1.Indian Farmers Burn Bt Cotton
2.MRTPC comes down hard on US's Monsanto
3.Indian import policy on GM food flawed
4.MONSANTO ON MASS DEATHS IN SHEEP
1.Bt cotton cultivation: Ryots on the warpath
Ashok B Sharma Financial Express, May 12 2006
New Delhi, May 11: Concerned over the adverse impact of Bt cotton cultivation in the country, farmers burnt huge stacks of the harvest produced in Amravati region in Maharashtra.
According to a press release by Bharat Krishak Samaj, the farmers from the country's cotton belt assembled in Panchavati Chowk, in Amravati, on Wednesday burnt huge stacks of Bt cotton before the statue of the country's first agriculture minister Panjab Rao Deshmukh, who incidentally was also the founder president of the BKS, which is the country's largest farmers’ organisation.
2.MRTPC comes down hard on US' Monsanto
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA, May 11, 2006
NEW DELHI, MAY 11 : In a major setback to US biotech giant Monsanto, Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission today held that the company was indulging in restrictive trade practices and asked it to revise its rates.
The bench directed the company not to charge trait value (royalty) of Rs 900 per packet of bt cotton seeds from farmers in India during the pendency of the feud.
It also asked the seed company to fix reasonable trait value similar to its charges in China.
In India, Monsanto sells bt cotton seed through a 50:50 joint venture Mahyco-Monsanto which fixed a trait value of Rs 1,200 for 450 GM for packet in 2004. The value was subsequently increased to Rs 1,250 in 2005
Indian import policy on GM food flawed
Sify, May 12, 2006
MUMBAI - The country's ham-handed approach to regulating import of genetically modified (GM) foods is not only turning increasingly curious, but also fast becoming a joke in international circles.
There is a strong suspicion that the Union Government is playing into the hands of some influential sections in the matter of pre-import clearance relating to GM foods.
Worse, there is no real stakeholder consultation before crucial decisions that hurt stakeholder interests are taken. Lack of transparency in decision-making, vagueness in drafting notification and inordinate delays in issuing clarification are seen distorting the market and helping speculators reap windfall gains.
The policymakers seem to have suddenly woken up from deep slumber and realised that large quantities of GM food are entering the country.
Admittedly, the Environment (Protection) Act and its Rules have been in place since 1989; but none in the Government bothered to implement the rules.
The latest Exim policy announced by the Commerce Minister on April 7 mandated pre-import clearance of GM foods from Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). What prompted the Commerce Ministry to introduce the restriction at this point of time remains a mystery; but it is conceivable, the decision was at the insistence of the Environment Ministry.
A senior official in the Ministry of Environment and Forests went to the extent of stating (nay, admitting) that even though the rules (mandating pre-import approval) have been in force since December 5, 1989, "no requests for commercial import and marketing of GM food have been received by the Ministry".
This is a sad commentary on the Ministry's surveillance capabilities and ability to co-ordinate with other Government departments concerned. It is a regulatory failure that raises grave issues of competence and integrity, and deserves to be thoroughly investigated.
The fact of the matter is that GM foods and other GM products such as cotton have been entering this country for several years now without any Government department bothering to be vigilant. The ministries that ought to be concerned with any food import are Commerce (Exim Policy); Food and Consumer Affairs (consumer protection); Agriculture (farmers protection and plant quarantine); Finance (customs - revenue); and Health (quality inspection by port health organization). In addition, since 1989, the Ministry of Environment and Forests and GEAC have been charged with the responsibility to monitor and regulate GM imports.
Ironically, soyabean oil imports have been going on for long years, primarily to bridge the domestic demand-supply gap of edible oil. India imported several lakh tonnes of corn (maize) during 2000 and 2001 while our cotton imports (especially from the US) are continuing.
It is no 'state secret' that a significant part of these imports were/are GM products. It is well-known that soyabean produced in major origins such as the US, Brazil and Argentina are largely genetically modified and these countries neither segregate GM and non-GM materials, nor do they follow any labelling policy.
