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Feb-11-2010 01:27printcomments

India Says No to Cultivation of Genetically Modified Eggplant

The GM seeds would have been marketed by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company owned in part by Monsanto, a US corporation.

Mom and her child in India carefully study a store's fruit and vegetable offerings.
Mom and her child in India carefully study a store's fruit and vegetable offerings before making a purchase. Courtesy: bangalore.citizenmatters.in

(NEW DELHI / SALEM) - India rejected genetically modified eggplant on Wednesday, amongst concerns of public health and “inadequate” science.

Following broad opposition by citizens, farmers, politicians and environmentalists, India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh announced a moratorium to prevent commercial cultivation of what would have been the country’s first genetically modified (GM) food product.

Ramesh stated "It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary, principle-based approach and impose a moratorium on the release until scientific tests can guarantee the safety of the product.” Although, he acknowledged there is still no scientific agreement on what constitutes "an adequate protocol of tests".

He went on to say “There is no overriding food security argument for Bt brinjal,” or genetically modified eggplant. Ramesh said at a press conference in the capital, yesterday.

“Our objective is to restore public confidence and trust in Bt brinjal.” A moratorium will be imposed until safety studies are carried out “to the satisfaction of the scientific community,” he said.

The GM seeds were developed by local scientists, but would have been marketed by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company owned in part by Monsanto, a US corporation. Backers of the genetically modified aubergine (eggplant) claim the genetically modified product would boost yields by up to 50 percent, while reducing dependence on pesticides.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics from 1997 show that expanded plantings of Roundup Ready soybeans (i.e. soybeans genetically engineered to be tolerant to the herbicide) resulted in a 72% increase in the use of glyphosate. According to the Pesticides Action Network, scientists estimate that plants genetically engineered to be herbicide resistant will actually triple the amount of herbicides used.

Farmers, knowing that their crop can tolerate or resist being killed off by the herbicides, tend to use them more liberally[1].

India isn’t the first country to ban the use of genetically modified foods. In 2008, Monsanto lost an appeal in French courts against a ban on GM corn[2].

In May 2001, Sri Lanka also banned the importation of genetically modified foods, preservatives and additives. Regulations in Italy, Greece, France, Denmark and Luxembourg have enforced de facto moratoriums on Genitically Modified Organisms (GMO), while other countries in the European Union have limited GMO field testing, imports and marketing.

Citizen activists worldwide are raising safety concerns about genetically altered plant products for human consumption. British newspapers have called GMOs "Frankenstein Foods."[3]

Professor of genetics Nagib Nassar, at the Universidade de Brasilia warned “Introducing transgenic wheat means replacing this diversity and leaving it to extinction. It will be replaced by a monoculture with a very narrow genetic base. This is a problem. This will be a catastrophe.”

For thousands of years, Iraqi farmers have saved seed from each year’s crops, replanting and cross-pollinating varieties for higher yields, better pest resistance, and other beneficial traits. But Order 81 makes it illegal for Iraqi farmers to reuse seeds from any crops planted using a patented seed variety. Farmers who chose to use patented varieties would have to buy new seed every year.”[4]

Arun Shrivastava, with the Centre for Research on Globalization, reported in 2006 “The United States of America declared a war on Indian rice [and food security] way back in the early 1960s when India’s No 1 scientist mole, Dr M.S. Swaminathan, stole the gene bank of rice, evolved over decades by Dr Riccharia, and passed it over to the Americans.”

Shrivastava goes on to quote, “Dr. Swaminathan was the main dramatis personae in what is known as “the great[est] gene robbery” in the history of mankind. [See, “The Great Gene Robbery”, by Dr Claude Alvarez, The Illustrated Weekly of India, March 23-April 5, 1986]”.

He further explains that “India had 120,000 varieties of rice seeds; today, no more than 50 are available.

India already allows the use of genetically modified cotton and supporters say it has sharply improved yields, although in another Global Research article Shrivastava reports that 70% of the farmer suicides in the Maharashtra belt are Bt cotton farmers. During the latter part of April, the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture uncovered deadly toxic reaction in sheep and goats in Warnangal in AP from grazing in Bt cotton fields in Feb/March, after the last cotton harvest of 2005-2006.

Local shepherds estimate the total mortality for the area to be around 10,000 dead sheep and goats.” [Page 4, Application for interim order, in the SC of India, No 260 of 2006][5].

This crisis was branded the ‘GM Genocide’ by campaigners, and was emphasized when Prince Charles claimed that the issue of GM had become a ‘global moral question’ – and the time had come to end its unstoppable march. Speaking at a conference in the Indian capital, New Delhi, he enraged bio-tech leaders and supporters by condemning 'the truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming... from the failure of many GM crop varieties'.

When crops failed in the past, farmers could still save seeds and replant them the following year. But with GM seeds they cannot do this. The GM seeds contain so- called 'terminator technology', which means they have been genetically modified so that the resulting crops do not produce viable seeds of their own.

Monsanto admitted that soaring debt was a 'factor in this tragedy', but pointed out that cotton production had doubled in the past seven years. Later they insisted their seed is 'only double' the price of 'official' non-GM seed[6].

References:

[1] Organics Consumer Association

[2] Mindfully.org: “Monsanto Loses Appeal of French Ban on Genetically Modified Corn”

[3] Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide

[4] Critics decry GM rule in Iraq By Anne Harding The Scientist, Nov 30 2005

[5] Biotech GM Seeds Buccaneers Destroy India’s Rice Economy by Arun Shrivastava

[6] Nov. 2008 The GM genocide: Thousands of Indian farmers are committing suicide after using genetically modified crops

For more GM news around the world visit: gmfoodnews.com/


April Scott has been an avid writer since she learned how to spell. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology with a minor in Radio-Television from Eastern Washington University. Her media career began at KXLY (Spokane, Wa) in 1996. She produced several popular talk shows on AM 920 including “All About Crime” with host Mark Fuhrman. April also produced the highly successful Rick Miller show, while simultaneously developing a successful career in ad sales and copywriting for Rock 94.5, another KXLY station.

In 2002 she worked as a copywriter and online editor for KATU News (Portland). She is dedicated to sharing her knowledge and experience, and hopes that by educating people about the chemical content in our modern food supply, they will become smarter consumers.



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Chuck Palazzo February 11, 2010 6:44 pm (Pacific time)

Outstanding - and another nail in the monster's coffin - Monsanto! We have to keep the pressure on - from GMO's to Agent Orange to PCB's and all the other damage they have inflicted and they continue to do. Monsanto will fail - I hope it will be in our lifetime, however.


gp February 11, 2010 10:14 am (Pacific time)

This is a good step forward. I heard Indian scientist/writer/activist Vandana Shiva speak some years ago at the annual environmental law conference at the University of Oregon (a not to miss event). At that time she said that Monsanto was trying to get the patent on another easy to grow ancient healing herb, turmeric. The patent on a plant?!

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