Tag Archives: India

Is Cornell’s Alliance for Science ‘brainwashing Indian scientists, farmers, decision-makers’ or ‘captivating the world’?

13 Apr

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A Cambridge reader has drawn attention to the activities of the Cornell Alliance for Science, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was set up in 2014 todepolarize the charged debatearound genetically modified foods (GMOs) by adding “a stronger voice for science”.

https://blogs.cornell.edu/onehealth/2017/09/15/gates-grant-seeds-cornell-alliance-for-science-10m-campaign/

To this end Rob Horsch, who worked for Monsanto for 25 years before moving to the Gates Foundation, was appointed as Deputy Director of the Cornell Alliance.

For four years he led the foundation’s agricultural research and development strategies which are said to have relentlessly promoted the use of GMOs and agrichemicals in Africa despite the opposition of Africa-based groups and social movements, who have voiced many concerns about genetically engineered crops. Assisting them in this work are 24 of their 27 ‘2018 Global Partners’ from African countries. Has Africa even greater cause for concern?

Strengthening public relations – aka propaganda?

Mr Horsch has been succeeded by Vanessa Greenlee who has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. She ‘ensures team coordination to reach organizational goals’ and has ‘a passion for finding consensus through conflict’.

U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit public interest, consumer and public health research group working for transparency and accountability in the nation’s food system, describes the Cornell Alliance for Science as a public relations campaign to promote genetically engineered foods and pesticides. The examples in their fact sheet show that the group:

  • misleads the public with inaccurate information about science;
  • elevates unreliable messengers who make false and unscientific claims; and,
  • partners with front groups that have worked with the tobacco industry or chemical industries to manufacture doubt about science that raises health concerns.

Shaping India’s agricultural future 

The India-based Cornell Sathguru Foundation for Development, established in 1994, is said to promote access to scientific innovation as a means of enhancing food security, improving environmental sustainability and raising the quality of life globally. A search, however, reveals little reward for its efforts.

One of the few entries found relates to a course funded by the US Department for Agriculture involving American and India students. No publications were reported during this period and the outcome was that Cornell was seeking funds to continue this work. Its genetic modification proposals have not been successful, apart from India’s now failing Bt Cotton sector.

On April 8th 2019, Joan Conrow, the managing editor of the Cornell Alliance for Science, published an article – Shaping India’s agricultural future – about a course held in February featuring ‘international and Indian experts in gene editing, science communications and the regulatory framework that governs the technology in India’. Matthew Willmann, director of Cornell’s Plant Transformation Facility, lectured on the latest advances in plant gene editing, often called CRISPR.

Dr Sarah Evanega, director of the Cornell Alliance for Science, who moderated the subsequent discussion, said hopefully “It was extremely rewarding to participate in an informed, civil conversation about a controversial topic that has captivated the world. India is clearly preparing to take its rightful place on the world stage of agricultural innovation.”

Genetic modification of agricultural seeds isn’t in the interest of the planet or its inhabitants”

This reflection preceded many points raised in Dr. David Perlmutters dialogue with Dr Evanaga last year. A few are summarised here:

  • Genetically modified (GM) crops are associated with an increased use of chemicals, like glyphosate, that are toxic to the environment and to humans. These chemicals not only contaminate our food and water supplies, but they also compromise soil quality and are actually associated with increased disease susceptibility in crops.
  • This ultimately leads to an increase in the use of pesticides and further disrupts ecosystems. And yet, despite these drawbacks, we haven’t seen increased yield potential of GM crops, although that has always been one of the promises of GM seeds.
  • The various toxic herbicides that are liberally applied to GM crops are having a devastating effect. In terms of the nutritional quality of conventional versus GM food, it’s important to understand that mineral content is, to a significant degree, dependent on the various soil-based microorganisms. When the soil is treated with glyphosate, as is so often the case with GM crops, it deprives the plant of its mineral absorption ability.
  • Whenever harmful chemicals like glyphosate are introduced into an ecosystem, this disrupts the natural processes that keep our environment healthy.
  • The USDA Pesticide Data Program reported in 2015 that 85% of crops had pesticide residues. These chemicals are also contaminating the supplies for other organisms in the surrounding environment.
  • GM seeds now account for more than 50% of global glyphosate usage.
  • These chemicals are harming the soil. the various organisms living in the soil act to protect plants and make them more disease resistant. Destroying these protective organisms with the use of these chemicals weakens the plants’ natural defence mechanisms and, therefore, will require the use of even more pesticides and other chemicals