A large part of imported cotton (India used to import 10 lakh to 20 lakh bales, and now reduced to 5-6 lakh bales) is Bt. cotton from USA and other origins.
There have been several media reports in the past about arrival of GM foods into the country without appropriate permission. Business Line itself carried not less than four reports about unauthorised import of GM products (BL June 16, 2000; December 1, 2000; December 29, 2000; April 8, 2002); but the Government remained a mute witness to the goings on.
In a meeting on May 2 convened by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to discuss guidelines for obtaining GEAC permission, two multinational corporations - Cargill and Monsanto - were said to be present, while other parties concerned, including the domestic soyabean processing and refining industries, were not sent any intimation.
"This is a farcical stakeholder consultation", fumed an agitated representative of the processing industry. Given the origin of the two MNCs, it is not unreasonable to conclude that American interests are perhaps influencing the policy, commented another domestic player.
Interestingly, on May 5, the Commerce Ministry announced that the April 7 decision would be kept in abeyance for three months. What is sought to be achieved in the interregnum is anybody's guess.
Adding to uncertainty
Indeed, the Government has merely added to the existing uncertain conditions which will continue for another two months. If the Commerce Ministry was convinced about its April 7 decision, there was no need to keep the policy in abeyance.
On the other hand, if the policy decision was a mistake, the Ministry should have honourably admitted and withdrawn the notification.
From April 7 until May 4, speculators in the soyabean oil market made a killing on the futures exchanges by jacking up the price artificially by over Rs 4,000 a tonne. The price rise was totally unjustified given the demand-supply fundamentals. The disconnect between 'spot' and 'futures' was too stark for comfort.
Unfortunately, the entire Government machinery including the futures market regulator - Forward Markets Commission - remained a mute witness to unchecked speculative spree, which hurt consumer interest and did not advance growers' interest. It only helped speculators make money.
4.MONSANTO ON MASS DEATHS IN SHEEP
[Read the full report on the deaths at
Monsanto Statement Regarding BT Cotton Leaves
Friday, 12 May 2006 Press Release: Monsanto http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC0605/S00039.htm
Our attention has been drawn to some press statements issued by various groups alleging that sheep have died after consuming Bt cotton leaves.
We would like to inform you that safety studies on goats, cows, buffaloes, chicken and fish have been conducted as part of the regulatory process for the approval of Bollgard. Mahyco had conducted hundreds of field trials in India and had done extensive nutritional and bio safety studies with Bt cotton in co-operation with many national institutions.
All the data generated from the trials and studies had been submitted to the Indian Regulatory authorities prior to approval in 2002. We would also like to inform that a 90-day goat feeding study was conducted by Industrial Toxicology Research Center, Lucknow in 1998.
The treatment groups included goats fed Bt cottonseed and control groups that were fed non-Bt cottonseed. According to Dr. Vishwanathan, Scientist involved in this study, "The feed analyses showed the similarity in nutrient and toxicant compositions between Bt & non-Bt cotton seeds, feed intake, weight gain, hematologyand serum enzymes were measured for each animal during the feeding period of the study.
At the end of this study, the animals were assessed for gross pathology and histopathology. It was concluded from the result by the above analyses that Bt cottonseed is as wholesome and safe for animal feed as non-Bt cottonseed. The differences observed across 48 goats in gross pathology and histo-pathology was attributed to any cottonseed feeding treatments, and was typical for goat feeding on cottonseed."
India has a well-developed regulatory regime for genetically improved plants and Bollgard is undoubtedly the most extensively studied cotton seed in India and abroad today. The rigorous scientific studies conducted in India and abroad demonstrate that Bollgard and its products are safe for the environment, human beings, animals and agriculture. It has been conclusively established that Bt cotton is equivalent to conventional cotton in composition and agronomic performance and has no adverse effects on non-target organisms and the environment in general.
It would be appropriate for those who have genuine concerns about crop biotechnology to bolster their case with the weight of scientific evidence and debate, rather than seek to divert attention from a failed cause by making unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations.