2 items on GM cotton in Indonesia:
1. GM Cotton Fails in Indonesia - ISIS press release
2. Controversy continues over transgenic produce - JAKARTA POST
Some interesting bits:
[ from item 2] "Monagro's Southeast Asia biotechnology manager Kartika Adiwilaga said that the company has conducted every test needed to ensure that the technology is safe.
...The cotton apparently has higher productivity, with yields of two to three tons per hectare, whereas local cotton only yields 401 kilograms per hectare."
According to Mae-Wan Ho, however (item 1): Contrary to Monsanto's claim, its GM cotton succumbed to drought and insect attack while indigenous variety thrived.
1. GM Cotton Fails in Indonesia
ISIS Press Release
Feb. 14, 2001
Contrary to MonsantoÃs claim, its GM cotton succumbed to drought and insect attack while indigenous variety thrived, Mae-Wan Ho discovered while on visit to Jakarta.
Monsanto planted 500 hectares of GM cotton within 9 districts of Sulawesi, Indonesia in open ëfield trialsÃ. This came to light when the company invited journalists to one of the sites where it claimed the GM cotton out-performed the indigenous variety planted side-by-side. Konphalindo, a public interest organisation dedicated to environmental protection, demanded information from the Department of Agriculture, especially the risk assessment required for approval of the field trials. That was six months ago. The Department of Agriculture provided no information on risk assessment, despite repeated requests. Konphalindo wrote a letter to the top national newspaper Kompas, which triggered investigations by its journalist.
It transpires that the GM cotton failed to out-perform the indigenous variety in all but one of the 9 districts. Worse yet, the GM cotton succumbed to drought and the brown hopper. Vivid photographs showed the browned-out GM cotton field next to the lush green field of indigenous cotton, which is resistant to both drought and the brown hopper. One of the photos appeared in Kompas (8 Feb.) under the headline, "GM cotton in Sulawesi Suspected Illegal". Hira Jhamtani, founder of Konphalindo, said, "If Monsanto hadnÃt boasted of their ësuccessÃ, we would never have found this out. We suspect that no safety assessment had been carried out at all."
Konphalindo had earlier halted the commercialisation of MonsantoÃs GM cotton with the help of information provided by ISIS, which drew attention to a strongly worded advice against the approval of MonsantoÃs GM cotton given by UK Government scientists. They warned of antibiotic resistance genes that would make gonorrhoea untreatable (see "MonsantoÃs GM Cottons & Gonorrhoea", ISIS Press Release)
Institute of Science in Society
Visit the Institute of Science in Society homepage at:www.i-sis.org
2. Controversy continues over transgenic produce
February 13, 2001
JAKARTA (JP): Environmental groups, producers and scientists on Friday demanded the government take up a more assertive and active role in resolving the long standing debate over transgenic crops.
They called on the government to issue strict and comprehensive regulations, as well as conducting proper field tests which could give clarity to the issue.
Council board member of the National Consortium for Nature and Forest Conservation (Konphalindo), Hira Jhamtani insisted that the government remain cautious and adopt a precautionary approach to the question of transgenic crops.
``This is not something that Indonesia has experience with,'' Hira remarked during a discussion on the safety of transgenic products here on Friday.
``We also have the right to know if biosafety tests are being conducted. So, give people the report,'' she added.
Transgenic technology is concerned with ways to create higher quality crops and stocks by inserting genes from other species.
These products are considered Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or biologically engineered products in which genes are inserted to protect the plant from pests or to resist a specific herbicide.
Despite assurances from scientists that it is harmless, some doubts linger as to the safety of genetically modified foods and their effect on health and the environment.
Hira claimed there are some 300 scientists all over the world who have called for caution over the use of transgenic products.
``Even if it is only 300, which is less than those who said that the technology is safe, that might indicate that there may be some danger associated with these products,'' she added.
The onus in adopting a precautionary approach, she said, ``lies withthe government.''
While regulations have yet to be issued, Hira added, the government must impose a moratorium on tests or planting of such products.
The most recent case involves agrochemical firm PT Monagro Kimia which has planted transgenic Bt cotton over the last seven months in Bantaeng and Bulukumba regencies, South Sulawesi.
PT Monagro is a subsidiary of the world's second largest seed producing company and third largest agrochemical company, American-based Monsanto. It has developed genetically engineered products like soybean which can resist specific herbicides.
The company is now harvesting the crops which were planted in a 500 hectare area.
Monagro's Southeast Asia biotechnology manager Kartika Adiwilaga said that the company has conducted every test needed to ensure that the technology is safe.
``We also need to determine this issue democratically. Give the farmers' a choice. Local farmers were not pressured but insisted on planting such crops as they yield more harvest and thus more income,'' Kartika said in the discussion.
The cotton apparently has higher productivity, with yields of two to three tons per hectare, whereas local cotton only yields 401 kilograms per hectare.
Deputy Minister for Environmental Management Daniel Murdiarso, meanwhile said that the government is working on the ratification of the Cartagena Protocol about biosafety.
``We're also working on the formulation of biosafety regulations. On Feb. 19 there will be a hearing with House of the Representatives about the matter,'' he said.
The discussion was also attended by Mae-Wan Ho, a geneticist and a biophysicist from the Open University in England.
According to Ho, part of the reason for the whole debate is the lack of transparency and availability of information.
`I suspect that in this example it is a case of abusing statistics. The analogy is that if someone can't be proven guilty, it doesn't mean that they're innocent,'' she said.