1.Scientists fight over GM moratorium in India
2.GM crops set for more obstacles, with 10-year moratorium proposed
3.Ministry should accept the Technical Expert Committee's interim report on GMO field trials
4.Agriculture Minister's nephew quits over irrigation scam
NOTE: The film "Bitter Seeds" about farmer suicides that is referred to in item 2 can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/52083871
In relation to the appeal to India's Minister for Environment & Forests to accept the Technical Expert Committee's interim report on GM field trials (item 3), it's worth noting that the Ministry agreed on which scientists would be appointed to the Technical Expert Committee and to the TEC's terms of reference.
India's Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, has been leading the attacks on the Technical Expert Committee's report from within the Government of India. Pawar, whose powerbase is in Maharashtra where there have been many farmer suicides among Bt cotton growers, is a long standing supporter of GM crops. The suicides in Maharashtra have occurred particularly among endebted farmers on unirrigated lands. Pawar's nephew, Ajit Pawar, recently resigned as Maharashtra's Deputy Chief Minister "following allegations of an irrigation scam when he was state's water resource minister." (item 4) It has also been alleged that one of the brands of Bt cotton seeds on sale in Maharashtra - "Ajit Bt" - is actually owned by Sharad Pawar's nephew, Ajit Pawar.
1.Scientists Fight Over GE Moratorium in India
GE Free NZ, 6 November 2012
The Supreme Court of India has been advised by an expert panel of scientists to instigate a ten year moratorium of GE crop field trials, after a damning report on the lack of sound science and serious conflicts of interest in regulation of GMOs.(1)
But no action has yet been taken on the report from the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) because of lobbying by corporate GE-activists including Monsanto under its membership of the Association of Biotech-led Enterprises.(2)
The Supreme Court has agreed to listen to further stakeholder submissions. The hearings due in the next few days will set independent scientists against industry-funded scientists, echoing recent conflicts when industry scientists attacked other scientists for publishing data showing tumours in animals fed GM crops and RoundUp.(3)
While earlier inquiries and debates have been discounted by GE-proponents as 'political', or 'emotional', or 'non-scientific', the TEC consists only of scientists, including scientists from the government as its representatives. Further, 22 of the 31 submissions studied by the TEC in their nearly 4-month-long inquiry/study were from people with scientific background.
The outcome of the Supreme Court deliberations will reveal the extent to which the influence of vested interests can undermine the national interest and subvert science itself.
"The Supreme Court of India is not to be bullied by lobbyists from the biotech industry which is self-serving and has a history of scientific deception. The subversion of sound science goes back to industry promotion of GM food as substantially equivalent to conventional food,” says Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-Free NZ in food and environment.(4)
The Interim Report in October by the 5-member Technical Expert Committee appointed by the Supreme Court of India, unanimously presented its view that all field trials should be stopped in India until:
*biosafety tests are conducted before any field trial, including sub-chronic toxicity in small animals
*qualified scientists fully evaluate biosafety data of previous and new GM crops
*serious conflicts of interest at the regulators are addressed, and specific sites and monitoring of trials are established
The conflicts of interest identified by the TEC in India also exist around the world.
In New Zealand there is serious concern of conflicts of interest because of financial interests in commercial GMOs amongst the government's own senior scientific advisors and funding committees.
India's newly appointed Science and Technology Minister, S Jaipal Reddy warned that the science was not clear on the issue of GM crops and it should not be treated as an ideological issue.
"Scientific consensus has not finally emerged. Debate is on at a global level. Science is not clear yet," he said.(5)
2.India: GM crops set for more obstacles, with 10-year moratorium proposed
Global Post, November 6 2012
*As farmers protest against more trials of genetically modified crops, an official committee has suggested a 10-year moratorium
Doing business in India is about to get harder for genetically modified seed companies like Monsanto, an article in this week's Tehelka suggests.
According to the magazine, the latest round of farmer protests against trials of new GM crops marks an escalating opposition to the technology -- which some argue has contributed to the high rate of suicides by farmers in India's cotton belt.
"The anti-GM sentiment in the country has grown louder with states such as Bihar, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh banning field trials," Tehelka reports. "Besides, official committees have also recommended discontinuing such trials."
"The latest report, dated 18 October, was submitted by the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) set up by the Supreme Court. A key recommendation is to put a 10-year moratorium on field trials of Bt transgenics in all food crops (meant for direct human consumption) until specific sites for conducting the trials have been marked and certified, and competent monitoring mechanisms put in place," the magazine said.
As GlobalPost reported earlier this year, the third film of San Francisco film-maker Micha X Peled's globalization trilogy blames US agribusiness giant Monsanto for a wave of farmer suicides that has claimed tens of thousands of lives across India's cotton belt.
In "Bitter Seeds", which ran in theaters on the West Coast last month, Peled "suggests that impoverished cotton farmers in India have it especially tough because Monsanto has taken over the seed market with a genetically modified seed with hybrid technology that produces high yields but cannot renew itself," according to FirstPost.in.
Already, opposition to GM food crops, such as Bt Brinjal (genetically modified eggplant), has been fierce, with activists citing health and environmental concerns.
3.MoEF should accept the Technical Expert Committee's interim report on GMO field trials
Coalition for a GM-Free India's letter to Ms Jayanti Natarajan:
6th November 2012
To Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan,
Hon'ble Minister for Environment & Forests
Government of India.
Sub: MoEF should accept the Technical Expert Committee’s interim report on GMO field trials and safety assessment
As you are well aware, that the Supreme Court has a crucial hearing on November 9th 2012 in the PIL pertaining to GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) (Aruna Rodrigues vs Union of India -Writ Petition (Civil) No. 260 of 2005). The present hearing is on the Interim Report of the Technical Expert Committee on Field Trials appointed by the Supeme Court. This Committee with scientists of impeccable credentials, with no vested interest in the matter, was agreed upon by both the parties to the case, and hence its appointment by the Supreme Court.
We understand that after careful consideration of the various issues involved, the Committee has come up with recommendations that have a good bearing on proper and credible regulation of transgenic technology, with foolproof and effective biosafety protocols, especially at various stages of research. It is also important to note that many of the important recommendations of this Committee are in fact a reiteration of recommendations from other such processes and inquiries including the Report of the Task Force on Application of Biotechnology in Agriculture(2003), the MoEF Decision document on the Bt brinjal public debate (2010) and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture’s report on the subject (2012). The TEC’s recommendations on policy directives governing particular transgenic traits and crops are sound and scientific, keeping in mind safety and requirement, in a precautionary approach, which had informed the Bt brinjal decision-making also.
We believe that the MoEF is also committed to ensuring biosafety and would like to shape the regulatory regime into an independent, scientifically rigorous, credible regime. In that context, these recommendations including the time frame for setting up these protocols and technical capabilities for ensuring biosafety should be welcome. In view of the fact that the Committee is still to come up with its full report, we urge the MoEF not to contend the findings of this report and allow it to complete its mandate. We also strongly request that the MoEF should not stand in the way of the implementation of the recommendations of a Committee that was mutually agreed upon.
We wish to remind you that earlier, the Parliamentary Standing Committee had also made similar recommendations, and we are expecting the MoEF to accept these and stop field trials in India, and start the process of instituting a proper, credible, effective biosafety protocol for GM crop research, where research itself should not jeopardize biosafety or pose irreversible risks.
We also believe that India as the presiding nation of the Convention on Biological Diversity has a special responsibility towards bio-safety and protecting our seed biodiversity, and as the President, we hope that you will provide the leadership to member nations in terms of putting in place an improved and thorough regulatory system which is independent, democratic and based on science and precautionary principle.
Coalition for a GM-Free India
OD-3, Jawahar Nagar, Kawdiar,
Thiruvananthapuram – 695003,
4.Irrigation scam: Maharashtra deputy CM Ajit Pawar quits
Press Trust of India, September 25 2012
MUMBAI: Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar today resigned following allegations of an irrigation scam when he was state's water resource minister and said he was prepared for a CBI probe.
"I have sent my resignation to the Chief Minister's office. He will forward it to the Governor for acceptance," Pawar, nephew of Union Minister and NCP President Sharad Pawar, told a hurriedly called press conference.
Pawar, however, said he will continue to be the leader of NCP legislature party as long as he enjoyed the support of the legislators.
Pawar, who held Finance and Energy portfolios in the Prithviraj Chavan government, said he would not accept any post till his name is "cleared".
"People are jealous of the rise of NCP," he said, in an apparent reference to ally Congress with which his party has had an uneasy relation for the last several years.
Pawar said he has recommended that the Energy portfolio held by him be given to NCP minister Rajesh Tope and Finance to Jayant Patil.
There have been reports in the media that Pawar, who was Water Resource Minister for a decade between 1999 and 2009, had approved 38 projects worth Rs 20,000 crore in 2009 without clearance of Governing Council of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC).
According to reports, Pawar and VIDC executive director approved the projects without placing it before the governing council comprising state's Chief Secretary and officials of the finance, planning agriculture and water resource departments for deliberation and clearance, as mandated under the rules.
It has also been alleged that tenders were approved at inflated rates but Pawar has flatly refuted the charges.