GENET archive


Plant: ’Save India from genetically modified rice’

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: India PRwire, India

AUTHOR: Indo-Asian News Service, Papri Sri Raman


DATE:   04.03.2007

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CHENNAI: From Karnal to Coimbatore, genetically modified (GM) crops are becoming a matter of great concern for Indians worried about safety as well as loss of biodiversity.

Various groups in Tamil Nadu, such as Pasumai Thayagam, an NGO supported by the PMK party, Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) and Socio Education Trust, are protesting against GM crops.

They have the support of Greenpeace India, Care Earth, Eco-Science Research Foundation, Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Technology Organisation, Erode District Organic Farmers’ Association and several others that have launched a week-long campaign for a Tamil Nadu free of GM crops.

CASA is the official arm of 24 Orthodox and Protestant churches in India with 57 years of humanitarian aid experience. It has a vast following in southern India.

The PMK too has a sizeable following across the state, especially among the farming and trading communities in northern Tamil Nadu.

A Pasumai Thayagam official said Friday: ”Tamil Nadu must be kept free of all genetically modified crops.”

”Rice is Tamil Nadu’s main crop and Monsanto (a major producer of GM seeds) is now trying to capture this crop,” a PMK leader said.

Quoting a popular Tamil proverb ’If you sow one kind of seed, you reap only one kind of harvest’ the PMK leader said: ”Research in England has shown that Bt crops yield less, need more pesticide, are bio-pollutants and poisonous.” He alleged that Bt cotton leaves have killed goats.

The protesters demanded that Tamil Nadu farmers suffering losses from the cultivation of Bt cotton should be compensated.

They noted that seeds for one acre of Bt cotton cultivation cost as much as Rs. 1,250 and that Tamil Nadu farmers would have to pay such large sums for seeds if they cultivated genetically engineered (GE) rice.

On Nov 10, more than 200 farmers led by the Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association (TNFA) and the Tamil Nadu Agriculture Protection Group, destroyed crops in a rice field in Coimbatore district where field trials of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) rice by the controversial company Mahyco were in progress.

The protest came barely two weeks after agitating farmers burnt down a GE basmati rice trial field in Karnal, Haryana.

”Genetically engineered seeds are detrimental to sustainable agriculture and food security and harmful to people and the environment. We will agitate to prevent GE seeds from being used in the state,” said V. Duraimanickam, general secretary of the Communist Party of India-affiliated TNFA.

”We will not allow a Vidarbha to happen in Tamil Nadu,” added TNFA president K. Chellamuthu, in a reference to the large number of farmers who have committed suicide in that part of Maharashtra following failed crops.

In 2005, Bt rice field trials were conducted in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. In 2006, trials were carried out in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

”They just want to destroy the traditional varieties of seeds and promote the sale of hybrid varieties developed by foreign companies,” said Chellamuthu.

Greenpeace India, supporting the campaign, noted that rice has been the staple diet for man for 10,000 years and is cultivated in 113 countries. Ninety percent of rice is grown in Asian countries.

”Biotech giants like Beyer have let loose untested and potentially harmful strains of GE rice into the environment,” said a Greenpeace spokesperson.

Vietnam and Thailand recently rejected GE rice completely. Greenpeace India today called upon Indian rice exporters (world’s third largest) to press for a ban on GE rice ”to stop flooding vulnerable markets with GE rice”.

”If India is serious about protecting at least its export, it needs to put some serious laws in place and stop field trials of GE crops now,” the group said.

The ’Save the Rice’ campaign from March 2-9 will comprise street corner meetings and hall meetings at different venues across the state.

Experts like Sulthan Ahmed Ismail and Ranjit Daniels spoke on the dangers of introducing GM crops to India at a time when most of Europe has opposed them on its shelves, even blocking imports from the US.


                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: Balita News, Philippines

AUTHOR: Philippine News Agency


DATE:   25.02.2007

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Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap on Sunday said the suspected rice allegedly tainted with genetically modified organism (GMO) as earlier claimed by the Archbishop of Manila were already pulled out in all markets.

In an interview, Yap said the buyer of 69,000 tons rice under PL-480 of the United States has voluntarily pulled out from the market.

Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales earlier wrote to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo asking for a moratorium on US rice imports which, according to his supporters, were tainted with GMO.

The 9LLRice601 was reportedly imported by a giant food conglomerate and sells under the brand name ”Uncle Sam Texas Long-grain,” according to a petition sent to the Cardinal carrying 2,000 signatures.

Invoking the church’s ”moral obligation to protest the interest of God’s people and their inherent right to safe food and healthy environment,” the Cardinal pointed out that even the European Union has barred the LLRice 601 from its region.

Yap said the buyer did not wait for the result of the testing conducted by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to determine if indeed the rice imported from the US are tainted.

He said the buyer cited ”social responsibility” as the reason for the early pull-out of rice imports from the markets.

Besides, Yap said they are still awaiting the result from the BPI so it would not be proper to say that the rice imported from the US are tainted and might be hazardous to human health.

On the other hand, Cardinal Rosales, in his letter to the President, also called for a stop in the propagation of genetically modified (GM) products in Philippine farms and markets.

He also urged the President ”to certify as urgent” the bill that would require mandatory labeling of all imported and locally-manufactured processed food and other agricultural products in the country.

Yap stressed the government through the DA is implementing the 3-1000 test for grains which determines if it (grains) was genetically modified.

”We are following strictly the procedure of 3-1000 testing for grains. We ensure there is no GMO rice in the market,” he said. 


                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: ABS-CBN Interactive, Philippines

AUTHOR: The Philippine Star, Rey Gamboa


DATE:   01.03.2007

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On the other side of the fence, for a government obsessed in achieving self-sufficiency in rice production, GM rice could be the technological breakthrough that would provide the growing population of Filipinos with enough rice.

The issue of genetically modified rice has finally reached our shores, but not without controversy. NGOs are now noisily blocking the bid of German multinational company Bayer Crop Science to bring genetically modified rice, which promises better yields, into the Philippines.

Bayer has applied to the Bureau of Plant Industry for the commercialization of GMO rice LL62 for direct use in food, feed, and processing in the Philippines. Its bid is currently being subjected to rigid evaluation by the bureau’s scientific and technical review panel consisting of renowned and independent group of scientists. Its recommendation will have to be approved by the Agriculture Secretary.

Greenpeace, in particular, is leading the campaign to block Bayer’s bid. It contends that the approval of GMO Bayer LL62, which was allowed in the US for food and feed use, would be disastrous for the world’s food chain. While already huffing and puffing in public, Greenpeace, an international NGO, though still needs to submit a comprehensive dossier with concrete evidences to totally discredit GMOs, and in particular, Bayer’s move to legalize LL62 for human consumption.

Earlier, Bayer got an approval for LL601, a similar variety to LL62, from the US Department of Agriculture. Although its approval is still pending in other countries including the Philippines, Greenpeace alleges that the variety is already being sold openly in local supermarkets.


Contaminating the world food chain

Greenpeace asserted that Bayer’s LL601, a herbicide-resistant rice strain, figured in a controversy last year when it was found to have contaminated the world’s food chain. LL601 reputedly could wipe out wild and native varieties of rice.

LL601 is also suspected to adversely impact on people’s health because of glufosinate, a herbicide that had been observed to have caused adverse health reactions in animals. Greenpeace likewise says that the herbicide used in LL601 could poison beneficial soil micro-organisms.

The news supposedly elicited reactions from rice farmers and processors. Bayer faced a class-action suit filed by US farmers, while Japan, the European Union, and Russia responded with import restrictions. The incident also prompted rice producers and exporters in the United States, the European Union, and Asia to commit to GMO-free production and trade.

The allegations are pretty serious if substantiated. Unfortunately, going by the track record of NGOs like Greenpeace, there is an urgent need to collate pertinent documents and present these as evidence. Otherwise, these NGOs could simply be unfair in science’s attempts to develop rice that has better yields.


RP’s self-sufficiency target

On the other side of the fence, for a government obsessed in achieving self-sufficiency in rice production, GM rice could be the technological breakthrough that would provide the growing population of Filipinos with enough rice.

Bayer, who I suppose is spending billions of dollars for research on new rice seed technology, should act transparently and responsibly. Government, on the other hand, should be thorough in its studies so that lives are not endangered if it does allow commercialization of genetically modified rice. The process of approving such application could take at least five years, and government should wisely use the time to make sure this rice variety will be safe.

Still, all this hoopla being made by anti-GMO advocates will do the country and the world a lot of good in the long run. Multinational companies like Bayer and Monsanto will be forced to exhaust all means to make sure that the products they want put out in the market will be acceptable and safe. With the financial muscle they have, they should not be thinking twice about spending billions of dollars to ensure that farmers will buy their product, and that the farmers’ produce gets to the end-consumer.


Reality check

There is an opportunity for opposing parties to work together and come to an understanding. The reality is that, with population boom worldwide and dwindling areas for food production, agriculture scientists are in a race to come up with new seed varieties that use up less water, fast-gestating and high-yielding.

NGOs should be allowed to counter-check ongoing experiments and trial productions. The government, on the other hand, could do its part by ensuring that protocols are enforced rigidly. This will be the first time ever for the country to be subjecting genetically modified rice to rigorous testing, and it should thus make use of all available safety assessment measures that are internationally accepted.

The government should also allow other companies to come in and participate. This way, there will be competition and monopolies are avoided. Bayer and Monsanto, after all, are not the only companies that can claim expertise in bringing food to the world’s dining tables. 




European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)

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