Friday, February 26, 2010

GM CROPS in India: Are we being betrayed by our own Judases?

Bashing GM crops may land you in jail !!!

The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill ( BRAB)of 2009 is going to be tabled in the current session of the parliament!

The provisions of the bill are absolutely scary.

Whoever, without any evidence or scientific record misleads the public about the safety of the organisms and products….shall be punished with imprisonment for a term that shall be not less than six months but which may extend to one year and with fine which may extend to two lakhs rupees or with both.

Are we going back to those shameful Dark Age in human history when it was considered right to sentence Galileo to capital punishment unless he recanted? Or is a new Dark Age descending on us, where human life is controlled by Monsantos who have “Pawarful” politicians as their lobbyists willlling to sell an entire nation to satiate the greed of the multinational companies?

That’s not all.

Article27(1) seeks to keep the information related to the research, approval and science of the GM products out of the purview of the Right to Information Act.

If this is not a violation of the fundamental rights in a democracy, what is? Are the desi GM lobbyists totally devoid of any integrity, commitment to the people of India and farsightedness? Have they no qualms about setting afoot a process that will put the very survival of this countryinto the hands of a few global giants?

Moreover, the three member experts of the biotechnology department can overrule the position taken by any state in relation to GM technology.

So it is outside the powers of any state government to refuse the introduction of these dubious seeds into their state. The “PAWARFUL” lobbies see enlightened states like Kerala and the enlightened farmers of states like Karnataka as obstructions in their devious scheme of selling out the country for thirty silver coins!

The draft bill also states that the BRAI will set up its appellate tribunal which will have jurisdiction to hear arguments on the issues concerning biotechnology. In case of any disputes, petitioners can only approach the Supreme Court.

Thank you BRAI for your little mercies. WE, the citizens of India, are grateful to you for the thoughtful concession - of not holding the threat of imprisonment and fine over us if we approach the apex court for our fundamental rights..


The issue with GM products are 1. the research regarding the health hazards has been inconclusive to date and 2. they are terminator seeds which will put the Indian farmers, and in turn the whole nation at the mercy of multinational s companies who manufacture and sell these seeds. This is the neocolonialism which may be defined as the Giant corporates' surreptitious efforts to enslave Third World countries on account of the greatest lure of capitalism that these regions offer : the market. Perhaps, it is not fully right to define this market as confined to the Third World. These corporates capitalize on the great divide that is dividing not just the Third World, but all nations across of the world, viz, the class divide. India too now has Supermarkets provisioned with “ORGANIC FOOD’ section with its prohibitive prices and the normal unlabelled food section for the ordinary plebeians which forms the outlet for food with a high level of toxicity .


For a brief run down on the GM seed issue from the net:

December 2, 1998: Indian Government Summarizes Threat Posed by Terminator Seeds

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Several weeks after banning terminator seeds in India (see Before October 10, 1998), Shri Sompal, the country’s minister of agriculture summarizes the threat posed by the technology in a public statement: “This is lethal and poses a global threat to farmers, biodiversity, and food and ecological security. The use of this technology would threaten the farmers’ rights to save the seed for their harvest. Because of the lethal nature of the product, the public has been asked to be wary of the introduction of genetically modified foods in many parts wherever this technique is being tried to be introduced. The farmer will be dependent upon terminator seed and will have to buy the same seed again and again. The company producing the seed can charge any price from the farmers. The farmer will not be in a position to use seeds saved from the previous crops. It will threaten the farmers’ expertise in seed selection and traditional conservation-cum-improved ways of carrying forward the seeds. The technology would have serious implications on the crop biodiversity. It may lead to gradual extinction of traditional varieties. Crop related wild

varieties, important for natural evolution for crop species would be affected by cross-contamination. This concern would be of special relevance to India, since the country abounds in land races and wild relatives of crop plants.” [REDIFF, 12/1/199

2005: Indian Planters of Bt Cotton Incur Higher Costs than Growers of non-Bt Cotton

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A report by the Indian government finds that Bt cotton grown in India in 2005 experienced a higher incidence of pest and disease and produced lower yields than non-Bt cotton. The report recommends that Bt cotton be planted only in irrigated fields that have fertile soil. Another study, conducted by a number of civil society organizations, finds that farmers who grew Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh collectively incurred $80 million dollars more in farming costs than non-Bt cotton growers. [CENTRE FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE, 3/29/2006]

January 1, 2006-August 26, 2006: Thousands of Indian Farmers Commit Suicide

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Between January and August 2006, an estimated 1,920 Bt cotton farmers in Vidarbha, Maharashtra (India) commit suicide because of rising debts. And between June and August, the suicide rate reaches one suicide every eight hours. The higher cultivation costs associated with genetically modified Bt cotton (see, e.g., 2005 ) has made it more difficult for farmers to pay back their loans. Roughly 2.8 million of the 3.2 million cotton farmers in the Maharashtra province are currently in default. More than 50 percent of the farmers who commit suicide are between the ages of 20 and 45. [DNA INDIA, 8/26/2006] The epidemic of farmer suicides began in 1994 when India liberalized its economy and devalued the rupee. [DNA INDIA, 8/26/2006]

Category Tags: Farmers' rights, Indi

February 2006-March 2006: Sheep Die after Grazing on Bt Cotton Plants

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In the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh, India, more than 70 Indian shepherds report that 25 percent of their herds died within 5-7 days of continuous grazing on the leaves and pods of harvested Bt cotton plants. The shepherds noticed that the sheep became dull or depressed two to three days after grazing on the plants. They developed “reddish and erosive” lesions in the mouth, became bloated, had episodes of blackish diarrhea, and sometimes had red-colored urine. Post-mordem examinations of the animals revealed the presence of black patches in the small intestines, enlarged bile ducts, discolored livers, and the accumulation of pericardial fluid. Investigators suspect that the deaths were likely due to the Bt toxin in the leaves and pods of the Bt cotton plants.


