Indian scientists found guilty of marketing contaminated GM cotton seeds

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

Toxic legacy: Nitrate pollution in California could affect 260,000 people

Author(s): Swetha Manian

Issue: Apr 30, 2012

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.”

300,000 Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto in Federal Court: Decision on March 31st

 Published: Sunday 12 February 2012
“Willie Nelson calls for Occupy the Food System”

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.


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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% .

Hyped ‘desi Bt’ cotton has Monsanto gene, govt stops production


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.