1.Voice of dissent rises as Mahyco looks to commercialise GM seeds
2.Cotton farmers worried over drastic fall in yield
3.Critics gear up to challenge GEAC's approval of GM crops in SC
4.India leads in organic cotton

EXTRACT: the pest resistant BT cotton crop was ravaged by a variety of pests including, 'Nandedu' pest and 'Pandaku' pest (item 2).
1.Voice of dissent rises as Mahyco looks to commercialise GM seeds
Express News Service, Nov 23 2008

Ahmedabad: With the Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco) getting ready to commercialise genetically modified (GM) brinjal seeds ”” the first GM food crop in India ”” voices of dissent from NGOs and farmers have started reverberating in Gujarat.

Vadodara-based NGO Jatan, which was in the forefront of the anti-BT cotton movement, has threatened to launch a campaign I am no lab rat in Vadodara and Ahmedabad.

The campaign will move to different cities to highlight how human beings are subjected to mass experiment by way of GM food. These seeds have been genetically modified to include novel characteristics.

“Nowhere in the world GM brinjals are permitted for agricultural cultivation or human consumption. We are no guinea pigs. So, we should not be treated like one,” said Kapil Shah, director and managing trustee, Jatan.

The NGO will organise a roadshow, take part in some major exhibitions and distribute leaflets to campaign against the crop. The campaign is likely to begin next week.

At the national level, a group called ‘Collation for GM-free India’ has been running a campaign against the GM food.

“The campaign I am no lab rat is targeted at Union Health Minister Ambumani Ramadoss.

His party was the first one to register protest against the GM crops. If the minister cares so much about the health hazard of cigarettes, why is he mum on the GM food issue?” asked Kavita Kuruganti, member secretary, Coalition for GM Free India.

Considering the controversies surrounding the acceptance of GM foods and crops, and knowing the worldwide opposition to it, experts say the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) was expected to play a judicious role going beyond just commerce.

“No independent inquiry was conducted by the Government into the reports. The GEAC has only validated the reports submitted by the company, which wants to commercialise it,” added Kuruganti.

While the NGOs and the farmers are up in arms against the GM crops, Mahyco said that GM brinjal seeds would be a huge hit and it would make India an exporter of GM brinjals.

A senior company official, seeking anonymity, said “GM seeds” is a very sensitive issue.

Experts feel that agriculture being a state subject, it is the duty of the Central Government to take the states into confidence. However, the state agriculture minister doesn't have any information about it.

Gujarat Agriculture Minister Dilip Sanghani said, “I have not got any information from my department so far. I will discuss and let you know. I cannot take a stand without knowing what is it.”

Farmers, however, are more vocal on the issue. Bharatiya Kisan Sangh president, Magan Patel, said, “We have been opposing the GM seeds nationally. It is hazardous for health, and therefore, we support the campaign.”
2.Cotton farmers worried over drastic fall in yield
The Hindu, November 24 2008 [shortened]

*Delayed rains, fertilizer shortage and pests [on Bt cotton] are the factors 

GUNTUR: Cotton farmers in the district are in disquiet at the worrying prospects over a drastic fall in yield. Ironically, the bad news comes at a time when the remunerative price offered for cotton is at its highest, in the last decade. Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) which commenced purchasing of cotton in the district on Friday offered Rs.3,000 per quintal as M.S.P, but the farmers in the district have been distraught at the prospects of a drastic fall in the production.

The agricultural officials and farmers point out two important factors that affected the yield. If the scanty and delayed rainfall hampered the sowing operations, the pest resistant BT cotton crop was ravaged by a variety of pests including, 'Nandedu' pest and 'Pandaku' pest. The non-availability of mixed fertilisers was also another crucial factor that affected the production.

The BT seed, which was introduced recently, was a big draw and the yield was not less that 15 quintals per acre. With the BT variety proving its disease resistant capabilities [GMW: it doesn't have any, Bt confers resistance to a specific cotton pest], most of the farmers have opted for BT seeds.