In view of these, how can any government keep the updates on the research and policies regarding these deadly products from the people who elected them to power to protect their interests? Doesn’t this highhanded attitude amount to a serious breach of trust?

Science is all about experimentation and conclusions. The latter might change with new facts and discoveries emerging from the former. To enlighten the people about the scientific theories, methodology of research and conclusions regarding the products that are introduced into the country, is the sacred duty of the government. The right to take informed decisions about the food they eat, whether it is toxic or not, is the inalienable right of the people. NO GOVERNMENT CAN THROW US INTO JAIL FOR EXERCISING THAT RIGHT.

The government which even remotely considers formulating such draconic measures should be thrown out of power.

Hoping and praying that BRAI won’t throw me in the can someday for this piece.

I remain anxiously yours



  1. oh my, it does indeed appear to be a step in the wrong direction for the government to lay down such a law. I'm just shaking my head at how those in power think they can do such things- but then often- we, the people, stand by silent- and so they are able to. Good for you to speak up!!!!

  2. The first main genetically modified food was a tomato paste, introduced with careful consumer consultation, clearly labelled. It sold well until the current furore began. In 1996 the EU accepted the import of US genetically modified soya bean and maize, staple commodities which go untraced into a large number of processed foods. The US companies refused to label or segregate the new products, more concerned with winning markets than public attitudes. Ordinary people ended eating modified food without knowing it, with no tangible benefit to them, and having no real say in the decisions. This major failure of democracy resulted in a huge consumer backlash. It also raised questions of environmental risks of GM crops spreading genes to other species and possible loss of biodiversity.
    Claims are often made for the potential of genetically modified food to "feed the world". If genes could be manipulated to enable staple crops to grow in what are today marginal conditions, it might make a big difference to many countries which struggle to feed themselves.. Technically these areas are proving difficult, and financially there is less return than products for our supermarkets. If the claim to feed the world is not to be mere propaganda, biotechnological investment and expertise needs a radical reorientation to the specific needs of marginal agriculture in the Third World. At present it is just another "rich man's" technology. Often the best solutions will be better breeding with their own indigenous resources, rather than high tech. solutions which may be inappropriate. Whatever is done must be in sensitive collaboration with local communities. Exploitation by multi-national agrichemical and seed corporations, more interested in market share than people is another reason for bringing these technologies into a proper public accountability.

  3. @ dr antony
    thanks for the input.
    we are flooded with so much information and theories about GM food that we dont know what to believe. we lay people go by what the media says. i had switched over to soy milk. in 2008 there were a series of articles in the NIE about the GM soy which is highly toxic and carcinogenic - the paper quoted profusely from research papers which say that the soy & soy products available in india come from GM soya.that was the end of my soy intake.

    are there any sites which can give reliable information on this issue?

    i only wish the Biotech regulatory authority of india is more transparent and without vested interest!

    @ anjuli
    i think this is an issue where the people were not silent-hence the roll back on the BT brinjal.

  4. There is nothing toxic about bt brinjal or for that matter bt soy as far as I am aware :) The only real issues are biodiversity (and the pestilence eventually developing resistance to the bt variety) and some, I believe misplaced, monopoly apprehensions. Can you provide me this reference which you say claimed bt soybean is carcinogenic? I haven't been able to find anything to that effect. Anyway, the bt episode is very much in keeping with our nation's resistance to change for the better, so nothing new there :)

  5. @ karthik
    hope u r right.
    there was a series of articles about soy in the NIE in 2008. Gave table of brand names of soy products available in india. if i remeber right only Silk Soya(MILk) was considered fit for consumption - and it cost more than double godrej's soyfit!
    last week too the eco times i think had an article on GM soy. shall try to locate it.

  6. @ KT
    I hope this answers most of the issues of concern. Gentic engineering is successfully used in the production of life saving medicines. As for plants, the issues that are of benefit to the farmers are pest resistance, increased yield, and the ability to grow under adverse conditions. Effect on biodiversity is probably an imaginary problem.We can always keep the parent genes unmodified,and farmers can choose what kind of crops they would like to produce.It always needs time and effort to scucessfully produce and test new breeds and to monitor their effects on consumption.All said and done, we shouldnot just write off newer ideas,just because of our ignorance. More people will be killed by the efects of pesticides,than by all the rest factors put together.But,can we ask the farmers to cultivate only organic foods? And look at their prices.Can we afford to buy them?

  7. The right to take informed decisions about the food they eat, whether it is toxic or not, is the inalienable right of the people. NO GOVERNMENT CAN THROW US INTO JAIL FOR EXERCISING THAT RIGHT.

    Well said.. and if some have made the effort to make such laws then things are not right... Kerala's Endosulfan Spray and Coco Cola protest were not silly...

  8. Over 1.5 billion farmers depend on farm saved seeds and they have to knock at the doors of seed companies ultimately.

  9. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your newer articles are brilliant and have a lot more originality now keep it up! I am waiting for your next post on GM Crops.


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