TO B(t) OR NOT TO B(t)

Posted on 5 kwietnia 2010. Filed under: gmo, gmo szajs, oszukańcze koncerny, Oszustwa mediów | Tagi: , , |

Gigantic, greedy and powerful multinational companies are using muscle and media power to push through genetically modified food products, backed by parasitic lobbies in India peddling unscientific evidence. Will Jairam Ramesh succumb to this profit cartel?

Shaweta Anand Delhi

Those opposed to GM-food may be happy to see how Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh stopped Bt brinjal’s commercial release after public consultations. However, the way the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) draft bill is taking shape, with its draconian clauses to thwart any anti-GM voices, it wouldn’t be too surprising if we are found chewing Bt vegetables in the near future, without even knowing it! Quite like the civilian nuclear deal with the United States that went through all kinds of legislative and political convulsions before it was passed in Parliament, the clearance of Bt brinjal is expected to test similar frontiers of Indo-US strategic partnership – this time in the realm of agriculture.

Despite the minister’s assurance that the period of six months would be used for getting scientific opinion and a better appreciation of this ticklish issue, there are core issues that must be dealt with before the country faces the same challenge again – to B(t) or not to B(t)?

Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a toxic, soil-based bacteria, which is being genetically engineered into food crops so that they can ward off pest-attacks ‚most effectively’ as the new toxin-laden plant will kill any pest that dares to feast on it for breakfast. Indeed, US-based agri-giant – Monsanto – has grown from being a chemical company into one of the highest money spinners through transgenic technology, that is, the technology of transferring genes from one kind of organism to another, across different species.

Farm animals (in the US) are largely fed Bt corn and Bt soya and roughly 70-80 per cent of what humans consume has derivatives of the same processed GM-food. „Even though it does not establish a cause and effect relationship, it gives prima facie evidence that there could be a causal relationship between rising consumption of GM-food and rising gastrointestinal disorders as curves for both these observations overlap,” says Dr Pushpa Mittra Bhargava, scientist and Supreme Court-appointed nominee to observe functioning of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), ministry of environment and forests. He was speaking at a colloquium on Bt brinjal in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in January, 2010. He was interviewed by Hardnews later.

In his book called First the Seed, Jack Ralph Kloppenburg Jr, of the University of Wisconsin, writes: „Both transnational and the ‚genetic research boutiques’ are gearing to enter a market for seed that is projected to be $7 billion dollars in US alone by the year 2000.” In a 2008 article titled Monsanto’s Rich Harvest in the Business Week, author Brain Hindo says: „The company’s first-quarter earnings nearly tripled, from $90 million to $256 million…  Sales for the period rose 36 per cent to $2.1 billion.” This can give a fair idea about how fast this industry is growing.

Narrating the experience of African country Zambia with regard to GM-food, Bhargava says, „US had offered GM-corn to Zambia in the past, which they refused because genetically modified genes would contaminate other crops as well. The country exports many of its non-GM foods to Europe where maximum people prefer it. So Zambians chose to protect their own export market outside while in India, we don’t realise that with the different kinds of vegetables we have – some of them with pharmacological properties (karela, drumsticks etc) – we could become leaders of the world’s (non-GM) vegetable market in future. But if we let in Bt brinjal now, we will open floodgates for 20 other kinds of GM-vegetables, besides closing our doors to the world vegetable market, forever.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a bilateral deal during his trip to the US in 2005 and said in his speech to the US Congress: „(India’s) first green revolution benefited in substantial measure from assistance provided by the US. We are hopeful that the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (KIA) will become the harbinger of a second green revolution in our country.”

It has to be pointed out that no debate proceeded in the public domain or amidst the policy-making elite in India on such a deal or contours of the second green revolution, if any, says Kavitha Kuruganti of the Kheti Virasat Mission.

„All this talk about the launching of a second green revolution is just a red herring. This deal is essentially about changing Indian regulatory regimes around agriculture so that it suits the American business interests better. Fundamental questions about what is it that we really need to learn from the USA where farming is propped up with huge subsidies; whether there are similarities between American and Indian farming so that we need to learn from them; aren’t there huge differences between the way USA and India approach specific issues within agriculture and so on have to be answered first? In fact, the government needs to first state what lessons have been learnt from the first green revolution, before launching a second green revolution,” informed Kuruganti, in an interview to Hardnews.

„It is little wonder then that about 35 per cent of our agricultural research focuses on preparing Bt products as a majority of the Indian scientific community continues to chase the Bt gene,” says Dr Suman Sahai, senior scientist and convenor, Gene Campaign.

In an analysis offered by Rajeshwari S Raina, the Indo-US collaboration document is based on ‚a consideration mechanism’ among senior Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) officers, select VCs of state agricultural universities, directors of national institutes, private organisations and other stake holders. There is no mention of consultation with farmers.

„Public doesn’t know what GM technology is, so there is limited point in debating the good or bad of it, for instance, at the public consultations (before Ramesh announced moratorium on Bt brinjal),” says Prof KC Bansal, principal scientist, National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, ICAR.

„The basic problem is that Indian scientists or ‚experts’ feel they know everything, including the practical aspects of agricultural practices that farmers know better about. There is an unfortunate gap between the powerful, privileged scientific community and the farmer,” says Prof KJ Mukherjee of the Centre of Biotechnology, JNU.

Sahai noted that if farmers were asked, they could have probably suggested more uses of biotechnology in our country, but alas, our scientists are busy preparing Bt okra, Bt tomato, Bt cauliflower etc, as if all our food security woes will get resolved by hammering out that single toxic Bt gene. Monsanto gets paid a license fees every time there is a sale of any Bt product anywhere in the world.

To top it all, bacterial wilt is the main pest that affects brinjal not shoot and fruit borer to kill which Bt brinjal got made in the first place, she adds. One can clearly see how this business is single-mindedly market-driven and not based on the needs of farmers.

Whether Bt brinjal eventually comes through or not (most probably it will), there are serious issues with our preparedness. Inadequate, long-term testing of GM-food products for assessing their health impact on human beings is one major problem. There are no working labelling laws that could enable consumers to differentiate between GM and non-GM-food. Even if one consumes GM food – knowingly or unknowingly – there are no liability laws that fix responsibility on someone in case of adverse health impact. The biggest concern is regarding correlation of appearance of disease in humans and GM-food consumption in the absence of a post-release monitoring system, which should ideally be in place before introducing GM-food products in the market. Clearly, we are not prepared for consuming GM-food products safely, not just yet. Besides, why should we, if long-term independent tests establish that they are unsafe for human consumption?

A report on health impacts of GM-foods by ‚Doctors for Food and Biosafety’- a network of concerned Indian medical professionals – should sound like a wake-up call for a majority of Indian policy makers, agricultural scientists and agri-businessmen, who apparently want to bypass rigorous testing mechanisms and allow GM-food products to enter Indian markets as soon as possible.

In an interview to Hardnews, Dr GPI Singh of the doctors’ network says, „There are 65 documented evidences of adverse health effects related to consumption and exposure to GM crops – food or non-food.” Their report urges policy makers to utilize the Precautionary Principle approach that mandates rigorous, long-term testing by independent scientific bodies since GM-food once released in the environment cannot be recalled as easily as harmful agro-chemicals like DDT. Once released, the effects of GM crops could stay on for a lengthy time-period. Long-term testing is crucial instead of the 90-day safety trials conducted on rats by Mahyco – the Maharashtra-based Biotech Company that manufactures Bt brinjal.

Apparently, Monsanto claims that it’s Mahyco which is involved, when controversy hits it. Incidentally, Monsanto has 26 per cent stake in Mahyco.

Among studies quoted in the doctors’ report, crucial is one conducted by Austrian scientists (2008) that found reproductive issues with third and fourth generation mice eating Bt corn. In another study done by Italian scientists (2008), there were alterations in immune reactions in weaning and old mice that were fed Bt maize.

Noted epidemiologist Dr Judy Carman of Institute of Health and Environmental Research, Australia, analysed the food safety evaluation for Bt brinjal as done by Mahyco and found issues with their research methodology. Jairam Ramesh acknowledged Carman’s view in his public statement on Bt brinjal after introducing a moratorium on its commercial use in February this year. She is facing trouble  in her own country for speaking  out against interests of powerful biotech companies.

Carman’s report reveals stunning facts that were probably missed by the powerful people and media outfits promoting GM-food: „…if this GM-brinjal comes into the Indian food supply, then every Indian will be eating it, resulting in 1.15 billion Indians exposed to the GM-brinjal. Some of those exposed will be children or the elderly. Some of those exposed will already be ill with cancer, auto-immune problems, heart disease, diabetes, or infectious diseases. Because of the number of people exposed, if GM-brinjal is later found to cause illness, it could cause significant economic and social problems for India.  For example, if only 1 in 1,000 of exposed people later gets ill, or has an underlying illness made worse, then 1.15 million Indians would be ill and requiring treatment.”

In an exclusive interview with Hardnews, she says: „What happens is that studies conducted by GM companies generally involve very few animals and generally measure things relevant to animal production (eg. meat yield) rather than human health.  We need thorough, long-term animal feeding studies that measure things relevant to human health, conducted by people independent of GM companies.  But independent researchers have serious problems getting samples of GM-crops for research. For instance, a farmer who buys GM-crops from Monsanto signs a contract with Monsanto that prevents the farmer from doing any research or giving seeds to others to do it. This includes any crop yield, environmental or health research. And GM crops have a strong patent on them.  If a GM gene lands in a farmer’s crop, it belongs to the GM company. So farmers can find themselves growing GM- contaminated crops without choosing to, because bees have carried GM- containing pollen into their crop, or because the farmer has unknowingly bought contaminated seeds.  And then the farmer can be fined by the GM company for growing a GM crop without a licence to do so.  This has happened to farmers in other countries.”

Emphasising the necessity of long-term testing, Sahai says, „When you insert a gene into a new organism in a fairly aggressive manner, you do not know where that gene will go and sit and how many copies of it will get made… Gene regulation is not something we understand to the fullest extent, but when you disturb genetic material of the organism by adding new genetic material, chances are that its local environment will change and its regulation could change too. Hence the importance of long-term testing for toxicity and allergenicity to check for formation of new proteins.”

Further, Bhargava asserts, „the toxic gene might insert itself in a beneficial gene and disturb its function or it might lead to formation of new proteins or deletion of useful ones. Only adequate and rigorous safety testing can resolve that doubt. But GEAC has done none of these tests. It has basically believed the safety tests done by the company!”

In October 2009, the GEAC gave clearance to the release of commercial use of Bt brinjal after few years of introduction of Bt cotton in India. There are company claims that farmers have benefited immensely from rising cotton yields since Bt toxin – the toxic gene to kill pests that ingest it – got introduced in ordinary cotton varieties. Others on the ground, however, give abundant evidence regarding instances of allergies, cattle deaths and farmer suicides due to rising agricultural input costs that includes purchasing relatively expensive Bt cotton seeds every season.

„Where can a farmer go and register a complaint about allergic reactions he developed after exposure to Bt crops? Even the local agricultural officer doesn’t know anything about such a redressal mechanism,” says Sahai.

Besides health hazards and related socioeconomic costs to the Indian exchequer, recent media reports reveal that pests have become resistant to Bt toxin in four districts of Gujarat, thus defeating the very purpose of introduction of GM crops in the first place. Monsanto now plans to introduce another variety of Bt cotton called Bollgard 2, which will have two toxic genes instead of one to deal with more pests.

Former member of Planning Commission and former Union minister of state for agriculture and water resources, Chowdhary Sompal, says, „In the normal course of nature, pests are bound to develop resistance to pesticides within three to five years of first exposure. So no matter what product Monsanto brings in, pests will soon become resistant to it.” Questioning the very idea of farmers’ dependency on profit-driven companies, he opposed the ‚slow poisoning’ caused by toxic Bt gene that gets inserted in the plant.  „This inbuilt poison cannot be washed away, unlike externally sprayed pesticides,” says Dr Krishen Bir Choudhary, president, Bhartiya Krishak Samaj. He criticised the MNCs for the slow disappearance of our traditional, diverse seed varieties.

