Indian scientists found guilty of marketing contaminated GM cotton seeds Dinesh C Sharma | New Delhi, December 14, 2012 | 10:40 A farmer in a cotton farm. In what appears to be a case of serious scientific fraud and subsequent cover up, Indian scientists have been found guilty of commercialising contaminated genetically modified(GM) cotton seeds despite knowing about contamination for several years. The GM cotton variety in question- Bikaneri Nerma Bt or BN Bt- was developed by the Nagpur-based Central Institute for Cotton Research(CICR) of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research(ICAR). It was commercialised in 2009 and was touted as an alternative to GM cotton marketed by Mahyco. Two years back, Mahyco complained to ICAR that BN Bt, in fact, contained a gene developed by its partner Monsanto. Now, an expert panel which was asked to investigate the contamination has submitted its report. The report reveals how the contamination took place and scientists at various levels tried to cover it up. The five-member panel was headed by leading biotechnologist and JNU vice-chancellor S K Sopory. Not only has the panel confirmed contamination with Monsanto gene, it has hinted that the contamination may not be “accidental”. “Accidental contamination would be difficult to explain”, the report says citing several technical reasons. After Mahyco complained, the seeds were tested at two labs once again. Certain tests conducted in 2004 at the National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, New Delhi showed it was indeed BN Bt while different batch of the same material taken to and tested at CICR in 2005 showed extensive contamination. “Thus, assuming only accidental contamination can not explain what has happened”, the report notes. The Indian variety was originally developed at the University of Agricultural Sciences(UAS), Dharwad and then further work was carried out at CICR Nagpur. The report says the variety got contaminated at Dharwad itself, where Monsanto variety was also being field tested. The most shocking part of the episode is the fact that scientists knew about the contamination and yet they went ahead with regulatory approvals and comercialisation of seeds. “There were indications prior to commercial release in 2009 that BN Bt was contaminated. These were not formally brought to the attention of relevant authorities. Neither these indications were followed up appropriately by the scientist who observed them nor was any attention paid by others who came to know of them”, the report has concluded. “There seemed to extreme hurry to come up with public sector Bt cotton”, it adds. CICR director Dr Keshav Kranthi knew there was something wrong with seeds brought by his predecessor Dr B.M. Khadi from UAS in 2005 itself. He kept silent for four years, participated in all bio-safety and other ICAR meetings, distributed seeds to farmers and even published papers in scientific journals. At UAS, the panel said, Dr Khadi and Dr I S Katageri were lax in maintaining purity of seeds. “Dr Khadi should have been more careful, as he got the information from Dr Kranthi about the contamination in 2008”, the report said. On the role of Dr Kranti, it says: “Dr Kranthi conducted analysis which gave him enough reasons to suspect about contamination in 2005 and 2008. Although these were crucial observations, he did not give written reports to his seniors.” ICAR has been blamed for faulty planning and poor oversight of the project. Desi Bt cotton trail ICAR’s Bt cotton variety ‘Bikaneri Nerma’ was approved by regulators in 2008 Seeds were distributed to farmers in 2009 and the variety commercialised It was found in 2010 that variety’s performance was poor and it contained Monsanto’s GM cotton gene ICAR set up committee to find out if the scientists have really made a distinct Bt cotton variety and how it got contaminated The panel has found that while an independent variety different from that of Monsanto does exist in lab, but it got contaminated in 2004-2005 Though scientists noticed contamination in 2005, they went ahead with seed multiplication and commercialization
Author(s): Swetha Manian
Nitrate contamination has grown worse in agricultural areasTHOUGH nitrogen and nitrates occur naturally, they are at levels that do not harm. But concern is increasing about high concentrations of nitrogen leaching into aquifers from synthetic fertilisers and manure applied to cropland, resulting in nitrate pollution. High-nitrate levels can cause cancer, reproductive disorders and can be lethal for infants.
Now a study has shown how nitrate contamination of groundwater in some of California’s most intensely farmed regions has grown worse in recent decades. The contamination will continue to spread, threatening the drinking water supplies of more than 260,000 people, it says. The team from UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources analysed groundwater data of Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley of California. They found that more than 90 per cent of the contamination comes from farms, ranches and crops. It says that nitrate in drinking water today came from nitrates introduced decades ago. “Decades from now nitrate in water will be from today’s discharges. Nitrate contamination will be an issue for years to come,” says Thomas Harter, the lead author.
The study which was mandated by legislation in the state in 2008 also notes that removing nitrates from groundwater is costly and not feasible. It says the cost of treating drinking water would increase over time as more nitrate percolates. The study thus suggests an approach based on fertiliser management and water treatment systems. Laurel Firestone, co-executive director of Tulare County’s Community Water Centre, suggests a fertiliser fee could help control nitrate contamination.
In India, high levels of nitrate contamination have been reported from agricultural areas and have been linked to intensive use of fertilisers. A study conducted by Greenpeace India, a non-profit, in November 2009 in Punjab found an average fertiliser application rate of 322 kg nitrogen per hectare, higher than the average rate of 210 kg nitrogen per hectare, set by the Fertiliser Association of India. The Davis study found an application rate of 221 kg nitrogen per hectare in high nitrate area. “While nitrate pollution can stem from many sources, overuse is prevalent mainly in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and coastal peninsula, which comprise 10 per cent of all agricultural area,” says N Raghuram, associate professor at Indraprastha University, New Delhi. He adds, preventing accumulation of reactive nitrogen is the best solution. “Recycling unwanted nitrogen compounds from other sectors towards agriculture could be an option.”
Little did Willie Nelson know when he recorded “Crazy” years ago just how crazy it would become for our cherished family farmers in America. Nelson, President of Farm Aid, has recently called for the national Occupy movement to declare an “Occupy the Food System” action.
Nelson states, “Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, destruction of our soil…”
Hundreds of citizens, (even including NYC chefs in their white chef hats) joined Occupy the Food System groups, ie Food Democracy Now, gathered outside the Federal Courts in Manhattan on January 31st, to support organic family farmers in their landmark lawsuit against Big Agribusiness giant Monsanto. (Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association v. Monsanto) Oral arguments were heard that day concerning the lawsuit by 83 plaintiffs representing over 300,000 organic farmers, organic seed growers, and organic seed businesses.
The lawsuit addresses the bizarre and shocking issue of Monsanto harassing and threatening organic farmers with lawsuits of “patent infringement” if any organic farmer ends up with any trace amount of GM seeds on their organic farmland.
Judge Naomi Buckwald heard the oral arguments on Monsanto’s Motion to Dismiss, and the legal team from Public Patent Foundation represented the rights of American organic farmers against Monsanto, maker of GM seeds, [and additionally, Agent Orange, dioxin, etc.]
After hearing the arguments, Judge Buckwald stated that on March 31st she will hand down her decision on whether the lawsuit will move forward to trial.
Not only does this lawsuit debate the issue of Monsanto potentially ruining the organic farmers’ pure seeds and crops with the introduction of Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) seeds anywhere near the organic farms, but additionally any nearby GM fields can withstand Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides, thus possibly further contaminating the organic farms nearby if Roundup is used.
Of course, the organic farmers don’t want anything to do with that ole contaminated GM seed in the first place. In fact, that is why they are certified organic farmers. Hello? But now they have to worry about getting sued by the very monster they abhor, and even have to spend extra money and land (for buffers which only sometimes deter the contaminated seed from being swept by the wind into their crop land). At this point, they are even having to resort to not growing at all the following organic plants: soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar beets, and canola, …just to protect themselves from having any (unwanted) plant that Monsanto could possibly sue them over.
“Crazy, crazy for feeling so…..”
The farmers are suffering the threat of possible loss of Right Livelihood. They are creating good jobs for Americans, and supplying our purest foods. These organic farmers are bringing Americans healthy food so we can be a healthy Nation, instead of the undernourished and obese kids and adults that President Obama worries so much about us becoming.
So what was President Obama doing when he appointed Michael Taylor, a former VP of Monsanto, as Sr. Advisor to the Commissioner at the FDA? The FDA is responsible for “label requirements” and recently ruled under Michael Taylor’s time as FDA Food Czar that GMO products did not need to be labeled as such, even though national consumer groups loudly professed the public’s right to know what is genetically modified in the food system. Sadly to remember: President Obama promised in campaign speeches that he would “let folks know what foods are genetically modified.” These are the conflict of interests that lead to the 99% movement standing up for the family farmers.
Just look at the confusing headlines lately that revealed that mid-western farms of GM corn will be sprayed with 2,4-D toxins found in the deadly Agent Orange. Just refer to the previous lawsuits taken all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court by U.S. Veterans who tried to argue the dangers of Monsanto’s Agent Orange, and high rates of cancers in our soldiers who had to suffer the side effects from their wartime exposures in Vietnam.
In 1980 alone, when all this mess started with corporations wiping out the livelihoods of family farmers, the National Farm Medicine Center reported that 900 male farmers in the Upper Midwest committed suicide. That was nearly double the national average for white men. Even sadder is the fact that some of the farmers’ children also committed suicide. Studies show that when one generation of family farmers lose their farms, then the next generation usually can’t revive the family business and traditions later.
Jim Gerritsen, President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, has pointed out that there are 5th and 6th generation family farmers being pushed off their farms today, and because of a “climate of fear” (from possible lawsuits from Monsanto), they can’t grow some of the food they want to grow.
These farmers are the ones who have been able to survive the changes over the past twenty years by choosing to go into the budding niche of organic farming. Now look at what they have to deal with while trying to grow successful businesses: Monsanto’s threats.
