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GMO-FREE REGIONS & POLICY: Communist Party of India (Marxist) prodding may soften Kerala stand on GM rubber



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   PARTY PRODDING MAY SOFTEN KERALA STAND ON GM RUBBER

SOURCE:  Business Standard, India

AUTHOR:  Sreelatha Menon

URL:     http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/party-prodding-may-soften-kerala-standgm-rubber/422902/

DATE:    25.01.2011

SUMMARY: "Kerala is split when it comes to the genetically modified. While the government has consistently taken a position against anything GM, and has vowed to keep the state GM-free as a matter of policy, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which rules the state, has quite the opposite view. The differences have now come into the open in the wake of recent approval from the genetic engineering approval committee of the Union ministry of environment & forests for GM rubber."

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PARTY PRODDING MAY SOFTEN KERALA STAND ON GM RUBBER

Kerala is split when it comes to the genetically modified. While the government has consistently taken a position against anything GM, and has vowed to keep the state GM-free as a matter of policy, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which rules the state, has quite the opposite view. The differences have now come into the open in the wake of recent approval from the genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC) of the Union ministry of environment & forests for GM rubber.

The ministry has upheld the permission granted to the Rubber Research Institute, affiliated to the state-owned Rubber Board, to hold field trials in Maharashtra and Kerala. While Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthananthan has issued a statement against GM crops, Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh responded with a letter asking for the state?s decision on the matter.

The chief minister has now called for a meeting of scientists, activists, rubber growers and other stakeholders later this month for consultations before taking a final stand. This has sent a shiver down the spine of all those who had taken the anti-GM stand of the state government for granted (after it opposed BT brinjal.

In fact, in the run up to the environment ministry?s decision to call for a moratorium on BT brinjal, it was the Kerala government under Achuthananthan that had called a meeting of state agricultural ministers and issued a joint memorandum banning it from their states.

But the divide within the state has come out into the open after S Ramachandran Pillai, CPM politburo member, spoke in favour of GM CPM member, S Ramchandran Pillairubber at a conference recently. This raised questions about the position of the government itself.

Pillai told Business Standard that there was nothing new in the party?s position on GM rubber. ?Our position is that research & development should be done by the public sector and not in the private sector, as that alone would make GM technology available at cheap rates,? said Pillai.

He said it would be disastrous for rubber growers in Kerala to not use GM technology, as the state could lose its position as the premier rubber grower in the world. He, however, clarified that his and the party?s position is not related to that of the state government.

Biodiversity Board former chairman V S Vijayan said the Kerala government stand has been to keep the state GM free. The request for biosafety research level-I field trials by the Rubber Research Institute of India, Kottayam, received clearance from GEAC in November last year. Trials were approved in two locations: Dapchari in Maharashtra and Chethackal in Kerala. The trials were for the purpose of developing a disease-resistant varieties and increase output, GEAC says.

NGOs and activists who had partnered the state government in its battle against BT brinjal are not too confident this time. ?We are not sure what will happen, as contradictory signals are coming from the government. This kind of confusion is not good for the people and for a safe environment,? said Usha S, director of Thanal, an NGO.

She argues that the same dangers feared in BT brinjal are present in GM rubber. The crop takes seven years before it starts flowering. Hence, a field trial would see a minimum life of seven to eight years for the GM rubber tree. The flowers would then infect honey bees, who can spread the pollen to other plants, she says.

Kerala Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran has tried to reconcile the party and government lines by taking the stand that he is neither pro- nor anti-GM, but pro-Kerala. He says the government has been in favour of keeping Kerala GM free and stands by that even now.

He said that while GM was a controversial subject that the scientific and academic community was not agreed on it anywhere, Kerala was a unique case as it was small and densely populated. Hence, there were specific fears related to having trials there. He said a second round of consultations called for January 25 by the chief minister would help clear the air on the matter.