Speaking about politics (and profits) of seed ownership, Vijay Jardhari of Beej Bachao Andolan, Uttarakhand, whose organisation has led protracted struggles to preserve indigenous food culture and biodiversity of the Garhwal hills, says that traditionally, Indian farmers could grow many crops that kept everyone relatively healthier since they consumed nutrition from multiple sources. But after the advent of hybrid technology, and GM crops, farmers are being forced to grow monoculture crops since that increases profits for the company. This has health consequences because those living in remote hills or in cities need doctors and medicines since they suffer from lack of basic nutrition due to the non-availability of all seasonal crops. This was not the case before agriculture started getting industrialised and becoming dependent on lab-made agro-inputs.

Dr Satyajit Rath, faculty at the National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, feels that the condition of small and marginal farmers is deplorable as „he’s slowly getting coerced to buy all kinds of agricultural inputs from the market, including GM-seeds, but cannot sell back his product the same way”. The local seed dealer runs the agricultural economy since he is also the creditor.

„This seed dealer gets a commission from the company on every packet of Bt seeds he sells to the farmer, but to conclude that Monsanto is ‚evil’ and has a calculated design to kill our farmers is incorrect, because all they want to do is increase their sales! This is the how the capitalistic system works anywhere.” Most of our ministers and agricultural scientists too belong to the same neo-liberal paradigm, Rath added.

„The main problem,” says Mukherjee, „is that risk assessment of GM-foods is not an easy task for scientists anywhere in the world.” It is particularly challenging in the Indian context because human life here has little value. So the malnourished majority will also eat (Bt) brinjal because it is a cheap, readily available vegetable. So how can safety tests exclude this aspect, especially keeping in mind their low immunity?

„The poor are exposed to so many toxins regularly that might tend to hide negative effects of Bt toxin present in GM-brinjal. Therefore, safety tests designed for the poor of this country will need a combination of hard sciences and social sciences along with long-term health checks, which is not what our Indian scientists are currently doing, despite one of the world’s best agricultural research infrastructure in the world,” he added.

Calling their research work as a metaphorical ‚aam patta jam patta’ (if someone has done research on mango leaves, repeat the same with jamun leaves), Prof Mukherjee urged Indian scientists to rise above from manufacturing profit-driven ‚quickies’; instead they should generate genuinely new scientific knowledge that can be useful to millions across the spectrum. „As for what they’re doing with Bt now, even a BSc student can do that!” he says.

And Rath was more cryptic: „Scientists are after all government employees. Whatever the government will tell them, they will do.”


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Science Adulterated !

Posted on 5 kwietnia 2010. Filed under: 1 | Tagi: , , , , |

25 March 2010 211 views No Comment

GM technology not in safe handsGM technology not in safe hands

The inconclusive nature of Bt toxin in cotton and its impact on animals continue to haunt as there has been a persistent reluctance amongst the scientific establishment to respond, investigate and research into the problem. Dr Sagari R Ramdas exposes the mainstream scientific community which has time and again failed to provide any hard evidence to support its claims of safety of GM technology that has already devastated India’s biggest commercial crop–cotton

The clearance for the commercialisation of Bt brinjal has been stalled, providing a small window and space to push for “accountable science” within a country where for decades “science” and “scientists” have been deified, and excluded/protected from any processes of democratic interrogation.

The proponents of the GM technology accuse all those who question it as being “anti-science’, and “anti-development”, which is increasingly equated with being “anti-national”. “The confidence of the scientific community has been undermined” scream newspaper headlines because of the recent decision to impose a moratorium on Bt brinjal, as also at the audacity of citizens historically on the margins – dalit women farmers, shepherds, adivasis, students and other riff-raff “non-scientific” consumers, to question the authority of the scientist fraternity. However, the decision on the Bt food crop is a temporary and possibly a mere cosmetic respite and the State’s long-term political commitment to nurture an utterly impenetrable and non-accountable system of science in the public domain is crystal clear with their intention to table the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill, 2009 (BRAB, 2009) in the current parliament session.

The bill promises to provide legal ammunition to muzzle any citizen who dares to question the science of biotechnology, and clearly undermines our fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India. A legal instrument with provisions to punish anyone who “without any evidence or scientific record misleads the public about the safety of the organisms and products”1 or “who conducts field trials with organisms or products”2, and proposes to keep aspects of research on the products out of the purview of the Right to Information Act, will effectively stall the urgent need for democratisation of science and technology.

The complete absence of public scientific accountability as also the manner in which such a legislation (if passed) may be used in future to legally choke the possibilities of conducting any “independent” rigorous scientific investigation are aptly illustrated by the recent experience of Bt cotton and its impact on domestic animals in India, where several unanswered questions about the working of the technology once it was released into the “field”, beg to be addressed, and are simply being dismissed as “frivolous” and “unnecessary”.

The case of Bt cotton

Since 2005, shepherds and farmers from different parts of India, particularly the states of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka and Maharashtra, have reported their cattle falling sick after it has grazed on genetically modified cotton or have been fed Bt cotton seeds and in some instances have died. Despite several reports and representations to concerned regulatory and research institutions both at national and state levels, alerting them to the seriousness of the issue, there has been a persistent reluctance amongst the scientific establishment to respond, investigate and research the core issue. On the contrary the reaction of the establishment has been bureaucratic and dismissive of the observations. The clinical findings of “non-government” veterinary scientists who have been tracking the problem, describe these as being “unscientific”, “exaggerated, blown out of proportion”, and not based on sufficient research and “hard facts”.

The regulatory authorities such as the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) and top research universities have exhibited incapacity to rigorously investigate the matter and instead consistently argue that because all safety tests in the “pre-commercialisation” stage provided beyond doubt proof of safety of the technology, it simply could not be the cause of morbidity and mortality. Till date not one public research institution has undertaken to systematically investigate the problem in the fields.

