3-Food: Critique on "Genetically modified 'protato' to feed India's poor"
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- Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2003 12:43:21 +0100
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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------
TITLE: PROVIDING PROTEINS TO THE POOR Ð GENETICALLY ENGINEERED POTATOES
VS AMARANTH AND PULSES
SOURCE: Research Foundation for Science Technology & Ecology, India
DATE: Jan 9, 2003
------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------
PROVIDING PROTEINS TO THE POOR Ð GENETICALLY ENGINEERED POTATOES VS
AMARANTH AND PULSES
First it was the "Golden Rice Hoax" to sell genetically engineered foods as
a solution to hunger and poverty and blindness due to Vit A deficiency. We
showed that greens and fruits and vegetables that could be grown in every
backyard provided hundreds of times more Vit A than "golden rice".
Coriander leaves, curry leaves, drumstick leaves have nearly 14,000
microgram/100 gm of Beta carotene (pro Vit A) compared to only 30 microgram/
100 gm in Golden rice. Even the farmer bred "Red Rice" of Uttaranchal has
higher levels of Beta Carotene than "Golden Rice".
The flop of Golden Rice as a public relations gimmick of the biotech
industry failed to salvage the faltering image of genetically engineered
food as a miracle cure of hunger.
We are now being sold a "Protein Potato" hoax as part of anti-hunger plan
formulated in collaboration with charities, scientists, government
institutes and industry.
As reported in the New Scientist of Jan 2, 2003, the plan was presented at
a conference in London by G. Padmanaban who as director of India's
prestigious Indian Institute of Science had signed a secret deal with
Monsanto which even his fellow scientists of the Institute knew nothing
Even though it is independent institutes in the Third World like our
Research Foundation for Science Technology & Ecology which work on
Biodiversity, Farmers Rights, & Food Security, which first exposed the
Golden Rice hoax, G. Padmanaban deliberately distorted the debate and
identified "Western environment groups" as "demonizing" the golden rice
project. This is the biotech industry strategy Ð silence & suppress Third
World voices for food sovereignity & biosafety, present GMO's as the
solution to hunger, & present all centers as "rich, western,
The GM potato has been developed by Asis Datta of the Jawaharlal Nehru
University in New Delhi who had earlier tried to sell & patent the same
genetic engineering technology by introducing amaranth genes into rice. Dr.
Datta has also been on Department of Biotechnology committees which give
grants and he is thus both the giver and receiver of biotechnology funds.
The genetically engineered potato that is now being offered in this
desperate attempt to offer GMO's as part of an anti-hunger strategy has
genes from amaranth.
Amaranth is available in huge quantities in the Indian Himalaya. Navdanya,
our organic movement, is increasing the use of amaranth products, such as
ready to eat cereals, flour, baked goods - beyond the traditional use of
amaranth as a fasting food.
Amaranth contains 14-7 gms per 100 gm of grain, compared to 6.8 gm/100gm in
milled rice and 11 gm/100gm in wheat flour and 1.6 gm/100 gm in potato.
However, inserting genetically engineering genes for proteins from amaranth
into potatoes, and promoting potato as a staple for mid-day meals for
children is a decision to not promote amaranth and pulses (the most
important source of protein in the Indian diet).
When compared to bringing nutrition through grains like amaranth,
genetically engineered potatoes will in fact create malnutrition because
they will deny to vulnerable children the other nutrients available in
grain amaranth and not available in potato. The table below gives the
comparative nutrition from amaranth and potatoes.
Iron Calcium Protein
Amaranth 11mg/100gm 510mg/100gm 14.7gm/100gm
Potatoes 0.7mg/100gm 10mg/100gm 1.6gm/100gm
Nutrition in GM Potatoes with Amaranth protein genes compared to amaranth
-10.3 mg/100gm -500mg/100gm Assume same (in GE-potato)
Thus genetically engineered potato will in fact spread iron deficiency and
calcium deficiency in children. A much smarter option is to spread the
cultivation and use of amazing grains like amaranth. The ancient people of
the Andes treated amaranth as sacred. In India it is called "Ramdana" or
god's own grain. The root word "amara", in both Greek and Sanskrit means
eternal or deathless.
Dr. Datta & Dr. Padmanaban's recipe of GM potato is one of pushing out the
amaranth from cultivation & consumption, reducing it to a "mine" for
protein genes, and spreading a monoculture of potato cultivation and
consumption. This is a recipe for biodiversity erosion and hunger creation.
In any case, amaranth is not the only source of protein in India's rich
biodiversity and cuisine. Our "dals", pulses, legumes that are a staple
with rice as dal-chawal and with wheat as dal-roti are very rich in protein.
Proteins in different pulses:
Bengal gram (whole) 17.1 gm/100 gm
Bengal gram roasted 22.5 gm/100 gm
Black gram 24.0 gm/100 gm
Cow pea 24.1 gm/100 gm
Field Bean 24.9 gm/100 gm
Green gram dal 24.5 gm/100 gm
Horse gram 22.0 gm/100 gm
Lentil 25.1 gm/100 gm
Moth bean 23.6 gm/100 gm
Peas dry 19.7 gm/100 gm
Rajma 22.9 gm/100 gm
Redgram 22.3 gm/100 gm
Soya bean 43.2 gm/100 gm
The consumption of dals & pulses provides much higher levels of proteins
than genetically engineered potatoes can. Pulses are also necessary for
sustainable agriculture, since they are nitrogen fixing crops and provide
an ecological alternative to chemical nitrogenous fertilizers.
Pulses have been made expensive by being made scarce through the spread of
green revolution monocultures of wheat and rice. In Punjab alone, the area
under pulses went down from 13.38 % to 3.48 % during 1966-67 to 1985-86.
Traditional agriculture was based on mixtures of cereals & pulses. New
initiatives like Navdanya are rejuvenating mixed cropping with pulses to
increase both nutritional security and ecological security.
Genetically engineered potatoes are not the solution to the artificially
created scarcity of pulses through monocultures & industrial agriculture.
The protein solution for India's poor lies in rejuvenating our rich
biodiversity and food culture. India is nutritionally better off without
the pseudo solution to hunger offered by Datta & Padmanaban and the biotech
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