Accept expert panel report on GM crops: forum

Gargi Parsai

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/accept-expert-panel-report-on-gm-crops-forum/article4950675.ece

The report is a strong indictment of regulatory affairs: Coalition

Welcoming the recommendations of the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) on Genetically Modified crops, the Coalition for a GM-free India has urged the government to accept the report and “not come in the way of delivery of justice.”

The panel, set up by the Supreme Court in a Public Interest Litigation, has recommended in its final report that it would not be advisable to conduct any field trials in Bt transgenic crops till gaps in regulatory system are addressed.

“The report is a strong indictment of the state of regulatory affairs with regard to modern biotechnology in the country. We urge that the Central government to take the report seriously and act on it in the interests of food safety, security, and sovereignty as well as protection of environment and farm livelihoods,” the Coalition said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

However, the Association of Biotech Led Enterprise – Agriculture Group (ABLE AG) that represents the industry has termed the document — though an improvement over the interim report that called for a 10-year moratorium on field trials of Bt transgenic in all food crops (those used directly for human consumption) — as “regressive and a troubled treatise” that promises to push Indian agriculture into an archaic age.

“The industry believes the TEC report, besides being incomplete, is also anti-science and anti-research and will severely dent the future of country’s farmers besides destroying the domestic private and public sector research. While improving the testing programmes is a continuous process, we do not believe that testing should be stopped in the interim,’’ said Ram Kaundinya, Chairman, ABLE AG in a press statement.

The report submitted to the Supreme Court has not been signed by R.S. Paroda, the representative of Agriculture Ministry who was inducted after the submission of the interim report last year.

“This is not surprising given the fact that Dr. Paroda’s very inclusion in the Committee was controversial and objectionable — his organisation receives funding from biotech majors like Monsanto and Mahyco — and this constitutes a clear conflict of interest. It is ironical that even this court-appointed committee has had to face such a conflict of interest situation, given that this has been the case with almost all GM-related issues in India so far,” the Coalition’s letter said.

The TEC’s comments with regard to bio-safety dossiers that were approved by the current biotechnology regulator is a scathing indictment of the failings of the existing regulatory regime, the Coalition noted.

The TEC could not find any compelling reason for India to be the first country, where Bt transgenics are widely consumed in large amounts for any major food crop that is directly used for human consumption.

The TEC has therefore reiterated its recommendation made in the Interim Report that there should be a moratorium on field trials for Bt in food crops, until there is more definitive information from sufficient number of studies as to the long-term safety of Bt in food crops.


  • Industry calls report as regressive, biased and a troubled treatise
  • Report not signed by R.S. Paroda, Agriculture Ministry representative

SC Technical Expert Committee recommends ‘GM Field Trials to wait till the regulatory system is improved’

The Technical Expert Committee appointed by the Supreme Court made the following recommendations.

  1. On field trials

    1. Overall recommendation for open field trials: Based on and in particular, “the examination/study of the safety dossiers, it is apparent that there are major gaps in the regulatory system. These need to be addressed before issues related to tests can be meaningfully considered. Till  such time it would not be advisable to conduct more field trials”
    2. Bt food crops: The TEC “reiterates its recommendation made in the Interim Report that there should be a moratorium on field trials for Bt in food   crops   (those   that   are   directly   used   for   food)   intended   for commercialization (not research) until there is more definitive information from sufficient number of studies as to the long term safety of Bt in food crops”.
    3. Herbicide Tolerant crops: The TEC finds them completely unsuitable in the Indian context and recommends that field trials and release of HT crops ‘   not be allowed in India.”
    4. Crops in their Centre of Origin or Diversity: The TEC therefore recommends that release of GM crops for which India is a centre of origin or diversity should not be allowed”
    1. 1.      Other recommendations and TOR a &b: Nature and sequencing of risk assessment and point of release for Open Field Trials  (pg 79-83):
    • to introduce a consultation step to start with, ideally prior to the GM product intended for field trials having been developed” , encompassing  the scope of issues that need to be addressed, relating to health and environmental safety — on a  “case-wise basis keeping in mind the overall phases of risk assessment: hazard identification; hazard characterization; exposure assessment; risk characterization; and mitigation options.   Need, socioeconomic factors, and sustainability should also be considered and thoroughly discussed at this stage with involvement of all the stakeholders”.
    • “There is a need to include chronic and trans-generational toxicity testing in feeding studies of rodents based on the fact that food is consumed over the entire lifetime and that nutritional stress can also lead to adverse or unintended effects over long-term exposure. The sensitive stages of reproduction also need to be included.
    • The regulatory process should be open to new scientific information that may have a bearing on the risk assessment, if necessary even after deregulation of an event.
    • The applicant is responsible for providing to the regulator, all information that has a bearing on the risk assessment, regardless of whether it was obtained for the purpose of the risk assessment.
    • Stakeholder participation, need, socioeconomic considerations, societal impact, and sustainability should be some of the dimensions to be incorporated in the risk assessment and this should be done at an early stage in the risk assessment process”.
    • The TEC noted that Post Release Monitoring (PRM) is also an important aspect of environmental safety as well as health safety (if the plant is consumed as food) and this has not received adequate attention in the regulatory system (1R: p3, 9) or in practice.

