Friday, December 30, 2011
Another Bt-cotton variant falls to fraud charges
By Zia Haq
December 30, 2011
In what could be a significant fraud in India’s publicly funded biotech research, a second Bt cotton variant – NHH 44 — claimed by government scientists as indigenous technology has been found to be sourced from US firm Monsanto’s original patented product, sources have confirmed to Hindustan Times.
While Bikaneri, a Bt cotton technology developed by University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad, has already been traced to Monsanto’s genes, NHH 44 is a hybrid variant, but both essentially are based on a “proprietary technology” created by Monsanto.
The first fraud came to light on the basis of disclosures made under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Together, “Bikaneri” and “NHH 44” were the only genetically-modified varieties of the Bt cotton developed through government-funded research to provide cheaper alternatives to poor farmers, while numerous other privately-developed varieties crowd India’s royalty-driven Rs 2,000-crore cotton seed market.
Much of the flak is being heaped on UAS scientist BM Khadi, one of the lead scientists involved in the research. He headed the Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur, until May 2008 and it was during his tenure that NHH 44 was initiated. He is also part of India’s biotech regulator, pointing to a potential conflict of interest. Khadi could not reached for comments.
However, what were deemed to be original products, involving heavy government investment, have turned out to be not entirely indigenous. Relying on Monsanto’s technology could have possible because its intellectual property rights protection of 15 years had ended, freeing violators from legal tangles, sources said.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s “network programme on transgenics” had a budgetary provision of R100 crore in the XI Plan.
The revelations have led critics opposed to GM crops to question government funding for technologies that are suspect. “This puts a question mark on whether capabilities to produce ‘indigenous’ GM crops exist, not that we want these,” Kavitha Kuruganti, who represents the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture, said.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Bt: The lesson not learned
By Janet Raloff
December 29th, 2011
Science News reported 60-plus years ago how indiscriminate use of DDT ruined that chemical’s value. Now history seems to be repeating itself with Bt
The more things change, the more they stay the same, as a Dec. 29 Associated Press report on genetically engineered corn notes. Like déjà vu, this news story on emerging resistance to Bt toxin — a fabulously effective and popular insecticide to protect corn — brings to mind articles I encountered over the weekend while flipping through historic issues of Science News.
More than a half-century ago, our magazine chronicled, real time, the emergence of resistance to DDT, the golden child of pest controllers worldwide. Now much the same thing is happening again with Bt, its contemporary agricultural counterpart. Will we never learn?
The new AP story cites rather vague references to the fact that corn genetically engineered to produce the insect-targeting Bt toxin no longer knocks out a major scourge — the Western corn rootworm — as it recently had. These beetle larvae are developing resistance to the toxin (named for its initial source, the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis). And the worst part: Early evidence of resistance occurs in secret as the voracious larvae again chomp away at roots buried beneath a masking layer of soil.
Friday, December 23, 2011
Peru approves law banning GM production for 10 years
Unofficial translation from Spanish
Third World Network Biosafety Information Service
December 23, 2011
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and Congress have heard the cries of Peruvian farmers and have banned GMOs for ten years.
The effects of GM foods on people who consume them and on their crops have generated enormous controversy. In this light Peru has taken an important step to protect their local food producers, establishing a moratorium on income and production of genetically modified organisms. This law, which was approved on November 4, was published on December 9 in the Official Gazette.
The president of Peru, Ollanta Humala said that it came to this decision after hearing “the cries of agricultural organizations and civil society to take this important step in the defense of our biodiversity.”
Living modified organisms (LMOs) for research are excluded from the norm, including those used as pharmaceuticals and veterinary as governed by specific rules.
Also the LMO or its derivatives for food imported for direct human and animal, or for processing, said the rule would fall in this first group of processed foods such as dairy meal, which have been manufactured using GMOs.
Congressman Jaime Delgado, who was the driver of the rule, said in a statement that the law establishes the moratorium in response to the need to avoid irreparable damage to the country’s biodiversity and to achieve a prior environmental land.
The National Convention of Peruvian Agriculture (Conveagro) also welcomed the enactment of the law and that Humala has taken the decision “without yielding to pressure from powerful groups.” In a statement, Humala said he “heard the cries of agricultural organizations and civil society to take this important step in the defense of our biodiversity.”
The president of Conveagro, Lucila Quintana, said: “Now we have to tap the potential of Peru’s diverse agriculture, food and tourism, as part of a national biosafety work and ensure agricultural production to achieve food security. “
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Anti-GMO crowd reacts to decision
By Jefferson Dodge
December 22, 2011
Activists opposed to genetically engineered foods are not singing the same tune when it comes to reaction to the Boulder County commissioners’ Dec. 20 decision to allow additional genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on taxpayer-funded open space.
On one side, leaders of the GM Know group are alluding to keeping up the fight in terms of voting down open space taxes and bringing in strong anti- GMO commissioners. But on the other side, GMO Free Boulder seems to have been pleased by aspects of the decision and is willing to work with farmers to find solutions.
After the commissioners’ unanimous vote on Tuesday to approve a cropland policy allowing genetically modified sugar beets to be added to the crops grown on county land (GM corn was allowed in 2003), anti-GMO activists said they weren’t surprised by the decision, but they differed on the next steps.
Scott Smith, co-founder of the grassroots group GM Know, told Boulder Weekly that “the Boulder New World Order is genetically modified organics” when asked about the commissioners’ decision to approve a cropland policy that allows for GM corn sugar beets, but no other genetically engineered plants.
“They saw the money to be made on sugar beets, and don’t see the health risks,” he says.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Floridians face genetically engineered mosquito threat
By Eric hoffman
Friends of the Earth
December 21, 2011 / Posted by:
A private firm is planning to release potentially harmful genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys as early as January, endangering human health and the environment in what would become the first-ever U.S. release of these engineered bugs.
The genetically engineered mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti, are produced by UK-based biotechnology company Oxitec so their offspring will die at a young age in an effort to lower mosquito populations and limit the spread of dengue fever. While attempts to limit the spread of disease are laudable, health, environmental and ethical challenges face what would be the first-ever release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the U.S.
Genetically engineered mosquitoes have already been released by Oxitec in the Cayman Islands, Malaysia and Brazil. Despite claims that its mosquitoes are sterile and have eradicated dengue fever the mosquitoes are in fact fertile and Oxitec has never successfully eradicated dengue fever from any population. The company has only shown its technology can reduce mosquito populations in the immediate term in controlled settings. Oxitec has not proven such population reductions lead to disease eradication.
The United States could be the next testing ground for Oxitec. The company plans to release its genetically engineered mosquitoes in Key West as early as January 2012 – pending regulatory approval. Oxitec intends to release 5,000 to 10,000 genetically engineered mosquitoes over a two week period into an undisclosed 36-square-acre block – likely near the Key West Cemetery.