Dr Perlmutter ends by saying that the argument that we need GMO food to feed the entire world population is absurd. GM crops have actually not increased the yield of any major commercialized food source (link leads to the report on the right) and concludes that traditional breeding outperforms genetic engineering ‘hands down’. In fact, soy — the most widely grown genetically modified crop — has actually experienced reduced yields. The promise of increased yield potentials with GM crops is one that we have not realized.

 

 

 

 

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Long-term exposure to OP insecticides puts farmers at high risk of diabetes

18 Mar

Richard Bruce, who has suffered severely for many years following exposure to pesticides in the course of his work, sends news of research by a team from Madurai Kamaraj University, published in Genome Biology and is generously accessible to all readers. The paper may be accessed here.

Megha Prakash, in an article in ‘Down to Earth’, highlights the case of a 12-year-old boy reported from Mysuru, Karnataka. In 2011 the boy had eaten tomatoes from a field without washing them only a few hours earlier. Krishnan Swaminathan, an endocrinologist and president of the Coimbatore-based Kovai Medical Centre and Hospital, says that it was due to this impact of the chemical on the body’s insulin function that he first thought there could be a link between OP exposure and diabetes.

Researchers from Madurai Kamaraj University draw blood samples of village residents to test for diabetes (ARUL / MADURAI KAMARAJ UNIVERSITY)  

The observations in this and other cases mentioned in the article formed the premise of a study, conducted by a team from the Madurai Kamaraj University, to investigate the high prevalence of diabetes being reported from rural areas. Previous studies had shown a high prevalence of diabetes in rural Tamil Nadu, but this is the first one to link pesticide exposure to the disease.

Megha Prakash writes: “The researchers surveyed 3,080 people from seven villages in Thirupparan-kundram block of Madurai district. Participants were above the age of 35 years. Almost 55% of them were from the farming community and were, hence, more likely to be exposed to OPs. Based on the blood test results, it was found that the prevalence of diabetes among the farming community was three times higher (18.3 per cent) than that in the non-farming community (6.2 per cent), despite the low level of typical risk factors such as obesity, high cholesterol and physical inactivity”.

Source of graphic: International Diabetes Federation, Ministry of Home Affairs, research papers

To read more about the action of this pesticide on the human body – and on mice – click here.

After countries started regulating or banning DDT in the 1970s due to its effects on the environment, OP insecticides came to account for 40% of the global pesticide market.

Ganesan Velmurugan, the lead researcher filed a Right to Information request against some of the state’s agricultural universities which listed these banned pesticides on their websites and even recommended their use.

But the response to his queries was not satisfactory. Kalpana Ramasamy, assistant professor at Agriculture College and Research Institute of the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University told Down To Earth that though agriculture universities are now recommending green-labelled pesticides (a green label means “slightly toxic”) to farmers, a complete ban will not be successful until an alternative to OP pesticides is found.

Prakash continues: “In India, pesticide use is regulated by the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC) and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). As of October 20, 2015, the CIBRC has completely banned two OP pesticides and regulated the use of four others. Of the four are methyl parathion, which is banned for use on fruits and vegetables, and monocrotophos, which is banned for use on vegetables”.

The study’s authors insist on the importance of spreading awareness about the effects of OP insecticides, especially in an agrarian country like India. “One must educate farmers about measures such as washing and soaking vegetables before use and wearing appropriate gear before spraying the pesticide. If awareness is not created now, in the next 10 years, the burden of this problem will be immense,” says Swaminathan.

But has effective protective clothing at last been designed? In one of many allegations,  sheep dip insecticide was alleged to contain chemicals which attacked the rubber in gloves making them porous. The effect was to render the protective clothing useless. Current advertisements say these suits only ‘reduce’ risk

Our informant Richard Bruce comments; “Of course OPs have been known to change blood sugar levels for a very long time but this confirms the diabetes link. Diabetes is rising in the general population in Britain because we are all exposed to these poisons in our food and environment.

 

 

 

 

A surge in America’s GM-free imports

10 May

 “Although corn and soybean go primarily into cattle and poultry feed, consumers increasingly want milk and food products to be free of GM ingredients”.

A Bloomberg report continues: “A growing demand for organics, and the near-total reliance by U.S. farmers on genetically modified corn and soybeans, is driving a surge in imports from other nations where crops largely are free of bioengineering. Imports such as corn from Romania and soybeans from India are booming, according to an analysis of U.S. trade data released Wednesday by the Organic Trade Association and Pennsylvania State University.

Organic imports US 2014“Sales of foods certified by the U.S. as free of synthetic chemicals or genetic engineering reached $35.9 billion in 2014, an 11% increase over 2013 and about 5.1% of U.S. grocery spending. The organic sector’s average annual growth of about 10% is triple that of overall food sales, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture and trade association data.

“According to trade data compiled by the US Organic Trade Association and the Pennsylvania State University, the rising demand for organic foods has pushed up the import bill for corn and soybean, the two most important GM crops being cultivated in America. Although corn and soybean go primarily into cattle and poultry feed, consumers are increasingly wanting milk and food products to be free of GM ingredients”.

Straws in the wind?

The New York Times also reported in January that Monsanto’s earnings fell 34% in the first fiscal quarter as South American farmers cut back on planting corn, reducing demand for the company’s biotech-enhanced seeds. The company said its business was also affected by reduced cotton planting in Australia and a shift in timing for its chemical business.

devinder utube 6Analyst Devinder Sharma notes that: “US imports of organic soybean from India has more than doubled to $73.8 million in 2014. He called on the two pro-GM scientists to debate independent scientific findings as opposed to focussing only on industry funded research. His views were supported by two other spokesmen, one from Maharashtra, where open field crop trials of brinjal, maize, rice, chickpea and cotton are taking place and another from India’s Greenpeace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klW7fD1wb7s

As US imports more organic foods on consumer preference, Indian biotech companies are ‘pushing for GM crops’

Sharma reports that public opinion as seen in grocery sales data indicates a gradual shifting to foods grown without the use of chemicals and GM. However, in India, four State Governments – Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Punjab – have allowed field trials of GM crops. He sees pressure mounting on other State Governments to fall in line. The biotech industry led by the Association of Biotec Led Enterprises (ABLE) has reportedly written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to expedite the regulatory process for clearing the field trials.

Competing lobbies: the biotech industry v Soybean Processor Association

ajit-singh2Resistance from the Soybean Processor Association of India (SOPA) led former Agriculture Minister Ajit Singh to oppose research trials of GM soybean. The industry claimed that importers preference for Indian soymeal would be lost once contamination from GM crops becomes obvious. India is at present the biggest exporter of rice; Sharma comments that allowing GM rice field trials, even if excluded from areas such as Orissa where it is believed to have originated, would risk contamination. He emphasises that utmost caution should be exercised before the country is opened up for field trials of GM crops which:

  • have, in most cases, led to the doubling in the application of chemical herbicides like glyphosate; use has increased to over 283.5 million pounds in 2012;
  • have led to the emergence of superweeds in some 60 million acres of crop land
  • and, to date, have shown no increase in crop productivity.

Sharma notes that the annual increase in sales of foods free of synthetic chemicals and GM ingredients in the US indicate a rising preference for organically produced foods and that in the White House Michelle Obama grows only organic food in the sprawling gardens and is known to serve organic food to guests, ending:

The consumer preference for GM-free foods in the US is growing rapidly. We hope that this commercial imperative will eventually lead to the winding down of the industry’s drive to grow GM crops.

India’s Environment Minister puts field trials of GM crops ‘on hold’

30 Jul

swadeshi jagran manch header .

New Delhi Television online reports that the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) and the Bharatiya Kisan Sanghfarmers – met India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar yesterday to protest against the permission given by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) on July 18 to field trials of 15 GM crops, including rice, mustard, cotton, chickpea and brinjal.

They cited reports by a parliamentary standing committee on agriculture and a Supreme Court-appointed “Technical Expert Committee” to demand that the decision on going ahead with the field trials be deferred.

The Environment Minister, in a statement issued later by the SJM said “the decision about field trials of GM crops had been put on hold.”

On the SJM website the press release gives a number of reasons for its opposition to this technology:

  • there has been no proper scientific evaluation about the probable long term impact of GM Crops on human health and soil, as the technology, which involves introducing a ‘foreign’ gene, is dangerous because once introduced, it is irreversible;
  • there has been no scientific study to prove that GM technology does increase productivity, as is claimed by the promoters of the technology;
  • the environmental costs might outweigh any benefits that the introduction of such a technology brings;
  • a few multinational corporations, principally Monsanto, have a virtual monopoly on the GM technology; if a country’s food production becomes overly dependent on seeds and other inputs from a handful of such companies, it will compromise its food security.

SJM told the Minister that the government should not rely on the biased and manipulated reports of vested interests among the industry and should institute enquiries about the potential impact of GM food crops on the health of the soil, human and other species, to ensure that no harm is done to traditional gene pool /biodiversity of the nation, soil, food security and health of the people of India.

 

Read more about the SJM’s approach on the LWM website

“Data clearly shows that GMOs do not increase yields and do not decrease the use of agrichemicals”

10 Oct

navdanya 

Vandana Shiva draws our attention to her article in the Deccan Chronicle. On one side of the debate over genetically modified organisms is scientific evidence that GMOs are not delivering on their promise, and on the other side is ideological propaganda by the genetically modified seed industry and scientists whose careers are locked into the GMO trajectory.

Extracts

After two decades of commercial applications, data clearly shows that GMOs do not increase yields and do not decrease the use of agrichemicals, but have instead created super-pests and super-weeds.

vandana shivaIt is because of these failures and the fact that GMOs are linked to patents, which translates into royalty extraction and high prices, that GMOs worsen the economic status of farmers. India has witnessed more than 2,84,694 far­mer suicides in a span of 17 years, between 1995 and 2012. The worst off is Maharashtra, which has the maximum area under cultivation of genetically modified Bt cotton . . .

Farmers chose Bt cotton not because it was the best alternative but because all other alternatives were destroyed. The seed varieties were replaced. India’s Central Ins­titute for Cotton Res­earch has not released any public varieties after Monsanto entered the market, and most Indian seed companies are locked into licensing arrangements with Monsanto.

Nor is it true that yields have incre­ased. Yields of cotton in the pre-GMO period reached 1,200 kg in good years. After Bt cotton was introduced the yield has stagnated at 500 kg.

As the University of Ca­n­terbury research team led by Prof. Jack He­i­nemann has shown, North American crop production has fallen behind that of Western Europe, despite farmers in the United States using genetically modified seeds and more pesticide. According to the team, the main point of difference between the regions is the adoption of GM seeds in North America and the use of non-GM seed in Europe. The failure to control pests has led to an increase in pesticide use.

A study published in India’s Review of Agrarian Studies also showed a higher expenditure on chemical pesticides for Bt cotton than for other varieties by small farmers. Non-target pest populations in Bt cotton fields have exploded; it is expected that this will likely counteract any decrease in pesticide use.

In China, where Bt cotton is widely planted, populations of mirid bugs — pests that previously posed only a minor problem — have increased 12-fold since 1997.

A 2008 study in the International Journal of Biotechnology (see abstract) found that any financial benefits of planting Bt cotton had been eroded by the increasing use of pesticides needed to combat non-target pests.

In the US, due mainly to the widespread use of Roundup Ready seeds, the use of 4 herbicide (a group of herbicides) increased 15% from 1994 to 2005 — an average increase of one-fourth pound per each acre planted with GM seed — according to a 2009 report published by the Organic Centre. Moreover, the rise of gly­phosate (the herbici­de in Roundup) resistant weeds has made it necessary to combat these weeds by employing other, often more toxic, herbicides . . . This trend is confirmed by 2010 USDA pesticide data, which shows skyrocketing gly­phosate use accompanied by constant or increasing rates of use for other, more toxic, herbicides . . .

. . . Bt cotton has not given higher yields. It is not disease resistant. Disea­ses that never affected cotton, like aphids and jassids, have exploded. In India the bollworm, which Bt cotton was supposed to control, has become resistant and Monsanto has had to introduce Bollgard II, a higher variety of insect-resistant genetically modified cotton. All this has created debt not profits for farmers. If seed costs jump 8,000 per cent and pesticide use increases 1,300 per cent, farmers’ incomes do not increase.

Good science looks at evidence and takes feedback from the real word. Bad science that shuts its mind to evidence and be­comes propaganda. Sa­­dly, in the GMO deb­a­te, those defending GMOs have only power and propaganda on their side.

The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya (nine seeds)Trust

 *

 A direct link to 2010 USDA pesticide data was not found but there was a similar passage in the 2010 Californian report below (AI, active ingredient?). pesticide use california 2010

Have you seen Michael Hart’s video ‘GM, farmer to farmer’, via Youtube or his website?

27 Aug

michael hart youtube

On the GM crops, farmer to farmer website we read that Michael Hart, a conventional livestock family farmer, was investigating the reality of farming genetically modified crops in the USA ten years after their introduction. He travelled across the US interviewing farmers and other specialists about their experiences of growing GM.

During the making of this level-headed film, available on YouTube, he heard problems of the ever increasing costs of seeds and chemicals to weeds becoming resistant to herbicides.

US farmers told him that a single pass (one herbicide application) is a fallacy and concurred that three or more passes are the norm for GM crops.

As weeds have become more resistant to glyphosate there has been a sharp increase in the use of herbicide tank mixes (most of them patented and owned by the biotech companies). Astonishingly some farmers were now having to resort to hand labour to remove weeds.

Farmers have seen the costs spiral, for example, the price of seed has gone from $40 to over $100 per acre over the last few years.

Farmers referred to co-existence (the ability to grow GM crops next to non-GM and organic crops) as “unsolvable” and say that it does not work.

In summary:

  • A huge “weed” problem.
  • The myth of co-existence.
  • Farmers trapped into the genetically modified biotech system.
  • Huge price increases for seeds and sprays- well beyond the price increases farmers have received for their crops.
  • In short, the film shows US farmers urging great caution to be exercised by UK and European farmers in adopting this technology.

We hope that Michael will be able to make a similar film in India.

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You have quit Europe, now quit India, farmers tell Monsanto

14 Aug

Thanks to EN who sent an email message drawing our attention to this article in The Hindu, text reproduced by GM Watch, leading to a search and another account on Via Campesina’s website.

indian farmers protest against monsanto

A delegation of farmers and activists of the Coalition for GM-Free India, presented a national flag made of non-GM cotton to the Minister of State V. Narayanasamy for the prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, to unfurl at the Red Fort on Independence Day, August 15th. Gargi Parsai reported in The Hindu:

“A report of the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Experts Committee on GMOs recently recommended that there should not be any field trials of GM crops until gaps in the regulatory system are addressed. The panel suggested early risk assessment and emphasised need for chronic and trans-generational toxicity testing of GM products on humans, livestock, environment and biodiversity . . .

“Cutting across party lines, Members of Parliament joined the sit-in to express their solidarity with the coalition of about 250 civil society and farmers groups. BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi and Dharmendar Pradhan (members of the Agriculture Standing Committee); DMK MPs, including T.K.S. Elangovan, T.M. Selvaganapathi, K.P. Ramalingam, A.K.S. Vijayan and S. Thangavelu; and MDMK’s A. Ganesamurthi expressed their support and assured farmers that they would take up the issue in Parliament.

Via Campesina ends:

“Recently Monsanto has suffered a blow after last year’s moratorium on its Bt brinjal. India’s National Biodiversity Board has sued Monsanto over charges of biopiracy – for using at least 10 local varieties without permission, flouting a requirement under the National Biodiversity Act. India is a signatory to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, and along with the National Biodiversity Act has sovereign rights over its biological resources.

“India’s farmers have welcomed this move by the Indian government. They have resolved to resist Monsanto until it finally quits eyeing our food and farming systems and leaves India and the world for good”.