Archive for September 26, 2006

From news archives

As Bt takes centrestage in what often is percieved as media created pseudo-hype, her’s what our news organisations are reporting wrt Bt. These are a few articles that I found interesting.
Read on:

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Sept 23 2006, Indian Express

SC stays field trials of genetically modified products

The order came from a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Y.K. Sabharwal. The order will not apply to field trials of GM products already underway, implying that trials on BT brinjal and BT cotton can proceed. But their approval by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) will not happen till court orders.

The petitioner said the move to allow large-scale field trials of BT brinjal by biotech company Mahyco, an Indian collaborative and partner company of Monsanto, if not checked would lead to untold hardships to the farmers and large-scale destruction of crops. The matter will come up for hearing on October 13.

  • SC stay on field trials
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    Sept 15 2006, Indian Express.

    Bt cotton gives Punjab a record yield

    Punjab is all set to witness the highest cotton production in last 16 years, with 27.5 lakh bales of cotton expected this year. The highest production last recorded was in 1989-90, when the state produced 26.5 lakh bales of cotton.

    The record production is being attributed to the use of Bt or other hybrid varieties of cotton across 90 per cent fo the Punjab cotton belt. Besides higher yield, the improvised cotton varieties have lowered costs due to negligible use of pesticide.

  • Full report
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    Sept 2 2006, The Washington Post (IE)

    Target cancer

    For the first time, genetically engineered cells have suceesfully wiped out cancer cells, in two patients. It is too early to say whether they have been cured but researchers say it is a step in the right direction.

  • Target Cancer
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    Sept 6 2006, The Times of India

    Unborn Designs (Editorial)

    Ian Wilmut, the man who created Dolly the sheep in 1996 and caused worldwide biotech angst, has written a book called: After Dolly: The Uses and Misuses of Human Cloning.

    In it he says: “Like most people I disapprove strongly of the idea of an embryo coaxed to life for shallow reasons of status, preference, or style.

    Any such work is unsavoury because it reduces children to consumer objects that can be ‘accessorised’ according to the parents’ whims.

    As many ethicists have argued, love for offspring should not be contingent upon the characteristics they possess”.

  • TOI
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    PG biotech course on hold…why?

    Here’s a write-up in today’s Indian Express highlighting every BT graduate’s bane of existence. As students we have often wondered, agonised and eventually submitted to the fact there are just not enough seats for evryone for an academic progression to a PG course. It is time we demand our fair share in the education system. We are a part of a so called booming industry, once we choose this course, but are ignored time and again. Speak up now or wallow in pittance.

    Excerpts from the news report:
    Indian Express, 22/09/2006, Mumbai Newsline.

    Even as a government-appointed committee had given a go-ahead to some of the state colleges’ request for starting MSc course in biotechnology in July the state government is yet to sanction the approval.

    Stating that the delay is likely to affect the future of over 90 per cent undergraduate biotech students, SIES College Vice-Principal M R Bhatia said: ‘‘Though there are around 1,000 undergraduate biotech students in Mumbai, there are only about 40 seats for MSc. What will the other 960 students do?’’

    Joint Director of Technical Education Department M S Andhale, who had inspected the colleges in July, said: ‘‘I feel they can be given the go-ahead. But I can’t take any policy decision and have submitted my findings, so it’s up to the government now.’’ Minister of State Higher and Technical Education Dilip Walse-Patil said: ‘‘Certain infrastructural issues are under consideration.’’

    These unnecessary delays have led some of the colleges to believe that vested interests within the department and government were delaying matters.

    SEE RELATED LINKS:

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    Mumbai Newsline article

  • IE article
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    Indian BT programme lacks focus

  • http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=79102″>FE article
  • Bio Mutiny – RE EDIT

    State of Biotechnology – An industry under siege

    Touted as the most promising field with a projected market over $100 billion, the government and the academia with their regressive policies are asphyxiating the potential of biotechnology. The writer, a biotechnology graduate from Mumbai University, reaffirms the need for reforms and a comprehensive policy defining a vision for the industry.


    I am angry. My rage directed at the establishment, at every person involved in this business of biotech. The students are mere spectators bereft of significant opinion and the teachers encourage mediocrity conforming to a hackneyed and obsolete education system which undermines the latent potential of an individual and seldom encourages oblique thinking.

    The inherent structure of the system suppresses independent view point while rewarding compliance with defined notions. So, a novel idea becomes secondary to the so called primary objective of “achieving merit”. This has resulted in mass production of generic individuals subservient to acknowledged authority where deflection from the norm is vehemently chastised.

    The gulf between industry and academia is widening by the day. It is an accepted fact that a person has to unlearn his concepts when he or she enters the industry. So why are we investing in infrastructure and machinery when its eventual utility is null and void? The UGC had advised not to initiate an under-graduate course in Biotech due to the lack of infrastructure and discontinuity in terms of academic progression. In its fifth year now (in Mumbai) there is very little that this course can claim to have accomplished.

    A biotechnology graduate ignorant of practical applications is severely restricted in his opportunities. In effect we are educating people to be unemployed as the skill set required for absorption in the industry is absent. Through an initiative of public-private partnership this can be corrected. By linking academia with the industry we can nurture a competent and productive work force which will sustain long-term growth.

    As practitioners of biotech, these manufactured foot soldiers of ignominy aspire to extend a pre fabricated agenda without prior contemplation. Hence, we have researchers quick to eschew responsibility when a product of their design causes harm to people. Under the veiled accusation of “an incompetent administration”, which to a large extent may be true, they transfer their responsibility.

    The government with its policies has virtually incapacitated entrepreneurs and set the biotech industry in retrograde. Although the cautious nature of our policies considers broader arguments with regards to implication of technology, its structure constricts expansion and rapid growth. As a result, India is trailing almost a decade behind countries like the US and China in spite of having equivalent resources. Dr. Suman Sahai, a member of the Expert committee which drafted the National Biotech policy, argues that, throwing caution to the wind, India has scripted a policy that caters to the wishes of the Biotechnology industry, rather than thinking of safeguards and adopting a precautionary approach.

    Also, corporate policies with a linear objective of amassing wealth dilute the prospect of actual benefit to the masses. An erosion of moral fabric or sensitivity towards the common interests of people and the environment alike which may be linked to the lack of holistic education.

    A case in point would be the American MNC Monsanto and its unabashed persistence via contemptuous marketing and directed media, of introducing a harmful rBST vaccine ‘Posilac’ to increase milk production in cows, which caused grave damage not only to the animals but also humans who consumed the milk. The recent report of the Monsanto study on the organ damage and compromised immune system of rats fed with GM corn should be an eye opener. Closer home, the BT cotton debacle where farmers committed suicide due to the failure of crop or the imported Japanese encephalitis vaccine, a prophylactic measure taken without proper trials, killed many in North India, portrays a disturbing paradigm of institutional apathy.

    Accountability has become a flaccid value, a fleeting thought which does not inspire compassion or remorse.

    In what is touted as the century of biological sciences, a majority of the population is ignorant of the impact that this field has on their every day existence. The growth of the industry is solely reliant on developing a knowledgeable consumer base. But, the initiative in generating an informed consent is seen as a faltering strategy because this would lead to deliberations on issues which now are considered a prerogative of industry. This abject alienation further hinders societal responsibility. By ignoring the demands of sustainable industry, the current paradigm will lead to a subsequent degeneration of intellect and enterprise.

    It is important that India comes out with a comprehensive national policy to balance national socio-economic priorities with adequate technological expertise. Such a policy may also provide an overarching framework for regulatory issues, which may help in strengthening not only the process of inter-ministerial co-ordination but also in accommodating expectations of various state governments.

    The state of biotech in India can be likened to the early attempts of man to fly. A person would stand on a very high cliff, flapping his wings. In a moment of faith he would leap in order to test his theory. Initially the air rushes at him creating an illusion of overcoming gravity, but the ground inches closer eventually to break his fall. In actuality he is just free falling. We are governed by certain laws of nature and our momentary perception does not alter the reality.

    An article on Biotech policy

    Biotech policy: Secretive and hasty.
    The government’s stance towards biotechnology shows such disregard for the public interest that even its own Expert Committee is not privy to the proposed new policy. Suman Sahai protests the reckless endorsement of vested interests while many other stakeholders are kept in the dark.

    Excerpts from the write up which appears at Indiatogether.org on 29 April 2006.
    Dr. Suman Sahai is President of Gene Campaign, based in Delhi.

    India has been conducting research in biotechnology without having a national policy in place. A Public Interest Litigation filed by Gene Campaign in the Supreme Court created sufficient pressure for the government to set up an Expert Committee to frame a national biotechnology policy. The Expert Committee was stacked with members from the industry and government; I was the solitary NGO member. Protests by Gene Campaign that the Committee should be expanded to include concerned stakeholders were not heeded.

    The Department of Biotechnology and its Secretary seem to be in a terrible rush to get a policy in place with as little public intervention as possible. There is an informed rumor that the draft Biotechnology Policy is going to be in Parliament in the coming session. That is far too premature since it has not been adequately discussed by stakeholders, and even the Expert Committee that was established to frame the policy has not been informed of the content of the draft to be presented to Parliament. This is not how policy should be made.

    The recent report of the Monsanto study on the organ damage and compromised immune system of rats fed with GM corn, should be an eye opener.

    Why this rush and secrecy? The usual reason is that vested interests – biotech corporations in India as well as foreign ones – are being favoured. Throwing caution to the winds, India has scripted a Biotechnology Policy to cater to the wishes of the Biotechnology industry, rather than think of safeguards and a precautionary approach.

    The Policy must take a clear position on crops and traits that are permissible and those that are not. GM crops that could have harmful social or economic impacts for farmers and consumers, those that are frivolous and those that will displace labor and impact rural livelihoods must be banned in this country. Herbicide tolerance should not be used in this country for it brings no significant advantages but would destroy sources of supplementary nutrition and underutilized food sources, it would destroy vegetation that is used as supplementary fodder for livestock and it would destroy flora used as medicinal plants, in addition to taking away a significant source of wages, especially for rural women.

    For the full article see:

  • Full article
  • MUST READ

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    How India reconciles Hindu values and Biotech
    By Pankaj Mishra – NYT

    ….But the religions and traditions we know as Hinduism are less monolithic and more diverse than Islam and Christianity; they can yield contradictory arguments. Early in “The Mahabharata,” there is a story about how the hundred Kaurava brothers came into being. Their mother had produced a mass of flesh after two years of pregnancy. But then a sage divided the flesh into 100 parts, which were treated with herbs and ghee, and kept in pots for two years – from which the Kaurava brothers emerged.

    Indian proponents of stem-cell research often offer this story as an early instance of human cloning through stem cells extracted from human embryos. They do not mention that “The Mahabharata” presents the birth of the hundred Kaurava brothers as an ominous event…

    For the full article see:

  • India reconciles tradition and BT
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    A good year again for BioAgri
    With over 81%growth Bioagri is the fastest growing sector
    – Biospectrum

    The sector’s performance has been driven by Bt Cotton. The Bt Cotton seeds business alone has generated Rs 495 crore in revenues registering close to 115 percent growth compared to that the previous year. In fact, Rasi Seeds, the second company in India to make commercially available Bt cotton, became the largest seller of Bt Cotton seeds….

    …Monsanto’s technology is still the dominant Bt technology used in India. Each of the seed companies paid Monsanto Biotech about Rs 1,200 per packet as royalty and on account of this fee, Monsanto Biotech’s revenues stood at Rs 391.25 crore. This figure has not been considered for the industry sizing….

    For the full Biospectrum article follow link:

  • Biospectrum
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    The truth about BT (GM) crops in India and Africa
    – GMO pundit

    For article follow link:


  • GMO pundit
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    Weekly Synopsis

    Sept 10 to 17 2006

    *****
    Why don’t you merge this blog with some other bigger biotech blog. Or even better make this a Colla Blog . This topic has immense potential and can be a rage with the biotech community. Mainly students, it can be a one stop shop for all their BT related needs!
    Rishi
    Via e-mail.

    The idea was to come up with a Biotech Collablog but maybe people are not interested in blogging or collaborating. It is seen as a frivolous activity done by people with a lot of time! I would love to share space on my blog with as many people as I can. That was the spirit with which I started blogging and called it an “initiative”. Everyone is welcome to join the team.

    *****
    Our education system is so outdated that harappa could be considered advanced. It eventually will be the stake that pierces the heart of the corporate oriented generic satan that presides over our existance.
    Biotechnology as a field will be ruined due to lack of initiative and infrastructure. By the time we realise the importance of all round reforms it would be too late . This field cannot survive on its own. After all you cant make dough without water.
    Arun


    Very true, but I didn’t quite get how our ‘outdated’ education will kill the corporate ‘satan’. Are you saying we will produce such a high level of lowly incompetence that it would stifle the corporate structure?

    And yes, it does take two to tango.

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    Nice blog. It is a wonderful idea…..I am a BT student too…your links were very helpful …cuold you include more BT oriented search engines and applications like NCBI etc.
    Riddhima
    via e-mail

    Glad to be of help. I will definitely try and include more sites like NCBI. Any site you want included in the list mail it to me.

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    Breaking the block

    Dealing with the writer’s block. A time when thoughts are evasive and words lack gumption.

    I had my “lost weekend”. Unlike its original victim who was besotted by his lady love and it probably was a creative period in Lennon’s life, I was lost for words. Quite Literally!

    I am accustomed to occasional bouts of endlessly groping in the dark looking for an inkling of inspiration. On this occasion though, my mind refused to acknowledge the presence of intellect or creativity within itself. Asphyxiating the possibility of hope and shattering the determination to move ahead it leaves one disillusioned, frail.

    It defines the very existential predicament of those who choose to call themselves writers or if their livelihood depends on toying with words. The crux of which relies on the smooth transgression of thoughts on to a chosen medium. A reflection of inner voice, it mirrors our aspirations, dreams and myriad flights of fantasy that bring immense joy and even agonizing sorrow. During such a spell depression is a commonly observed phenomenon. The very act of writing is considered therapeutic by many. One can simply wait for time to heal the broken bridges of a fractured thought process.

    Articulating ones mental calisthenics in a cognizable manner is necessary to achieve that elusive peace of mind which most writers find solace in. So it is a given that when faced with this insurmountable challenge ingenious ways are devised to by pass the prevalent wait.

    A common method is to write randomly as it comes, however disconnected it may be. It starts of a chain reaction which breaks the initial ice and promotes fluidity in thinking. But, this does not work at times as not being able to channel ideas as one wants can be hamper the will to continue writing. Hitting the keys to make a loud clunking sound while typing is also practiced, the sound is said to create an apt atmosphere seizing a person’s focus on the task at hand.

    A start may facilitate some to then move ahead with their own ideas. So writing a paragraph or two from a newspaper or an old classic may sustain thought long enough to reach a point of originality. Kafka’s musings work for me, but alas not this time. A created atmosphere like a dimly lit room, candles, incense or bright light for the esoteric taste and natural surroundings, gardens, beaches etc. also assist in writing. An open area is said to allow space for thoughts to materialize, so desks facing a wall are generally avoided. Also pacing furiously or such strenuous activity breaks the monotony of sitting and trying to think. With the added benefit of losing weight this provides with neglected but much needed exercise, the optimum solution for a sedentary profession. The idea is to obliterate the routine and introduce variation for new thoughts.

    Courage they say is borne out of desperation. Some brave enough to delve into their past relationships, emotions, anguish and fears often temper these natal feelings to a concentrated concoction which is then released in a violent explosion of pure passion. But, this method is known to leave a scar on the psyche of the individual, like a battle wound that refuses to heal. In the same vein, dealing with a crisis by talking to someone aids in facing our demons. As humans subservient to convenience we have a tendency to evade issues which cause distress and which eventually hamper clarity. Reconnecting with the innermost angst fills the void created by abject alienation, reconciling ones mind and spirit which ameliorate fluid expression of inherent voice.

    If any of the techniques do not work, take heart in the fact that time is on your side, it will eventually relent to your unyielding will and persistence. After all the best way to defeat a writers block is to write! One word at a time.

    check

    publishing via email.
    just checking its efficiency.

    hemant

    paradox paradigm

    MY BLOG


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    Weekly synopsis of your views and comments!

    4 Sept – 10 Sept 2006

    *****
    I am anti-globalisation and anti-corporate so I am opposed to the inherent idea of your blog.
    But I admit that your write up is relatively perceptive in content.
    The inherent structure of biotech as a profession is to alter and eventually create imbalance in the basic systemic working of nature itself.
    By directing resources towards an exaggerated source of so called deliverance, “the industry” and the government is courting obvious failure.

    Nessi

    I think that anti-globalisation movement is probably an excellent example of globalisation. The fact that people from the developed countries care about the interests of third world countries with whom they have no direct connect in terms of cultural or civilizational history is inspiring.
    I too am a non-conformist but instead of ignoring or outright denouncing a thought we loose an opportunity to understand it better. That is what this blog is about.

    Reccomended reading

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    1. The perils of cloning – Time.com (from Science magazine)

    …..A decade later, scientists are starting to come to grips with just how different Dolly was. Dozens of animals have been cloned since that first little lamb–mice, cats, cows, pigs, horses and, most recently, a dog–and it’s becoming increasingly clear that they are all, in one way or another, defective…..

    Full article:

  • Perils of cloning
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    2. Focus on transhumanisation – Merging of man and machine
    …. in the near future this feedback process will cross a threshold where the technology becomes, in a sense, independent of its creators. Human designers will no longer need to play a role in the process, and computers (or more precisely, transhumans) will be able to continue their evolution on their own. This will free them (us) from the limits set by the fixed capacity of human nature…..

    Full article:

  • transhumanisation
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    3. Pharmacoinformatics – Expanding horizons

    ….. The work in pharmacoinformatics can be broadly divided into two categories – scientific aspects and service aspects. The scientific component deals with the drug discovery and development activities whereas the service oriented aspects are more patient centric.

    Pharmacoinformatics subject feeds on many emerging information technologies like neuroinformatics, immunoinformatics, biosystem informatics, metabolomics, chemical reaction informatics, toxicoinformatics, cancer informatics, genome informatics, proteome informatics, biomedical informatics, etc…..

    Full article:

  • Pharmacoinformatics
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    Also See Weekly Synopsis of your comments at TBI talk back

  • Weekly Synopsis 4 – 10 Sept 2006
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