COMMENT from PV Satheesh of the Deccan Development Society in India:

The survey claiming that 84% of Indians are ready to eat GM foods is a survey by a spurious agency that is not even based in India, is an atrocious lie, to term in mildly.  No one in the country has even heard about this survey let alone participated in it.

These front organisations for the agrochemical-biotech corporations are actually whistling in the dark, since they are already scared of the storm clouds gathering with the overwhelming protests from all parts of India against the genetically modified eggplant [or aubergine, known as brinjal in India], the commercial trials of which are being planned by the Indian regulatory body.

When the Deccan Development Society and its partner organisations took the issue of the attempted approval of GM eggplant to the public, over 30,000 village councils and individuals wrote individual postcards to the Government of India conveying their total opposition to the approval of GM foods. Another campaign called I AM NO LABRAT by Greenpeace has been signed by thousands of people all over the country. Against this  probably the couple of hundred responses that AFIC must have generated are neither a
match nor reflect the reality of India.

The reality in India actually points to the exactly opposite. Over the last ten days the Deccan Development Society has held a multi city launch of the Indian Edition of *Genetic Roulette *written by Jeffrey Smith, the internationlly renowned writer on genetic engineering. This edition has been published by the Deccan Development Society, South Against Genetic Engineering and the Other India Press.  The launch has been attended by hundreds of people in each city voicing an overwhelming demand that we should ban GM foods from India. They have signed Declarations [in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Trivandrum, Madurai, Chennai and Delhi] that are asking for :

 *1        An immediate moratorium be declared on the approval of Bt brinjal [eggplant/aubergine] in the country. *

*2       A nationwide democratic debate involving small farmers, pastoralists, independent scientists, environmentalists, livestock specialists, doctors and consumers on the impact of Bt Cotton on the Indian soils, livestock, people's health and on the economics of the dry-land farmers.*

*3       All trials, confined or otherwise, on Bt Sorghum must be banned immediately. *

*4       A democratic research on genetic engineering and its impacts based on Indian and global experiences on genetic engineered foods must be initiated by a team of farmers, independent scientists, environmental activists, civil society leaders must be held

*5       A farmer/consumer jury on the desirability of genetic engineering must be held before any further decisions and/or actions are taken on the issue of genetic engineering.*

*The Indian Medical Association the highest body of medical practitioners has joined hands saying that it would work hard to prevent the introduction of GM foods in the country. In the national capital New Delhi, on January 23rd,  a leading member of India's apex Planning body, Indian Planning Commission said that reading *Genetic Roulette* and learning about the documented health impacts of Genetic Engineering, she could not sleep the whole night, completely agitated about the poisoning of foods. She said that
she would take the issue to the Planning Commission and ask their support to stop GM foods in India. The Federal Health Minister of India Mr Anbumani Ramdoss has publicly said that his Ministry will completely stop GM foods from the country. The Agriculture Minister of Kerala speaking at the Book Launch function of the *Genetic Roulette *said that his state is banning GM foods. Two most revered spiritual gurus of India, Swamy Ramdev and Sri Ravishankar of the *Art of Living* movement who between them have over 50 million followers have openly called for ban of GM foods from India

In the face of these facts the spurious survey by the AFIC sounds laughably ridiculous. This is the usual industry ploy to fly a kite and see what the response to their survey in India could be. We in this country have not even heard about this survey till you published these results. It sounds to me like an earlier survey published by Monsanto. It refused to let the citizens of India know where the sample was collected and what the methodology was. When they were repeatedly questioned by the media, their evasive reply was that it was their confidential business information. I suspect that the AFIC
must have conducted a secret survey among the staff of the biotech companies in India  and  come up with this specious    result.  They  don’t  even understand  that by claiming  that  84% of  Indians are ready to eat GM foods,  they are talking of a figure close to nearly one billion people! This claim is a mega phoney lie of Himalayan proportions.

