GENET archive


POLICY & REGULATION: Indian Minister for Health to oppose entry of GM food

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: The Hindu, India



DATE:   10.12.2008

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Health Ministry won?t allow its introduction without proper tests

KANCHEEPURAM: Union Minister for Health Anbumani Ramadoss on Tuesday said that he would oppose any move to introduce genetically modified food or seeds in the agriculture sector.

Addressing a State-level farmer?s conference, organised by the Thamizhnadu Uzhavar Periyakkam, here, he said, ?As a Central Minister I will oppose any move to introduce GM food or seeds in India.? The Pattali Makkal Katchi had taken a policy decision to oppose introduction of genetically modified seeds.

He said efforts were being made by certain quarters to introduce Bt.Brinjal, a genetically modified variety, without conducting any test on Indian soil. ?The Ministry of Health will oppose it and will not allow introduction of such a variety without conducting proper tests.?

He said the PMK, if voted to power in Tamil Nadu, would present a separate budget for agriculture.

Delivering the special address, PMK founder S.Ramadoss said that heavy loss suffered by farmers in taking up agricultural operations forced them to dispose of their land holdings. ?A day will come when, by issuance of a G.O., your lands will be given back to you and those who had bought from you will be made to enter into a long-term lease agreement with you.?

Dr.Ramadoss warned that if the trend of ?taking away? cultivable lands from farmers for setting up special economic zones were to continue, it would lead to a revolt. If it happened, no government would have the strength to face such situation. Twenty-five resolutions, including a demand for a separate budget for agriculture, industrial status for agriculture, fair and justifiable rate for agriculture produce, setting up of special agriculture economic zones and free distribution of seeds were adopted at the conference.

PMK president and executive president, TUP, G.K.Mani, natural farming concept proponent Nammalwar and Union Minister for State (Railways) R.Velu participated in conference.

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: MyNews, India



DATE:   10.12.2008

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Ahmedabad: Experts here have demanded that Gujarat government should not allow any Genetically Modified (GM) food or crops in the state and asked the government to take a pro-active stand on the issue.

Speaking to mediapersons here Kavitha Kuruganti, member-secretary of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, said, ??Given the various adverse health impacts documented with GM foods from all across the world, including the latest official Austrian study that shows fertility problems with such foods, the Gujarat government should give up its apathy and silence on the issue.?

The Vadodara-based organic farming group pointed out that as the Central government?s regulators move closer to the first GM food crop being approved in India (Bt Brinjal), the urgency of state governments taking a pro-active stand on the issue becomes more significant. For instance Kerala has already announced that it will not allow any GM crops/foods into the state.

While cotton farmers in Gujarat have earned good incomes by cultivating Bt cotton, it is also a fact that its cultivation prompted some of them to commit suicides and other farmers are experiencing various problems. ? While this is the case of a non-food crop, we are now standing on the verge of the first GM food crop from being approved and this is expected to have serious implications for all of us as consumers of food,? said Kapil Shah of Jatan Trust. ?

Genetic engineering with our food and farming is inherently risky and irreversible. Scientific evidences on GM foods shows that allergies, impaired growth and development, organ damage, reproductive health problems and even inter-generational adverse effects are to be expected with such foods,? he noted.

The toxins produced by Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis) genes in food crops like Bt Maize (on mice) and Bt Potato (on humans) have clearly shown various adverse health effects in different studies.

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: The Financial Express, India

AUTHOR: Ashok B. Sharma


DATE:   05.12.2008

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New Delhi: Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss is now faced with a new problem of have to resolve the issue of the release of genetically-modified (GM) food crops. A group of doctors from various areas of medical therapy have urged the minister to intervene and halt the release of GM food crops likely to pose health hazards.

The group under the umbrella - Doctors for Food and Bio-safety - in a memorandum to the minister said : ?Bt brinjal is a first-of-its-kind food with the Bt gene and is allowed nowhere else in the world. Reports indicate that we are just a few months away from Bt brinjal coming on to our plates, if the biotech industry has its way. You are aware of the fact that some illegal GM food in the form of imported products have already been discovered in supermarket shelves in the country.0?

