Monday, May 4, 2009

Our food will be made toxic and our seeds contaminated for all time if GM food crops are approved for commercial planting

please circulate this discussion widely.
I'm very happy to see that Kishore Tiwari has written to the Supreme Court about its astonishing comment on balancing the myth of high yields against "side-effects" These side-effects are more properly, the science of the serious hazards intrinsic to the technology of genetic engineering and pesticidal crops which is what GM crops are.
There are some plain facts that need to be known by our people and our farmers. Kishore has the hard experience, which he has written about, on the facts surrounding Bt cotton and farmer suicides in India, particularly in Vidharbha. I have also written to the Times of India (reproduced at the end of this email. I don't think their editors will publish my critical 'rejoinder').

Our food will be made toxic and our seeds contaminated for all time if GM food crops are approved for commercial planting
You can't strike a balance between toxic food, a major threat to India's biodiversity, which also means the environment that sustains Indian farming on the one hand and any advantage (to the poor) that the SC sees that it should weigh in the balance, even assuming there were some merit to the SC's observation that GM crops will help the poor because they are high yielding crops. I also address this myth below.
If a food is toxic, then it will cause illness: food that causes people to get sick can no longer be classified as food. It is POISON. Also the kind of illnesses that GM foods will likely cause, as studies by independent scientists are increasingly showing, will be long term, like cancers and they will not be attributed to genetic engineering because in India at least, we do not have the ability or the will to track these foods and monitor their impacts. These kinds of studies, which only governments can do at the macro level at which they are required, are called epidemiological studies. Of course, the further point is, that it is precisely the poor who will suffer intensely because they have no access to medical aid of anything approaching 'enough'. 1 billion people will be exposed to GM food crops if the government has its way. As Dr Judy carman says,

"If only 1 in 1,000 of exposed people later gets ill, or has an underlying illness made worse, then over one million Indians would be ill and requiring treatment. This would result in a huge cost to the Indian government and community" (Carman).

It will also be a social cost and health scam of an unimaginable magnitude that will make 'chicken-feed' of every other scam in the country including the Satyam scandal and it will continue without any possibility of reversal. A trade off of any kind is unimaginable.

The GM MYTH of High Intrinsic Yields

The plain science is and there is NO AMBIGUITY, that GM crops do not carry any TRAITS for INCREASED YIELDS. The traits for increased yields belong to the parental lines that are used for making transgenics QED. Doug Gurian Sherman of the UCS (union of Concerned Scientists) says this:

"No currently available transgenic varieties enhance the intrinsic yield of any crops. The intrinsic yields of corn and soybeans did rise during the twentieth century, but not as a result of GE traits. Rather, they were due to successes in traditional breeding".

On the question of whether there are increased 'operational' yields because Bt is a pesticidal crop targeted at a particular cotton worm, then the jury is in. In China, in AP, in Gujarat, pest resistance is proven to have set in. Unless farmers spray more, yields are falling after an initial rise in the first 2- 3 years. We also have insect shifts in common with the Chinese experience, (the mealy bug in India ), which has led to huge crops failures in more than one State. In Vidharbha, a rain fed area, the inappropriate Govt. approval to sowing Bt cotton in this region in particular, has led to heart-breaking crops failure, devastation and suicides. The high input costs are attested to by Sainath, and the Mumbai High Court and the link to suicides confirmed.
The Government of India's stated concerns for the plight of farmers is exploded by P Sainath in numerous articles. The most telling feature of all is this (his May 1st article) and I quote:

"We had locked our farmers into the volatility of global cash crop prices, rigged and controlled by a handful of corporations. Add to this the obscene subsidies that the US and EU threw at their corporations and growers. In the US, subsidies made up two per cent of total farm income in 1974. By year 2000, they made up 47 per cent of total farm income. In item after item, US-EU subsidies destroyed millions of livelihoods, not just in India but across the world.

In India, we made no effort to raise duties to halt the dumping of highly subsidised US cotton on this country. Sharad Pawar was not in the least interested. Cotton was not his baby. The subsidized US cotton was grabbed by our textile magnates. They were getting it virtually free. No prizes for guessing what this did to the cotton price for Vidharbha farmers. Maharashtra’s suicides are perhaps unique. In that state, farmers have written suicide notes addressed to the prime minister and chief minister on the issue (while many experts ponder about why these people are taking their lives)"

There is one very important detail about the US cotton subsidy that Mr Sainath doesn't know about. The cotton is mainly GM.
Will Kishore please send one of those suicide notes to the media so this deep mystery of farmer suicides is cleared up once and for all. Please ask the leading papers to print. And Kishore, you should have sent it to the SC along with your letter to demonstrate the bonafides of our government.
Aruna R
Letter to the Ed. The Times of India, below:

Subject: Your News Item dated 1st May ‘09

“Poverty More Dangerous than GM Side-effects: SC”


I write to express my astonishment at the choice of headline on the outcome of yesterday’s SC hearing of the PIL where I am the lead Petitioner; that it passed the Times of India’s editorial screening.

I am not questioning the veracity of your report about the comment made by the Chief Justice (CJ) of the Supreme Court. But it was a comment and your paper has elevated that comment and instead given it the gravitas of a pronouncement of the Supreme Court Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India. I am therefore, questioning the objective of a national daily of importance suggesting to your reading public that such is indeed the benefit of GM crops (that GM crops will feed the poor with their high yields). Since GM crops are unquestionably a question of national security, (both food and critically India’s biodiversity) I’m constrained to say that it fell short of responsible reporting and is to the detriment of your reading public and the national interest.

This comment of the CJ has no basis in the deliberations and the evidence given to the Supreme Court in the four years since this case was filed. What the public need to know is that the factual scientific issue is that GM crops give no intrinsic yield gains. It is also a fact that we have record-breaking farmer suicides in the Country, levels never approximated in history. In the case of Vidharba these have been linked by the MUMBAI HIGH COURT through its amicus curiae, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences to the inappropriateness of GM crops in a rain-fed region and because of their high input costs. The latter is a point of relevance for farmers everywhere.

The most rudimentary research uncovers the fact that the ‘Industry’ led by Monsanto has contributed to the recent food crisis because of steep price rises sourced in the diversion of food crops to GM biofuel crops. Monsanto has also been docked for hounding farmers in Canada and the US in court cases for patent infringement when their farms were inadvertently contaminated by GM seeds and pollen from other farms. These are companies who exist to promote their bottom line, not feed the poor. Let’s be very clear about this, both as a reality on the ground for farmers and the poor and the science of the present state of GM technology, which does not provide yield gains.

I would be happy to submit an article to your paper detailing the dangers India faces with GM crops and asking the all important question:

Why in heaven’s name is our government prepared to risk the health of one billion Indians in perpetuity by forcing untested and & unsafe GM food onto our plates?

Aruna Rodrigues

(Lead Petitioner to the SC in a PIL

for a moratorium on GM crops pending comprehensive and transparent safety-testing in the national interest)

No comments: