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.

Meeting of Scientific Advisory Council of PM on Biotechnology and Agriculture

 With the growing amount of evidences on the problems of GM crops and the CBD  talking about liability and redress in case of damage….the meetinicg of scientific committee supports GM crops
Press Information Bureau
Government of India
Ministry of Science & Technology
09-October-2012 17:52 IST
Meeting of Scientific Advisory Council of PM on Biotechnology and Agriculture

Scientific and technological breakthroughs of a transformational nature relevant to economic and social development happen only once in a while. The emergence of such technologies evokes responses according to a pattern: initial excitement, followed by strong expression of concern and then emergence of a balanced perspective. Transformational technologies in the past, such as steam engine, electricity and other sources of energy, vaccines & immunization and internet have all followed this trend. Molecular biology and biotechnologies developed through major investments in science and technology globally have a transformational potential for benefitting agriculture and health and it is time now to evolve a balanced perspective.

The members of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) to the Prime Minister deliberated on the important issue of application of biotechnology for social and economic advancement of the country particularly in the area of agriculture. There are uncertainties in some segments of society that need to be objectively and fairly addressed. The members of the SAC are concerned that a science informed, evidence based approach is lacking in the current debate on biotechnologies for agriculture. There are some key aspects that merit consideration.

Do we need new technologies for agriculture? Indian agriculture productivity is seen by the less discerning to be adequate for today’s needs but what is ignored is that vast numbers of our countrymen are unable to consume the required food and nutrients because of difficult access. As our current efforts to address the issue of access bear fruit, the need for food and quality nutrients’ will grow rapidly. Land availability and quality, water, low productivity, drought and salinity, biotic stresses, post harvest losses are all serious concerns that will endanger our food and nutrition security with potentially serious additional affects as a result of climate change. Accordingly, strategies for agriculture in future must be based on higher yields, concomitant with reduction in resource inputs. This will require a judicious blend of traditional breeding and new technologies, non-transgenic & transgenic. This situation in developed countries such as in Europe; quite in contrast, as there is no dearth of food and a small proportion of people engage in agriculture.

The assessment of safety and efficacy of biotechnology products has to be evaluated through an appropriate regulatory system on a case by case basis, as for drugs and vaccines. In general, endorsement or opposition to a generic technology is scientifically not rational and safety and efficacy must be judged on product basis. The need for an appropriate regulatory mechanism in the country has been rightly emphasized in the Swaminathan Committee Report. The existing system based on RCGM and GEAC have given us large experience and its operational guidelines are generally sound and as per the best international norms such as guidelines by OECD. The effort now should be on effective implementation. Regulatory systems evolve with experience and review based redesign. Little is served by focusing on the flaws only.

The proposed Bill for establishment of a national Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI), 2012 is with the Parliament, it deserves to be examined on a priority basis. The key characteristics of effective regulatory system hardly need reiteration; sound scientific expertise within the organization and through independent panels, access to scientific tools for assessment of safety and efficacy and processes that ensure transparency, freedom from conflict and competence. This can only be delivered by a robust and independent system. The focus of the regulatory authority has to be on assessment of safety and efficacy. Commercialization and deployment of agriculture biotechnology products requires expertise in social and economic evaluation and post-deployment surveillance. This requires effective inputs of central and state agriculture ministries.

The experience with the deployment of Genetically Modified (GM) crops worldwide is growing at a steady pace and should be taken into consideration. GM crops of maize, soya, potato, sugar beet, canola, cotton and alfalfa and grown across the globe covering 160 million hectares by 2011. While each concern must be addressed through scientific approach, we believe the performance of GM crops released through oversight by regulators has been very positive. This view has been endorsed by major scientific bodies of the world. This is clearly true of our own experience with introduction of Bt Cotton in India wherein the benefits have been major. It is our view that biotechnology research and development should target important national needs, products should be developed under careful regulatory oversight and deployed in a way that access and affordability to entire farming community, particularly small and marginal farmers, is ensured.

There are other relevant issues that merit attention. Some of the opposition to GM crops in the country results from fear of domination by multinational companies. One way to address this concern is to invigorate and further strengthen the relevant scientific capacities of our institutions in public sector, universities and Indian companies. The current debate, unfortunately, is demoralizing and isolating our Scientists in the sector whose skills have been built with painstaking effort and large investment. The policy confusion will also keep the brightest away from this field of research. Our Scientists are fully aware of the social realities in this country and have widely endorsed the judicious adoption of traditional breeding with biotechnologies, non-transgenic and transgenic, as appropriate. There is concern about the costs at which seed is available to our farmers, particularly the poor farmers. This requires an appropriate public policy and action. The industry must shoulder responsibility by ensuring this through constructive dialogue with the government. Market mechanisms alone will not be sufficient.

The precautionary approach is inherently sound but it must be applied through a science based safety assessment and social and economic analysis for deployment. We make the following recommendation for kind consideration:-

1) The current regulatory system for recombinant products administered under Rules (1989) of EPA Act, 1986 should be reformed till BRAI is in place.

(i) RCGM and GEAC should be the sole authority for biosafety and bio-efficacy assessment of all recombinant products. Decision on commercial use of biotechnology produced crops should be taken by the Agriculture Ministries/Department of Central and State Governments as per existing policies and regulations on crops. For medical products Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India would approve commercialization as of now.

(ii) High Level dialogue with State governments to streamline clearances for conduct of multi-location “Confined field trials” – a scientific pre-requite in all countries for meaningful decision making on approvals or otherwise.