                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   IN U-TURN, CPM BACKS GM CROPS

SOURCE:  Deccan Chronicle, India

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.deccanchronicle.com/chennai/u-turn-cpm-backs-gm-crops-854

DATE:    27.01.2011

SUMMARY: "The CPI(M) has made a U-turn in its stand against genetically modified crops. The party, hitherto fighting against the introduction of Bt cotton and Bt brinjal, now says only genetically-modified crops can meet the food requirements of an ever-increasing population. ?The Centre should set up public sector undertakings to produce and market seeds of GM crops at subsidised prices,? said S. Ramachandran Pillai, member, politburo, the highest decision-making unit of the CPI(M)."

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IN U-TURN, CPM BACKS GM CROPS

Jan. 26: The CPI(M) has made a U-turn in its stand against genetically modified crops. The party, hitherto fighting against the introduction of Bt cotton and Bt brinjal, now says only genetically-modified crops can meet the food requirements of an ever-increasing population. ?The Centre should set up public sector undertakings to produce and market seeds of GM crops at subsidised prices,? said S. Ramachandran Pillai, member, politburo, the highest decision-making unit of the CPI(M). Mr Pillai, who is also the general secretary of the All-India Kisan Sabha, had vehemently opposed the concept of GM crops, terming it as anti-farmer and anti-poor. ?We are not against GM crops because it has been proved scientifically and medically that they are not harmful. The introduction of Bt cotton in Indian fields has considerably improved the financial position of the cotton farmers,? Mr Pillai writes in an article for a Malayalam daily. He strongly refuted allegations by the critics of GM
  crops that farmers were forced to commit suicide because of Bt cotton. But the CPI remains totally against GM crops. ?There is no need to reconsider our views on GM crops,? CPI leader A.B. Bardhan said some time back.



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   NOD FOR FIELD TRIALS OF TRANSGENIC RUBBER

SOURCE:  The Hindu, India

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article1087921.ece

DATE:    12.01.2011

SUMMARY: "?We are a publicly funded institution and our only commitment is to the people of India, to the rubber-growers particular. We have no profit motive as our clones, genetically modified or not, are entirely free for our growers. We are not a multinational company selling GM rubber and making money,? said the Director of the Rubber Research Institute of India James Jacob in an interview to The Hindu."

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NOD FOR FIELD TRIALS OF TRANSGENIC RUBBER

?We are a publicly funded institution and our only commitment is to the people of India, to the rubber-growers particular. We have no profit motive as our clones, genetically modified (GM) or not, are entirely free for our growers. We are not a multinational company selling GM rubber and making money,? said the Director of the Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) James Jacob in an interview to The Hindu.

Referring to the reports on the successful creation of transgenic rubber plants in the RRII laboratory near Kottayam, he said that the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, under the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, recently approved field trials of the transgenic plants.

Dr. Jacob, who was with the Smithsonian Environment Research Centre, Maryland, U.S., before joining the RRII, said the group of scientists behind the GM rubber breakthrough were to be lauded because it was the first time in India that a transgenic experiment had been successfully completed in a tree crop like rubber.

He said that transgenic rubber plants offered scope to produce clones that better tolerated the impact of change in climatic conditions, which included breaks in monsoon and protracted periods of drought.

Natural rubber being a key industrial raw material, a judicious exploitation of new technology to increase production was warranted.

?The RRII has a history of helping rubber farmers in India. It is the RRII and the farmers who together achieved the highest natural rubber productivity in the world. Our first commitment is to the rubber farmers in the country,? he said.

Besides, he said, the RRII was not seeking permission for the commercial production of GM. The field trials for the GM rubber, wherever conducted, would be under the strict watch of an expert team, which would have even medical doctors.

The field trials would last over a decade and if ?we find that that GM rubber is not good for our environment it will be abandoned.?

?As a researcher I take every remark seriously,? said Dr. Jacob about the general apprehensions about genetically modified plants.

?If the people in Kerala or for that matter any State are apprehensive about the GM rubber plants, their fears have to be addressed.?

?Technology is a tool in the hands of the planners. It is ultimately the government which decides and implements policies. ,? Dr. Jacob said.

On the Kerala government?s policy to keep the State GM-free, Dr. Jacob said that it was up to the government to decide on the field trial of GM plant in the State.