The Indian people from all sections of society, consumers, farmers, lawyers, independent scientists, human rights lawyers and the vigilant media will surely give this a fitting reply.

p v satheesh
deccan development soiety
andhra pradesh, India

--- On Sun, 25/1/09:
From: GMWatch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject: GMW: 84% of Indians ready to buy GM foods - AFIC

NOTE: According to its own website, the Asian Food Information Centre (AFIC) is "funded largely by the food, beverage and agricultural industries" (includes biotech companies).

It also has a "strong alliance" with CropLife Asia - one of the six regional nodes of CropLife International, which represents Dupont, Monsanto and Syngenta, amongst others.

According to Croplife Asia, this "strong alliance" with AFIC includes "support for its biotechnology consumer surveys, and development of strong local positive biotechnology messages."

AFIC appears to be modeled on the International Food Information Council (IFIC), which AFIC describes as its "US sister organization".

IFIC's activities include annual surveys that consistently report very positive consumer attitudes to GM foods. IFIC is financially backed by Monsanto, BASF, Cargill, Dow, DuPont, and Syngenta, amongst others.

IFIC's surveys have included survey questions such as:

"All things being equal, how likely would you be to buy a variety of produce, like tomatoes or potatoes, if it had been modified by biotechnology to taste better or fresher?"

"Biotechnology has also been used to enhance plants that yield foods like cooking oils. If cooking oil with reduced saturated fat made from these new plants was available, what effect would the use of biotechnology have on your decision to buy this cooking oil." (U.S. Consumer Attitudes Toward Food Biotechnology Survey)

According to Karen Charman in a PR Watch article about the IFIC surveys:

"James Beniger, a communications professor at the University of Southern California and past president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, reviewed the IFIC survey and said it is so biased with leading questions favoring positive responses that any results are meaningless. UCLA communications professor Michael Suman agreed, adding that the questions 'only talk about the food tasting better, being fresher, protecting food from insect damage, reducing saturated fat and providing benefits. It's like saying "Here's biotechnology, it does these great things for you, do you like it?"' The results might be different, Suman offers, if it contained questions biased in the other direction such as: 'Some people contend that some foods produced from biotechnology cause higher rates of cancer. If that is so, what effect would that have on your buying decision?'" [The Professor Who Can Read Your Mind by Karen Charman in PR Watch Vol.6, No. 4]

It would be interesting to know how AFIC's survey questions compare with those of its "US sister organization". Judging by AFIC's report on the results of its survey, it almost certainly contained questions similarly intended to prompt positive responses:

According to AFIC, "...almost all consumers support plant biotechnology if the technology is related to sustainable food production. The study was divided into nutritious foods and food sustainability.

"Majority of Indian consumers are ready to purchase biotechnology food such as tastier tomato, 84%, cheaper food staples, 77%, and foods/cooking oil with healthier fat profile, 71%." (Consumer perceptions of food biotechnology in India 2008, p.4) ood%20biotechnology%20in%20India.pdf
Indian consumers are more confident about food safety: AFIC study
Food & Beverage News, January 24 2009 |
Mumbai - A study on food safety by Singapore-based Asian Food Information Centre (AFIC) said that Indian consumers are most confident about food safety levels in the country as compared to other Asian countries like China and Japan. The study also pointed out that about 84 per cent of Indians are ready to purchase biotech food items such as tomatoes, food staples and cooking oils.

George Fuller, Executive Director, AFIC, said, “It is encouraging to note that 84 per cent of Indians are ready to purchase bio-tech food. This is good for India as the government considers crop biotechnology as a strategic element to increase food productivity.” The government has, so far, not approved the commercial production of any genetically-modified (GM) food products in India.

According to experts, the study is significant, especially in view of the fact that the approval for GM crops in India has always been a controversial matter, with organisations such as Greenpeace India voicing concern about various safety-related and other issues allegedly associated with such products.

To bring appropriate food safety norms in the country, the Ministry of Health and Food Safety Standards Authority (FSSA) has decided to draft guidelines, which are expected in a month.