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.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Complaints against Bt cotton grow
By Suhail Yusuf
December 19, 2011
TOBA TEK SINGH - Farmers have complained that cottonseed cakes available in the market are harming their cattle as their animals are suffering from diseases, specially lack of appetite, and decline in milk production, premature deliveries and sudden deaths due to unknown cause.
A progressive farmer, Arshad Warraich, of Chak 328-JB said the taste of milk, yogurt, lassi, butter and desi ghee had also been affected as a result and the bitterness was found in them.
Agriculture department deputy district officer Khalid Mahmood said that nearly 90 per cent of the cotton sown in the district was of BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) type and cotton ginning factories supplied most of cottonseed cakes produced from its seed (banola).
He claimed that farmers had left old types of cotton varieties and turned to the most profit-earning crop.
Earlier, the per acre yield of cotton crop was 30 to 40 maund and with the use of BT cotton the per acre yield has increased between 50 and 60 maund.
Cottonseed cake sellers said that farmers lodged complaints with them that their animals were facing varied types of diseases due to cottonseed cakes.
Friday, September 30, 2011
Ministry seeks to ease GM food safety fears
By Liu Linlin
Global Times, China
September 30, 2011
The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) on Thursday pledged to ensure safety of genetically modified (GM) crops amid scientists’ appeals for caution in commercializing such products.
“We will develop GM technologies in strict accordance with relevant regulations and ensure the safety of GM products,” Chen Xiaohua, a deputy MOA minister, told reporters on Thursday responding to questions on the import of GM corn from the US.
“China will continue its development of GM crops because this is an important strategic move for the whole nation,” Chen said, adding that the ministry is drawing up plans to expand corn production to meet increasing domestic demand.
According to caixin.cn, China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation imported 61,000 tons of GM corn in July 2010.
In November 2009, the MOA issued a production safety certificate to two varieties of GM rice and one of GM corn, the first such case in the country. The move sparked long-running debates about the safety of GM foods and their impact on the environment.
The three main issues surrounding GM foods according to the World Health Organization are their potential for provoking allergic reactions, transferring harmful genes to the human body and crossbreeding with other plants.
Yuan Longping, a famous agricultural scientist known as the “father of hybrid rice,” has repeatedly urged the government to proceed cautiously with any move to commercialize GM crops.
Monday, August 22, 2011
GM crops set for early start
Viet Nam News
August, 22 2011
HA NOI — Large-scale growing of genetically modified crops could start as early as next year, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Bui Ba Bong said.
Addressing a seminar in Ha Noi last Wednesday, he said genetically modified plants and trees would be able to better withstand the harsh weather conditions caused by climate change.
“Wide-spread planting of GM crops offers benefits but also presents challenges, particularly in Viet Nam where they were only recently introduced,” Bong said, adding that the planting of GM crops would be closely monitored.
“We also need to enhance co-operation with developed countries and international organisations in this field,” he added. Viet Nam has begun growing GM crops, including vitamin-rich rice, herbicide-resistant and worm-free corn and drought tolerant beans.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Heat on Monsanto over brinjal piracy
Dinesh C Sharma
August 12, 2011
New Delhi - American seed giant Monsanto and its Indian collaborator, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) are to be prosecuted for allegedly ’stealing’ indigenous plant material for developing genetically modified brinjal variety known as Bt brinjal.
The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), a statutory body set up under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, has decided to initiate legal proceedings against the two companies and their collaborators for using indigenous brinjal germplasm without necessary permission.
Taking plant material without any permission and using it for commercial purposes is considered an act of biopiracy.
“The authority has decided to proceed legally against Mahyco and Monsanto, and all others concerned to take the issue to its logical conclusion”, NBA secretary C Achalender Reddy said. The decision on the complaint filed by the Bangalore- based Environment Support Group (ESG) was taken in June by the authority and it was formally confirmed during its meeting held in New Delhi this week.