All field trials to be stopped, unless conditions met: SC Technical Expert Committee submits interim report

“10-year Moratorium on field trials of Bt food crops, Moratorium on field trials of Herbicide Tolerant crops (till independent assessment of impact and suitability) and Ban on field trials of GM crops for which India is Centre of Origin/Diversity”

In an Interim Report signed off on 7th October 2012 (D.No.1944/2005/SC/PIL in the Assistant Registrar PIL (WRIT)’s office, dated 17th October 2012), a 5-member Technical Expert Committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court of India in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 260 of 2005, with Aruna Rodrigues and others as the petitioners in a PIL pertaining to GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), unanimously presented its view that all field trials should be stopped until the following conditions have been met:

i) Specific sites for conducting field trials have been designated and certified and sufficient mechanisms for monitoring the trials put in place.
ii) A panel of scientists, qualified in evaluation of the biosafety data of GM crops has been engaged for scrutiny and analyses of the safety data.
iii) Conflict of interest in the regulatory body has been removed (as discussed above).
iv) The requirement for preliminary biosafety tests prior to field trials including sub-chronic toxicity in small animals has been included.

Importantly, the TEC recommended the following with regard to certain classes of products:

“9. Based on the current overall status of food safety evaluation of Bt transgenics including the data on Bt cotton and Bt brinjal examined by the TEAC and in accordance with the precautionary principle, the TEC recommends a ten year moratorium on field trials of Bt transgenics in all food crops (those used directly for human consumption).

10. In view of the concerns bearing on health, environmental and socio-economic considerations, the TEC recommends a moratorium on field trials of herbicide tolerant (HT) crops until an independent committee comprising of experts and stakeholders has examined and assessed the potential impact of HT technology and its suitability in the Indian context.

11. India is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol which recognises the crucial importance of biodiversity as a long term resource. The TEC accordingly recommends a ban on field trials of transgenics in those crops for which India is a centre of origin or a centre of diversity, as transgenics can contaminate and adversely affect the biodiversity.”

The TEC specifically recommended for a re-examination of all biosafety data for applications in process as well as those that have been approved for release by scientists who are qualified in biosafety science and experienced in evaluation of biosafety dossiers for transgenic plants. Citing its rationale as “given the findings of the TEC that there have been several cases of ignoring problematic aspects of the data in the safety dossiers”, the Committee recommended that the re-examination, “if necessary, be done by international experts who have the necessary experience”.

It also recommended long term and inter-generational studies in rodents to be added to the tests and performed for all products whether already approved or yet to be approved.

Further, “acute and sub-chronic feeding studies for all applications including those in progress should be completed before BRLI, as also molecular analysis and allergenicity tests. If these studies indicate potential risks of any kind, the GM event should be rejected outright to save time, resources and contamination”, the report said.

“Genome-wide expression analysis in the toxicity studies of the test organism (eg. rodent) that is being exposed helps to identify changes in biomarkers that are indicative of toxicity. This is an important test to be included as biomarkers are sensitive indicators and are capable of revealing changes before visible symptoms appear” read specific recommendation 4 of the TEC.

For BRLI and BRL II trials, ‘the regulator needs to designate and certify a defined number of sites in different parts of the country. All field trials should be carried out only at these sites. These sites should be used only for growing GM plants and not the non-GM material. Trials should not be conducted in farmers’ fields. This also applies to those trials for which permission may have previously been given by the regulator’, the TEC stated.

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE TECHNICAL EXPERT COMMITTEE’S INTERIM REPORT HERE. SC TEch committee report

THE SUPREME COURT ORDER SETTING UP THE TEC, ITS CONSTITUTION AND ITS TERMS OF REFERENCE CAN BE DOWNLOADED HERE.