However, this time, agricultural officials point out that BT Cotton seed, which had proved its resistance against Kaya purugu had become vulnerable as it was affected by a pest known as Rasam purugu. An agricultural official pointed out that it was too late to act and hoped that the yield might be as less as was being predicted now.
3.Critics gear up to challenge GEAC's approval of GM crops in SC
Financial Express, 24 November 2008

The critics of the transgenic technology in agriculture are gearing up to challenge the regulator's decision in the Supreme Court for allowing limited field trial of several genetically modified (GM) food crops, including Monsanto India's Hishell and 900M Gold corn hybrids.

The regulator, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), has recently allowed strip trials of RB-transgenic potato developed by the Central Potato Research Institute, Shimla and limited field trials of GM cotton hybrids, Hishell and 900M Gold containing stacked events - MON 89034 and NK603 - at the farms of five state agriculture universities.

On December 3, 2008, the special bench of the Supreme Court, headed by the chief justice KG Balakrishnan, is slated to deliberate on a supplementary affidavit filed by Aruna Rodrigues, PV Satheesh and Rajeev Baruah, presenting extracts from a recent scientific study conducted by the Austrian government, arriving at a conclusion that GM corn caused infertility.

The supplementary affidavit is part of the original writ petition 206 of 2005 filed by the petitioners calling for a moratorium on GM crops.

The Austrian, study sponsored by the country's agriculture and health ministries and conducted by the team headed by Jurgen Zentek of the University of Vienna, found that mice fed with GM corn had less offspring in the third and forth generations and these differences were statistically significant.

Mice fed with non-GM corn reproduced more efficiently. The research team concluded that this effect could be attributed to the difference in the food source.

The Austrian scientists conducted several long-term feeding trials with laboratory mice over a course of 20 weeks.

One of the studies was reproductive assessment by continuous breeding (RACB) trial, in which the same parent generation gave birth to several litters of baby mice.

The parents were fed either with a diet containing 33% of a GM corn variety - NK603 x MON 810 or a closely related non-GM variety. A decrease in litter size and weight was found to be statistically significant in the third and fourth litters in the GM-corn fed mice compared to the control group.

Incidentally, in India, the 900M Gold developed by Monsanto India and allowed for limited field trials by the GEAC contains the same gene NK603 stacked with MON 89034.

According to Monsanto India, the gene NK603 makes the corn hybrid tolerant to the application of glyphosate, the active ingredient in roundup herbicide. Spraying of glyphosate on corn destroys the crop along with the weeds.

Corn that is genetically modified allows glyphosate to kill the weeds, while the crop remains safe from its effects. The Monsanto India's GM corn hybrids also contains genes - cry 1A.105 and cry 2Ab2 - derived from the soil bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis, claimed to be resistant to lepidopteran pests.

The petitioners have also submitted to the Supreme Court their own study on reproductive problems caused to buffalo and sheep on account of grazing over Bt cotton fields in Hissar in Haryana. The study was conducted with the assistance of veterinary scientists.

The petitioners have also produced the recorded comments of scientist Pushpa M Bhargava on the GEAC's dismal performance.

Bhargava is the special invitee to GEAC meetings at the instance of the order of the Supreme Court.
4.India leads in organic cotton
Commodity Online, 2008-11-21

MUMBAI : A report by Texas-based Organic Exchange (OE) points out that the cultivation of organic cotton has zoomed 152 percent in 2007-08.

India’s love with organic farming is well known with new age farmers opting for it and producing premium products at premium prices.

But very few know that even cotton, which is grown over large tracts of land and needs much bigger efforts, is feasible.

Organic or inorganic, know the price of cotton Futures. Click here

Organic production maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers or genetically modified seeds.

The production increased to 145,872 metric tons (668,581 bales) grown on 161,000 hectares in 22 countries around the world.

India, Syria, Turkey, China, Tanzania, USA, Uganda, Peru, Egypt and Burkina Faso were the top ten organic cotton producing countries in order by rank,

Surprisingly India superseded Turkey, which used to be the leading producer or organic cotton.

The majority of the increased organic cotton production took place in India. Organic cotton production has grown to an estimated 0.55 percent of global cotton production.