Bt Brinjal has antibiotic (neomycin and streptomycin) resistance marker genes which when consumed can cause resistance to many life-saving drugs and make them ineffective, the group said. The doctors opposed the development of GM medicinal herbs like Jivanti (holostemma adakodien), Brahmi (bacopa monniera), Ashwagandha (witharia somnifera) and Creat - kariyat or Indian chinacea (andrographis paniculata).

Ramadoss has already been cornered by NGOs when the government recently soft-pedalled on the pressures from the tobacco industry and deferred implementation of pictorial warning on tobacco products. He also earned the ire of NGOs when the proposal for mandatory labeling of GM food recommended by the expert committee of stakeholders constituted by the health ministry was not implemented and referred to the newly set up Food Safety and Standards Authority for review. .

The group of doctors which included the president of Ayurvedic Medical Association of India, VG Udayakumar; National Siddha Pharmacopeia committee, Sivaraman; president, Orissa Homeopathic Druggists Association, RN Dutta; environmental epidemiologist, SG Kabra convener, Environmental Health Action Group, GPL Singh and director, Initiative for Health, Equity and Society, Mira Shiva alleged that health ministry representatives did not regularly attend meetings of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) which approved the trials and release of several GM crops.

                                  PART 4

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SOURCE: Express India, India



DATE:   02.12.2008

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BANGALORE: Even as heated debates on the health and socio-economic impact of the genetically modified food rages on, India is all set to get a taste of the first-ever engineered food -- Bt Brinjal, which will be available for consumption in India within an year.

Being the first GE product for human consumption, methodologies of Bt Brinjal research assume more importance, particularly in the light of a recent research report by the Austrian government that consumption of GE food is likely to cause infertility in humans.

Kavita Kuruganty, a scientist at the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) Hyderabad, says: ?In Italy and Austria, government-funded studies have shown adverse impact of GE.

Because of the potential threat GE products can pose, production and consumption of GE products have been banned in these countries.

In Switzerland, the moratorium for introducing GE food was extended on public demand.

In India, however, there have been no independent studies or move to label GE products.

Since these products are not labelled, there would be no choice for consumers.? Research for development of Bt Brinjal varieties is being done in two locations in Karnataka - one in Bangalore and another in Dharwad, headed by the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad. Dr Sunil Shetty, researcher at UAS claimed to be unaware of the Austrian government report.

Same was the response from K K Tripathi, Advisor at Department of Biotechnology (DBT), New Delhi, which partially funds the research. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a US government agency, is the other agency that funds GE development research in India. However, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) member Ranjini Warrier said that the Austrian report is being examined.

Under the study in UAS, six local varieties of brinjal are being genetically modified.

Once Bt Brinjal is approved by the GEAC based on IIVR studies, the varieties developed by UAS will be available on the market.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco) has already received approval for seed production, which will be available to farmers after GEAC approval.

Mahyco is the sole agency with rights to Bt Brinjal, which brings up the issue of corporate control over agriculture. Once a farmer buys Mahyco seeds, he will have to buy the same every season. US corporate giant Monsanto, the parent company of Mahyco, had lost a Monopolistic and Restrictive Trade Policy (MRTP) case for Bt Cotton in 2006, as it manipulated market prices despite lack of competition.

?Bt Cotton technology is increasingly being accepted by farmers. If modified food shows abnormal behaviour, it can be detected early, hence there is no cause for concern,? says Dr Sunil Shetty. But Kavita, who has been heading anti-GM campaigns, begs to differ. ?The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) has developed technology for nonchemical management of brinjal. Pest management is possible without chemical pesticides.

Also, it is ridiculous to suggest that an increase in brinjal produce can address poverty.

When eco-farming is proven to be a healthy and sustainable option and the longterm effects of GE are not yet known, it should not be commercialised,? she said.

?Transgenic research will benefit all?

Transgenic research can be used to manufacture vaccines and produce crops of high nutrition content, former director of Indian Institute of Science G Padmanabhan said on Monday. Padmanabhan was speaking at the inauguration of the sixth international training programme on ?Basic with molecular markers and transgenic techniques for crop improvement? at the University of Agricultural Sciences here on Monday.

He said the vitamin genes can be inserted in crops like rice and tomato to prevent the problem of malnutrition. Research on developing plant-based vaccines for Hepatitis- B, cholera and other infectious diseases is also going on. Genetic engineering can be used to develop drought-resistant crops as well, Padmanabhan said.



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