The Coalition for a GM-Free India welcomes this interim report from the Technical Expert Committee set up by the apex court of India and awaits the Supreme Court’s hearing on the 29th of October 2012 in the matter. While earlier inquiries and debates have been discounted by GM proponents as ‘political’, or ’emotional’, or ‘non-scientific’ inquiries and recommendations/decisions, it is worth noting that the TEC consists only of scientists, including of scientists from the government as its representatives. Further, 22 of the 31 submissions studied by the TEC in their nearly 4-month-long inquiry/study were from people with scientific background.

Pro, anti- groups spar over safety of GM corn

HYDERABAD, OCTOBER 8:

K.V. KURMANATH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABLE-AG response

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

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

kurmanath.kanchi@thehindu.co.in

Coalition condemns Biotech industry attempts to hijack and dilute the CBD MOP6 discussions

PRESS RELEASE

Oct 6, 2012


Coalition
 condemns Biotech industry attempts to hijack and dilute the CBD MOP6 discussions 

MOP exposes real safety concerns of GM crops;

Coalition demands that India should not allow any open-air field trials or release of GM crops. 

A comprehensive Biosafety Law be enacted with strict liability and redress provisions.

                The CBD MOP6, has for once, exposed the Global Biotech industry’s  attempts to sabotage the Supplementary Protocol by attempting to discourage and dissuade parties from ratifying it  and  instead  lobbying nations to adopt the industry sponsored voluntary  compensation mechanism under the Compact.  This follows years of attempts by the Global (and Indian) industry led by Monsanto to assert the supposed safety of genetically modified (GM) crops. The Coalition also deplores the attempts of many members of the agricultural research establishment, both national and international, for toeing the industry line and trying hard to dismiss the real concerns raised by civil society and independent scientists across the world.  The CBD-MOP6 discussions and the various side events exposed these lies in the full glare of public attention. The dangers of GM crops to health, environment and biodiversity occupied centre-stage – as policy-makers, scientists and activists from 193 countries spent 5 days discussing how to ensure bio-safety while dealing with this highly risky technology. The false propaganda of the industry regarding Bt cotton was also exposed in front of the international media during an industry-sponsored field trip. The Bt cotton farmers spoke about bollworm attack and other pest attacks, increased use of pesticides and low yields.

 

The Coalition urges the Government of India to take decisions on this technology, assigning the highest priority to biosafety and to applying the Precautionary Principle, instead of being led by false propaganda from the industry. It reminds the government of the Bt Brinjal moratorium and the events that led to it, the continuing disaster afflicting farmers’ lives by Bt Cotton, and the violations of biosafety happening across the country during various field trials of GM crops. The Indian government has announced that it will ratify the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress, and urged all countries to do the same. So far, 51 countries have signed this protocol, and the ratifications have just begun. This stand from the Indian government should be welcomed. However ratifying is only the first step – the crux is in implementation.

 

“The CBD MOP6 may have concluded, but the real work now has to begin at home.” said Shalini Bhutani, a lawyer working on law and policy issues around agriculture. “Decisions taken at the global level need to be followed through at the national level. This is particularly true with respect to designing a liability and redress (L+R) law for LMOs. The Supplementary Protocol on L+R requires countries to provide for L+R with respect to LMOs in their domestic laws.”  She warned against letting the TNC-designed ‘Compact’ from pre-empting any legislative measures by countries on this critical subject.

 

“We are disappointed with the reluctance of the government to adopt a Biosafety Protection Law. Besides spending hundreds of crores in organizing the CBD COP & MOP, India is taking over the presiding role in the Convention on Biological Diversity for the next two years. It must therefore show real commitment to biodiversity conservation. It should fulfill its minimum responsibility to enact a National Biosafety Act which ensures practical implementation of all the commitments under the various Protocols that it is ratifying.  It should immediately ban all field trials of GM crops, as strongly recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture” said Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convener,  Coalition for GM Free India.

 

Amongst the 18 decisions adopted at the MOP6, the decision to establish an ad-hoc technical expert group (AHTEG) on socio-economic considerations is of particular interest to India. “We welcome the fact that socio-economic considerations have been given recognition by forming a Technical Group of 40 representatives to thoroughly examine the socio-economic implications of GM crops.” added Kiran Kumar Vissa, Convener, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).  “As we have always argued, GM  crops should be looked at not only through the lens  of technology  but  its  socio-economic consequences should be seriously examined  – including issues of impact on small farmers, their control and access to seed, impact on the costs and risks of cultivation, corporate control of seed sector, implications of proprietary rights over life forms, etc.” he said. This process should be truly participatory with proper representation of farmers’ organizations and civil society groups. Countries like the US have stayed resistant to this as they approach LMOs merely as a trade issue. “In a country like India the lives and livelihoods of several thousand people, especially tribal and  local  communities and small-marginal farmers, have to be considered when taking decisions about any application of potentially hazardous technologies. Infact, the safer alternatives that have now been clearly demonstrated through organic farming, non-pesticidal management etc, have to be considered before opting for this unnecessary risk of GM crops” said Dr Ramanjaneyelu, Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

 

Another substantive issue which arose from the Programme of Work of the COP-MOP and previous decisions is regarding developing guidance for parties on risk assessment. India’s claim to have established a mechanism for conducting risk assessments prior to taking decisions regarding LMOs is unacceptable, as the real experience on the ground and submissions in the ongoing PIL in the Supreme Court have pointed to the egregious gaps in the regulatory regime in India, which will need to be addressed.
It is deplorable that some European nations also showed great resistance to the requirement of “Identification” where any package containing Living Modified Organism(LMO) will be clearly identified for handling and transport. This shows the hypocrisy and manipulation by these governments backed by the biotech industry; having acknowledged the risks of Living Modified Organisms and evolving an entire Protocol for biosafety, identification and labeling of LMOs should be the very first step.

 

The MOP6 also saw the continuing influence of big biotech industry lobby spending millions of dollars to be present in the Convention simply to weaken the protocols, the continuing influence from strong non-parties like the US and the resistance from some European countries in strengthening the implementation of the protocol, the delay in most countries in ratifying the protocols, the lack of sufficient budget for capacity-building and ensuring the implementation of the protocols in the member countries after ratification. The Coalition calls for all countries to ratify the Supplementary Protocol and, implement strict biosafey laws.  The Coalition also raised serious concerns about the apathy among global leader nations to contribute towards ensuring adequate financial resources for the implementation of the world’s biosafety protocols and decisions related to them.

 

What Indian national and state governments should do

 

We demand that the Indian national and state governments should treat the CBD conference and the MOP6 as the beginning of a new phase where Bio-safety will be given highest priority while dealing with GM crops.

 

Specific demands:

(1)    Indian government should enact a comprehensive National Biosafety Protection Law to address the risks posed by Genetic Engineering technology. Any future consideration of release of GM crops should be only after such a biosafety regime based on precautionary principles, complete consideration of socio-economic realities and strict liability and redress is implemented. TheBiotechnology Regulatory Authority of India(BRAI) bill should be discarded completely, as it violates the key commitments being made by India under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and its Supplementary Protocol.

(2)    All open-air field trials of GM crops constitute an “environmental release”, and should be stopped forthwith, as recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture.

(3)    No GM research and development should be allowed on crops in their centre of diversity, especially for important food crops. This applies to rice, brinjal, jowar, red gram, brinjal and so on. Indian diploid (desi) cotton varieties should be protected from GM, and non-GM development should be taken up.

(4)    Comprehensive process to assess the socio-economic implications of GM crops should be initiated in India, in light of the formation of the Technical Expert Group in MOP6.

(5)    The Department of Biotechnology and its association with Biotechnology Consortium India Limited (BCIL) should immediately stop funding and facilitating the development of this risky technology of GM crops and focus more on capacity-building about the risks of the technology.

 

Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convener, Coalition for GM Free India: 09995358205, mail.thanal@gmail.com

Dr. G.V. Ramanjaneyulu, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture: 09000699702, ramoo.csa@gmail.com

Kirankumar Vissa, co-convenor, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA):   09701705743, kiranvissa@gmail.com

Doctors and farmers find that eliminating GMOs prevents disease

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 by: Kim Evans

http://www.naturalnews.com/036988_GMOs_disease_prevention_doctors.html#ixzz25NLqmYhL

 

In recent years, more and more doctors have started warning their patients to avoid genetically modified foods and the results are paying off. Jeffrey Smith now tells us that thousands of doctors are reporting the elimination of disease simply when patients cut genetically modified foods out of their diets. They are finding the elimination of immune disorders, arthritis, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, skin problems, general pain, migraines, and restless leg syndrome, among other problems. According to one doctor, the results happen pretty quickly too.

 

“In terms of allergies,” Dr. Lindner tells us, “it might take two to five days. In terms of depression, it starts to lift almost instantaneously. When I change people from a GMO diet to a GMO-free diet, I see results instantaneously in people who have foggy thinking and people who have gut symptoms like bloating, gas, irritation.”

 

Dr. Lindner is getting her patients off the most common genetically modified foods including soy, corn, canola oil, and sugar and recommending that they buy organic to avoid even more of them. Full results, she tells us, normally take four to six weeks.

 

The elimination of disease by dropping genetically modified foods isn’t limited to people either. Farmers have been finding the same thing.

 

Jeffery also tells us that when a Danish farmer switched to non-GMO soy for his 450 pigs and their offspring, within two days the animals’ diarrhea problems virtually disappeared. “During the following year,” he says, “death from ulcers and bloat, which had claimed 36 pigs over the previous two years, vanished. Conception rate was up, litter size was up, diseases were down, and birth defects were eliminated.”

 

One has to wonder if the 36 pigs that died were a direct result of eating the scientifically modified foods. It seems like it could have been quite a few. And if 36 out of 450 pigs died, one has to wonder how many human deaths the muted foods are also responsible for. In any case, it wouldn’t be the first time that animals have died as a result of eating these scientific creations.

 

GM crops are no way forward

Satyarat Chaturvedi

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article3812825.ece?css=print

Food security is not about production alone; it is also about bio-safety, and access to food for the poorest

We are predominantly an agricultural economy, with the agricultural sector providing employment and subsistence to almost 70 per cent of the workforce. There have been some remarkable contributions from the agriculture sector to food grain production in the last six decades, when from a meagre 50 million tonnes in the 1950s, the country has been able to produce a record 241 million tonnes in 2010-2011. Despite these achievements, the condition of the farming community is pitiable considering that 70 per cent of our farmers are small and marginal, and there is a complete absence of pro-farmer/pro-agriculture policies which has led us to an environment of very severe agrarian distress.

Pros and cons

In this situation, food security has been one of the main agendas of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government and also one that the government has been struggling with. There is a strong opinion among policymakers that biotechnology holds a lot of promise in achieving food security and that transgenic crops, especially, are a sustainable way forward. But given the opposition and controversies surrounding Genetically Modified (GM) crops and the differences of opinion among stakeholders, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture decided to take on the mammoth task of an objective assessment of the pros and cons of introducing GM crops.

We expect the observations in our report to answer the big question on the role of GM crops in achieving food security. We hope the recommendations will be acted upon at the earliest. The committee felt this was all the more necessary in the light of the Prime Minister’s exhortation at the Indian Science Congress about the full utilisation of modern biotechnology for ensuring food security but without compromising on safety and regulatory aspects.

The lessons

In India, the only commercialised GM crop is Bt cotton. Industry and the Central government have painted a picture of success about it — saying it has led to an increase in production and that the costs of cultivation have gone down. But the ground reality is starkly different. This was evident during the extensive interactions of the committee with farmers in different cotton growing regions around the country during study visits in March 2012.