Even organic dairy farmers have had to suffer lawsuits ( from Monsanto) when they labeled their organic milk “non-BGH” referring to Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone used by conventional dairies.
Consumers want organic food, and they want America’s pure food source to stay protected in America. Made in America, organically, is the way of the future, and family farmers and seed businesses should be free to maintain their high standards for organic foods. They deserve protection from Big Agribusiness’ dangerous seeds trespassing on their croplands, not to mention the use of pesticides and herbicides on GM crops. The organic industry has an “organic seal” which is also important to the success of family businesses, and even that stamp of quality is threatened by the spread of Monsanto’s GM seed contaminating their pure seed banks.
The Banking industry is also partly to blame. Years before the mortgages and home fiasco we have now, the farmers were the first to feel the squeeze. I interviewed Willie Nelson in the 1980’s, and he mentioned even then the high rates of farmer suicides, and that Farm Aid was receiving letters from family farmers saying the banks had “called in their loans”, even though “we had never missed a payment”. Was this just a veiled land grab for fertile lands, or to intentionally bankrupt independent family farmers?
It was so inspiring years ago when Michelle Obama planted an organic garden at the White House. It was a great precedent for the future, but what happened? It was ruined when they discovered sewer sludge from previous Administrations had contaminated their beautiful soil where the organic vegetables were planted. Just one small upset but it was remedied for future plantings. What about our whole country’s organic food supply being contaminated by previous Adminstrations’ bad choices? Why did they ever allow Monsanto to introduce genetically engineered seeds into our pure, organic, and heirloom stockpiles across America in the first place?
Recently, the Obama Administration, in an effort to boost food exports, signed joint agreements with agricultural biotechnology industry giants, including Monsanto, to remove the last barriers for the spread of more genetically modified crops.
But in this recent lawsuit filed by the Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, it was argued that a previous contamination of a “genetically engineered variety of rice”, named Liberty Link 601, in 2006, before it was approved for human consumption, “extensively contaminated the commercial rice supply, resulting in multiple countries banning the import of U.S. rice.” The worldwide economic loss was “upward to $1.285 billion dollars” due to the presence of GMOs…
What are everyday Americans going to do to turn it around, to get rid of Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds and its dangerous threat to America’s heirloom and organic seed caches?
There is high rate of cancer in America, and eating healthier, especially organic foods, has been shown to have great benefits in beating cancer and other diseases. When we have Agribusiness threatening independent family farmers, which leads to the farmers feeling so scared that they don’t even plant their organic crops that Americans need, then perhaps we can all see what the 99% Occupy Movement is trying to say about their conflict of interest and seemingly abuse of powers.
Willie Nelson just released a new poem on You Tube: “We stand with Humanity, against the Insanity, We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for… We’re the Seeds and we’re the Core, We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for; We’re the ones with the 99%.”
Monsanto’s practices are a clear example of the wrong direction that the 99% want our country to go in. How about shining some light on Monsanto, and before it is too late, realize the dangers of genetically modified seeds which are contaminating the world’s food supply.
“Crazy, crazy for feeling so…… 99% .
India’s claim of having developed its own Bt cotton (genetically modified) variety has taken an embarrassing turn with an RTI inquiry by two scientists revealing how the University of Agriculture Sciences (UAS) at Dharwad went ahead — brushing aside all precautions — to produce an indigenous variety working on a gene originally patented by Monsanto.
Finding this out, in 2009, the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) had even decided to stop the sale of Bikaneri Narma Bt Cotton — touted as an “completely indigenous Bt variety” — and halt its sale in the domestic market. Bikaneri Narma was released for farmers as BN Bt by Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) in 2009. It was called an indigenous Bt “variety” — as distinct from the Monsanto hybrid where farmers have to buy fresh seeds each season. Farmers could re-use BN Bt for many years
Yesterday, at a special ICAR meeting, a decision was reportedly taken to stop production of Bn Bt. When contacted, ICAR’s DDG S K Dutta, who stopped commercial sale of Bn Bt in 2009, declined to comment.
Records obtained by scientists Mansoor and Surendra under RTI and accessed by The Indian Express, show that elements of Monsanto’s Cry1Ac gene was detected in the BN Bt varieties developed by UAS. A probe has been ordered by the Karnataka government and by the vice-chancellor of UAS.
It was in 2005 that UAS’s principal scientist I S Kategari had claimed to have successfully introduced the gene in Bikaneri Narma, claiming that it was the “truncated” Cry1Ac gene. Records show that at a meeting on May 21, 2008, ICAR deputy director-general P L Gautam said that the presence of elements of Monsanto’s gene wasn’t an issue and cleared its commercialisation. Incidentally, Ananda Kumar, of the New Delhi-based National Research Centre for Plant Biotechnology, had said that there could have been contamination with elements of the Monsanto gene but added that his tests had not found any presence of these elements.