(iii) A Biotechnology Regulatory Secretariat with high level of scientific and technical trained manpower should be established to support RCGM and GEAC.

(iv) GEAC and RCGM should have full time Chairpersons. The Chairman of GEAC, may be of Special Secretary Status for 3 year period and RCGM one level lower. Chairman of RCGM be the Co-Chair in GEAC and not the expert nominee of Department of Biotechnology. For greater synergy at least three members should be common between RCGM and GEAC.

(v) The public needs to be informed of every decision.

2) The Bill pending with Parliament, i.e. BRAI 2012, should be debated with open mind. It would be appropriate if administrative organization could be Cabinet Secretariat because of the involvement of multiple ministries. The Bill when examined by appropriate parliament committee would be opened up for wider debate and discussions for shaping the draft legislation into a model regulatory framework.

3) The capacity for regulatory testing of new technologies in agriculture in public sector laboratories should be strengthened, supplemented with a system of notification and accreditation. This can be initiated even while the BRAI becomes a reality.

4) Research and infrastructure of state agriculture universities and colleges be strengthened for addressing the locations- specific needs of the states and regions and generate expertise.

5) Priority should be given to strengthen State Government departments and laboratories dealing with agriculture inputs, including GM or non GM seeds, extension and education of farmers through major programmes and investments for capacity building tailor made to the needs of the region.

MC/sk http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=88271

Relief as Parties to the Biosafety Protocol adopt key decisions: TWN

 

Hyderabad, 9 October (Lim Li Ching and Doreen Stabinsky) – There was a palpable sigh of relief as Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety closed their sixth meeting following the adoption of key decisions.

After difficult negotiations, key decisions were adopted on socio-economic considerations and risk assessment. While these may have been weaker than what many Parties would have liked, they advance the work of the Protocol on these issues.

The sixth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity serving as the Meeting of the Parties (COP-MOP6) to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was held in Hyderabad, India from 1st to 5th October 2012.

[The Cartagena Protocol is a protocol under the Convention on Biological Diversity and is the only international treaty specifically regulating genetically modified organisms, or living modified organisms (LMOs) as they are known under the Protocol.]

The decision on socio-economic considerations establishes an Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) to develop conceptual clarity on the issue. The AHTEG will submit a report to COP-MOP7 in 2014, with a view to enabling Parties to the Cartagena Protocol to deliberate and decide upon appropriate further steps towards the development of guidance for Parties on socio-economic considerations.

The decision on risk assessment commends the progress made on the Guidance of Risk Assessment of Living Modified Organisms, which has been developed and improved following numerous rounds of peer review, over the last four years by an open-ended online forum on risk assessment and the AHTEG on Risk Assessment and Risk Management. However, it stopped short of endorsing or commending the Guidance itself. Nonetheless, the decision also extends the existing online forum and establishes a new AHTEG that will serve until COP-MOP7, to conduct further work related to risk assessment.

Other important decisions were also taken on Article 17 (unintentional transboundary movements and emergency measures), which has links to the risk assessment discussions.

Socio-economic considerations

The issue of socio-economic considerations was one of the most controversial issues during the negotiations of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Developing countries wanted to preserve their right to take socio-economic considerations into account when taking a decision on imports of LMOs. Some developed countries opposed this, and did not view the issue as important, giving it low priority.

The compromise is contained in Article 26 of the Cartagena Protocol. Article 26.1 in particular states that “Parties may take into account, consistent with their international obligations, socio-economic considerations arising from the impact of LMOs on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity to indigenous and local communities, in reaching a decision on import under the Protocol or under its domestic measures to implement the Protocol”.

At COP-MOP5 in 2010, attempts by developing countries to have a decision that established an AHTEG on socio-economic considerations were thwarted. Instead, COP-MOP5 only called for an online forum to discuss the issues, supplemented by online regional conferences and a workshop on capacity building for research and information exchange on socio-economic impacts of LMOs, which was held in New Delhi, India in November 2011. This was the first time intersessional work (between COP-MOP sessions) on socio-economic considerations was conducted under the Cartagena Protocol.

Twelve years after the Cartagena Protocol was adopted in 2000, Parties have finally adopted a decision at COP-MOP6 that advances the issue of socio-economic considerations further.

A principal difference between Parties during the negotiations in Hyderabad was whether or not to set up an AHTEG to carry out further work towards developing guidance on taking into account socio-economic considerations in the context of national decision-making. Parties such as Bolivia, Mexico and Norway were eager to establish the AHTEG and to start substantive work, given the urgency of work needed and in light of already documented adverse socio-economic impacts in some countries growing genetically engineered crops.

Several Parties, notably Paraguay, were fundamentally opposed to the AHTEG as the way to move forward. A number of Parties, including Japan, were concerned about the budgetary implications of an AHTEG.

Other Parties, such as the European Union (EU), Japan and Paraguay, noted the need to proceed in a stepwise manner, rather than immediately initiate development of guidance as the next step. They noted the need for “conceptual clarity” on what constituted socio-economic considerations, as the first step to be taken.

The work at COP-MOP6 to develop a decision on socio-economic considerations was taken into a Contact Group, co-chaired by Gurdial Singh Nijar of Malaysia and Ruben Dekker of the Netherlands. The Contact Group met three times and steady progress was made in outlining what work was necessary in the next intersessional period and which entities would appropriately carry out the work.

The Contact Group concluded with an outline for a multi-step process. First, the Executive Secretary of the Convention (and its Cartagena Protocol) would be requested to compile, take stock of, and review information on socio-economic considerations arising from the impact of LMOs on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, especially with regard to the value of biological diversity to indigenous and local communities. The stocktaking exercise would include a review of existing institutional frameworks, capacity-building activities, existing expertise and experience, and other policy initiatives concerning social and economic impact assessments, in order to develop a global overview.

Online discussion groups and regional online real-time conferences would then be established to facilitate and synthesize the exchange of views among Parties, other governments, relevant organizations and indigenous and local communities.

Finally, an AHTEG would be established to examine the outcomes of the stocktaking exercise and online forums, to develop conceptual clarity on socio-economic considerations. The report of the work of the AHTEG would be submitted to COP-MOP7 for further deliberation and a decision on possible next steps towards developing guidance on taking socio-economic considerations into account in national decision-making on imports of LMOs.

Because of the reluctance of some Parties to explicitly mention the development of guidance, the decision does not do so, but instead relates the next steps to Operational Objective 1.7 of the Strategic Plan of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety for the period 2011-2020, and its “outcomes”. Operational Objective 1.7 is “to, on the basis of research and information exchange, provide relevant guidance on socio-economic considerations that may be taken into account in reaching decisions on the import of living modified organisms.”

This delicate compromise was then taken forward to Working Group 1 for adoption. One bracket remained, as Japan had raised its concern that Parties, other Governments (that are not Parties) and relevant organizations should not be “urged’ to make funds available to organize a meeting of the AHTEG, but rather be “encouraged” or “invited” to do so. Co-Chair Nijar had wryly observed that “pray” might be a better verb to use. The final decision “encourages” the making available of funds for the AHTEG meeting.

At the Working Group discussion, the governments of Norway and South Korea announced they would provide funding to enable the AHTEG on socioeconomic considerations to meet and carry out its work, alleviating somewhat the concerns of Japan. Furthermore, at the closing plenary, Bolivia, which had been championing the issue, made the offer to host the meeting of the AHTEG on socio-economic considerations, demonstrating its commitment to furthering the work on the issue.

Risk assessment and risk management

Risk assessment and risk management are at the heart of the Cartagena Protocol. Annex III of the Protocol provides a general framework for environmental risk assessment of LMOs. However, Parties have long felt that further guidance is necessary. At COP-MOP4 in 2008, Parties established an AHTEG on Risk Assessment and Risk Management to develop further guidance on specific aspects of risk assessment.

Over the four years since then, the AHTEG, with the assistance of an open-ended online forum, has developed a package of guidance material – the Guidance on Risk Assessment of Living Modified Organisms – which includes the ‘Roadmap’ on steps to take when conducting a risk assessment, along with guidance on living modified (LM) abiotic stress-tolerant plants, LM plants with stacked genes and LM mosquitoes. These initial documents were welcomed by Parties to the Protocol at COP-MOP5 and have benefited from numerous rounds of feedback, peer review and testing. The AHTEG then developed new guidance on LM trees and monitoring of LMOs released into the environment, themselves subject to several rounds of review.

Nonetheless, when Parties came to discuss the issue at COP-MOP6, resistance to endorsing the Guidance and continuing the work of the AHTEG was strong. While all Parties acknowledged the improvements made to the Guidance since COP-MOP5, and that the Guidance was a living document that needed continuous updating and would benefit from testing at the national and regional levels, they disagreed on several fundamental points.

Given the diverging opinions, a Contact Group, co-chaired by Helmut Gaugitsch from Austria and Eliana Fontes from Brazil, was established. The Contact Group met twice during the week.

Discussion first pivoted on whether or not the Guidance should be “endorsed” by COP-MOP6. A seeming conundrum arose, with some Parties like the Philippines, New Zealand, Mexico, Paraguay, Brazil and Japan claiming that since the Guidance was still to be tested, it was incomplete and should not be endorsed. Other Parties such as Bolivia, Norway, Moldova speaking on behalf of the Central and Eastern European (CEE) group, the EU speaking on behalf of its 27 Member States and Croatia, Peru and China wanted to endorse the Guidance so that it could then be used and tested at the national and regional levels.

Another major point of contention was whether or not the AHTEG, established by COP-MOP4 in 2008, should continue, and if so, in what composition, with what mandate and for how long. While there was universal agreement with the AHTEG playing a role in the testing of the Guidance, some Parties were reluctant to agree to the integration of the Guidance with the training manual on risk assessment produced by the Secretariat, while others were adamantly against assigning the AHTEG the task of developing guidance on new topics of risk assessment and risk management.

The eventual compromise weakened the language on integrating the Guidance and the training manual, to aligning them in a coherent and complementary manner. This was further qualified by the phrase “with the clear understanding that the Guidance is still being tested”.

On the issue of guidance on new topics of risk assessment and risk management, the AHTEG is only to “consider” its development. Moreover, the related expected outcome was only a recommendation on how to proceed with respect to the development of further guidance on specific topics of risk assessment, and not guidance in itself, even though several Parties had proposed that the AHTEG take up the development of guidance on at least one new topic.

Given the strong opposition, the final decision adopted by COP-MOP6 was a carefully balanced compromise package. It commends the progress made on the Guidance of Risk Assessment of Living Modified Organisms, but stopped short of endorsing or commending the Guidance itself. However, the decision also extends the open-ended online forum on risk assessment and establishes a new AHTEG, which should have a balance of current and new members, to serve until COP-MOP7.