Besides analysing the facts and figures provided by government agencies and listening to eminent cotton scientists, the committee’s consultation with farmers in Vidharbha helped us conclude that the Bt cotton saga is not as rosy as made out to be. In Vidharbha, the per-acre investment in cultivating traditional varieties, or even pre-Bt hybrids, could be less than Rs. 10,000. That was certainly the case until the first half of the previous decade. But for Bt cotton, even the un-irrigated farmer is spending upwards of Rs. 15,000-18,000 or even more per acre. And irrigated farmers complain of input costs exceeding Rs. 45,000 per acre. While the investment and acreage rose dramatically, the per acre yield and income did not increase in equal measure and actually fell after initial years. Indeed, the Union Agriculture Minister spoke of Vidharbha’s dismal yields on December 19, 2011 in the Rajya Sabha.

It was clear that at least for the rain-fed cotton farmers of our country, the introduction of Bt cotton offered no socio-economic benefits. On the contrary, it being a capital intensive practice, the investment of farmers increased manifold thus exposing them to greater risks due to massive indebtedness. It needs to be remembered that rain-fed farmers constitute 85 per cent of all cotton growing farmers.

Added to this, there is desperation among farmers as introduction of Bt cotton has slowly led to the non-availability of traditional varieties of cotton. The cultivation of GM crops also leads to monoculture and the committee has witnessed its clear disadvantages. The decade of experience has shown that Bt cotton has benefited the seed industry hands down and not benefited the poorest of farmers. It has actually aggravated the agrarian distress and farmer suicides. This should be a clear message to policymakers on the impact of GM crops on farming and livelihoods associated with it.

The risks

From the various deliberations to which the committee was privy, it is clear that the technology of genetic engineering is an evolving one and there is much, especially on its impact on human health and environment, that is yet to be understood properly. The scientific community itself seems uncertain about this. While there are many in this community who feel that the benefits outweigh the risks, others point to the irreversibility of this technology and uncontrollability of the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) once introduced in the ecosystem. Hence, they advocate a precautionary approach towards any open release of GMOs.

One of the concerns raised strongly by those opposing GM crops in India is that many important crops like rice, brinjal, and mustard, among others, originated here, and introducing genetically modified versions of these crops could be a major threat to the vast number of domestic and wild varieties of these crops. In fact, globally, there is a clear view that GM crops must not be introduced in centres of origin and diversity. India also has mega biodiversity hotspots like the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats which are rich in biodiversity yet ecologically very sensitive. Hence it will only be prudent for us to be careful before we jump on to the bandwagon of any technology.

The committee’s findings on the GEAC-led regulatory system for GM crops show that it has a pro-Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and pro-industry tilt. It has also come under the scanner due to its inefficiency at the time of Bt Brinjal approval and for behaving like a promoter of GM crops rather than a regulatory body mandated to protect human health and environment from the risks of biotechnology. The DBT, whose mandate is to promote GM crops and fund various transgenics research, has a nominee as the co-chair of the GEAC, who gives the final approval for environmental and commercial release of GM crops.

The current regulatory system is shameful and calls for a complete makeover. While the government has been toying recently with the idea of a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority, the committee dismisses this and instead recommends an all-encompassing Biosafety Authority. While the committee has also evaluated international regulatory systems on GM crops, it recommends the Norwegian Gene Technology Act whose primary focus is bio-safety and sustainable development without adverse effects on health and environment, as a piece of legislation in the right direction for regulating GM crops in India.

The committee strongly believes that the problem today is in no measure comparable to the ship-to-mouth situation of the early 1960s. Policy and decision-makers must note that the total food grain production rose from 197 million tonnes in 2000-2001 to 241 million tonnes in 2010-11. A major argument by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation before the committee in favour of GM crops was their potential to ensure the country’s food security. But the issue of food security is not about production alone; it also means access to food for the poorest. Moreover, there is no evidence as yet that GM crops can actually increase yields.

The committee, therefore, recommended the government come up with a fresh road map for ensuring food security in the coming years without jeopardising the vast biodiversity of the country and compromising with the safety of human and livestock health.

The committee unanimously feels that the government should take decisive action on the recommendations of this report and rethink its decision of introducing transgenics in agriculture as a sustainable way forward.

(Satyarat Chaturvedi is spokesperson, Indian National Congress, and member of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture)