Beware Monsanto bearing gifts! After all, you don't have to be cynical to read:
"This project is promoting an important food-based tool that can help Indian families improve their vitamin A status"
as: "This project is promoting the major public relations interests of a failing multinational corporation desperate to improve its profile and that of the technology in which it has such a massive vested interest".
nor, with regard to the Indian institute's collaboration, to read:
"High level of scientific research in the country will ensure continued development of this technology."
as: "Targetting the South is now just about our only hope of continuing to spread this muck about".
"Pleased with the partnership, the Monsanto India CEO, Sekhar Natarajan said that the partners would together explore new approaches to reduce Vitamin A deficiency and its devastating impact on people, especially children."
as: "We need a poster child for biotech!"
That 'golden mustard' sure spins better than Terminator!
Originated: Mark Lynas
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Tata Energy Research Institute initiates a research project to enhance Vitamin A content of Mustard Oil
Press release, 7 December 2000
The Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI), Delhi, jointly with the Michigan State University (MSU) and Monsanto, has launched a research project with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Washington, DC, to enhance the beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) content in mustard oil, an extensively used cooking medium in India.
The aim of the project is to help combat Vitamin A deficiency in the country. Rapeseed-mustard is grown in over 25% of the area under oil seed production in India. Naturally occurring mustard has some beta-carotene in it, but not enough to provide the recommended levels of Vitamin A.
Beta-carotene is a natural vitamin, which gets converted in the body into Vitamin A. An increase in the level of beta-carotene will address the problem of Vitamin A deficiency, which causes sight disorders and night blindness, especially in children.
According to the World Health Organization Vitamin A deficiency is a global epidemic, which affects over 250 million people, leading to impaired vision, protein malnutrition, dysfunction of immune system, and death. Millions of children in India suffer from vitamin A deficiency.
Each year, 13 million new cases of adult night-blindness are reported worldwide, with half a million children going blind.
Monsanto has developed the technology to enhance the levels of beta-carotene in rapeseed (canola). The concentration of beta-carotene in the seed-which is crushed to produce oil-is greater than currently available in any other oil or vegetable. Even a teaspoonful of this oil in the diet could provide the recommended daily intake of beta-carotene for an adult.
TERI will collaborate with Monsanto to adapt and transfer this technology into mustard, a crop species closely related to canola, and to develop high beta-carotene mustard, under the sponsorship of USAID and MSU.
Subsequent phases of the project will include in-depth evaluation of the effectiveness of the new oil, safety studies for regulatory approval, and development of appropriate strategies to introduce the product into the diets of affected children. The National Institute of Nutrition is expected to participate in this regard.
High level of scientific research in the country will ensure continued development of this technology. TERI's scientists have expertise in plant breeding, tissue culture, genetic transformation and mapping of important traits in mustard.
Welcoming this multi-institutional partnership in research, Dr R K Pachauri, Director, TERI, said: "There lies a tremendous potential in biotechnology to address several of the health and nutritional problems that India faces today."
MSU will oversee the entire project and lead key aspects, including developing a dialogue process to engage stakeholders on biotechnology and nutrition. Catherine L. Ives, Director, Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project, MSU, said that the University looked forward to collaborating with Indian scientists, regulators, and health and consumer groups to disseminate the technology in a responsible manner.
Pleased with the partnership, the Monsanto India CEO, Sekhar Natarajan said that the partners would together explore new approaches to reduce Vitamin A deficiency and its devastating impact on people, especially children.
"This project is promoting an important food-based tool that can help Indian families improve their vitamin A status, especially in areas where mustard oil is the traditional cooking medium," said USAID-New Delhi Director, Walter North.