Coalition for GM free India Congratulates Indian Govt for stopping the approval of GM crop Field Trials

#GMFieldTrails #GMFreeIndia
Coalition for GM free India Congratulates Indian Govt for stopping the approval of GM crop Field Trials.
Urges it to keep our food and farming free of GMOs

The Coalition for a GM Free India today congratulated the Central govt on responding to the growing scientific evidence and opposition fromstate governments against Genetically Modified (GM) crops and putting a hold on all open field trials approved in March, 2013. According tomedia reports the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to reverse the permissions given by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) in March, 2013, given that there is a case in the Supreme Court on the matter and there is a need for widespread deliberations on a matter of such significance.

Reacting to the this new development Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM free India said, “It is heartening to see that theMinistry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) and the Union Government are finally being responsible to science and responsive to the citizensin the matter of open air experiments of risky GM crops.” He further stated, “One hopes that the government will not be arm twisted to permitopen environmental releases/field trials of GM crops by the powerful biotech seed industry and their promoters within the government”.

Earlier this week GEAC had put out the minutes of March 22nd meeting in the public domain after a delay of almost 2 months . The minutesshowed that the 16 member GEAC has given approvals for almost all the applications that they had received on field trials of GM crops. Thisincludes GM varieties of rice, wheat, maize, cotton and castor. There were 25 applications which included majority of which were forextension of the approvals given last year, and which couldn’t be conducted due to State governments denying permission or refusing to giveNOC for field trials in the respective states. One of the permissions pertained to RoundUp Ready Wheat by Mahyco, with the American seedgiant Monsanto’s proprietary technology.

RR wheat and Monsanto has been embroiled in the latest GM contamination scandal in USA, where RR wheat from field trials done yearsago was found in a farmer’s field in Oregon State. While Monsanto and USDA, which gave permissions for these trials, are still unable to findthe reasons for this contamination, American farmers have been severely impacted with Japan, South Korea, Philippines and the EuropeanUnion banning or restricting imports of wheat owing to threat of GM contamination. A similar contamination had rocked the US in 2006 whenfield trials of herbicide tolerant GM rice, LL rice, of Bayer, had ended up contaminating the rice supply chain. Bayer Crop Science had tofinally settle a class action suit filed by affected farmers for 750 million US dollars. Interestingly the LL rice of Bayer has also been approvedfor field trials by GEAC in the last meeting.

“It is shocking that even after repeated lessons on how field trials can lead to contamination of our food and seed supply GEAC is mindlesslygiving approvals for field trials left right and centre. This, despite published evidence on the impacts of GM crops on human health, ourbiodiversity and farmers livelihoods and repeated statements by state governments denying permission for such open field trials” said ArunaRodrigues, one of the petitioners of the PIL on stopping all environmental releases/field trials of GM crops. The Union of India is therespondent in the case. She further stated that “GEAC seems to be in a hurry to permit field trials disregarding the fact that the SupremeCourt is slated to hear on the final report by the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) it has set up to look into this matter”.

The Technical Expert Committee (TEC) comprising of experts from the fields of molecular biology, toxicology, biodiversity, nutrition scienceetc was set up by Supreme Court., In October 2012, it submitted its interim report highlighting the potential impacts of GM crops and theinadequacy of the existing regulatory system to assess the impacts of GM crops to human health, environment and socio-economic aspectsand to safely conduct field trials. It has recommended a total revamping of the system, pointing to the potential impacts to agro biodiversity,which is critical for further development of crops. It has also recommended against genetic modification of crops like rice for which India is acentre of origin. Besides this, it has also reccomended a 10 year moratorium on any open release/field trials of Bt crops and a moratorium onherbicide tolerant HT crops until an independent assessment is done on its impacts on human health, environment and farm livelihoods.

Hundreds of scientists, atleast 20 farmer Unions and more than 500 public-interest organisations had sent letters to the Supreme Courtendorsing the recommendations of the TEC’s interim report.

The Coalition for a GM free India hails this decision by the MoEF to withhold the permissions for field trials across the country. It further requested that the MoEF should inform respective state govt. about its decision. The State Governments should stop giving permissions in the state & if permitted, they should inform project proponents to stop field trials with immediate effect.

The Coalition for a GM free India also urges the Union government not to bow to pressures from multinational seed corporations and stand bythe interests of the citizens of the country. Reiterating the demand to keep our food and farming free from GM crops, it also urged thegovernment to drop the BRAI Bill and instead bring in a regulatory system that would safeguard biosafety from the introduction of riskytechnologies like GM crops.

For more information

Sridhar Radhakrishnan (09995358205)

Kavitha Kuruganthi (09393001550)

Coalition for a GM-Free India is a broad national network of organizations, scientists, farmer unions, consumer groups and individuals committed to keep the food andfarms in India free of Genetically Modified Organisms and to protecting India’s food security and sovereignty.

Coalition for a GM-free India

A-124/6, First Floor, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi 110 016, Phone/Fax: 011-26517814

Website: www.indiagminfo.org, email : indiagmfree@gmail.com, Follow us on Facebook page – GM Watch India

Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest

Abstract

An agroecosystem is constrained by environmental possibility and social choices, mainly in the form of government policies. To be sustainable, an agroecosystem requires production systems that are resilient to natural stressors such as disease, pests, drought, wind and salinity, and to human constructed stressors such as economic cycles and trade barriers. The world is becoming increasingly reliant on concentrated exporting agroecosystems for staple crops, and vulnerable to national and local decisions that affect resilience of these production systems. We chronicle the history of the United States staple crop agroecosystem of the Midwest region to determine whether sustainability is part of its design, or could be a likely outcome of existing policies particularly on innovation and intellectual property. Relative to other food secure and exporting countries (e.g. Western Europe), the US agroecosystem is not exceptional in yields or conservative on environmental impact. This has not been a trade-off for sustainability, as annual fluctuations in maize yield alone dwarf the loss of caloric energy from extreme historic blights. We suggest strategies for innovation that are responsive to more stakeholders and build resilience into industrialized staple crop production.

More pests ‘resistant to GM crops’ across the World: study

(AFP) – 17 hours ago

PARIS — More pest species are becoming resistant to the most popular type of genetically-modified, insect-repellent crops, but not in areas where farmers follow expert advice, a study said on Monday.

The paper delves into a key aspect of so-called Bt corn and cotton — plants that carry a gene to make them exude a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, which is toxic to insects.

Publishing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, US and French researchers analysed the findings of 77 studies from eight countries on five continents that reported on data from field monitors.

Of 13 major pest species examined, five were resistant by 2011, compared with only one in 2005, they found. The benchmark was resistance among more than 50 percent of insects in a location.

Of the five species, three were cotton pests and two were corn pests.

Three of the five cases of resistance were in the United States, which accounts for roughly half of Bt crop plantings, while the others were in South Africa and India.

The authors said they picked up a case of early resistance, with less than 50 percent of insects, in yet another US cotton pest.

And there were “early warning” signs (one percent resistance or less) from four other cotton or corn pests in China, the United States and the Philippines.

The scientists found big differences in the speed at which Bt resistance developed.

In one case, it took just two years for the first signs to emerge; in others, the Bt crops remained as effective in 2011 as they were 15 years earlier.

What made the difference was whether farmers set aside sufficient “refuges” of land for non-BT crops, said the study’s authors.

The idea behind such refuges comes from evolutionary biology.

The genes that confer resistance are recessive, meaning that insects can survive on Bt plants only if they have two copies of a resistance gene — one from each parent.

Planting refuges near Bt crops reduces the chances of two resistant insects mating and conferring the double gene to their offspring.

“Computer models showed that refuges should be good for delaying resistance,” study co-author Yves Carriere, an entomologist at the University of Arizona at Tucson, said in a press release.

Practical evidence of this is shown in the case of a cotton-munching pest called the pink bollworm, said his colleague, Bruce Tabashnik.

Bt crops in the southwestern United States, where growers work closely with scientists to devise a refuge strategy, do not have a resistance problem.

In India, though, local pink bollworms became resistance within six years, simply because farmers did not follow the guidelines or get this support.

The researchers cautioned that resistance to Bt crops was simply a matter of time, as all pests eventually adapt to the threat they face. But refuges were the key to braking it.

“Either take more stringent measures to delay resistance such as requiring larger refuges or this pest will probably evolve resistance quickly,” said Tabashnik.

Farming groups have been furiously debating the value of refuges, and in recent years the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) relaxed its refuge-planting requirements.

More than a billion acres (420 million hectares) of land have been planted with Bt crops since the mid-1990s.

In 2011 alone, 66 million hectares (164 million acres) of land was planted with Bt crops.

That year Bt corn accounted for 67 percent of corn planted in the United States and Bt cotton for between 79-95 percent of cotton planted in the US, Australia, China, and India.

Transgenic crops are opposed in Europe and other parts of the world where green activists say they are a potential threat to human health and the environment.

Revealed: How US State Department ‘Twists Arms’ on Monsanto’s Behalf

http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/Biotech_Report_US.pdf

Selling seeds, selling out democracy: US State Department does biotech industry’s bidding

– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

The U.S. State Department does the bidding of biotech giants like Monsanto around the world by “twisting the arms of countries” and engaging in vast public campaign schemes to push the sale of genetically modified seeds, according to a new report released Tuesday by Food & Water Watch.

(International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria)The report, Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda, which pulls from over 900 State Department diplomatic cables (obtained via WikiLeaks), reveals an environment wherein US ambassadors act as sales representatives for the global biotech industry.

U.S. ambassadors and their staffs actively lobby foreign governments to adopt pro-biotechnology policies and laws, create “rigorous public relations campaigns to improve the image of biotechnology” and challenge “commonsense biotechnology safeguards and rules — including opposing genetically engineered (GE) food labeling laws.”

“It really goes beyond promoting the U.S.’s biotech industry and agriculture,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “It really gets down to twisting the arms of countries and working to undermine local democratic movements that may be opposed to biotech crops, and pressuring foreign governments to also reduce the oversight of biotech crops.”

As FWW reports, the State Department has gone to great lengths to see that biotech companies’ desires are met:

  • The U.S. State Department’s multifaceted efforts to promote the biotechnology industry overseas: The State Department targeted foreign reporters, hosted and coordinated pro-biotech conferences and public events and brought foreign opinion-makers to the United States on high-profile junkets to improve the image of agricultural biotechnology overseas and overcome widespread public opposition to GE crops and foods.
  • The State Department’s coordinated campaign to promote biotech business interests: The State Department promoted not only pro-biotechnology policies but also the products of biotech companies. The strategy cables explicitly “protect the interests” of biotech exporters, “facilitate trade in agribiotech products” and encourage the cultivation of GE crops in more countries, especially in the developing world.
  • The State Department’s determined advocacy to press the developing world to adopt biotech crops: The diplomatic cables document a coordinated effort to lobby countries in the developing world to pass legislation and implement regulations favored by the biotech seed industry. This study examines the State Department lobbying campaigns in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria to pass pro-biotech laws.
  • The State Department’s efforts to force other nations to accept biotech crop and food imports: The State Department works with the U.S. Trade Representative to promote the export of biotech crops and to force nations that do not want these imports to accept U.S. biotech foods and crops.

“It’s not surprising that Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow want to maintain and expand their control of the $15 billion global biotech seed market, but it’s appalling that the State Department is complicit in supporting their goals despite public and government opposition in several countries,” said Ronnie Cummins, executive director of Organic Consumers Association. “American taxpayer’s money should not be spent advancing the goals of a few giant biotech companies.”

“The biotech agriculture model using costly seeds and agrichemicals forces farmers onto a debt treadmill that is neither economically nor environmentally viable,” said Ben Burkett, President of the National Family Farm Coalition.  “An overwhelming number of farmers in the developing world reject biotech crops as a path to sustainable agricultural development or food sovereignty.”

“Thanks, Monsanto. And thanks, State Department. Not only are you selling seeds, you’re selling out democracy,” Hauter concludes.

USA: Farmer’s use of genetically modified soybeans grows into Supreme Court case

#Monsanto #GMCrops #PatentsOnLife Farmer’s use of genetically modified soybeans grows into Supreme Court case

In SANDBORN, Ind. — Farmer Hugh Bowman hardly looks the part of a revolutionary who stands in the way of promising new biotech discoveries and threatens Monsanto’s pursuit of new products it says will “feed the world.”

