Ban GM rice field trials
1.Biosafety docs downloadable
2.Ban GM rice field trials
3.'Mahyco has violated norms in Bt rice trial'
4.Artist raises money for families of Indian farmers who committed suicide following GM crop failures
5.New Freedom Struggle for Peoples' Rights in the Punjab, 21 September
6.Assault on farming: Punjab Government ties with Syngenta
EXTRACTS: The installations, evoking the crippling effects of genetic engineering on the agrarian economy in India, were crafted during a series of workshops organised by Samant with farmers. (item 4)
1.Bt brinjal biosafety docs available
The documents the Government of India was forced to release on the biosafety of Bt brinjal (eggplant/aubergine) should be downloadable free of all restrictions on printing and copying from this blog page: http://mightybrinjal.wordpress.com/
2.Ban "field trials of GM rice"
The Hindu, September 18 2008
NEW DELHI: Gene Campaign has sought a ban on the field trials of Bt rice that are taking place in parts of the country "in violation of regulations and conditions laid down for field trials of genetically modified crops."
Saying that no country--that is the centre of origin of any crop--allows genetically modified(GM) version of that crop so as to protect the genetic wealth and diversity, Suman Sahai of the Campaign said that it was for that reason that Mexico banned GM corn, Peru disallowed GM potato, and China banned GM soyabean.
"India, which is the home of rice, should ban field trials of GM rice. The cereal is crucial to food security of the globe."
Dr. Sahai, who visited a site of field trial in the Saparong taluka in Ratu district in Ranchi (Jharkhand) alleged that the Mahyco seed company [Monsanto's subsidiary in India] had been conducting field trials "flouting every prescribed regulation and condition."
"The planting of genetically engineered (GE) rice in Jharkhand is of special concern since Jharkhand along with Orissa and Chattisgarh is considered the birthplace of rice and the maximum genetic diversity of rice is found here. Any genetic contamination from foreign genes like the Bt gene has the potential to have very detrimental effects on the genetic diversity of rice," she said.
Apart from that, field trials like the Mahyco trial can result in GM rice entering the market and this can contaminate rice consignments meant for export.
This will spell doom for rice exporters who will lose their markets in Europe, Middle East and Africa, all regions that are opposed to GM crops and foods and do not allow it in their markets.
"A few years ago, we saw in the U.S., that rice from a single field trial, conducted by the Ventria company [in fact, Bayer], found its way into U.S. rice exports and was detected in places as far apart as Germany and Japan. This necessitated recall of all U.S. rice, costing the country several million dollars. It also led to the crash of the rice markets that had been carefully built up by the U.S."
She said Bt rice hybrids belonging to Mayco were planted in March and harvested in August, which is not the rice season in the State and it was not possible to test the efficacy of the Bt induced resistance to pests.
"To choose such a season is a mockery of trials and only to show that trials had taken place as no authentic data can be collected in this manner."
3.'Mahyco has violated norms in Bt rice trial'
Press Trust of India (PTI),
NEW DELHI: Non-governmental organisation Gene Campaign alleged on Tuesday that leading seed company Mahyco has violated guidelines in conducting field trials of GM rice in Jharkhand.
“In conducting the open field trials of Bt rice in Jharkhand, Mahyco has flouted every prescribed regulation and condition laid down for field trials,” said Ms Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign.
She said the Bt rice was planted on March 29 in one acre of land, owned by a small farmer of Saparong village in Ranchi district, and was harvested on August 11.
She alleged that the land, where Mahyco conducted the trial, was not isolated from other agricultural land even though the Department of Biotechnology has said that “MLRT should not be conducted in the farmer's field”.
Department of Biotechnology gives permission for multi-location research trials (MLRT) to seed companies for GM seed while prescribing the guidelines.
Ms Sahai alleged that Mahyco neither informed the state government, nor local panchayat, nor the district administration about the Bt rice trial. She distributed a copy of a letter written by Birsa Agricultural University, Ranchi to the Department of Bio technology where the Director Research, Mr B N Singh said the university will not allow its scientists to visit open field trials of transgenic rice.
As per the guidelines, the state agricultural university should also be a partner in the field trial where it is to be conducted. Ms Sahai said she would soon move the Supreme Court for contempt of court proceedings against Mahyco as the company failed t o follow the guidelines set by the apex court.
Mahyco officials could not be contacted for comments. - PTI
4.Indian artist Samant auctions works to raise funds
India Info, September 10 2008 [shortened]
Sydney: Indian artist Sharmila Samant's works auctioned here have raised Australian $20,160 ($16,296) for families of Indian farmers who committed suicide following consecutive crop failures.
Mumbai-based Samant's uniquely hand-crafted rice snake installations, especially made for the just concluded 16th Biennale of Sydney, Australia's festival of contemporary art, comprised three parts - "Against the Grain", "Sounds of the Silenced" and "Gilt".
The installations, evoking the crippling effects of genetic engineering on the agrarian economy in India, were crafted during a series of workshops organised by Samant with farmers.
"Against the Grain", an installation of 1,000 handcrafted cobras woven from grain and bamboo, made in collaboration with the Indigenous Devguniya community from Bolangir in Orissa, shows the tragedy brought to the farming community with the advent of genetically modified grain.
"Sounds of the Silenced" is a sound-scape of the songs sung by women in the fields, created using seed-storage barrels collected from across India and refashioned into resonance chambers.
The rice cobras were auctioned at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the festival website with the proceeds going back to the farming community.
"The final auction of Samant's snakes made of grain was extraordinary. Samant's project is now complete, with the income from the auction going back to the farmers' communities afflicted by an increase in suicides. This project shows how art can have a real function in life and society, and yet be also poetic, colourful and a sensual experience," Artistic Director of the Biennale, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, told IANS.
The Biennale collaborated with two NGOs for this project: Anandwan and Dhara Mitra, both part of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and committed to a people-oriented and ecologically sound economic policy, giving priority to protection of people's livelihood and production for people's needs in a sustainable way.
5.Convention on Third Freedom Struggle for Peoples' Right over Natural Resources
Sunday, 21st September, 2008; Khatkarh Kalan, District: Nawanshahar, Punjab
Say No to GM Crops, Say No to Pesticides, Say No to new legal frameworks responsible for legalizing corporate control over Biodiversity, Water and Seeds
Resist and revolt against this onslaught on our sovereign right over natural resources and our knowledge system
Kheti Virasat Mission-KVM, Jaitu and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Centenary Foundation, Khatkar Kalan with support of farmers 'organizations, peoples' movements, environmental groups, Writers' forum, Intellectuals are organizing a Convention on Freedom Struggle for Peoples' Sovereign Right on Natural Resources at Khatkar Kalan, - ancestral Village of Shaheed Bhagat Singh on Sunday, 21st September, 2008 at 10.00 AM
6.Assault on farming: Punjab Government ties with Syngenta
Punjab News, 16 September 2008
Now it is understandable that government machinery in Punjab is more worried to offer market to MNCs rather then serving the genuine interests of farmers. Recently a Punjab government agency Markfed has signed a MoU with Syngenta to provide agrochemicals and its right practices on farmers' doorstep.
This indicates that either the government officials do not have understanding of real crisis of farmers or they do not want to understand it. There is a strong third possibility also that Marked and its parent department wants to serve MNCs only sans the poor farmers.
Kheti Virasat Mission-KVM deplores this move of Markfed. They will prove a disaster for the farming and ecology of Punjab. This is an anti-farmer and anti-environment step and will jeopardize the possibilities of ecological sustainability of agriculture in Punjab.
It is ironical that the Minister for Cooperation Capt Kanwaljit Singh was present in person in this MoU signing ceremony. This irony turned in to a tragedy when Minister speaking on the occasion urged the company to develop eco-friendly crop protection inputs. What an incident Capt Kanwaljit Singh is giving the responsibility of protecting ecology to a known environmental offender and poison merchant.
While speaking on the occasion Capt Kanwaljit asserted that " The state is facing threat of disease due to overuse and misuse of pesticides, which is both unmanageable and unacceptable”¦”¦so the need of hour is cutting costs and bringing in environment-friendly and safe methods of crop protection.". It is a great statement indeed. But minister was betting on wrong side. Those who are known environmental scandalous cannot and should not be asked for environmental solutions.
The Markfed is more enthusiastic to serve MNCs and become their extension arm to market their products. First it was Bt cotton in 2005. Then CM Capt Amarinder Singh very passionately makes Markfed the distributing arm of Mahyco for Bt cotton seeds. There was euphoria at that time and Markfed has published advertisements in newspaper singing happily about its achievement. Mahyco is a Monsanto owned company.
After Monsanto now it is Syngenta.
Monsanto sold Bt cotton with a promise to reduce use of pesticides and now Syngenta is entering with promise to provide extension services to farmers to educate them about right method of pesticide use. It is regrettable that government executives, agriculture experts and technocrats and departments dealing with agriculture, or farmers particularly, are still obsessed with the pesticides and their so-called safe use. They cannot think of agriculture without agrochemicals. After witnessing adverse impacts of pesticides several countries are now pursuing the pesticide free farming. There are several successful examples of chemical free natural / organic farming in the world, in India and even in Punjab.
