From the news archives

From The Financial Express, 17th October 2006.

Field trials of indigenously developed GM Gold Rice soon

India is not lagging behind in developing its versions of the genetically modified (GM) Golden Rice. Director-general of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Mangla Rai said, “We would possibly go for largescale field trials of our Golden Rice within a year.”

…The development of GM rice, however, can have some adverse trade implications. The trade session of the ongoing IInd International Rice Congress here on Wednesday discussed how complex global trade would become with the commercialisation of GM rice. In this context, the southwest regional director of IRRI, Steve Linscombe, said, “Though in US, GM rice events like 06 and 62 have been approved and found safe, the concerned company has not yet commercialised it, keeping in view some public concerns about this food crops. Same transgenic protein occurs in the herbicide resistant GM maize and Canola.”

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  • GM trials soon
  • From the Indian Express, 13 October 2006.

    Seeds that fight climate change in Navdanya banks

    Looking for alternatives to Genetically Modified seeds, noted environmentalist Vandana Shiva’s organic farming initiative Navdanya has brought out seeds that are resistant to extreme climatic changes. Under ‘Climate Change’, a project launched in August this year, three seed banks have been opened in Jaisalmer (drought resistant crops), Kerala (saline resistant crops), and Bihar (flood resistant crops) to help with, according to Shiva, “various dimensions of preparedness in the face of extreme climate changes like the floods in Barmer.’’

    According to Vandana Shiva, “We can only deal with climate change by trusting the nature and Indian farmers and not international corporations.” She says BT cotton seeds being infected with insects is an apt example of how corporation seeds can also fail.

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  • From, 7 October 2006.

    Has the Bt cotton bubble burst?

    Cotton farmers around the country are following Andhra Pradesh’s lead in skipping both pesticides and Bt seeds. And there are no pests. Why? There are 28 predators of the American bollworm, cotton’s main enemy. If you stop spraying pesticides, these beneficial insects devour the bollworm.

    …As the New York Times reports “frustration is building in India with American multinational companies peddling costly, genetically modified seeds. They have made deep inroads in rural India – a vast and alluring market – bringing new opportunities but also new risks as Indian farmers pile up debt.” Regardless of the extent of failure of Bt cotton, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) – the apex nodal agency that accords clearance for GM crops – has been merrily approving Bt cotton varieties. In the past four years, 59 Bt cotton varieties have been approved for commercial planting.

    The question I am often asked is as to what is the alternative. My answer is very simple: Follow the two-pronged strategy. First, ban the use of chemical pesticides on cotton (which incidentally consumes 55 per cent of the total pesticides applied). This will result in a restoration of the ecological balance, minimise the insect attack, and result in a safer environment. Secondly, stop cultivating genetically modified cotton varieties. Not only will it reduce drastically the cost of production, it will also mean that the farmer is pulled out from the death trap.

    Farmers in several parts of the country are following this approach. In more than 4,500 hectares in Andhra Pradesh, farmers are reaping a higher harvest without growing Bt varieties or using pesticides. And there are no pests. Why? If you stop spraying pesticides, beneficial insects take over. In case of cotton, there are 28 predators of the American bollworm in the same field. When the farmer stops using pesticides, these beneficial insects survive and devour the bollworm. With indiscriminate pesticides applications, these predators are the first one to be killed.

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  • Bt cotton bubble burst?

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