“Hell’s fire,” said the 75-year-old self-described “eccentric old bachelor,” who farms 300 acres of land passed down from his father. Bowman rested in a recliner, boots off, the tag that once held his Foster Grant reading glasses to a drugstore rack still attached, aMonsanto gimme cap perched ironically on his balding head.

“I am less than a drop in the bucket.”

Yet Bowman’s unorthodox soybean farming techniques have landed him at the center of a national battle over genetically modified crops. His legal battle, now at the Supreme Court, raises questions about whether the right to patent living things extends to their progeny, and how companies that engage in cutting-edge research can recoup their investments.

What Bowman did was to take commodity grain from the local elevator, which is usually used for feed, and plant it. But that grain was mostly progeny of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready beans because that’s what most Indiana soybean farmers grow. Those soybeans are genetically modified to survive the weedkiller Roundup, and Monsanto claims that Bowman’s planting violated the company’s restrictions.

Those supporting Bowman hope the court uses the case, which is scheduled for oral arguments later this month, to hit the reset button on corporate domination of agribusiness and what they call Monsanto’s “legal assault” on farmers who don’t toe the line.Monsanto’s supporters say advances in health and environmental research are endangered.

And the case raises questions about the traditional role of farmers.

For instance: When a farmer grows Monsanto’s genetically modified soybean seeds, has he simply “used” the seed to create a crop to sell, or has he “made” untold replicas of Monsanto’s invention that remain subject to the company’s restrictions?

An adverse ruling, Monsanto warned the court in its brief, “would devastate innovation in biotechnology,” which involves “notoriously high research and development costs.”

“Inventors are unlikely to make such investments if they cannot prevent purchasers of living organisms containing their invention from using them to produce unlimited copies,” Monsanto states.

Bowman said Monsanto’s claim that its patent protection would be eviscerated should he win is “ridiculous.”

“Monsanto should not be able, just because they’ve got millions and millions of dollars to spend on legal fees, to try to terrify farmers into making them obey their agreements by massive force and threats,” Bowman said.

His squat white farmhouse on the outskirts of his down-at-the-heels home town is now filled with stacks of documents. There are legal procedure books under the living room end table and a copier in the bedroom that regularly churns out Bowman’s six-page statement of events.

The journey from Sandborn to the Supreme Court is a trip through modern American agribusiness and patent law, an increasing part of the court’s docket but a complex area of law that even the justices approach with some trepidation.

At issue is Monsanto’s ubiquitous weedkiller, Roundup, which has revolutionized American farming. “Weeds are the most significant economic challenge to global food production,” says a brief by the American Soybean Association, which supportsMonsanto in the case.

They compete with crops for water, nutrients and light, and Roundup has been especially effective in combating them. The herbicide’s active ingredient, glyphosate, kills almost everything — including conventional soybeans.

So Monsanto in 1996 offered a genetically modified soybean that was resistent to glyphosate, and despite alarm from some who oppose such engineering, it has been wildly successful. Through Monsanto’s own seeds and by its licensing of the technology to other seed producers, a little more than a decade later more than 90 percent of the soybeans grown in the United States were Roundup Ready.

Farmers who buy seeds with the Roundup Ready trait sign an agreement that says they may be used for one planting only. Even though the gene exists in the new beans they grow, farmers cannot save them for a second planting, nor sell them to others for that purpose.

But they are allowed to sell the beans to giant grain elevators, like those that are the most prominent feature on the flat landscape in Bowman’s corner of southern Indiana.

From 1999 to 2007, Bowman purchased Roundup Ready seeds for his first planting of soybeans and abided by Monsanto’s restrictions. But like some farmers, he also plants a second crop later in the growing season; such crops are highly dependent on the weather, which makes them more hit-or-miss.

It is too risky to pay the high price of Monsanto’s Roundup-resistant seeds for the second crop of the season, Bowman said, so instead he purchased cheaper commodity grain from the local elevator, which is usually used for feed. He planted it, and when he sprayed the crop with the herbicide, almost all survived. That wasn’t surprising, because 94 percent of Indiana soybean farmers grow Roundup Ready beans.

Bowman told Monsanto exactly what he was doing, and Monsanto told him to stop.

