Friday, December 30, 2011

Bt-cotton fraud charges

Another Bt-cotton variant falls to fraud charges
By Zia Haq
Hindustan Times
December 30, 2011

In what could be a significant fraud in India’s publicly funded biotech research, a second Bt cotton variant – NHH 44 — claimed by government scientists as indigenous technology has been found to be sourced from US firm Monsanto’s original patented product, sources have confirmed to Hindustan Times.

While Bikaneri, a Bt cotton technology developed by University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad, has already been traced to Monsanto’s genes, NHH 44 is a hybrid variant, but both essentially are based on a “proprietary technology” created by Monsanto.

The first fraud came to light on the basis of disclosures made under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Together, “Bikaneri” and “NHH 44” were the only genetically-modified varieties of the Bt cotton developed through government-funded research to provide cheaper alternatives to poor farmers, while numerous other privately-developed varieties crowd India’s royalty-driven Rs 2,000-crore cotton seed market.

Much of the flak is being heaped on UAS scientist BM Khadi, one of the lead scientists involved in the research. He headed the Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur, until May 2008 and it was during his tenure that NHH 44 was initiated. He is also part of India’s biotech regulator, pointing to a potential conflict of interest. Khadi could not reached for comments.

However, what were deemed to be original products, involving heavy government investment, have turned out to be not entirely indigenous. Relying on Monsanto’s technology could have possible because its intellectual property rights protection of 15 years had ended, freeing violators from legal tangles, sources said.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s “network programme on transgenics” had a budgetary provision of R100 crore in the XI Plan.

The revelations have led critics opposed to GM crops to question government funding for technologies that are suspect. “This puts a question mark on whether capabilities to produce ‘indigenous’ GM crops exist, not that we want these,” Kavitha Kuruganti, who represents the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture, said.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peru bans GM for 10 years

Peru approves law banning GM production for 10 years
Unofficial translation from Spanish
Third World Network Biosafety Information Service
December 23, 2011

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and Congress have heard the cries of Peruvian farmers and have banned GMOs for ten years.

The effects of GM foods on people who consume them and on their crops have generated enormous controversy. In this light Peru has taken an important step to protect their local food producers, establishing a moratorium on income and production of genetically modified organisms. This law, which was approved on November 4, was published on December 9 in the Official Gazette.

The president of Peru, Ollanta Humala said that it came to this decision after hearing “the cries of agricultural organizations and civil society to take this important step in the defense of our biodiversity.”

Living modified organisms (LMOs) for research are excluded from the norm, including those used as pharmaceuticals and veterinary as governed by specific rules.

Also the LMO or its derivatives for food imported for direct human and animal, or for processing, said the rule would fall in this first group of processed foods such as dairy meal, which have been manufactured using GMOs.

Congressman Jaime Delgado, who was the driver of the rule, said in a statement that the law establishes the moratorium in response to the need to avoid irreparable damage to the country’s biodiversity and to achieve a prior environmental land.

The National Convention of Peruvian Agriculture (Conveagro) also welcomed the enactment of the law and that Humala has taken the decision “without yielding to pressure from powerful groups.” In a statement, Humala said he “heard the cries of agricultural organizations and civil society to take this important step in the defense of our biodiversity.”

The president of Conveagro, Lucila Quintana, said: “Now we have to tap the potential of Peru’s diverse agriculture, food and tourism, as part of a national biosafety work and ensure agricultural production to achieve food security. “

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bt cotton complaints

Complaints against Bt cotton grow
By Suhail Yusuf (Pakistan)
December 19, 2011

TOBA TEK SINGH - Farmers have complained that cottonseed cakes available in the market are harming their cattle as their animals are suffering from diseases, specially lack of appetite, and decline in milk production, premature deliveries and sudden deaths due to unknown cause.

A progressive farmer, Arshad Warraich, of Chak 328-JB said the taste of milk, yogurt, lassi, butter and desi ghee had also been affected as a result and the bitterness was found in them.

Agriculture department deputy district officer Khalid Mahmood said that nearly 90 per cent of the cotton sown in the district was of BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) type and cotton ginning factories supplied most of cottonseed cakes produced from its seed (banola).

He claimed that farmers had left old types of cotton varieties and turned to the most profit-earning crop.

Earlier, the per acre yield of cotton crop was 30 to 40 maund and with the use of BT cotton the per acre yield has increased between 50 and 60 maund.

Cottonseed cake sellers said that farmers lodged complaints with them that their animals were facing varied types of diseases due to cottonseed cakes.

[Read More…]

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cuba as a biotech island

Cuba as a biotechnology island
By Isbel Diaz
December 16, 2011

HAVANA TIMES, Dec 16 — Thanks to the recently concluded international congress “Biotechnology Havana 2011,” the Cuban public can know learn — albeit superficially — down what paths we are being dragged by our homegrown bio-technocrats.

As expected, this year’s event was devoted to agricultural biotechnology, which is currently one of the most profitable sectors for transnational producers of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

To erase any doubt, this event was held jointly with a trade show, which was clearly the main attraction for the more than 300 foreign delegates attending from 29 countries.

Carlos Borroto, the deputy director of the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (IGBC) and a member of the conference’s organizing committee, said his center currently has more than 20 research and development projects focused on agro-biotechnology.

[Read More…]

Thursday, December 15, 2011

GE risks database (EU)

Database on the Risks Of Genetically Engineered Crop Plants
Testbiotech, Germany
Press Release
December 15, 2011

Munich - Testbiotech is today publishing a database designed to give an overview of the risks associated with genetically engineered plants allowed for marketing in the European Union, or being about to be authorised soon. The current version of the database, called PlantGeneRisk, gives an overview of thirteen genetically engineered crops, four soy plants and nine maize plants. Ten of these plants already have EU authorisation for use, import and usage in food and feed, one of them is also allowed for cultivation. The plants produce insecticides or are tolerant to herbicides, and many also have a combination of both. So far, thirty eight genetically engineered crops have been authorised within the EU for use in food and feed, but no public database is available giving an overview of their risks. In the existing databases provided by state authorities or by institutions which have a close affiliation with industry, the actual risks are mostly marginalized.

“Genetically engineered plants raise similar problems to the finance sector: Everybody is concerned by the problems, but hardly anybody has an overview of the actual risks, says Christoph Then from Testbiotech. “So far, most information comes from industry. By establishing this new database we are offering some much needed counter-expertise.

[Read More…]

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