Chemical pesticides were pushed in indiscriminately. Forty years after the advent of green revolution, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Manila, Philippines now clearly accepts its mistakes in promoting pesticides and has gone on record saying that 'pesticides were a waste of time and effort' in Asia for rice. Punjab Agricultural University however continues to push in pesticides knowing well that these were not required in the first place. In case of cotton, agricultural scientists have compounded the problem by turning the insect profile hostile. There were only six or seven pests that worried the cotton farmers in the 1960s. Today the number of cotton pests has multiplied to over 60.
Studies done by ICRISAT and IRRI clearly demonstrate the sustainability, viability and successful economics of Non-Pesticide Management practices. Farmers in Bangladesh, Philippines and Vietnam have successfully opted for pesticide free rice cultivation. The Cuba has also shown the way. Former Director General of IRRI, Dr. Robert Cantrell had this to say: "It shows that the mistakes of Green Revolution where too much emphasis was sometimes put on the use of chemicals for pest control have clearly been recognized and corrected".
But irony of Punjab is that the agriculture establishments are not open to this truth of pesticides and even they are not tolerant to any question and debate related to pesticides and environmental health crisis. They are still in green-revolution mindset and insulated from alternative paradigm for sustainable agriculture, environment and development. The agriculture establishments feel honour of their role played in green revolution, it could be their proud. They already got pat for that, they earned whole lot of admiration for the work they had done, but now it is time to have an honest introspection and constructive criticism. Those who are supported Green Revolution setups until now should own responsibility of its adverse effects.
The Markfed and Ministry of Cooperatives should open to know more about the alternative paradigm of agriculture, they should came forward to learn from the farmers committed to ecological practices. Capt Kanwaljit rightly raise the issue of rising cost of production and depleting returns ,but he should be aware of the fact that every village is exporting cash roughly something between Rs 25 lakhs to 5 crors , depending upon its area, cropping pattern and ecological factors. If the minister is really sincere in saving and serving farmers he and his department should encourage natural farming. We should proudly shout -"Say No to Pesticides". It is only way to save ecology of Punjab, it is only way to bring Punjab out of devastating environmental health crisis.
Punjab government has no vision, no roadmap for restructuring agriculture to make its agriculture ecologically sustainable. Neither they have any plan to learn from farmers nor do they want to promote any civil society initiative in this regard. Government is just promoting corporate model of farming. This is symbol of intellectual impoverishment and bankruptcy of thoughts and ideas.
Syngenta is also known for hiding facts related to adverse effects of its bestseller herbicide Atrazine. The scientists working on test the effects of Atrazine on African clawed frogs found that Atrazine inhibits development of the larynx in male frogs at low doses, that Atrazine, at even lower doses, feminizes male frogs by altering the testes so they will produce eggs. Syngenta even tried to purchase the silence from the concerned scientists.
Pesticides are only one side of the coin of doom, the Genetically Modified seeds are waiting to spill the new era of sorrow. Syngenta will use this MoU to create market for its GM seeds. The company is trying to get proper IPR protection for its seeds. Syngenta has done a day light robbery on rice. This Swiss biotech giant based at Basel in Switzerland, has tightened its monopoly control over rice. Seeking global patents over thousands of genes in rice (a single grain of rice contains 37,544 genes, roughly one-fourth more than the genes in a human body), the multinational giant is all set to "own" rice, the world's most important staple food crop. Syngenta claims it invented more than 30,000 gene sequences of rice. Syngenta in collaboration with Myriad Genetics Inc of USA had beaten Monsanto in the game of mapping the genetic structure of rice by sequencing more than 99.5 per cent of the rice genome. Syngenta's efforts to seek control over rice have severe implications for the
future of rice research and its resulting impact on food security and hunger. For countries like India or Japan, one of the seats of origin of rice, it is an ominous sign. In other words, biological inheritance of the world's major food crop is now in the hands of a Swiss multinational. If Syngenta's application for global patents is accepted, the Asian countries will lose all control that comes through 'sovereign' control over genetic resources (as defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992) of the staple grain.
Syngents is going to bring in its GM seeds within the next few years; the company is preparing its market network from now courtesy Markfed.
Marked is working like Mir Jafar for MNCs which is highly intolerable. This MoU will prove battle of Plassey and will pave way for total corporate takeover of Punjab agriculture. Those who are signing these documents should prepare them selves to be known as Mir Jafars. History will teach then a lesson.
It is high time that farmers of Punjab should resist and revolt against this onslaught on their sovereign right over natural resources and knowledge system.