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Campaign against Genetically Modified Crops


Pic © Greenpeace
Used with permission
Following protests and concerns expressed by environmentalists, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to turn down Mahyco-Monsanto's application for commercialisation of Bt cotton in India. Mahyco-Monsanto have been asked to conduct research trials for one more year. The company has also been asked to address some of the environmental concerns that were earlier raised by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
See: India suggests more trials on transgenic cotton (June 25, 2001)
Greenpeace has Govt's ear, farmers turn shrill; Say NGO influenced Bt cotton decision (June 23, 2001)

But its no time for us to be complacent. In fact we now need to be more vigilant than ever as Maharashtra Hybrid Corporation (Mahyco), seems determined to get clearance for Bt cotton.

See the news reports:
Groups demand greater transparency and participation in the Bt Cotton process (June 21, 2001)

Committee to decide on introduction of BT cotton in India (Source: NTDV.com; June 19, 2001)
Bt Cotton - Open Dialogue leaves questions unanswered; Greenpeace fears a hasty decision to commercialise will be taken (June 18, 2001)


More on the Bt cotton campaign
Take Action!


Greenpeace India has detected illegal GE food on Indian market.

See the news reports:
Greenpeace reveals hidden ingredients in Pringles chips and Isomil's Baby Food (June 6, 2001)
Greenpeace demands withdrawal of GM foods (June 7, 2001)
Easier food imports a mixed blessing (June 12, 2001)
ToI Edit - Hard to Swallow (June 23, 2001)

Read the List of Products
See the Lab Report
Read the Legal Summary
Read the Briefing on GE Food


Pic © Greenpeace
Used with permission

For more Information on the Products tested and information on the Companies read:
Genetically Engineered Food in Indian Markets.

More on the GE-food labelling campaign
Take Action!


BACKGROUND TO THE CAMPAIGN

Global opposition to genetically modified (GM) crops and food is increasing and moving from Europe to Asia.
Even as India surreptitiously carries on field testing of Monsanto-Mahyco's Bt cotton, Thailand and Sri Lanka have taken steps to ban GM crops However, arm-twisting by the WTO has since forced the Sri Lankan authorities to backtrack on their decision.

According to Greenpeace, only a day after they exposed the illegal entry of genetically engineered food into the Indian market, China has decided to tighten control over GMOs by limiting their release to the environment and launching a comprehensive labeling system.India, however, surreptitiously continues to promote and push for GM crops like Bt cotton (a genetically-modified variety that produces its own biopesticide) and Vitamin A Rice.

Controversies and illegalities surround the permissions dealing with Monsanto's Bt cotton, as well as the field tests that were exposed, and brought to a halt, in 1998. Despite the controversy and an ongoing Supreme Court court case challenging the field trials, permission was once again granted to conduct large scale field trials in July 2000.

Though we didn't ask for it, genetically engineered crops will soon enter the Indian market, and no one is questioning the potential hazards to the environment and our health, say environmentalists in India who have called on the government to ban imports of genetically modified crops.


Pic © Greenpeace
Visits to the second round of field trials (in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka) reveal that the tests are being conducted in an completely haphazard and undemocratic manner. Yet, the results based on these very tests will be used to commercialise Bt Cotton. No information about any of the field tests or laboratory results has been made public.

More information:
Fact file on the Bt cotton field trials

Press note: Bt field trial Sham exposed (March 19, 2001)
Article about the Bt field trials being conducted in Karnataka
More about Monsanto in India

What's wrong with Bt cotton?
The trials of Bt cotton risk environmental damage and the loss of the world's most important biological pesticide. Recognising this, the International Centre for Technology Assesment (CTA) and others have filed a lawsuit against the EPA on genetically engineered Bt crops.

While agri-corporations, such as Monsanto, proclaim the benefits of pest-resistant GE-crops as saving farmers time and money, the realities in the field are proving to be quite different. Incidents of pest resistance to Bt cotton have been reported in farmer's fields in the United States and Australia. GENET (European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering) reports that about 26 species of insect pests have shown the ability to develop substantial resistance to Bt proteins. A leading American farming association has issued a warning about the negative effects of genetically modified crops. Farmers in Australia who signed up to test genetically modified crops on their farms are opting out of the program.

"The issue of Bt Cotton is not merely one of science, but it also has to address whether we should allow a known offender loose in India," states Nityanand Jayaraman, Greenpeace India campaigner, commenting on the fact that illegal GE Monsanto corn was detected in Argentina. Benedikt Haerlin of Greenpeace International accuses Monsanto of not playing by the rules, but pursuing a ruthless global strategy of legal and illegal contamination with GE seeds.

After conducting large-scale field trials of its controversial Bt or "Bollgard" cotton in India, Monsanto is now seeking to introduce its equally high-profile "Roundup -resistant" transgenic soyabean into the country. Reliance on the Monsanto herbicide, Roundup, to kill weeds in fields of Roundup Ready GE-soybeans has already led to increased herbicide use because the weeds have become herbicide resistant, according to a new study.


WHY ALL THE FUSS ABOUT GENETIC ENGINEERING?

Well, think of it this way. Would you take a drug that has not been tested for safety or efficacy? How would you feel if a multinational corporation that has been using this drug in people without warning them, tried to sell it to you? It would make you angry, right? That's part of why people around the world are opposing genetic engineering of crops.

Genetic engineering as a technique is neither bad or good. Its how and why we apply it that causes problems. Similarly, the problems with GE are not with the technology, but with the applications - in crops, in animals and possibly sooner than we expect, in humans - and with how these are being regulated.

Part of the problem is that we don't seem to have a say in where this technology is heading, because the corporations who apply it care more for profit than for our well-being. As a result the present generation of GE-crops have been inadequately tested for safety and ecological impact. The agri-corporations have been trying to push GE as a solution to world hunger, but there are few takers for this argument.

The agri-corporations have shown a consistent disregard for ethics, for consumer opinion, and even the law. Their greed for profit is driven by the desire to monopolise the world's agriculture and food supply. They have been feeding GM-food to an unsuspecting American public for the last six years, without thinking it necessary to inform consumers about it (When polled, 75% of US consumers said they wanted labelling of bioengineered food). The patenting of food and seeds by these multinational companies threatens food security and access by farmers to vital genetic resources.

WHAT INDUSTRY SHOULD DO:

Make them safer! Genetically modified crops are riskier than they should be, says a committee of experts advising the British government. Biotech companies could do a lot more to ensure the safety of genetically modified crops. New technologies, say scientists, could be used to prevent the nightmare scenarios dreaded by consumers and campaigners - genes resistant to herbicides crossing into other plants creating an unstoppable superweed; plants with genes for toxic substances pollinating crops and producing poisonous food; or modified plants containing novel proteins provoking allergic reactions.

The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) has issued a set of guidelines telling companies how to use the latest advances in biotechnology to minimise any risks of gene flow-the first time a regulatory body has offered such advice.The ACRE report, entitled "Guidance on Best Practice in the Design of Genetically Modified Crops", details the tools biotech companies could use to enhance safety and sets out three main guidelines.

First, plants should be engineered in a way that minimises the risk of gene flow to other crops or wild relatives via cross-pollination. There have already been several examples of such gene flow, including the case of the sugar beet that was accidentally endowed with resistance to two different herbicides (New Scientist, 21 October, p 6). At the moment, the only way to prevent gene flow is to set up buffer zones between closely related species. This is not 100 per cent effective. But the report outlines numerous ways of preventing gene flow altogether, such as engineering plants so they're incompatible with other strains, don't produce viable pollen, don't flower or reproduce asexually.

The second recommendation says that as little DNA as possible should be added to plants. In particular, companies should avoid using antibiotic resistance genes as markers. Researchers use these genes as labels for other implanted genes. While the overuse of antibiotics is the main cause of antibiotic resistance, "we must not add to the risks", Johnson says.

Lastly, the report recommends that genes added to plants should be expressed only when and where they are needed. For example, if foreign proteins are not expressed in the parts of plants used for food, there would be little chance of them provoking an allergic reaction. Such an approach could also stop foreign proteins being expressed in the pollen of modified plants.

The report also suggests that GM traits in plants could be activated only when a specific chemical is applied to a field. Anti-GM activists have attacked such technology because they think companies will use it to force farmers to buy expensive activation chemicals. But the report says that it could have benefits if used in the right way.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Sign Greenpeace India's Petition to Halt the Entry of Genetically Engineered Crops into India. By signing the petition you can send an instant e-mail to our decision makers in the government, and voice your concerns about this issue.

The Petition has received an extremely good response and collected over 150 signatures of individuals, organisations, farmers, human rights activists, environmentalists, lawyers, church groups, etc. It was submitted to the Chairman of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committe (GEAC) under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

You could also write a personalised letter to your elected representatives asking that they apply the "precautionary principle" when regulating the planting of genetically engineered crops. Demand that genetically engineered food be labelled, so consumers can exercise their right to choose. Example of a letter you can send.

TIPS FOR PERSONAL ACTION

Try to reduce your personal exposure to GE food by only buying food manufactured in India or organically grown produce, if available in your neighbourhood.

Natural alternatives to
using pest-resistant GE-crops exist,and are being used with great success. Learn about sustainable agriculture and do your bit to spread the message.

MORE ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE!

Sign Greenpeace's True Food Petition!
Tell the feds to require mandatory labelling of GM food


Take 30 seconds
Tell the FDA and corporate leaders to test and label genetically engineered foods


Safe Food - Campaign 2000:
Visit the Mothers for Natural Law website and sign the petition for mandatory labeling, safety testing, and a moratorium on genetically engineered foods


More Campaigns against GE

US AGENCY ASKED TO APPROVE "FRANKENFISH"
A/F Protein, a Canadian company, has asked the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) for permission to commercialise genetically engineered salmon. Greenpeace has launched a global campaign to prevent Frankenfish from being released into the world's oceans.

Greenpeace is asking cyberactivists from all countries to send a letter to the US FDA. You can also sign Greenpeace's global cyberappeal for GE-Free Seas and send a virtual Frankenfish to your friends to alert them about this important issue.

More than 60 environmental and fishermen's groups have asked the Food and Drug Administration for a moratorium on the approval of any genetically modified fish, arguing that the environmental and health risks have not been adequately studied.


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