Safety of Bt toxin in animals and dismissal by regulatory authorities of the need to conduct further bio-safety tests (such as foliage and shoot toxicity studies) on animals, was the justification used by the Expert Committee on Bt brinjal to dismiss the need to conduct long-term chronic toxicity tests and nutritional impact studies of the toxin on mammals.3

The  “evidence” that the deaths were not caused by Bt cotton, which is cited by regulatory authorities with complete impunity, would not stand any kind of international scientific scrutiny based as they are on incomplete testing / investigation protocols, admission by top Indian research institutions of the absence of facilities to test for the effects of the toxin on animals, and citing company data of “toxin-safety levels”.

Interrogating science of safety

(i) Field studies point to morbidity and mortality in animals subjected to a cumulative exposure to the Bt toxin, eliciting allergenic reactions in goats and sheep grazing on Bt cotton foliage in Andhra Pradesh, and reproductive disorders in buffalos fed Bt cotton seeds/ cottonseed cake in Haryana and Maharashtra.

Between 2005 and 2009 Anthra4,  an organisation led by women veterinary scientists researching the impact of Bt cotton on animals in different parts of India, has been closely investigating the reported morbidity and mortality observed in sheep and goat flocks, which have been grazed on harvested Bt cotton crop in Andhra Pradesh. Shepherds unambiguously declared that their animals, which had never died or fallen sick, while being grazed on regular cotton fields since the past 10 years, began to exhibit morbid changes when grazed on the GM crop.

During the first three years of investigation, symptoms reported by shepherds, were confounded by the concurrent incidence of other common contagious diseases that affect small ruminants, such as peste-du petits ruminants (PPR) and blue tongue. By 2008-09 the symptoms could be isolated, due to the in-situ presence of Anthra’s veterinary scientists who continuously monitored the village flocks, which we ensured were vaccinated/protected against all other possible preventable contagious diseases, and thus we were able to narrow down and be precise about the specific morbidity exhibited by animals that grazed on harvested Bt cotton. Our clinical findings were that morbidity selectively manifests itself symptomatically in animals by the third day of consuming Bt cotton foliage/ bolls and seeds as nasal discharge, cough, respiratory distress, occasional bloody urine and the absence of fever. Mortality occurs in some animals, especially if untreated, but not in all. Mortality and morbidity are observed to occur in those animals that have had a cumulative exposure to the Bt toxin in the form of grazing/ being fed the cottonseeds/ cottonseed cake.

In Haryana, there was a strong correlation between feeding Bt cotton seeds and cotton seed cake to milch animals, and drop in milk yield and several reproductive disorders such as prolapse of uterus, premature birth of calves, increase in the incidence of abortions and decrease in conception rate. These symptoms of reduced fertility were found to correspond to results of an inter-generational study of rats fed on Bt maize, which were found to suffer from reduced fertility. (Velimerov, A et al., 2008).

(ii) Premier research institutions lack Bt toxin testing facilities; confirm chronic histo-pathological changes in kidney, liver and intestine of dead animals: Anthra vets carried out post-mortems of dead sheep and goats that had died after grazing on Bt cotton and sent tissue samples to top research institutions of the country such as the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), with specific request that these be tested for Bt toxin. In 2008, the IVRI reported their inability to test for Bt toxin.

The IVRI in 2008 and 2009 recorded histo-pathological lesions in the kidney (chronic nephrosis), liver (chronic hepatitis) and intestinal tissues (chronic enteritis) of the post-mortemed sheep/goat, indicative of some kind of “chronic” factor at play. The observations were similar to those recorded in Monsanto’s own dossier of Mon 863, (Bt corn) of 90-day rat feeding studies, subsequently revealed by Pusztai on behalf of the German government and later confirmed also by Seralini et al (2007) after many statistical studies. The company’s hidden raw data were released in the public domain through a German Appeal Court decision (2005). Other studies by different researchers with rats fed Bt corn also revealed hepato-renal toxicity, and damage to liver and kidneys. (Kilic and Akay, 2008, Velimerov, A et al., 2008).

The chronic nature of the tissue lesions should ring alarm bells in the minds of “scientists” sitting within these august institutions as to what could possibly be causing this chronic effect? It matches with the history of mortality in those animals that have been exposed to the Bt toxin over an extended period of time.

(iii) Deceptive proof of safety and serious scientific lapses in the investigation of animal morbidity: The GEAC in its 82nd committee meeting, held in January 2008, reported receiving a dossier of proof of safety from the IVRI and animal husbandry department, Andhra Pradesh (AHD), which overwhelmingly points to deception and serious scientific lapses.

In 2006 and 2007, subsequent to the report of deaths of cattle which had grazed on Bt cotton, the department of animal husbandry in Andhra Pradesh sent plant samples to different national laboratories for testing, which resulted in completely contradictory findings and information5, simply inadequate to arrive at any conclusion on safety of the Bt toxin6 . The results failed to answer many questions including did these laboratories also test the post-mortem animal tissue samples? What was the entire list of test protocols followed by each of the laboratories for animal tissue and plant tissue alike? If we assume it was the identical plant samples sent to all laboratories what explains the different findings? The presence of a mineral (eg nitrate/ nitrite/ organophosphate etc) in the plant sample is completely insufficient evidence to deduce/derive that this mineral was the cause of animal death. This is unscientific and untenable. Further and more importantly, none of the animal tissue samples were actually tested for Bt toxin or Bt immune response, facilities that simply don’t exist at these state and national level “disease investigative laboratories”.

What is of serious concern is that in the name of scientific enquiry we have instead, clear evidence of deception and fraud on the part of all the regulatory bodies in India, to pass off the non-testing of a toxin and hence its “non-detection” as evidence of proof of safety. What we have is (a) No tests to assess immune responses to the Bt toxin/ presence of Bt toxin, but (b) Nevertheless, the unfounded claim of a “negative result of having not detected Bt toxin” which is passed off as proof of safety. It is scientifically untenable that without performing any tests, its absence is cited as evidence that the toxin is safe.

This circular argument of “safety” is the basis on which the GEAC claims that reports of animal deaths are “unsubstantiated”, and reversed its decision to carry out further risk assessment tests.

The other “proof of evidence of safety of Bt toxin” in the letter of the director, animal husbandry department AP, states:

“The Bt protein levels detected in the samples of Bt cotton bolls and leaves sent for analysis was recorded as 5 m/gm. This level is within the tolerable range which is said to be “5-10 m/gm.

