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Monday, May 12, 2008

GM Food in India: Bt Brinjal tests bio-safety shocking says expert

I had earlier blogged on the shocking videos about Monsanto, the global corporate that is trying to enter every kitchen in the world and take control of what everyone eats. In the videos it is evident how the corporate can be irresponsible about its data, particularly when it comes to getting approval from the regulatory authority. Authorities in the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) of USA, whose approval is essential there, have on camera admitted that the decision on Monsanto was , 'political' and many questions remain on the safety test of its products.

When Monsanto entered India, they did a high speed take over of the seed industry by the act of simply buying out some of the major seed companies in the country including Mahyco, the countries largest producer of vegetable seeds. Yes, this is the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that enters the country which Mr. Chidambaram & C0., are all the time excited about. Much of the early day FDI (and perhaps even now) went into to Merger and Acquisition (M&A) of this kind. It did not produce any new jobs (indeed biotech industry is NOT a big employer, some other time on that) and instead it transfers the ownership of an existing asset from an Indian owner to a foreign owner, period.

Since then Mahyco is the leading proponents of GM Seeds in India. The Department of Bio-Technology (DBT) is the other major government agency involved with GM technology. Often one may find that there isin't much difference between the statements emanating from the two as DBT was not a centre of power until the GM technology and Monsanto came into India. The department was rejuvenated because of this technology about a decade back and since then has been happy to tow the corporate line. In India, Monsanto uses extensive PR and lobbying to get its seeds sold to the system.

So, to a politician, it is the magic seed that will 'eliminate poverty', 'provide more food', 'help overcome' all the problems that he wants to be seen eliminating. To the bureaucrat this is another area where he wields power over people and is called upon to decide their fate and to the scientist community that is reeling under the guilt of green revolution, this is a aphrodisiac that can make them go on for the rest of their lives / careers pursing a new found love. To many of the new generation technical savvy, who understand less of technology and follow more of it as a faith system, this is an unquestionable technology that needs to be integrated with lives. Monsanto plays to the ego of each of these categories very well, from central ministers to economic columnists to prophetic past-presidents, everyone tries to promote GM technology in India.

Here is a recent report on the un-reliable data that Monsanto has provided to GEAC, a regulatory body of the government in which the key people are from DBT!
Scientist P. Bhargava, special invitee to the regulatory body on GM crops, says Mahyco's field trial data on bio-safety "shocking"
NEW DELHI, MAY 6: The clearance for the first genetically modified food crop, Bt brinjal, may not be smooth going by the recent developments in the apex regulatory body. One of the Supreme Court-appointed special invitees to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has raised strong objections to the quality of data provided by Mahyco in the final trials for Bt brinjal before its commercial release. He has also asked for a review of data on Bt cotton approved in 2002.

"The lack of data on health and bio-safety is shocking," said P. Bhargava, molecular scientist who founded the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), now a special invitee to GEAC. He has asked for independent tests to determine safety rather than just the data that the company provided to seek clearance for the GM crop.
His letter to the GEAC chairman expressing strong reservations coincides with a protest in New Delhi on Tuesday by farmers from 15 states under the banner of 'Coalition for a GM-Free India' against allowing field trials for GM crops.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court had sought the appointments of eminent scientists Bhargava and M.S. Swaminathan to the government's regulatory panel, saying it would usher transparency in the regulatory process. Swaminathan is yet to attend a GEAC meeting. The appointments followed an interim order on a petition by Aruna Rodrigues alleging that the government was liberalising norms for allowing multinational companies to go in for open field trials of GM foods and crops in India.
Bhargava has attended one meeting so far. Though he does not have a vote in the 29-member GEAC, his views are to be considered. When contacted, GEAC chairman B.S. Parsheera said: "It will not be possible to review the earlier decisions. He is welcome to make his observations on the cases that come up in subsequent meetings. The committee will take his views into consideration but the law that is laid down will be followed."
After a moratorium of more than a year by the Supreme Court on any field trials of GM crops in the country, the government had given the green signal for large-scale field trials of Bt brinjal in February this year. It was accompanied by a whole battery of additional tests to determine health and biosafety of release of the first GM food crop..
The data has been presented to the GEAC after the first season of trials. In one of the tests to determine the presence of Bt protein in cooked brinjal, Bhargava has pointed to "glaring" discrepancies. According to him, the results conclude that the Bt protein is unstable and does not remain when the brinjal is roasted or cooked and hence is safe for human consumption. According to Bhargava, the data for this test shows "negative" for Bt brinjal when cooked. When seen for non-Bt brinjal, it says "positive". "This is absurd. It can only happen because it is the company that is doing the tests. They are the ones who are providing both the Bt and the non Bt brinjal to the lab. How do we know if they are actually providing the right samples?" he said.
In the last meeting, when he raised these objections and asked for more advanced tests like DNA fingerprinting, GEAC members told him that institutions such as the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and state agricultural universities are involved in the monitoring and evaluation of field trials of Bt cotton. "I don't hold any brief for any NGO. Any scientists will vouch for the tests that I am asking for," he said.
"We at Mahyco R&D Centre, as well as scientists at other government research institutions around the country, have done extensive studies to assess the impact of these insect-tolerant plants and they have so far shown positive results," said a company statement from Mahyco.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

have you seen this story? the rest of the picture of monsanto mahyco.


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