The terms of reference of the open-ended online forum and new AHTEG on Risk Assessment and Risk Management sets out three tasks, in order of priority: (a) to provide input to assist in the structuring and focusing of the process of testing the guidance, and in the analysis of the results gathered from the testing; (b) to coordinate the development of a package that aligns the Guidance with the training manual in a coherent and complementary manner and (c) to consider the development of guidance on new topics of risk assessment and risk management, based on the Parties’ needs, and their experiences and knowledge concerning risk assessment.

The Working Group 2 session that adopted the text for forwarding to COP-MOP6 ended on Thursday night (4 October) at about 10.30pm. It was a tense session, with a near unraveling of the compromise package. Moldova had proposed the addition of the word “and” in operational paragraph 1, so that the sentence would read, “…commends the progress made on and the resulting Guidance on Risk Assessment of Living Modified Organisms”. This addition would thus commend both the progress made on the Guidance, and the Guidance itself. (Several Parties did not want to commend the Guidance as such.)

Brazil immediately responded that if anyone started to open up text it would also make its additions and changes to the compromise package. Moldova eventually withdrew its suggestion, but only after stressing how they had wanted to strongly endorse the Guidance and this was really a compromise for them.

Bolivia, however, added to paragraph 3(c) of the terms of reference of the AHTEG, a reference to Operational Objectives 1.3 and 1.4 of the Strategic Plan of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and its outcomes. Operational Objective 1.3 relates to risk assessment and risk management and its outcome is guidance on risk assessment and risk management. Operational objective 1.4 relates to LMOs or traits that may have adverse effects, with outcomes spelled out as modalities to identify these LMOs, for which the related indicator is guidance on such LMOs.

This therefore clearly ties the expected outcome of the AHTEG on a recommendation on how to proceed with respect to the development of further guidance, with the relevant outcomes of the Strategic Plan that are in effect, new guidance. This addition will help the AHTEG in its deliberations to proceed on the development of new guidance.

The compromise package on risk assessment was thereafter adopted by the Working Group and eventually by the plenary, with no further changes.

Unintentional transboundary movements

The objective of the Cartagena Protocol is to contribute to ensuring an adequate level of protection in the field of safe transfer, handling and use of LMOs, specifically focusing on transboundary movements. Central to ensuring this protection are both knowing the risks of the LMO in the receiving environment, through a risk assessment, and the advance informed agreement of the Parties of import to accept or reject those risks in their territory and design appropriate risk management procedures in the case of import.

Parties continued in Hyderabad with discussions over the implementation of an important provision of the Protocol related to transboundary movement: Article 17 on Unintentional Transboundary Movements and Emergency Measures.

As unintentional transboundary movements circumvent the central mechanisms for ensuring an adequate level of protection – a risk assessment in the receiving environment and advance informed agreement for importation in light of these risks – consideration of how to prevent such movements is critical for achieving the objective of the Protocol. Parties were guided in their consideration of Article 17 by the operational objective for this work outlined in the current Strategic Plan, which requires Parties to develop tools and guidance that facilitate the implementation of Protocol provisions. The outcome envisaged in the Strategic Plan is guidance to assist Parties to detect and take measures to respond to unintentional releases of living modified organisms.

Japan contributed to the consideration of the agenda item with a brief intervention on its experience in 2011 with unintentional transboundary movements, specifically with the identification of illegal papaya growing in the country from seeds imported from Taiwan. They noted that the more information that is provided in a timely manner, the less mitigation cost an importing country has to take. They noted their position that while existing guidance in the form of decisions and the risk assessment guidance are useful, it is not sufficient to address or prevent unintentional transboundary movements, and they suggested that actual procedures needed to be developed.

Discussion continued among the rest of the Parties as to whether new guidance was needed or whether existing guidance in relevant decisions, rules and guidelines for implementing Article 17 was adequate. The Republic of Korea agreed with Japan that guidelines were needed for emergency measures. Several developing countries, including Jordan, Uganda, Malaysia and Tunisia emphasized that capacity was crucial in order to both detect and respond to unintentional transboundary movements.

Another point of discussion linked with negotiations over the AHTEG on risk assessment, and whether or not the existing Guidance on Risk Assessment of Living Modified Organisms developed by the AHTEG should be referenced in the decision. Paraguay was opposed to the reference. This opposition was overcome after consultations. Paraguay eventually agreed to the reference to the Guidance following the insertion of a preambular paragraph noting that the Guidance is not prescriptive and does not impose any obligations on Parties. This language was part of the compromise package agreed in the decision on risk assessment.

The final decision reflects recognition that the ability to detect unintentional transboundary movements was an important step in prevention and response to such movements, and invited cooperation in building capacity, transferring technology and exchanging information necessary to detect and response to unintentional transboundary movements. The issue will be further considered at COP-MOP7, with a consideration of “challenges and experiences relating to the implementation of Article 17 or the Protocol and on the scope and elements of possible guidance or tools that may facilitate appropriate responses” to unintentional transboundary movements.

It was thus with bated breath that the two key decisions on socio-economic considerations and risk assessment were adopted by COP-MOP6, with fears that the delicate balance achieved could be unraveled at any point. Together with the decision on unintentional transboundary movement, these place great importance on the intersessional period over the next two years in advancing these issues, with a heavy burden put on COP-MOP7 to make the right choices for biosafety

Pro, anti- groups spar over safety of GM corn

HYDERABAD, OCTOBER 8:

K.V. KURMANATH

A few tiny rats have become the centre of a hot discussion in the global scientific community about the safety of genetically modified corn.

It all started when a group of French scientists published a study last month in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal that suggested that rats fed with GMOs die earlier and suffer from cancer more often than the others.

This triggered vociferous protests and opposition from pro-GM groups and scientists. This row, in fact, spilled over to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) here. While the pro-GM camp is distributing a document to disprove the claims of the French study, the team that conducted the study strongly defended the outcome of their study.

The study titled Long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and A Roundup-tolerant GM maize found tumors in rats fed with GM corn. Roundup is a seed technology that gives the crop genetic strength to withstand herbicide used to kill weeds.

“The new research took the form of a two-year feeding trial on 200 rats monitored for outcomes against more than 100 parameters. The results, which are of serious concern, included increased and more rapid mortality, coupled with hormonal non-linear and sex-related effects. Females developed significant and numerous mammary tumours, pituitary and kidney problems. Males died mostly from severe hepatorenal chronic deficiencies,” the French research team that conducted the two-year study, said.

The pro-GM Adriana Brondani, who is Executive Director of the Brazilian Council for Biotechnology Information, felt that besides technical errors, there is evidence of an ideological bias in the conclusions of the study. “Some of the scientists involved in the research have a clear history of militancy against GM products,” she said.

The pro-GMO document quoted Tom Sanders, who is the Head of Nutrition Research at Kings College in London. It argued that the strain of mice used by the French team is prone to developing tumors by aging, especially when given unlimited food or maize contaminated by a common fungus that causes hormonal imbalance.

Robin Mesnage, who is part of the research team, told Business Line that they had previously evidenced signs of toxicity in the liver and kidneys of rats fed GMO in Monsanto experiments. “We have decided to repeat the experiment, and to go forward with a longer test with additional measurements. We were surprised by tumorigenic effects from the fourth month, which led us to go up to the whole life of the rats (two years),” he said.

“We used rats in the research, and they are talking about mice,” he said, wondering whether the opposite camp had ever read the article in full.

ABLE-AG response

Meanwhile, the Association of Biotech-Led Enterprises has said everyone involved in agri biotech, including academia and industry, are “deeply perturbed by the fallacious ideas being propagated by such studies.”

Quoting the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), it said that an initial review (of the research) found that the design, reporting and analysis of the study, as outlined in the paper, are inadequate.

kurmanath.kanchi@thehindu.co.in

Asian Biotechnology Development Review: special issue on biosafety

The special issue of Asian Biotechnology and Development Review (ABDR)
was formally released yesterday in a side event of the MOP. This issue
has six articles and two book reviews.

Asian Biotechnology and Development Review (ABDR)
Vol. 14 No. 3 November 2012 ISSN: 0972-7566

Socio-economic Considerations under the Cartagena
Protocol………………….………………. 1
on Biosafety: Insights for Effective Implementation
Georgina Catacora-Vargas
Socio-economic Aspects in Decision-Making in the Context of the
…………………………..19
Biosafety Protocol: Malaysia’s Experience and Case Studies
Letchumanan Ramatha and Johnny Andrew
Multiple Meanings, One Objective: The Case of Biotechnology
………………………………31
Policy Convergence in Africa
Julius T. Mugwagwa
Socioeconomics, Biosafety, and Sustainable Development
………………………………………49
Frederic Perron-Welch
Governance of Biotechnology in Africa: The Challenge of
……………………………………..71
Reconciling Interdependencies and Differences
Julius Mugwagwa and Diran Makinde
Socio-economic Considerations and LMOs:
…………………………………………………………..85
The Case for an Appropriate and Integrated Framework
Sachin Chaturvedi, Krishna Ravi Srinivas and Pallavi Singh