In reply to a RTI appeal filed to the department of agriculture biotechnology by Anthra, to obtain the source of this “tolerable” range, the department responded that this was Mahyco’s data of safety, accessible on the official IGMORIS website . They also mentioned that Bt cotton had been well tested, including testing of foliage, which is a blatant piece of mis-information as the protocols of testing were on cotton seeds/ cotton seed cake and not foliage. Hence, what we have is the public sector research institutions citing company data as proof of safety, once again exhibiting complete scientific incompetency in conducting their own research and evolving their own protocols.

The Bt protein content (of Bt brinjal) reported in the expert committees report (point 3.1.5) describes the level of Bt protein (Cry1Ac protein) found in different parts of the crop to vary between 5 to 47 ppm in shoots and fruits.

For the sake of argument, if we are to go by the earlier submission of all institutions concerned including GEAC that the reports of Bt toxin (Cry1Ac protein) are safe and tolerable if they are between 5-10 ppm then it follows that the levels detected in Bt brinjal reported in the bio-safety studies and expert committee report, are not tolerable as it is way above the supposed permissible levels, which are cited as being safe for sheep!

This raises serious questions on supposed “tolerable” and safe levels of Bt toxin in plants. Who has decided on this safe levels for Bt toxin? What is the scientific evidence for safety? How can there be a safe level of “toxin” with a food product, when the very definition of a “toxin” indicates a poison, or something that is harmful?

The GEAC consistently referred to these Bt protein levels as proof of safety of the GM strain to animals, and the “evidence” that death in animals was due to nitrate/ nitrite/organophosphates or other diseases.

(iv) In 2007, the Sri Venkateshwara veterinary university, Andhra Pradesh initiated a season-long study on Bt cotton and sheep. While the university states that the study indicates that “all is well” as far as the Bt cotton goes, there are several aspects in the results, which warrant urgent attention and further investigation:

(a) The presence of higher toxic heavy metals in Bt plants (842.25 ppm of lead in Bt cotton as compared to 134.62 ppm of lead in non-Bt cotton after 45 days), which is 6.25 times higher after 45 days, as compared to the non-Bt cotton .

(b) The liver marker AST which is known to increase after hepato-cellular injury, as the author of the experiment indicates, is increased in the protocol by 37 percent in Bt treated sheep in comparison to the untreated group of sheep fed on regular cotton, by the second month.

It is evident from the above that there is much to worry about. There are obvious lies and a host of contradictions within the “safety” parameters being presented to common man by those who are “regulating” the technology.

There is clearly a total failure and inability of our existing public research institutions and national regulatory bodies (GEAC), to investigate/ test/ rigorously examine, prove or disprove these field observations, preferring to dismiss the reports as “unsubstantiated”, “exaggerated, and unscientific”, refusing to conduct a single field-based study and instead placing the onus of “proof” on shepherds, farmers and civil society groups who have reported the problem.

The argument that the latest guidelines do not require the suggested new risk assessment tests and hence have been dispensed with negate and ignore the field realities where “non-target organisms” have been affected by the Bt toxin. On the contrary, these unique field experiences and observations, urgently invite new and additional specific regulatory and risk assessment protocols.

Public research institutions are losing their legitimacy as independent institutions working in the interest of the citizens. It is our appraisal that scientists are occupied in lab-based science sponsored by corporations, rather than conducting citizens-based research and apply their science to address and investigate problems that are experienced by farmers in distress.

The inconclusive nature of Bt toxin in cotton and its impact on animals continue to haunt. There is clearly a stress factor that is eliciting a morbid possible allergenic response in the cattle. Is it Bt toxin? Is it some unknown/new toxin? Is it a new allergenic protein? Is it macro/micro mineral imbalances in the Bt cotton plant, (eg excess or deficiency of nitrate, nitrite, selenium etc) as a result of the Bt protein, which elicits a response from the animal? These are questions that the shepherds, farmers and “independent scientists” continue to ask and demand answers. As a first step there is immense need for a comprehensive review of the Bt cotton experience in India, particularly with respect to health and other bio-safety issues. Tomorrow a bill like the BRAB would definitely qualify that we uniformly get punished, imprisoned, and jailed for life as “we don’t have the evidence” to suggest that the products are harmful! It would also deter responsible scientists and government officials from publicly voicing their concerns, as they have done in the past.

–The author is a trained veterinarian and co-director of Anthra.


Velimerov, A et al., 2008. Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603*MON810 fed in long term reproduction studies in mice. Bundesministerium fur Gesundheit, Familie und Jugend Report, Forschungsberichte der Sektion IV Band 3/2008, Austria. 2008.

Seralini, 2007. New Analysis of a Rat Feeding Study with Genetically Modified Maize Reveals Signs of Hepatorenal toxicity. Arch.Environ.Contam.Toxicol.52, 596-602.

Kilic A. and Akay MT. 2008. A three generational study with genetically modified Bt corn in rats: Biochemical and histopathological investigations. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 46:1164-1170.

Reddy Gopal, A. et. al. 2008. “Studies on the toxicity of Bt cotton plants incorporated in the feed of small ruminants”. Project Report. Venkateshwara Veterinary University, Tirupati. Department Of Pharmacology & Toxicology, College Of Veterinary Science; Rajendranagar , Hyderabad-30.

Ramdas, Sagari R. 2009. Bt Cotton and Livestock: Health Impacts, Bio-safety concerns and the Legitimacy of Public Scientific Research Institutions. Paper presented at National workshop on genetically modified crops/foods & Health Impacts. Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Doctors for Food & Bio-Safety, Greenpeace India and Sustainet on July 8-9 at India International Centre, New Delhi


  • BRAB, 2009. Chapter XIII, 63
  • BRAB, 2009. Chapter XIII, 62
  • Section V, Issue 8, pp 58-59 of the “Report of the Expert Committee (EC-II) on Bt Brinjal event EE-1”, wherein the committee refutes the need to conduct long-term studies for assessment of chronic toxicity and nutritional impact on mammals.
  • Anthra is an organisation led by women veterinary scientists, works on issues related to livestock, peoples livelihoods and the environment and has been researching the impact of Bt cotton on animals in different parts of India
  • Letter sent to the GEAC by the Director, Animal Husbandry Department (AHD), Andhra Pradesh, dated May 2007 ref: No 3531/Epid/2006.dated 9/5/2007.
  • In 2006: Letter from Director, AHD to Commissioner Agriculture, also quoted in letter to GEAC. Letter roc no: 14627/Epid/2006/, dated 20/9/2006. Bt cotton samples were sent to different laboratories. Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory, Red Hills found plant samples positive for organophosphates and the Western Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WRDDL), Pune found plant samples positive for nitrite and nitrate and negative for HCN. The Veterinary Biological Research Institute found plant tissue samples positive for Nitrite and positive for HCN. In 2007: The plant tissue tested “positive” for HCN but the animal tissues tested “negative” for HCN. None of these results disprove the role of Bt protein.
  • Studies on the toxicity of Bt cotton plants incorporated in the feed of small ruminants. Project Report. Sri Venkateshwara Veterinary University, Tirupati page 27, table 18
  • Studies on the toxicity of Bt cotton plants incorporated in the feed of small ruminants”. Project Report. Sri Venkateshwara Veterinary University, Tirupati page 20, table 20


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Ban on glyphosate spraying near town in Argentina

Posted on 19 marca 2010. Filed under: gmo, gmo szajs, Niebezpieczne, Prawo, Urzędy | Tagi: , , , , , , , , , |

Thursday, 18 March 2010 15:18

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EXTRACT: The court found that farmers „have been indiscriminately using agrochemicals such as glyphosate, applied in open violation of existing laws [causing] severe damage to the environment and to the health and quality of life of the residents.”

While the decision is limited to the area around San Jorge, other courts in the farming province are likely to follow suit if residents seek similar court action.

Argentina Court Blocks Agrochemical Spraying Near Rural Town
Shane Romig
Dow Jones Newswires, March 17 2010

BUENOS AIRES -(Dow Jones)- In a ruling bearing potentially far-reaching implications, an appellate court in Argentina’s Santa Fe province this week upheld a decision blocking farmers from spraying agrochemicals near populated areas.

The ruling blocks the use of chemicals such as the widely used herbicide glyphosate within 800 meters of the town of San Jorge, and aerial spraying within 1,500 meters of the town.

While the decision is limited to the area around San Jorge, other courts in the farming province are likely to follow suit if residents seek similar court action.

The court found that farmers „have been indiscriminately using agrochemicals such as glyphosate, applied in open violation of existing laws [causing] severe damage to the environment and to the health and quality of life of the residents.”

A backlash is building in the country against the increasing reliance on transgenic soybeans and the herbicide widely used in their cultivation. Soybeans dominate the country’s farm output, but growing concern over the environmental impact of soybean-cultivation practices has spurred a legal and legislative assault.

Last year, the Argentine Association of Environmental Lawyers filed a case at the Supreme Court to halt the use of glyphosate, which virtually all of the soybeans grown in Argentina have been genetically modified to resist. Up to 200 million liters of the herbicide are sprayed across the farm belt each season. The court has yet to decide on whether to hear the case.

Genetically modified soybeans resistant to glyphosate were introduced to Argentina in 1996 by St. Louis-based biotech giant Monsanto Co. (MON). Now, with over half of all cultivated land going to soy in the last season, virtually all of the soybeans grown in Argentina uses Monsanto’s technology. Monsanto didn’t return a call seeking comment.

The spread of the transgenic beans has led to an unprecedented boom in farm wealth but also brought a host of ills, including soil deterioration and wide- scale deforestation to open up new fields.

While environmentalists have long decried the shift to soy monoculture, opposition heated up last year when an unpublished study conducted by the University of Buenos Aires Institute of Cellular Biology and Neuroscience Molecular Embryology Lab found that very low doses of glyphosate caused mutations in amphibian embryos.

While glyphosate has been used for 30 years and is approved in more than 100 countries, the defense minister prohibited growing transgenic soybeans on army farms with residential compounds, in the wake of the report. In addition, a number of local districts have banned or limited the use of glyphosate around populated areas, and some provinces also are debating legislation to prohibit or limit its use.

Argentina is the world’s leading exporter of soymeal and oil and the third- largest exporter of soybeans. The legume is the country’s largest export product and a key source of export-tax revenue.

Despite criticism of the excessive reliance on soybeans from President Cristina Fernandez, the government has encouraged the continued shift toward soy by imposing export limits and price controls on other goods such as wheat, corn and beef to keep local food prices down. With virtually no domestic demand for soybeans, their pricing and exports have been left untouched, prompting farmers to plant more beans.

-By Shane Romig, Dow Jones Newswires; 54-11-4103-6738; shane.romig@

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Resistant weeds threaten to cripple Iowa’s agriculture economy

Posted on 19 marca 2010. Filed under: gmo, gmo szajs, Niebezpieczne, Petycje, Prawo | Tagi: , , , , , , , |

Glyphosate-resistant weeds now established in 19 states

By Lynda Waddington 3/10/10 12:10 PM

Iowa crop farmers are battling an old problem with potentially new and devastating repercussions for the entire state’s agricultural economy: Herbicide-resistant weeds.

Creative Commons photo by jeffbalke via FlickrCreative Commons photo by jeffbalke via Flickr

The phenomenon is not all that new, said Mike Owen, a weed specialist at Iowa State University who has been discussing herbicide-resistant weeds since the 1980s. But widespread adoption of certain biotech advances have made matters much more complicated.

It has only been in the last few years that crops have been selectively engineered to tolerate topical application of active ingredients in a specific herbicide. The resistance that weeds have developed to that ingredient — called glyphosate — combined with its widespread adoption, has the potential of costing Iowa producers millions of bushels of produce, and severely crippling the state’s ag-based economy.

An herbicide with glyphosate was introduced by the Monsanto Co. in 1974 under the commercial name Roundup. Roughly 18 years later, the company introduced its first biotech crop, Roundup Ready soybeans, which would tolerate direct application of the glysophate-based herbicide. Modified corn was introduced two years later.

When these glyphosate-resistant crops came onto the market, many hoped and some believed that another herbicide or genetically-modified crop wouldn’t need to be developed. However, over time, crop farmers encountered more and more glyphosate-resistant weeds, and no new herbicide ingredients being developed to control them. Within a decade, some environmental and consumer groups were beginning to question the safety of the Roundup Ready crop line, specifically pointing to the emergence of “super weeds.”

Despite the concerns voiced by some, and increasingly aggressive tactics by Monsanto to protect its seed patents, use of the Roundup Ready crop brands were widely adopted by farmers in Iowa and throughout the nation. While each individual grower had his or her own specific reasons for changing to the Roundup Ready system, Owen believes that larger scale operations’ search for simplicity and convenience as well as corporate marketing played key roles.

“[P]art of this is definitely the issue of scale. Growers are looking at time management. They are looking for simplicity and convenience because of the scale that agriculture has achieved over the past 10 years,” Owen said. “We also need to look at how the marketing has influenced the growers’ decisions. Certainly marketing campaigns are very influential in the decisions that growers make. They are very persuasive, and they are very pervasive in the marketplace.”

From television to radio to numerous ag-specific print publications, Iowa’s rural community has been bombarded by a wealth of advertising by corporations that need growers to adopt their systems. As agriculture has grown, and larger growing plots have become more time-consuming for producers, the companies have successfully highlighted the aspects of their products they believe will most appeal to producers.

“These are very powerful and very desirable things in the marketplace. Convenience and simplicity are both very useful and very important; however, they are also something that have considerable risks associated,” he explained.

Although it might seem logical to point an immediate accusatory finger at either the modified crops or the herbicides as being the key forces behind the problem, Owen warns that while both might play an indirect role, neither are fully or totally to blame.

“The predominant system that has emerged in Iowa is based on glyphosate-resistant crops, and the subsequent use of glyphosate,” he said. “Now, as a result of that, we are beginning to see weeds that no longer respond to that herbicide. The question becomes if this resistance is because we are planting these crops. No, because the trait that dictates resistance to glyphosate is essentially benign in the environment. Is the herbicide causing the problem? The answer to that is directly no, but indirectly yes.”

If the situation cannot be fully placed on the back of the crops or herbicide, what or who is to blame?

“The who or what is the manner by which the growers decide to use the technology,” he said. “Their decisions are influenced by obviously their own interpretation and assessment of the technology, but also influenced by the marketing that the corporations use to move their proprietary traits and herbicides into the grower marketplace.”

While Owen has no doubt that farmers and producers are some of the best stewards of our land, water and overall environment, he is also concerned that they are not seeing the big picture when it comes to management and control of weeds.

“In relation to some of the obvious issues that reflect land and environmental quality — tillage, waterways and things like that — I think [growers] can foresee long-term problems, and they do make stewardship efforts once those issues are identified,” Owen said. “In relation to weed management and the potential evolution of resistant weeds, however, I don’t think they fully understand the implications of the practices that they use or anticipate the severity of the problems that may result”

To some degree that is the industry’s fault, Owen said, because “historically we have always been able to come back with a better tool, a new tool, that would take care of those problems. What we’ve found ourselves in now is a situation where those tools are not readily available and they are not, at least in the near future, observable.”

There needs to be a renewed understanding on the part of growers that “what we’ve got is what we’ve got, and there’s going to be nothing — that is, the Lone Ranger isn’t going to come riding in on Silver to fix the problem.”

There is no new silver bullet, he said, so growers need to take care of the tools that they have.

“I think we can do this and, as it turns out, based on what I’ve observed, we can actually make money by using some of the practices that provide better diversity of management practices for weed control,” he said. “But growers, at least at this point, just don’t seem to be accepting this message for a number of different reasons.”

Chart showing soybean farmers who believe higher rates or  application frequency of glyphosate is required for weed control.  (Source: Iowa State University/Iowa Soybean Association)Chart showing soybean farmers who believe higher rates or application frequency of glyphosate is required for weed control (Source: Iowa State University/Iowa Soybean Association).

Although glysophate-based herbicide had been on the market for a number of years, the 1996 Field Crops Summary conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicated that less than 1 million pounds of the herbicide were applied to roughly 15 percent of Iowa soybean fields — a figure well be below what was being used at the same time by farmers in Illinois and Indiana.

In 2006, however, use by Iowa farmers had skyrocketed to more than 12 million pounds on nearly 90 percent of all soybean acreage — and had out-paced use by any other Midwestern state known for soybean production. Not only had the percent of Iowa’s land use for soybean production increased during that time frame, but the statistics clearly show that producers were more than doubling the amount of glyphosate that was initially used for weed control.

Just as diseases can evolve resistance to antibiotics, weeds can evolve resistance to herbicides, prompting more frequent application to provide adequate control and maintain crop yield potential. Glyphosate-resistant weeds are now established in 19 states and deemed a serious economic concern — both for the increased cost to destroy the weed, and for the potential to drag crop yield.

Currently there are at least 15 different types of herbicide-resistant weeds in Iowa. The first, Kochia scoparia, was reported in 1985 with a resistance to atrazine. The most widespread glyphosate-resistant weed in the state is common waterhemp, which infests an estimated 1,000 to 10,000 acres. The most recently discovered glyphosate-resistant weed, identified just last year, is giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida). It is estimated by state weed scientists that there are 1,210 sites and more than 12,400 acres invested with herbicide resistant weeds in Iowa, and that they infest corn, railways and soybeans.

Although those figures may seem striking to a person who is not familiar with the problem of resistant weeds, the truth is that Iowa has fared much better than Southeast states. For instance, producers in Macon, Georgia  abandoned about 10,000 acres of cropland in 2007 following an infestation of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth, a member of the pigweed family.

“My sense is that we are going to see more weed problems if growers continue to rely only on glyphosate,” said Owen. “If the only thing they are planning to do this year is use glyphosate, then I would suggest that they may have greater problems with weeds this year than what they may have had last year.”

