GENET archive


APPROVAL / PLANTS: Fallout of SC ruling: 49 new GM cotton strainscleared in India

                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Fallout of SC ruling: 49 new GM cotton strains cleared
SOURCE: The Hindu Business Line, India
AUTHOR: Harish Damodaran
DATE:   18.05.2007

Fallout of SC ruling: 49 new GM cotton strains cleared

Growing big
- In 2006, 9.4 million acres was sown under GM cotton.
- The domestic transgenic cotton seed market is now well over Rs 800 crore.

New Delhi May 17 Forty-nine. That's the total number of transgenic
cotton hybrids cleared for commercial cultivation in a single day by the
Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).

This follows the Supreme Court's May 8 ruling, relaxing its ban on fresh
approvals for commercial release of any genetically modified (GM) crop.

Taking a cue from the order, the GEAC in its meeting on May 11 -- the
minutes of which were made public only on Thursday -- approved 49 new GM
hybrids that farmers can plant in the forthcoming kharif season.

This is in addition to the 62 already approved since 2002 till the
Supreme Court's ban imposed on September 22, 2006 (and now partially lifted).

The 49 hybrids cleared at one go by GEAC include six of Vibha Agrotech
Ltd; five each of Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd and Nandi Seeds Ltd; four of
DSCL's Bioseed Research India Ltd; and three each of J.K. Agri-Genetics
Ltd, Ankur Seeds and Prabhat Agri Biotech Ltd.

Others whose transgenics received approval were: two each of Mahyco
Seeds Ltd, Proagro Seed Company, Rasi Seeds, Ajeet Seeds, Pravardhan
Seeds and Kaveri Seed Company; and one each of Nath Seeds, Namdhari
Seeds, Zuari Seeds, Vikram Seeds, Navkar Hybrid Seeds, Ganga Kaveri
Seeds and Amar Biotech Ltd.

In 2006, 9.4 million acres -- some 42 per cent of the country's total
cotton area -- were brought under GM cotton. At one packet per acre and
an average Rs 900 per packet, the domestic transgenic cotton seed market
is now well over Rs 800 crore. The GEAC approval to the 49 new hybrids
may further intensify competition and expand the market to the advantage
of farmers.

Between 2002 and 2006, the country's cotton output has shot up from
86.24 lakh bales to 210.37 lakh bales, coinciding with the introduction
of transgenics.

-------------------- archived at --------------------

                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  BT Cotton gets green signal
SOURCE: The Financial Express, India
AUTHOR: Ashok B. Sharma
DATE:   19.05.2007

BT Cotton gets green signal

NEW DELHI, MAY 18: The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC)
after getting green signal from the Supreme Court approved commercial
cultivation of 53 Bt cotton in the current season. It also approved
largescale field trials of 59 Bt cotton hybrids.

It withheld the approval of genetically modified (GM) food crops and
constituted an expert panel headed by the director of Central Institute
for Cotton Research (CICR), BM Khadi to study the implications of the
apex court order. It clarified seed production can be taken up in the
areas of field trial, subject to the restriction of the quantity. In the
current kharif (summer) season 18 new Bt cotton hybrids will be
cultivated by farmers in north India. Among these are 13 hybrids with
cry 1 Ac gene and MON 531 event, 4 hybrids expressing stacked genes (cry
1 Ac + cry 2 Ab MON 15985 event) and one hybrid expressing cry 1 Ac and
Event 1 JKCH 1050 Bt developed by JK Agri.

In the central parts of the country, 35 new Bt cotton hybrids will be
cultivated by farmers in this season. These include, 23 hybrids with cry
1 Ac gene and MON 531 event, 5 hybrids with stacked genes (cry 1 Ac +
cry 1 Ab MON 15985), 4 hybrids expressing GFM event with cry 1 Ab + cry
1 Ac genes and 3 hybrids expressing cry 1 Ac gene with Event 1.

The GEAC in its 76th meeting following the apex court verdict also
renewed its permission for commercial cultivation of Mech-12 Bt in
central India and Mech-184 Bt for both central and south India. Mech-12
Bt and Mech-184 Bt are developed by Mahyco-Monsanto and were suspended
from cultivation in 2005 on account of its reported failure.

The regulator also gave its nod for largescale field trials of 34 Bt
cotton cotton hybrids in north India. These include 24 hybrids with
stacked genes cry 1 Ac + cry 2 Ab MON 15985 event, 7 hybrids with GFM
event and cry 1 Ac + cry Ac genes and 2 hybrids expressing cry 1 Ac with
Event 1.

-------------------- archived at --------------------

                                 PART III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Industry is suppressing harmful effects of GM crops
SOURCE: The Financial Express, India
AUTHOR: P. V. Satheesh
DATE:   21.05.2007

Industry is suppressing harmful effects of GM crops

So, there is a "historic" order of the Supreme Court, which has
permitted the ongoing GM trials to continue in the country but under
severe restrictions imposed. The most important of them are: ensuring a
minimum 200 meter isolation distance (between GM crops and non GM
crops); ensuring that a senior scientist is in charge of monitoring;
before a GM crop is permitted for field trials, GEAC must put all facts
before the citizens of this country telling us how toxic is the crop and
how much of allergy it can produce in humans and animals; and put up a
clear protocol and establish that the contamination will not be more
than 0.01%.

This is a tough order and probably must have put the fear of God in the
biotech industry. But knowing the way the industry has manipulated law
and court orders around the world, one is skeptic whether this order
will be followed to the truthful end by the regulators. It is astounding
that even before the ink had dried from the order, GEAC had claimed that
SC had vacated its earlier interim order banning GM trials. That this
was a mischievous interpretation of the court order is not the only
crime of GEAC. Highly distressing was the note of glee and triumph in
the GEAC press release. While its mandate is to protect environment and
not the industry, GEAC has acted as an agent of the biotech industry.
One would not be surprised if such a trumpet of triumph had been sounded
by the department of biotechnology whose very existence is linked to the
spread of biotechnology or the ministry of commerce for whom FDI is more
important than food and death in the country.

But that the regulator jumps the guns and spreads a misinformation
campaign speaks volumes about the dubious role GEAC is playing in
regulating the industry since a couple of years. This is a serious
matter and therefore the shadow of doubt falls on the regulator's
capacity to implement the current SC order.

It took the Union minister of health A Ramadoss to caution the nation
that unless studied in detail for its effects on health, GM trials
should not be permitted. But the Indian bureaucracy is sanguine in its
corrupt backing of GE crops while the CII salivates at the thought of
the billions it can bring in FDI. Damn the issues of ecology and
environment, their effects on the health of soil, livestock and humans.

The mounting evidence of the toxicity and new diseases being spread on
Indian farmlands by the Bt cotton is being suppressed and marginalised
by the captains of bureaucracy and the industry. Therefore, however
radical the judiciary's actions are, the ground level implementation can
be zilch.

It is now left to the civil society organisations and the media to play
the role of vigilantes. And therefore the strict conditions that SC has
laid down for GM trials should be taken up for close monitoring by these
two wings of our democracy. If they do not keep watch the profit hungry
industry and the acquiescent bureaucrats will have their way.

--The writer is director, Deccan Development Society

-------------------- archived at --------------------

                                 PART IV
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  MP farmers stage protests, seek one variety of Bt cotton
SOURCE: The Indian Express, India
AUTHOR: Milind Ghatwai
DATE:   15.05.2007

MP farmers stage protests, seek one variety of Bt cotton

BHOPAL, MAY 14: Farmers in Madhya Pradesh's cotton belt have given a new
dimension to the debate over genetically modified crops by staging
street protests demanding supply of Bt cotton seeds of only one variety.

As many as 30 varieties of Bt cotton seeds sold by 13 companies are
available in the state but farmers in Khargone and Dhar districts have
shown an unusual preference for the RCH-2 variety. So much so that it
has become a major law and order problem, forcing the administration to
intervene and ration supplies.

Serpentine queues following arrival of fresh stocks and eventual
lathicharge have become common features over the last few days in
Khargone. Hoarding by some dealers have only made matters worse.
Thousands of farmers have taken to the streets for the variety which
apparently gives better yield and flowers early.

"We have been promoting other varieties, telling farmers that benefits
are almost the same, but they are not ready to listen," Khargone
additional district magistrate B L Kulmi told The Indian Express on
Monday. Three other varieties sold by the same company have found few takers.

At two lakh hectares, cotton is cultivated over more than half the
cultivable land in Khargone, the biggest production centre in the state.

Meanwhile, against the estimated demand of 1.5 lakh packets of RCH-2
variety, the company has been able to supply only 37,000 packets so far.
Whenever new stocks arrive, farmers queue up, forcing the administration
to intervene. Now the seeds are distributed at the local mandi instead
of the distributor outlets.

The seed company is finding it difficult to cope with the sudden demand.
"Our seeds have performed well in the last three years as

the yield potential is very high," the company's regional business
manager Pankaj Bhatnagar said.

The company sold 1.46 lakh packets last year in the entire state and in
anticipation increased its supply to 1.66 packets this year. "Even 4
lakh packets would not be sufficient," Bhatnagar said. According to him,
several farmers who were using illegal seeds have turned to legal
varieties. But what seems to have fuelled the demand is the reduction in
prices brought about by court and government intervention.

Sunil, an anti-genetically modified crop activist, said he was surprised
by the protests. "Maybe they are sponsored or maybe farmers hassled by
failures of other crops are looking for miracles," he said.

-------------------- archived at --------------------

                                 PART V
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Interim solution
SOURCE: Business Standard, India
AUTHOR: Opinion & Analysis
DATE:   15.05.2007

Interim solution

The conditional vacation by the Supreme Court last week of the eight
month-old stay on conducting field trials of genetically modified (GM)
crops prior to their release for commercial cultivation, serves a
limited objective but stops short of resolving the contentious issue.
The main fear of the petitioners who had objected to these trials was
that alien genes incorporated into GM crops could escape from these
fields to contaminate crops growing near-by. Since the toxicity and
other health hazards of such genes were not fully known, such genetic
contamination of food and other crops could have undesirable
repercussions. From that viewpoint, the apex court has done well to put
riders like a mandatory 200-metre isolation distance from neighbouring
farmers' fields of similar crops, and better scientific supervision of
GM trial fields. This should minimise the risk of unintended consequences.

That said, the court order is unlikely to satisfy the bioscience
companies, both national and multinational, which have invested heavily
in producing GM seeds specific to Indian conditions. For, the court has
allowed the trials of only those GM crops for which the Genetic
Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has already granted approval, and
not for putting fresh GM crops into field trials. As such, a large
number of other GM crops for which applications are pending with the
GEAC will have to wait for some more time.

Another critical, as also controversial, facet of the verdict concerns
disclosure in court of data on toxicity and other such traits of under-
trial GM crops. This is a piece of information which many treat as a
commercial secret, under trade-related intellectual property rights
(TRIPs). It may be worth recalling that insufficient experimental trial
data protection was among the reasons cited by the US recently for
keeping India on the watch list for intellectual property issues. This,
therefore, is a much broader issue that needs to be addressed as it has
implications for not only agri-biotechnology but also for other
bioscience-based sectors, notably the pharmaceutical industry.

India, despite its large and fairly competent scientific manpower, is
still a greenhorn in frontier technologies like molecular biology and
biotechnology. As a result, Indian farmers have been denied adequate
opportunities to raise production and reduce costs through GM crops. The
farmers' keenness to adopt GM varieties is apparent from the pace at
which Bt-cotton, the only GM crop on the approved list, has spread
regardless of the allegations that companies were pricing GM seeds very
high. Indeed, GM crops no longer need to be viewed as a luxury. They are
a necessity, since conventional plant breeding has failed to end the
yield stagnation in most crops. Of course, the bio-safety concerns
raised by activists should get due consideration because these are not
factors that profit-driven companies will worry enough about without
external prodding; this is even more important when it comes to GM food
crops, unlike a GM fibre crop like cotton. It is only when such concerns
are properly addressed that GM crops will gain full acceptance and
deliver their full potential.

-------------------- archived at -------------------


the news & information service of the
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)

phone....... +49-531-5168746
fax......... +49-531-5168747
email....... hartmut.meyer(*)
skype....... hartmut_meyer