Book Reviews …………………………………………………………………………………………………….99

It can be downloaded from

http://ris.org.in/images/RIS_images/pdf/ABDR%20November%202012.pdf

6th Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

1-5 October 2012 
Hyderabad, India

Report of COP-MOP5: Biosafety Protocol Steps Forward
COP-MOP5 met in Nagoya, Japan from 11-15 October 2010. This is a TWN report on the meeting’s outcomes.
Lim Li Lin, Third World Network and Doreen Stabinsky, College of the Atlantic
The bi-annual meeting of Parties to the UN Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety ended in Nagoya on Friday, 15 October 2010 with a major advance in international law. The meeting saw the adoption of a new environmental treaty – the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
A number of significant Decisions of the 5th Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (COP-MOP5) to the Cartagena Protocol were also adopted. A Strategic Plan for the next ten years (2011-2020) and its multi-year programme of work for the next five years (2012-2016) lay out a plan and vision for its implementation. Key Decisions that take forward issues at the heart of the debate over biosafety – on risk assessment and socio-economic impacts – were also adopted.
[The Cartagena Protocol deals with living modified organisms (LMOs) 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”. The Cartagena Protocol uses the term “living modified organisms” for what is commonly known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The parent treaty of the Cartagena Protocol is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which will hold its 11th Conference of the Parties in Hyderabad, 8-19 October 2012.]
Liability and redress
The Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress is a supplementary Protocol to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Negotiations of the Supplementary Protocol took more than six years, over ten negotiating sessions, and other preparatory meetings. However, having a substantive international liability and redress regime to address damage resulting from LMOs is actually ten years overdue.
When the Cartagena Protocol was adopted in January 2000 in Montreal, developing countries had actually wanted to have substantive provisions on liability and redress included in the Cartagena Protocol itself. During the Cartagena Protocol negotiations, many civil society observers and developing country delegates supported the “No liability, no Protocol” campaign.
However, liability and redress issues proved too contentious to resolve, and the compromise was to negotiate liability and redress rules at a later stage, after the entry into force of the Cartagena Protocol. This process began in earnest in 2005.
The name of the Supplementary Protocol reflects the contribution of two countries to the process: Nagoya, Japan where the negotiations of the Supplementary Protocol were completed and the Supplementary Protocol adopted; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where the first COP-MOP was held in 2004 where the mandate of the first negotiating group was adopted, and where two negotiating meetings were held (and were supposed to be completed).
It was also Malaysia, during the negotiations of the CBD, that had introduced the biosafety issue to ensure that conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity would not be threatened by LMOs.
The negotiations were difficult and were heavily opposed by those with an interest in the production and export of LMOs – the biotechnology industry, biotechnology scientists and non-Parties to the Cartagena Protocol – who had also actively worked to water down the Cartagena Protocol and block the negotiations.
Developing countries and some developed countries like Norway on the other hand, had always maintained that an international regime to deal with damage caused by LMOs was necessary because of the unique risks of LMOs and their transboundary nature, and in order to ensure that those responsible would be held liable. This is necessary to prevent damage to biological diversity, the environment and people, particularly in poor countries. In cases where damage does occur, a liability regime should ensure that financial resources are made available to enable or compensate for necessary measures to redress the damage.
At times, it appeared that there would be no agreement on the Supplementary Protocol. In particular, the issue of the nature of the liability regime had been very difficult to resolve. Most developing countries wanted to have a binding international regime that would set substantive rules on civil liability whereby victims of damage from LMOs can turn to national courts for redress.
Instead, the Supplementary Protocol largely takes an “administrative approach” whereby responses measures are required of the operator (person or entity in control of the LMO) or the competent authority if the operator is unable to take response measures. This would cover situations where damage has already occurred, or when there is a sufficient likelihood that damage will result if timely response measures are not taken.
However, countries can still provide for civil liability in their domestic law and the first review of the Supplementary Protocol (five years after its entry into force) will assess the effectiveness of domestic civil liability regimes. This could trigger further work on an international civil liability regime.
Much has been left to countries to determine and implement at the national level. This reflects the lack of consensus of countries in the negotiations. The process to truly ensure that there is justice when damage to people and the environment occurs is still a long and winding road.
Safe or un-safe?
One of the main dynamics influencing the negotiations in Nagoya was the political rift between those countries that consider that the Cartagena Protocol should be used to prevent damage arising from the risks that LMOs pose to biological diversity and human health and those countries that attempt to downplay those risks because they are, or plan to be, exporters of LMOs and products thereof.
This split was quite evident in discussions on the Strategic Plan, risk assessment and risk management, and capacity building on socio-economic issues. Discussions on the latter two revolved around the establishment or continuation of technical expert groups that would further consider risks of LMOs and provide guidance to Parties on addressing those risks.
Risk assessment and risk management
COP-MOP5 continued and built on work on risk assessment and risk management initiated by COP-MOP4 (held in Bonn in 2008), where Parties established an ad hoc technical expert group (AHTEG) on risk assessment and risk management to: a) develop a “roadmap” on the necessary steps to conduct a risk assessment, b) consider needs for specific guidance documents for different types of LMOs and lay out a plan for developing those guidance documents, and c) develop modalities for producing further guidance documents and testing the roadmap.
The AHTEG met twice during the intersessional period, between Bonn and Nagoya. At COP-MOP5, Parties had before them several products developed by the AHTEG: the roadmap, as well as three guidance documents for conducting risk assessments of different types of LMOs: LM mosquitoes, LM crops with stacked traits, and LM crops engineered for abiotic stress tolerance.
Parties at COP-MOP5 were to consider these results of the AHTEG and determine next steps on risk assessment and risk management under the Cartagena Protocol.
Early in the discussions, divisions emerged between Parties that wished to continue the AHTEG and other Parties that were not happy with the outcomes of the AHTEG process. Conflict emerged on what to do with the roadmap and the guidance documents, on the current membership of the AHTEG, and on the terms of reference for the continued work of the group.
Several developing country Parties led the critique of the outcomes of the current AHTEG. Brazil, India, the Philippines, Paraguay and Mexico emerged at this meeting as strong deniers of the risks posed by LMOs, and either critiqued the composition of the AHTEG or stressed that the AHTEG outcomes should be further reviewed and ‘validated’. Other non-Parties to the Cartagena Protocol such as the United States also expressed their dissatisfaction with the AHTEG outcomes.
After it became clear that there was wide support (from the African Group and many other developing country Parties, as well as developed country Parties such as the European Union and Norway) for continuation of the current AHTEG, the countries that were not happy with the AHTEG and its outcomes fought for its expansion to include persons “with hands-on experience” in risk assessment and risk management, as well as language in its revised terms of reference referring to “peer review” of the roadmap and guidance documents.
A long discussion ensued on whether or not to retain the word “peer” in front of “review,” which was concluded when the Chair replaced the word “peer” with “scientific.” The final COP-MOP Decision provides for the continuing review and testing of the roadmap and guidance documents by the AHTEG, with a view to develop a revised version.
Also during the debate on the issue of risk assessment and risk management, Parties considered modalities to implement two separate Cartagena Protocol provisions regarding identification of LMOs that may and LMOs that are not likely to have adverse impacts on biological diversity.
On the topic of identifying LMOs that are not likely to have adverse impacts on biological diversity, many countries noted that risk assessments must be conducted on a case-by-case basis, and this would preclude any a priori determination of LMOs not likely to cause adverse effects.
On the topic of identification of LMOs that may have adverse impacts, Parties were requested to submit to the Biosafety Clearing-House decisions and risk assessments where potential adverse effects have been identified, to be compiled by the Secretariat and considered at the next COP-MOP.
Socio-economic considerations
Under the agenda item on capacity building, Parties considered recommendations from the sixth Coordination Meeting for Governments and Organizations Implementing or Funding Biosafety Capacity-Building Activities regarding capacity building needs for the assessment of socio-economic impacts of LMOs.
The Coordination Meeting had identified lack of capacity as one of the main reasons preventing countries from taking socio-economic impacts into consideration in their decision-making. Socio-economic impact assessment needs identified by a survey conducted by the Secretariat/UNEP-GEF (UN Environment Programme-Global Environment Facility) included food security, coexistence of LMOs with conventional and organic agriculture, impact on indigenous and local communities, and Farmers’ Rights (e.g., control of seeds).
To address these capacity building needs, the Coordination Meeting recommended to the COP-MOP to establish an expert group on socio-economic considerations to, inter alia, develop criteria and guidance to assist Parties in determining which socio-economic considerations to include in their decision-making.
During the COP-MOP discussions on the topic, a split emerged over whether an expert group was necessary at this time. While the African Group and Bolivia were strongly in favor of convening an expert group, the EU, supported by several other countries, considered that it was premature for an expert group to develop guidance on taking socio-economic considerations into account during decision-making, or that an expert group was not the appropriate means to address the topic. Budgetary constraints were also considered in the deliberations.
Negotiations on this item stretched into the final plenary, with an informal group tasked to resolve the issue over whether or not an expert group would be convened. Finally, the compromise was to conduct online forums and hold a workshop on socio-economic considerations, with the results to be forwarded to COP-MOP6 for further consideration. The Norwegian government offered to support the workshop with a $75,000 contribution.
Strategic Plan
The Strategic Plan for the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol sets out five focal areas: facilitating the establishment and further development of effective biosafety systems for the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol; capacity building; compliance and review; information sharing; and outreach and cooperation.
Under the first focal area, Mexico had wanted LMOs that are not likely to have adverse impacts on biological diversity to be included. This was opposed by Peru, Norway and the EU, and was eventually dropped.
On the issue of scientific and technical advice, the EU opposed provisions on mechanisms for providing scientific and technical advice in the Strategic Plan and the multi-year programme of work. These provisions were deleted.
The issue of socio-economic considerations also reared its head in these discussions. The EU did not want an emphasis on socio-economic guidance or guidelines for Parties in reaching decisions on imports, but rather on research and information exchange. They were strongly opposed by the African Group that wanted a focus on how Parties can take into account socio-economic consideration in their decision-making.
The final language strikes a compromise – “To, on the basis of research and information exchange, provide relevant guidance on socio-economic considerations that may be taken into account in reaching decisions on the import of LMOs”. This is further qualified with the reference to “peer reviewed research” relevant to socio-economic considerations.
[However, in Appendix C of Annex III ‘Consolidated modus operandi of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA)’ of Decision VIII/10 on the ‘Operations of the Convention’, the Conference of the Parties to the CBD has adopted a Decision that sets out the modalities/activities of “peer review”: “1. Selected reviewers; 2. A wider audience including Parties, other Governments, SBSTTA focal points, experts nominated by Parties, organizations and indigenous and local communities and/or other conventions and their focal points.”]
Finances and resources
COP-MOP5 saw a difficult debate on the issue of the financial mechanism and resources, with many developing countries lamenting the lack of support for implementation of biosafety measures at the national level. Many developing countries called for the establishment of a special biosafety fund within the GEF, to allow for funding of biosafety projects outside the new GEF System for Transparent Allocation of Resources (STAR).
However the EU, represented at the meeting by the German GEF Council member, refused to include such a request to the GEF because it was outside the mandate of the COP-MOP to decide the structural organization of the GEF.
The final compromise language urged Parties to give priority to biosafety when applying for GEF funding under the biodiversity focal area, and urged the GEF to consider, during the next GEF replenishment process, defining specific quotas for biosafety funding for each country.
“Handling, transport, packaging and identification” 
During COP-MOP5, Parties considered two issues under the implementation of the Protocol on handling, transport, packaging and identification of LMOs. First, they reviewed documentation requirements for LMOs intended for use as food, feed or for processing and, because of limited experience gained to date in implementation of these requirements, decided to postpone further consideration of this issue until COP-MOP7 (in 2014).
Second, the Parties considered the need for and modalities of developing standards with regard to identification, handling, packaging and transport practices. They agreed to request the Executive Secretary to commission a study analyzing gaps, guidance on the use of existing standards, and the possible need for elaboration of standards under the Protocol, for further consideration of the matter at COP-MOP6.
Other Decisions
COP-MOP5 also adopted Decisions on the Compliance Committee; the Biosafety Clearing House; capacity building and the roster of experts; rights and/or obligations of Parties of transit of LMOs; monitoring and reporting; assessment and review; cooperation with other organizations, conventions and initiatives; public awareness, education and participation; and the budget for the Secretariat and work programme until the next COP-MOP.

Bt Brinjal is safe, claims NIN

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/Bt-Brinjal-is-safe-claims-NIN/articleshow/16344961.cms

HYDERABAD: Is Bt Brinjal safe? The demonisation of BT crops got a push with the parliamentary committee on agriculture in its report submitted last month commenting that transgenics in food crops would be fraught with unknown consequences. But the Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) says that Bt Brinjal is safe.

A voluminous report on the laboratory experiments carried out on the safety of Bt Brinjal was submitted to the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation ( RCGM) of the Department of Biotechnology, ministry of science and technology.

B Dinesh Kumar, deputy director, Food and Drug Toxicology Research Centre, at the NIN told TOI that in every respect, Bt Brinjal was found to be safe. “What now needs to be done is open field trials,” Dinesh Kumar said.

However, the problem arises here. In order to analyse the effects of Bt Brinjal in human consumption, it first needs to be introduced in the market. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) will then need to allow introducion of Bt Brinjal, at least in a limited way, so that the effects can be evaluated.

When Bt Brinjal was sought to be introduced in the market a few years ago, it led to a controversy. However, on February 9, 2010, the ministry of environment and forests imposed a moratorium on Bt Brinjal. In the absence of scientific consensus and opposition from state governments and others, the ministry decided to impose a moratorium on the commercialisation of Bt Brinjal until all concerns expressed by the public, NGOs, scientists and the state government were addressed adequately.

Among those actively opposed to the introduction of Bt Brinjal is P M Bhargava, founder-director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, who was nominated by the Supreme Court to the GEAC.

Bhargava who had even argued against Bt Cotton told the parliamentary committee on agriculture that GM organisms could be introduced only after adequate testing was done.

The pre-clinical tests conducted at the NIN show that Bt Brinjal is safe but activists who are against genetically modified crops need to be convinced about the study and its results.

Transgenic crops are toxic, unsafe


Biotech industry’s propaganda is false

The only transgenic crop grown in India is Bt cotton developed by injecting a toxin from a soil bacterium called Bacillus Thuringiensis [Bt] into a cotton seed through a highly sophisticated process.

When planted the seed produces a highly toxic cotton plant. Its roots, stem, leaves and boll continuously secrete Bt toxin. The dreaded pest American Bollworm, starts dying when it bites into this plant. The argument goes that farmers do not have to spray pesticides, get more yields and make more profit. The industry claims that farmers make Rs 2,0000 per acre more than they used to earn previously.

Look at these claims dispassionately. In 2004-5 when only 5% of cotton area in India had Bt, the yield was 470 kg per hectar. In 2011-12, when 90% of Indian cotton farms are growing Bt, the estimates are 480kgs per hectar, a measly increase of 4 kg per acre! In Vidarbha, Maharashtra 90% of all cotton is Bt. Mr Sharad Pawar, Union agriculture minister, himself a great proponent of GE crops, told Parliament on Dec-ember 19, 2011: “Vidarbha produces about 1.2 quintals [cotton lint] per hectare on an average.” This is less than 20% of what conventional non-Bt farmers used to get in the late 1990s and early 2000. Vidarbha farmers are losing about Rs 2,000 crore per year, leading to increasing suicides by cotton farmers.

In AP during the Kharif 2011 season, 33.73 lakh acres of the 47 lakh acres planted with Bt cotton, suffered from crop failure. Two-thirds of the cotton area had a yield loss of more than 50%. The AP data shows that after 10 years of Bt cultivation, the yields are less than the pre-Bt days. More disturbingly, Bt cultivation is making our soil increasingly toxic. In 2003, a year after Bt was introduced, the soil registered a 2% toxicity. In 2007, five years later, the soil toxicity jumped to 40%. Bt cotton has been killing the soil systematically.

It is claimed that Bt cotton significantly reduces pesticide use. During the seven years of study of Bt cotton in Warangal, NPM methods of cotton cultivation showed 20% to 50% less costs on pesticides compared to Bt cotton, proving the “low pesticide use” argument blatantly false.

A new ace up the sleeves of the agro-chemical industry is that transgenic crop increases the nutritional value of our foods. Most visible of this propaganda is for GE rice, which is intended to bring Vitamin A into our plates. Many experts say that by eating about 200 gm of green leafy vegetables or a raw mango or a spoonful of pumpkin, one gets as much of Vitamin A offered by about 2.5 kg of Vitamin A rice. Globally, there is a growing apprehension about the ill-effects of transgenic foods on human health. Experiments on mice fed with GM foods have shown growth abnormalities, liver disturbances, and unprecedented allergies. The UK-based Union of Concerned Scientists has gathered multiple evidences of this. But the biotech industry has consistently bulldozed these arguments, using its financial and media muscle.

Transgenic industry is like the emperor’s clothes. The more closely you see it, the more its lies become evident. We need to be extremely vigilant about the consistent falsehoods spread by the industry and their mascots.

P.V. Satheesh is Director, Deccan Development Society

SC refuses to nominate judge to head GMO committee

TNN | Apr 21, 2012, 04.31AM IST

 

NEW DELHI: Wary of public cynicism, the Supreme Court on Friday spurned repeatedly requests to nominate a retired apex court judge to head the expert committee for recommending rules for bio-safety testing of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).

A bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar said the petitioners, Aruna Rodrigues and Gene Campaign, as well as the Union government must come to a consensus on the name of a retired judge to head the committee.

“We do not have a problem with any name agreed to by the parties. But we are not going to name any judge in this kind of a matter in which there are so many conflicting interests. Then, rumours and allegations and counter-allegations will start. We know what happened in this case. With the kind of cynicism in our society, we are not going to give the name of a judge,” the bench said.

While petitioners, through counsel Prashant Bhushan and Sanjay Parekh, had suggested the name of retired apex court judge B Sudershan Reddy, the government through additional solicitor general Harin Raval had come up with the name of Justice Doraiswamy Raju.

Both Parekh and Bhushan attempted to drive home the urgency involved in the matter. They said the rules relating to bio-safety testing of GMOs needed to be framed expeditiously as anything released in the environment during field trials of such organisms could irreversibly contaminate traditional crops.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/12769495.cms