The farmer was in effect “soybean laundering,” according to some of the companies supporting Monsanto at the Supreme Court — selling Roundup Ready progeny beans to the grain elevator and hoping other farmers were too, then buying them back and planting them.

The company sued when Bowman ignored its warnings, winning a judgment of nearly $85,000.

Bowman argued that under long-standing legal precedent, Monsanto’s patent claims ended — were “exhausted” is the legal term — once Bowman purchased the Roundup Ready seed.

But the specialized court that hears patent cases, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, disagreed and said Monsantocould put restrictions on farmers’ use of progeny beans.

Moreover, the judges said that even if Monsanto’s patent was exhausted by the original sale, Bowman was creating copies of the company’s technology.

“While farmers, like Bowman, may have the right to use commodity seeds as feed . . . they cannot ‘replicate’ Monsanto’s patented technology by planting it in the ground to create newly infringing genetic material, seeds, and plants,” the court ruled.

It was one in a string of victories for Monsanto at the Federal Circuit. But the Supreme Court in recent years has taken a much more aggressive stance in reviewing the lower court’s patent rulings. Even though the Obama administration, at the justices’ invitation, said the ruling should be affirmed, the court accepted Bowman’s appeal.

Those worried about genetically modified crops — now dominant in corn, sugar beet and canola production as well as soybeans — say Bowman’s case presents a “microcosm” of the state of American agribusiness, where corporations dominate and bully farmers through lawsuits.

“The current intellectual property environment of transgenic crops has spurred the privatization and concentration of the world’s seed supply,” said a brief filed by the Center for Food Safety and Save Our Seeds, groups that have been highly critical of Monsantoand genetically modified crops. “Market concentration has resulted in 10 multinational corporations holding approximately two-thirds (65%) of commercial seed for major crops, reducing choice and innovation, and increasing prices for the American farmer.”

The brief asks the court to end the practice of allowing corporations to place conditions on the sale of its seed and to reject an “end-run around patent exhaustion” for regeneration. “Farming is using seeds, not constructing or manufacturing seeds,” the brief states.

Monsanto, alarmed at the possibilities of what the Supreme Court might do, has circled the wagons.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization warns that advancements in agricultural, medical and environmental research “depend critically on a strong, stable and nationally uniform system of patent rights and protections.”

Universities, economists, intellectual property experts and seed companies have weighed in on Monsanto’s behalf.

Bowman originally represented himself, with the help of a local attorney, in the legal proceedings. But now Seattle lawyer Mark P. Walters and his intellectual property law firm are working pro bono on Bowman’s behalf.

Walters calls Monsanto’s dire claims “really such an exaggeration.” Monsanto can protect itself through contracts, for instance, requiring grain elevators to impose restrictions against planting commodity seed. The company could even ensure that its Roundup resistance does not pass on to the next generation of soybeans, ensuring that farmers would have to buy, rather than save, seed.

Monsanto rejects those alternatives as unworkable.

Bowman, meanwhile, denies that he has found an ingenious loophole around Monsanto’s restriction.

“I see no threat in what I’ve done,” he said. “If there was, there’d surely be a hell of a lot of other farmers doing it.” Instead, he said, “as far as I know, I’m the only damn dumb farmer around” that tried.

The case is Vernon Hugh Bowman v. Monsanto .

Hungry for innovation: pathways from GM crops to agroecology

#GMCrops #Biosafety #AgroEcology

Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation

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

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

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

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

“BIODIVERSITY AND BIOSAFETY KEY TO FOOD SECURITY” “TRANSGENICS WILL NOT MEET OUR FOOD SECURITY NEEDS”

National Seminar on GM Crops and Food Security asks for a Biosafety Law to be enacted

 New Delhi / Ahmedabad, February 15, 2013: The 2-day national seminar on “GM Crops and Food Security” jointly organized by Jatan Trust, Gujarat Vidyapith and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh concluded in Ahmedabad today by calling for a Biosafety Law to be enacted in the country. Speakers emphasized on Biodiversity and Biosafety being key to food security of the country, whereas the current aggressive promotion of transgenic crops is jeopardizing this.

Speaking on democratizing the debate and decision-making around GM crops, Kartikeya Sarabhai of CEE (Centre for Environment Education) pointed out that debate on GM crops cannot be just about production and yields, and that the discourse around food security as well as GM crops has moved on. “The debate on GM crops is around sustainability of farm livelihoods, sustainable use of environmental resources, control over critical resources like seed resting with community, farmers and consumers having a choice, socio-cultural and ethical issues to be addressed and so on. Talking about GM crops only in the context of improving yields is inadequate and inappropriate”. He stressed upon the need for an informed debate in which all citizens should be able to engage, since this is a matter pertaining to something as fundamental as Food. He pointed out that creating a debate is not about being “anti-science”, but asking for holistic science. A multi-disciplinary approach, which includes social sciences, is needed, since this is about livelihoods and development, he stressed. He called for independent studies and said that research approvals should be conditional on making the findings public.

Earlier inaugurating the seminar, Sri Mohini Mohan Mishra, National Secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, said that in all his travels across the country and meeting farmers, he has realised that they aspire for their control over the very basic resources of farming – soil, water and seed. “In BKS, we believe that India does not need GM crops. Unfortunately, farmers have become victim of glorified propaganda of the Biotech industry. It is a pity that today non-Bt Seeds of Cotton are not available in the market”, he said.

Dr M H Mehta, former VC of Gujarath Agriculture University (GAU) and Chair of Science Ashram, speaking at the seminar, stressed on the need for focusing on economical and environmental friendly model of agriculture to feed the hungry. This will need an agro-ecological approach and not a GM crop based model. He pointed out that while science and technology need to be encouraged, any technology needs to be holistically viewed and the overall consideration of public good and wisdom must prevail.

Explaining how woefully inadequate the GM crop risk assessment is in India, Dr Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign pointed out that our testing systems are simply not stringent enough and even the prescribed procedures are not followed by the companies or universities. Many scientific studies, including the ones conducted by the biotech companies themselves have shown adverse impacts on health and environment. In India, when the biosafety data of Bt brinjal was brought into the public domain, the inadequacy of the tests and the carelessness of the scientists doing the research, and the regulators reviewing biosafety came to the fore. This is not the way to do science, she stated.

Dr Sudarshan Iyengar, Vice Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith, presenting a fact sheet on issues related to Food Security in India, emphasized that there is enough evidence to say confidently that if land use planning is rationalized, land ownership issues are resolved, appropriate agronomical practices are introduced, nature’s own resources are used as farm inputs, the world can produce enough for the growing population.

Speaking on “Science & Technology for Food Security”, Dr Rajeswari Raina of NISTADS (National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, which is a science policy institute of CSIR) pointed out that what we need is “good science”. She explained that ‘good science’ is one that works towards economic, ecological and social progress, something that can tell us whether the existing evidence is enough or not, in terms of risk and impact assessment related to technologies like GM, in addition to giving due recognition and space to other knowledge domains and cultural values that ‘formal science’ has not studied thus far.

Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, said, “Transgenic technology is an unnecessary risk and costly distraction, while solutions for issues in our farming lie elsewhere. In the name of public sector research, resources are being mis-utilised, while something inherently unsafe will remain unsafe, whether it is from the private sector or the public sector”.

Dr Minoo Parabia, renowned botanist, biodiversity expert and Member of State Biodiveristy Board made a presentation on the rich biodiversity of Gujarat, including agro-diversity and expressed caution against transgenics. Dr Atul Mehta, senior rice breeder pointed out that while GM crops are being aggressively pushed, need assessment is sadly lacking, by presenting data of past 50 years to show that pest incidence (stemborer) on rice was low even though corporations are trying to push Bt rice as a solution for a problem that does not exist.

Speaking on the faulty framework of the proposed Biosafety Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, Kavitha Kuruganti of ASHA showcased how improvements in the regulatory regime over the years will be lost if BRAI Bill is allowed to be enacted. “Sustained civil society action, including judicial activism, in addition to the Bt brinjal public debate led by Mr Jairam Ramesh, the then MoEF, brought in some improvements; through the BRAI Bill, the Government of India is trying to lower the regulatory bar which is objectionable and unacceptable”, she said.

Earlier, latest scientific evidence related to adverse impacts of GM crops were shared by Rajesh Krishnan of Greenpeace India. The Seminar also had presentations from the Biotech seed industry representatives, who presented on Bt Cotton in India and GM crop adoption in other countries. Participants of the seminar also included senior scientists from agriculture universities of the state, civil society members, seed and food industry representatives, members of various farmers’ unions and government officials, in addition to Members of the State Biodiversity Board.

For more information, contact:

Kapil Shah: 094-270-54132

Sridhar Radhakrishnan: 099-953-58205

Kavitha Kuruganti: 09393001550