2-Plants: Bt cotton update from RFSTE, India
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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------
TITLE: Bt cotton update
SOURCE: Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, India
DATE: November 12, 2001
------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------
BT COTTON UPDATE
Bt. cotton controversy in Gujarat once again highlighted the lack of
biosafety infrastructure in India. More than 10,000 hectares has been
planted with "Navbharat 151" in Gujarat, which MAHYCO tested and later GEAC
tested and found to be Bt.
GEAC has ordered to uproot the standing crop of "Navbharat 151" and destroy
it by burning and also to destroy the seed production plots. But this order
was later changed to procure the cotton which has already reached the
market, destroy the seeds and store away the lint; State Government to
procure the cotton from the remaining standing crop of "Navbharat 151" in
the farmers fields and also from farmers storage places, and procured
cotton will be ginned for separation of lint and seed, the seeds will be
destroyed and separated seeds will be kept under safe custody till further
orders from GEAC; as well as state government will ensure uprooting and
complete destruction of the cop residue by uprooting and burning.
However, Navbharat Seeds Pvt. Ltd. challenged the GEAC order in the Delhi
High Court on 24th October 2001 in the case Navbharat Seeds Pvt. Ltd. Vs
Union of India & others.
The company has basically argued that it has not carried out genetic
engineering methods to produce seeds and that it is a very small company
and has no such facility of genetic engineering research. And that it has
basically produced a hybrid from cotton plants collected from Maharashtra,
selected superior hybrids and then registered the hybrid "Navbharat 151"
with the Department of Agriculture, Government of Gujarat, and marketed it
in last two years. In the year 1999-2000, 1371 kilograms of "Navbharat 151"
seeds were produced while in 2000-2001 it was 5817.50 kgs. In the year
2000, the 2437 packets of "Navbharat 151" were sold while in 2001, 11820
packets of "Navbharat 151" were sold.
It is thus evident that the source of the Bt. in the "Navbharat 151" hybrid
has come from either the open field trials undertaken by Monsanto and
MAHYCO or by cross-pollination from their trials with other cotton
varieties. In either case Monsanto and MAHYCO are the source of the genetic
pollution which has now entered the commercial seed supply through
hybridization either intentional or natural.
The large-scale illegal commercialization of Bt. cotton in Gujarat is
therefore clearly linked to Monsanto-MAHYCO trials.
On 10th March 1995, MAHYCO, a collaborator with Monsanto, imported 100
grams of the developed cotton seed with Bt. gene after obtaining a
permission from Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) under the
Department of Biotechnology. The permission to import genetically
engineered substance (seeds in the present case) can be granted only by the
Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) under the Ministry of
Environment and Forests as per the "Rules for the Manufacture, Use, Import,
Export and Storage of hazardous Microorganisms Genetically Engineered
Organisms or Cells, 1989" framed under the Environment (Protection) Act,
1986. However no such permission has been granted by GEAC. Therefore there
was no clearance from GEAC and Bt. gene was imported illegally into India.
In 1998 the large scale, multicentric, open field trials by Monsanto -
MAHYCO at 40 locations and in 40 acres spread over the 9 states was started
without the permission from GEAC even though it is the sole agency to grant
permission for large scale open field trials of GMO's under the 1989 Rules.
No post harvest management and safety was ensured. In fact the farmers sold
their genetically engineered cotton in the open markets. Not even that, the
farmers of some of the states who had undertaken trails replanted their
trial fields with crops like, wheat, turmeric, groundnut etc., which
violates Para-9 on "Post harvest handling of the transgenic plants" of the
Biosafety Guidelines, 1994.
It was because of violation laws and Rules and the risks of genetic
pollution that Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
(RFSTE) has taken Monsanto and MAHYCO to court. Monsanto Bt. cotton seeds
has not yet cleared for biosafety and commercial release.
The GEAC in its submission in the Gujarat case has also admitted that the
Bt. cotton poses major risks. It says,
"12 (i) The crop which is standing may pass to the soil that modified genes
which it contains. The effect on soil microorganisms can not be estimated
and may cause an irreversible change in the environment structure of the
soil. It is a standard practice to uproot crops which pose such a threat.
The destruction by burning is to ensure safety to environment and human
health and to obviate any possibility of cross-pollination.
(ii) The destruction of the cotton produce as well as seeds harvested from
this plant is also equally necessary. The cotton which has been produced is
genetically modified cotton, the effect of which i.e. allergenicity and
other factors on mammals are not tested. The precautionary principles would
require that no product, the effect of which is unknown be put into the
market stream. This cotton which in appearance is no different from any
other cotton will intermingle with ordinary cotton and it will become
impossible to contain its adverse affect. The only remedy is to destroy the
cotton as well as the seeds produced and harvested in this manner.
(iii) Since the farmers are being put to a loss, the further process to
determine the compensation payable to farmers, who have unwittingly used
this product has to be determined and undertaken.
13. I would respectfully submit that every day of delay in this matter
poses a threat to the environment."
The Bt. cotton case in India reaffirms RFSTE stand of safety first and
demand that commercial release of Bt. cotton or any other genetically
engineered organisms should be frozen till biosafety structure are put in
place and capacity is built at the multiple level of governments as well as
farmers to deal with biosafety issues.
And in support of this all the national farmers unions has made a joint
petition to GEAC and asked for an Inquiry Committee to be set up and
liability and compensation fixed on the basis of "polluters pays
principles". Since Monsanto-MAHYCO are the source of the g.e. pollution,
they along with Navbharat Seeds Pvt. Ltd which has further spread the
pollution are jointly liable for the pollution caused.
For any further information please contact:
Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
A - 60, Hauz Khas
New Delhi - 110016 INDIA
Tel: 0091-11-6561868, 6968077
Fax: 0091-11-6562093, 6856795
Afsar H. Jafri
Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE)
A - 60, Hauz Khas
New Delhi - 110 016
Tel: 91-11-6561868, 6968077
Fax: 91-11-6562093, 6856795
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