PRESS RELEASE, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Hyderabad, February 5, 2008: Releasing a report called 'Cotton, Contaminated?' here today, representatives of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture pointed out that contamination from GM crops is inevitable in India, as the case with Bt Cotton demonstrates. Such contamination has economic, socio-cultural, legal and ecological implications which have not been assessed by regulators, they said.
'We did a fairly simple thing of investigating cotton seed production in India along the entire supply chain and found that nowhere are standards being maintained to ensure that contamination of non-GM cotton including cotton varieties does not happen from Bt Cotton. It is well known that commercial cotton in India is today a mix of GM and non-GM cotton produce with hardly any choice for consumers. Our investigation focused on the beginning of the production chain on cotton seed and found that biological and physical contamination possibilities of cotton seed range from 5% to 30%. This would mean a serious violation of the rights of all those farmers who would like to be non-GE producers as well as organic cotton farmers', said Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA).
The report was based on field visits to cotton seed production sites in Mahbubnagar and Kurnool districts in Andhra Pradesh and Sabarkantha district in Gujarat, in addition to discussions with cotton breeders, cotton seed producers and organizers, ginners and seed certification agency representatives.
Dr Ramanjaneyulu pointed out that biosafety assessments related to contamination only look at pollen flow possibilities and even in such pollen flow studies, the protocols used are quite questionable. These assessments, as in the case of Bt Cotton approved in India, do not try and assess the risks from physical contamination.
'India is the largest organic cotton producer in the world today and we are poised to take major leaps in organic production across different crops. We are also the Centre of Origin and Diversity for crops like brinjal and rice for which GM experimentation is in an advanced stage in this country. It is very clear that the regulators and policy makers have made no assessment of implications on various fronts from contamination flowing out of field trials as well as commercial cultivation', added Kavitha Kuruganti, CSA.
CSA demanded that the current assessment protocols be re-cast to capture the real implications of GM crops and contamination from them; they also urged state departments of agriculture to test non-GM cotton seed lots and assess the extent of contamination already present in such seed including in open pollinated varieties. They also alleged that non-GM cotton seed production has been reduced drastically as a market ploy leaving very little seed available to those farmers who wish to remain GM-Free.
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