachs was markedly higher in pigs fed on the GM diet. The research results were striking and statistically significant.

Find a clear summary of the study here

Find the full paper here

Lead researcher Dr Judy Carman, adjunct associate professor at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia,[2] said: “Our findings are noteworthy for several reasons. First, we found these results in real on-farm conditions, not in a laboratory, but with the added benefit of strict scientific controls that are not normally present on farms.

Find all the background on this study and on Dr. Judy Carman here: www.gmojudycarman.org

“Second, we used pigs. Pigs with these health problems end up in our food supply. We eat them.

“Third, pigs have a similar digestive system to people, so we need to investigate if people are also getting digestive problems from eating GM crops.

“Fourth, we found these adverse effects when we fed the animals a mixture of crops containing three GM genes and the GM proteins that these genes produce. Yet no food regulator anywhere in the world requires a safety assessment for the possible toxic effects of mixtures. Regulators simply assume that they can’t happen.

“Our results provide clear evidence that regulators need to safety assess GM crops containing mixtures of GM genes, regardless of whether those genes occur in the one GM plant or in a mixture of GM plants eaten in the same meal, even if regulators have already assessed GM plants containing single GM genes in the mixture.”

The new study lends scientific credibility to anecdotal evidence from farmers and veterinarians, who have for some years reported reproductive and digestive problems in pigs fed on a diet containing GM soy and corn.[3]

Iowa-based farmer and crop and livestock advisor Howard Vlieger, one of the coordinators of the study, said: “For as long as GM crops have been in the feed supply, we have seen increasing digestive and reproductive problems in animals. Now it is scientifically documented.

“In my experience, farmers have found increased production costs and escalating antibiotic use when feeding GM crops. In some operations, the livestock death loss is high, and there are unexplained problems including spontaneous abortions, deformities of new-born animals, and an overall listlessness and lack of contentment in the animals.

“In some cases, animals eating GM crops are very aggressive. This is not surprising, given the scale of stomach irritation and inflammation now documented. I have seen no financial benefit to farmers who feed GM crops to their animals.”

Gill Rowlands, a farmer based in Pembrokeshire, Wales who is also a member of the campaign group GM-Free Cymru, said: “This is an animal welfare issue. Responsible farmers and consumers alike do not want animals to suffer. We call for the rapid phase-out of all GMOs from animal feed supplies.”

Claire Robinson of the campaign group GMWatch said: “Several UK supermarkets recently abandoned their GM-free animal feed policies, citing lack of availability of non-GM feed. We call on the public to visit the new citizens’ action website gmoaction.org, where they can quickly and easily send an email to the supermarkets asking them to ensure their suppliers secure certified GM-free animal feed. This will mean placing advance orders for GM-free soy from countries like Brazil.”

Study details

The research was conducted by collaborating investigators from two continents and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Organic Systems. The feeding study lasted more than five months, the normal commercial lifespan for a pig, and was conducted in the US. The pigs were slaughtered at the usual slaughter age of over 5 months, after eating the diets for their entire commercial lifespan.

168 newly-weaned pigs in a commercial piggery were fed either a typical diet incorporating GM soy and corn, or else (in the control group) an equivalent non-GM diet. The pigs were reared under identical housing and feeding conditions. They were slaughtered over 5 months later, at the usual slaughter age, after eating the diets for their entire commercial lifespan. They were then autopsied by qualified veterinarians who worked “blind” – they were not informed which pigs were fed on the GM diet and which were from the control group.

The GMO feed mix was a commonly used mix. The GM and non-GM diets contained the same amount of soy and corn, except that the GM diet contained a mixture of three GM genes and their protein products, while the control (non-GM) diet had equivalent non-GM ingredients. Of the three GM proteins in the GM diet, one made a crop resistant to being sprayed with the herbicide Roundup, while two were insecticides.

Contact:

Claire Robinson, GMWatch, UK: claire@gmwatch.org To phone within UK: 0752 753 6923. To phone outside UK: +44 752 753 6923

Dr Judy Carman, Adelaide, Australia

Email: judycarman@ozemail.com.au

Mr Howard Vlieger, Maurice, Iowa

Email: studentofthesoil@mtcnet.net

Changes in Actinomycetes community structure under the influence of Bt transgenic brinjal crop in a tropical agroecosystem

Amit Kishore SinghMajor Singh and Suresh Kumar Dubey

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BMC Microbiology 2013, 13:122 doi:10.1186/1471-2180-13-122

Published: 29 May 2013

Abstract (provisional)

Background

The global area under brinjal cultivation is expected to be 1.85 million hectare with total fruit production about 32 million metric tons (MTs). Brinjal cultivars are susceptible to a variety of stresses that significantly limit productivity. The most important biotic stress is caused by the Brinjal Fruit and shoot Borer (FSB) forcing farmers to deploy high doses of insecticides; a matter of serious health concern. Therefore, to control the adverse effect of insecticides on the environment including the soil, transgenic technology has emerged as the effective alternative. However, the reports, regarding the nature of interaction of transgenic crops with the native microbial community are inconsistent. The effect of a Bt transgenic brinjal expressing the bio-insecticidal protein (Cry1Ac) on the rhizospheric community of actinomycetes has been assessed and compared with its non-transgenic counterpart.

Results

Significant variation in the organic carbon observed between the crops (non-Bt and Bt brinjal) may be due to changes in root exudates quality and composition mediated by genetic attributes of Bt transgenic brinjal. Real time quantitative PCR indicated significant differences in the actinomycetes- specific 16S rRNA gene copy numbers between the non-Bt (5.62-27.86) x 1011 g-1 dws and Bt brinjal planted soil (5.62-24.04) x 1011 g-1 dws. Phylogenetic analysis indicated 14 and 11, actinomycetes related groups in soil with non-Bt and Bt brinjal crop, respectively. Micrococaceaea and Nocardiodaceae were the dominant groups in pre-vegetation, branching, flowering, maturation and post-harvest stage. However, Promicromonosporaceae, Streptosporangiaceae, Mycobacteriaceae, Geodermatophilaceae, Frankiaceae, Kineosporaceae, Actisymmetaceae and Streptomycetaceae were exclusively detected in a few stages in non-Bt brinjal rhizosphere soil while Nakamurellaceae, Corynebactericeae, Thermomonosporaceae and Pseudonocardiaceae in Bt brinjal counterpart.

Conclusion

Field trails envisage that cultivation of Bt transgenic brinjal had negative effect on organic carbon which might be attributed to genetic modifications in the plant. Changes in the organic carbon also affect the actinomycetes population size and diversity associated with rhizospheric soils of both the crops. Further long-term study is required by taking account the natural cultivar apart from the Bt brinjal and its near-isogenic non-Bt brinjal with particular reference to the effects induced by the Bt transgenic brinjal across different plant growth stages.

The complete article is available as a provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.

Hungry for innovation: pathways from GM crops to agroecology

#GMCrops #Biosafety #AgroEcology

Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation

David  A.   Quist,   Jack  A.   Heinemann,  Anne   I.   Myhr,   Iulie  Aslaksen   and   Silvio   Funtowicz

Hungry for innovation: pathways from GM crops to agroecology Emerging issues | Hungry for innovation: pathways from GM crops to agroecology download

Innovation’s potential to deliver food security and solve other agriculture-related problems is high on the agenda of virtually all nations. This chapter looks at two different examples of food and agricultural innovation: genetically modified (GM) crops and agroecological methods, which illustrate how different innovation strategies affect future agricultural and social options.

GM crops are well suited to high-input monoculture agricultural systems that are highly productive but largely unsustainable in their reliance on external, non-renewable inputs. Intellectual property rights granted for GM crops often close down, rather than open up further innovation potential, and stifle investment into a broader diversity of innovations allowing a greater distribution of their benefits.
Science-based agroecological methods are participatory in nature and designed to fit within the dynamics underpinning the multifunctional role of agriculture in producing food, enhancing biodiversity and ecoystem services, and providing security to communities. They are better suited to agricultural systems that aim to deliver sustainable food security than high external input approaches. They do, however, require a broader range of incentives and supportive frameworks to succeed. Both approaches raise the issue of the governance of innovation within agriculture and more generally within societies.
The chapter explores the consequences of a ‘top-down transfer of technology’ approach in addressing the needs of poor farmers. Here innovation is often framed in terms of economic growth in a competitive global economy, a focus that may conflict with efforts to reduce or reverse environmental damage caused by existing models of agriculture, or even deter investment into socially responsible innovation.
Another option explored is a ‘bottom-up’ approach, using and building upon resources already available: local people, their knowledge, needs, aspirations and indigenous natural resources. The bottom-up approach may also involve the public as a key actor in decisions about the design of food systems, particularly as it relates to food quality, health, and social and environmental sustainability.
Options are presented for how best to answer consumer calls for food quality, sustainability and social equity in a wide sense, while responding to health and environmental concerns and securing livelihoods in local small-scale agriculture. If we fail to address the governance of innovation in food, fibre and fuel production now, then current indications are that we will design agriculture to fail.

Though Bt Brinjal banned, Bt Cotton still reaches Indian mouths

Though Bt Brinjal banned, Bt Cotton still reaches Indian mouths

 DNA | Feb 13, 2013, 05:47AM IST

 http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/GUJ-AHD-though-bt-brinjal-banned-bt-cotton-still-reaches-indian-mouths-4178649-NOR.html

Ahmedabad: The debate over genetically-modified (GM) crops has taken a nasty turn across the globe because a veteran anti-GM activist, Mark Lynas, has switched sides and is now campaigning in favour of the technology.
Indian consumers do not directly consume GM food as the government has not allowed such crops after Bt Brinjal debacle. But as Bt Cotton is present in the country, consumers are passively eating GM food through milk of an animal fed cottonseed meals and food cooked in cottonseed oil. Bt Cotton is not totally pesticide or insecticide-free. All mammals are indirectly vulnerable due to the pesticides used in cotton farming, say scientists.

The debate has gone public in the European Union as the European Commission’s Agriculture and Rural Development is conducting a survey. Noting that genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) are considered incompatible with organic farming, the survey asks participants whether they specifically buy organic products because they are “GMO-free”. It also asks whether consumers would put up with higher prices if it meant the accidental, low-level presence of GMOs in organic products was clearly labelled.

It should also be noted that though the direct use of Bt food is not allowed in the country, consumers are already exposed to their ill-effects indirectly because of the use of Bt cottonseed as edible oil. Of the total cottonseed production, 90% goes into expeller for production of cottonseed edible oil. What is left after the expeller process — the residue — goes as cottonseed meal which is a widely used as feed for animals.

“There is no doubt that use of pesticide has gone down after the use of transgenic variety but it is not completely free from pesticides. The number of sprays used to grow cotton has come down but it has not stopped attacks by sucking pests,” says Dr KR Kranthi of Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR).

Before the introduction of Bt Cotton, the fibre crop was susceptible to 162 varieties of pests and insects. In 1995, 54% of the total consumption of pesticide in the country was in cotton farming. The ratio had come down to 44% in 2001. After the introduction of two varieties of Bt Cotton seeds, the use of pesticide has further come down to 21%.

“Bt cotton does not need pesticides to protect the plant from bollworms pests. Bollworms were the key pests damaging 80% of the cotton losses in the country. Bt variety has an inbuilt mechanism to protect the plant from these pests. However, the problem of sucking pests is still there,” says agriculture scientist, Dr TL Dholaria.

According to various research studies, the total number of pesticide spray required for cotton has declined from 15 to 9 per crop season earlier.

“The number of spray needed has declined. It has also resulted in lowering the cost of farming. However, no one can claim that cotton farming has become completely pesticide free as farmers must continue to spray pesticide to control sucking pests,” said Dr Kranthi.

If one looks at the value chain of cotton farming, cotton seed is used for production of edible oil as well as cattle feed. Cottonseed is most widely used in cattle feed. These animals produce milk meant for human consumption. Consumption of cottonseed edible oil has also increased in the country.

“We all use milk and edible oil which may have some pesticides in it. As of now, we do not know the effects of this indirect consumption. However, we are also exposed to the consumption of hazardous chemicals used in manufacture of pesticides,” said Dr Dholaria.

“Insecticide costs as a proportion of total costs declined perceptibly in the post-Bt Cotton period, from 8.30% in 1996 to about 5.86% in 2008,” a study by Bhartiya Krishak Samaj and Council for Social Development concludes.