For now, there are other options available to farmers — options they should use wisely, Owen said. Despite the initial cost of using a soil residual pre-emergent herbicide, Owen believes there is a significant yield boost associated with the application. He and his colleagues at Iowa State University have developed a 2010 Herbicide Guide for Iowa Corn and Soybean Production that outlines and highlights some of the best practices they have used for maintaining crop profits.

“Just as an estimate, if growers are only using glyphosate, and if they are making application at only particular instances, they are likely losing five or so bushels of soybeans per acre. And there are similar, if not higher, numbers of bushels of corn being lost,” he said. “If your project that over all the acres — five bushels of soybeans over 9 million acres of soybeans produced — then you are looking at 45 million bushels of soybeans that may be lost because of poor timing of weed management. Although that’s just a ‘back-of-the-envelope’ projection, it seems reasonable based on some of the modeling routines that we’ve done.

“Suffice it to say that it is a butt-load of money.”

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Monsanto, Big Ag has ‘troubling’ control over seed market, report finds

Posted on 19 marca 2010. Filed under: gmo, gmo szajs, Niebezpieczne | Tagi: , , , , , , |

Ten companies account for two-thirds of the world’s proprietary seed for major crops

By Lynda Waddington 12/29/09 6:00 AM

Few Iowans are aware of the price increases plaguing farmers, or the federal policies and U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have resulted in a handful of large corporations controlling the seed markets. But a new report, issued three months ahead of scheduled discussions in Ankeny on anti-competitiveness within the seed industry, highlights what Iowa farmers have known for some time.

xxxxThe Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering, a network of 34 farm organizations throughout the U.S., issued the report in advance of an unprecedented series of antitrust workshops co-sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Agriculture. The five workshops, which will begin in Ankeny in March and span four other states over the next year, are an opportunity for producers to speak directly to federal officials about antitrust concerns. The Iowa-based discussion will specifically focus on seeds and the few corporate giants that control that market.

According to the report, which attributes the current consolidation of the seed industry to lax antitrust enforcement and laws favorable to large corporations, 10 companies account for roughly two-thirds (65 percent) of the world’s proprietary seed for major crops. Of those 10 companies, four firms account for 50 percent of the proprietary market alone, and 43 percent of the commercial market, which includes both proprietary (branded seeds subject to intellectual property protection) and public varieties.

The 1980 Bayh-Dole Act allowed universities — for the first time — to patent inventions that result from publicly funded research projects on the theory that the law would increase innovation. With passage, industry funding of public research surged and public funding dropped dramatically. The result has been the privatization of public research … , leading to restrictions on the free exchange of basic research, less public analysis of new varieties, and diminished innovation. Though industry funding of universities may not be something to criticize on its own, these trends are troubling.

Dozens of mergers and acquisitions followed the expansion of agriculture biotechnology. … At least 200 independent  seed companies have been lost in the last 13 years alone. …

Due to the prevalence of soybean and corn in Iowa, most discussion in the state focuses on the Monsanto Co., whose genetically engineered seeds are planted on more than 80 percent of all U.S. corn acres and more than 90 percent of all U.S. soybean acres.

Monsanto's 2008 seed market share in corn and soybeans. (Source:  Farmer to Farmer report, Monsanto's April 2009 supplemental toolkit for  investors)Monsanto’s 2008 seed market share in corn and soybeans. (Source: Farmer to Farmer report, Monsanto’s April 2009 supplemental toolkit for investors)

Such market dominance has left Iowa farmers holding the bag.

“[Genetically engineered] traits have spurred a rapid increase in seed prices, largely because firms have implemented a novel pricing structure through ‘technology fees’ charged on top of basic seed costs,” the report said, adding: “Prices farmers pay for seed have increased 146 percent since 1999, and 64 percent of that increase occurred in just the last three years. Prices of hybrid corn seed were more than 30 percent higher, and soybean seed about 25 percent higher, over 2008 prices.”

Monsanto and other large seed companies have argued that demand for their seed has driven the market to where it is. But critics point to anti-competitiveness clauses within agreements with seed distributors that require specific varieties of seed of its total corn seed inventory in order for the distributor to receive rebates.

By controlling the funnel of seeds to farmers, large corporations also have the luxury of pushing their latest products and making older formulas less available. In August 2009, for example, Monsanto announced that the royalty fee on its next generation Roundup Ready soybean seed would increase 42 percent in 2010 — an increase of roughly $75 per acre. It also announced that there would be a price hike on first generation Roundup Ready soybean seed to roughly $52 per acre, with anticipation that the first generation seed would eventually be phased out.

That same month, however, U.S. Department of Justice officials announced that they were investigating Monsanto for anti-trust actions. As reported by the New York Times, Monsanto has conceded that it will allow its first-generation soybeans, the first Roundup Ready crop, to go the way of generic prescription drugs and will allow farmers to continue to grow the seeds even after the patent expires in 2014. The seeds are the first widely utilized crop seed to lose patent protection, but loss of the patent itself is not likely to be enough to reduce Monsanto’s market share.

Glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide, was initially patented and sold by Monsanto in the 1970s under the trade name Roundup. The seeds produced by Monsanto were specifically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide, allowing farmers to spray crops for weeds even after the crop had emerged from the ground. Although the patent for Roundup expired in 2000, the company has continued to market its brand and include the resistant trait in its seeds. In Iowa alone, the USDA estimates that 12.1 million pounds of glyphosate was applied to fields in 2006 — compared to 0.9 million in 1997.

Despite the expiration of the Roundup patent in 2000, which resulted in an initial cost reduction, farmers are now experiencing ever-inflating prices of the herbicide. Seed and chemical dealers told farmers, according to the report, that the increases — often double or triple the cost of just two years ago — are a result of demand, waning genetic production in China and a shortage of phosphorous, a key ingredient. When supply waned, Monsanto reacted by increasing the cost of its product, Roundup, by 30 percent in an effort to “ration supply.”

More troubling for Iowa and farmers throughout the U.S., however, is the fact that such wide use of glyphosate has enabled the emergence of several glyphosate-resistant weeds, and a lack of incentive or money within the herbicide industry to begin development of formulas to combat them.

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