The Trials of Genetically Modified Food: BT EGGPLANT AND AYURVEDIC MEDICINE IN INDIA

Chithprabha Kudlu
Washington University
Glenn Davis Stone
Washington University
Abstract
Although planting of genetically modified (GM) crops has topped 148 million ha.
worldwide, direct consumption of GM foods remains extremely rare. The obstacles to GM
foods are highly varied and they can provide windows into important cultural dynamics.
India’s heated controversy over its would-be first GM food—Bt brinjal (eggplant)—is
driven not only by common concerns over testing and corporate control of food, but by
its clash with the Ayurvedic medical establishment. GM brinjal may outcross with wild
relatives commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, and claims that outcrossing would not
affect medical efficacy miss the point. Ayurveda emphasizes polyherbal treatments and
has developed an epistemology oriented towards complex combinations of compounds.
As such it does not recognize the authority of specific studies of transgene effects. The
conflict is not with genetic modification per se, but with the reductionism that is central
to the biotechnology approvals process. This opposition has played a significant role in
the government moratorium on the plant.
Keywords: biotechnology, genetically modified food, Ayurveda, India, regulation

http://artsci.wustl.edu/~anthro/research/stone/Kudlu%20and%20Stone%202013.pdf

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.

Transgene Flow from Bt Brinjal: a real Risk?

http://www.cell.com/trends/biotechnology/fulltext/S0167-7799(13)00068-1

Bt brinjal too can create super weeds. 

Gene flow from a transgenic plants has remained a contentious issue. In the absence of experimental data, the task to pinpoint exactly as to how much is the potential risk, especially in centres of diversity, becomes daunting. The GM industry has often used lack of experimental data to show there is no cause for concern. It has happened in India, in the case of Bt cotton, and more recently when the moratorium on Bt brinjal came in 2010.

John Samuels of the Novel Solanaceae Crops Project, Penzance, Cornwall, UK, has raised some valid concerns, based on available data, in an excellent paper published in Trends in Biotechnology (Vol 31, Issue 6, June 2013). Admitting that transgene flow from Bt brinjal to wild, weedy and cultivated relatives is a major biosafety concern, he writes in an article Transgene Flow from Bt Brinjal: a real Risk?(URL: http://www.cell.com/trends/biotechnology/fulltext/S0167-7799(13)00068-1): “in preliminary risk assessment tests in India in 2007, only four spiny species were tested for interfertility with S.melongena  (http://www.envfor.nic.in/divisions/csurv/geac/bt_brinjal.html). They found only Solanum incanumL. (the nearest wild relative of brinjal) to be crossable; however, the production of hybrid progeny was not investigated.” With such limited scientific studies available, obviously gene flow was considered to be not much of a problem.

Citing various reasons like inadequate experimental methodologies and erroneous nomenclature of the parent species, John Samuel tells us that the biosafety implications of hybridisation remained compromised. Looking through the research data now available, he says that six wild relative species and four cultivated species have the potential to crossbred with the transgenic Bt brinjal. I have taken this table out from the article for an easy understanding.

Table 1 Solanum species of India known to cross with brinjal
Species Common name Status
S. aethiopicum L. Scarlet eggplant Cultivated
S. cumingii Dunal Wild brinjal Wild
S. incanum L. Bitter tomato Wild
S. insanum L. Weedy brinjal Wild
S. macrocarpon L. Gboma eggplant Cultivated
S. marginatum L.f. White-margined nightshade Wild/introduced
S. ovigerum Dunal Brinjal landraces Cultivated
S. torvum Sw. Pea eggplant Sometimes cultivated/introduced
S. violaceum Ortega Indian nightshade Wild
S. virginianum L. Bitter brinjal Wild

————————————————————————————————————

His conclusion: “Furthermore, the risk assessment of pollen-mediated transgene flow from Bt brinjal, if cultivated in Bangladesh or the Philippines, should not rely on the inadequate, previously undertaken ERA (Environmental Risk Assessment) tests.” Hope the scientists as well as the science administrators are listening. Especially in the light of latest revelations that show how super weeds are becoming a nuisance in United States and Canada.

Chargesheet against Bt firm in biopiracy case

COIMBATORE: A chargesheet has been filed against Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco), a subsidiary of Monsanto, the US agri business firm, for violating the bio-piracy laws in developing Bt Brinjal variety by using genes of local brinjal varieties without prior permission, according to Balakrishna Pasupati, chairman of National Biodiversity Authority.

Pasupathi spoke to TOI on the sidelines of a workshop on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at the Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding (IFGTB) in the city. “We were convinced that there could have been a possible misappropriation of Indian biological varieties,” he said refusing to divulge more details. The chargesheet was submitted at the Dharwad principal sessions court against Mahyco and the University of Agricultural Sciences at Dharwad, he said.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-01-19/coimbatore/36431774_1_bt-brinjal-variety-bt-crops-mahyco

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

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.

దిగుబడులకు బీటీ దెబ్బ: జి.వి. రామాంజనేయులు

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

ముఖాముఖి

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parliamentary panel seeks probe into Bt Brinjal

Last Updated: Thursday, August 09, 2012, 23:56

Parliamentary panel seeks probe into Bt BrinjalNew Delhi: A parliamentary panel Thursday recommended a probe into the issue of Bt Brinjal, saying that adequate tests had not been carried out and the approval committee was under “tremendous pressure” from the “industry and a minister” to approve it.

Basudeb Acharia, who heads the parliamentary standing committee on agriculture, said: “The issue needs to be probed as the co-chairman of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) Arjula Reddy was under tremendous pressure as he was getting calls from the industry, GEAC and a minister to approve Bt Brinjal.”

He said the probe should cover the period right from the beginning to the imposing of a moratorium on Bt Brinjal’s commercialisation by the government in February 2010.

“We are convinced that these developments are not merely slippages due to oversight or human error but indicative of collusion of a worst kind,” Acharia told reporters.

A moratorium was imposed on Bt Brinjal by then environment minister Jairam Ramesh in February 2010 following protests by NGOs and environmentalists. Bt Brinjal was being pushed in India by the US multinational Monsanto.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had criticised the move by Ramesh, saying in the long run Bt Brinjal will only prove to be an advantage for India.

Without naming the minister concerned, Acharia said the parliamentary committee has been highly disconcerted to know about the confession of the co-chairman of the GEAC.

According to him, genetically modified crops should not be pursued in India as most of the farmers are small and marginal ones and their interest has to be protected.

Acharia also suggested that an agency, other than GEAC, should examine research reports on Bt Brinjal.

The parliamentary panel chief sought to counter the pro-GM crop lobbies in the country by saying that the targets to meet the concerns over food security could be easily met without the GM technology and organic farming should be pursued to achieve these goals.

He also said that the issue of GM crops should be debated in parliament as there was a link between Bt Cotton and farmers’ suicides.

“Lakhs of tonnes of oil extracted from Bt Cotton seeds has entered the food chain in the past decade… we have asked the consumer affairs ministry for its views,” said Acharia.

The panel also highlighted the need to label GM products.

International NGO Greenpeace welcomed the report and said it has come at a time when the union government is trying hard to introduce a new regulatory system for GM crops “by the name of Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill”.

“The report exposes the serious gaps in our country’s GM regulatory system and the lopsided GM technology promotion policies of the government,” said Neha Saigal, sustainable agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace India.

NBA confirms Monsanto/Mahyco and ors. to be criminally prosecuted in B.t. Brinjal Biopiracy Case

In its first official confirmation, National Biodiversity Authority (NBA, India’s independent regulator on all matters pertaining to biodiversity protection, conservation and use) has stated that “it is proceeding with lodging of complaint against the alleged violators” of Biological Diversity Act on grounds of biopiracy in promoting B.t. Brinjal, India’s first transgenic GMO food. This information was provided to Environment Support Group (ESG) in response to a Right to Information query, and a copy is enclosed. As per Indian law, the filing of the complaint against this serious environmental crime assumes launching of criminal prosecution against the violators. India has already enforced a moratorium on the commercial release of B.t. Brinjal on various scientific, legal, health and community concerns.

 

The undersigned on behalf of Environment Support Group had filed a complaint in February 2010 accusing the world’s largest agritech company Monsanto along with its Indian partner Mahyco, Sathguru Consultants (representing USAID and Cornell University) and various public funded agriculture institutions such as University of Agriculture Sciences (Dharwar, Karnataka), Tamilnadu Agricultural University (Coimbatore) and Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (Uttar Pradesh), of accessing over 16 varieties of brinjal endemic to India in comprehensive violation of the Biological Diversity Act while promoting the commercial release of transgenic B.t. Brinjal through 2005-2010. None of the regulatory agencies, including the NBA and Ministry of Environment and Forests, had bothered to verify compliance with the B D Act throught out this period, and began to take action with much reluctance after ESG filed the complaint.

 

The RTI query was filed seeking all documentation pertaining to the case filed by ESG. Shockingly, and quite questionably, NBA has refused to part with the documentation even to the complainants. Justifying this stand, it has controversially and peculiarly claimed that the documentation cannot be shared with the complainants as “the matter is under advanced stage of lodging of complaint and taking into account the intricacies which involve nuances of biotechnology it is felt that it may not be appropriate to provide the documents/instructions at this juncture”. Evidently, NBA is not even sure if this is the right decision to take, and ESG will file an appeal against this decision soon.

 

As reported in the media, the decision to initiate criminal prosecution against this case of biopiracy was taken by NBA in its meeting held on 28 February 2012, after it was put to a vote. The vote became essential as some members of the NBA were keen on stopping the prosecution. This when when NBA had already resolved in June 2011 to prosecute the violators, a fact repeatedly confirmed in Parliament by the Indian Environment Minister Smt. Jayanti Natarajan. ESG has consistently raised concerns over such dithering by NBA to initiate action against violators of the Biological Diversity Act.

 

Karnataka Chief Minister urged to re-initiate prosecution against Bt. Brinjal violators

 

ESG has also submitted a representation to Karnataka Chief Minister Shri. Sadananda Gowda urging him to immediately revive the decision to criminally prosecute those engaged in biopiracy through the Karnataka Biodiversity Board. It may be recalled that the Board had decided to initiate appropriate legal action against University of Agricultural Sciences (Dharwar), Monsanto and Mahyco for accessing 6 local varieties of brinjal illegally from Karnataka, and converting them into transgenic B.t. Brinjal products, all in violation of the Biological Diversity Act. However, due to pressure, apparently brought by none other than the Principal Secretary of Karnataka’s Environment Department (the chief custodian of Karnataka’s biodiversity), the investigation built over two years was suspended in a controversial decision of the Board in January 2012. ESG initiated a mass petition in February this year against this illegal and retrograde decision to the Chief Minister. Over 500 groups and individuals across India and the world have endorsed this representation which is accessible at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/karnataka-biodiversity-board-must-prosecute/. A copy of the representation now made to the Chief Minister is also enclosed.

 

More details about ESG’s efforts to tackle biopiracy in India, including documents listed above, are accessible at: www.esgindia.org

Leo F. Saldanha

Coordinator/Trustee

and Co-complainant in the aforesaid Biopiracy case with

Bhargavi S. Rao

Coordinator (Education)/Trustee

Environment Support Group

Bt Brinjal poses a risk to health, environment: Greenpeace report

Special Correspondent

http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/article3371450.ece?css=print

2012 BT Brinjal GPI report download

‘Spread of the Bt gene could make the brinjal a problematic weed’

An independent enquiry has revealed that the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE, also called genetically modified, or GM) Bt brinjal poses risks to the environment and possibly to human health. The occurrence of wild, weedy and also cultivated relatives presents a likelihood that the GE Bt gene will spread to these relatives but, so far, this has largely been overlooked in the risk assessments for GE Bt brinjal, it says.

Genetically engineered Bt brinjal and the implications for plant biodiversity – revisitedan independent study commissioned by Greenpeace International, finds that brinjal relatives do occur in the regions where cultivation of GEBt brinjal is proposed, and that GE Bt brinjal may mate with these relatives to spread the GE Bt gene. Spread of the GE Bt gene would have considerable ecological implications, as well as implications for future crop contamination and farmers’ rights.

Importantly, the spread of the GE Bt gene could result in the brinjal becoming an aggressive and problematic weed, the Greenpeace report suggests, while impressing upon the governments the need to employ the precautionary principle and not permit any authorisation of the outdoor cultivation of GE Bt brinjal, including field trials

The cultivation of GE Bt brinjal is proposed in some countries across Asia, including India, where there is currently a moratorium on commercialisation, and the Philippines, where field trials are going on. “There are many concerns with GE brinjal, which has been engineered to be resistant to certain insect pests using Bt genes from the soil bacteriumBacillus thuringiensis. These concerns include food safety and possible effects on organisms other than the pest insect (non-target organisms), such as beneficial insects and butterflies.”

One of the least known aspects of the GE Bt brinjal is its ability to cross with wild relatives or cultivated varieties. This is because there are no recent reviews in the scientific literature concerning species related to brinjal, and where they grow across Asia. This information is vital when addressing concerns regarding cultivation of GE Bt brinjal, because insect-resistance gives a selective advantage to the plant, increasing its ability to survive and reproduce. If the GE Btbrinjal cross-pollinates wild, weedy or cultivated relatives, the result is a hybrid offspring, which may grow more aggressively and thus become a problem weed, the report says.