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Research on GM Crops May Slow Down
Sharath S. Srivatsa, The Hindu, Feb 10, 2010 http://www.hindu.com/
Our scientists are feeling a bit low about the decision' - UAS among institutions involved in Bt brinjal project
Bangalore: Transgenic research on food crops currently under way at the University of Agriculture Sciences (UAS), Dharwad, is likely to slow down following the announcement by Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday putting on hold the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal for the time being

Currently, pigeon pea, tomato and groundnut are in various stages of transgenic research in the university. "There is no point in continuing the research until a clear policy on genetically modified food crops is announced by the Union Government," a top scientist in the UAS told Hindu. Rather, the scientist pointed out, the university will_The concentrate on other areas of biotechnology that are non-controversial.

In Karnataka, apart from the UAS, Dharwad, transgenic research is being conducted on cotton, groundnut and maize in the UAS, Bangalore, and on tomato, chilli, brinjal and banana in Indian Institute of Horticulture Research (IIHR), Bangalore.

"It is a temporary halt, which can be revived later if we continue on a lower scale now," the scientist said. "Our scientists are feeling a bit low about the decision. But we have to take it in our stride," he said. The UAS, Dharwad, is among the institutions involved in the Bt brinjal project that cost about Rs. 50 lakh over a period of four to five years.

"We (scientists) are disappointed at the outcome. However, we will continue with our research," said C. Aswath, Head of the Biotechnology Division at the IIHR where genetically modified food crops are being developed.

Meanwhile, the Karnataka Horticulture Minister Umesh Katti said, "It is a good decision and we welcome it. Farmers should not be burdened with any form of genetically modified food technology."

Member of the State Organic Farming Mission Vivek Cariappa said that though the decision was laudable, it did not give any timeframe. "We do not know what the Ministry is looking for. The decision is not clear and is very ambiguous." Krishnaprasad of Sahaja Samruddha, a member of GM Free India, said, "The Government should ban all experiments on GM food crops in India."

India Rejects First GM Vegetable, Hampering Monsanto  Jay Shankar and Thomas Kutty Abraham, Bloomberg via Businessweek, Feb. 10, 2010  ttp://www.businessweek.com/
India's government rejected the nation's first genetically modified food after protests by farmers, hampering the expansion of seed makers including Monsanto Co. in the world's second-most populous nation.

"There is no overriding food security argument for Bt brinjal," or genetically modified eggplant, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said at a press conference in the capital, New Delhi, yesterday. "Our objective is to restore public confidence and trust in Bt brinjal." A moratorium will be imposed until safety studies are carried out "to the satisfaction of the scientific community," he said.

Ramesh, 55, had to balance the technology's promise to help feed a nation growing by 18 million people a year, more than the population of the Netherlands, and concern that food safety and threats to biodiversity haven't been investigated. Monsanto, the world's largest seed maker, supplied the gene for the vegetable and introduced genetically modified cotton in India in 2002.

"This will delay the government's plan to tackle food security," said M. Khadi Basavaraj, dean at the University of Agricultural Science in the southern city of Dharwad, who advised an independent panel which passed transgenic brinjal as safe in October. "It now feels there were not enough tests to prove it's safe. The government has taken the right decision."

To gauge the nation's mood, Ramesh held seven public meetings in major cities. "I cannot ignore public opinion and I can't ignore science," the minister said after four hours of debate with farmers, scientists and environmental activists in Bangalore on Feb. 6.

Pest Protection
The brinjal, or aubergine, had been genetically modified by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company Ltd., known as Mahyco, in which St. Louis-based Monsanto has a 26 percent stake. Shares of Monsanto India Ltd. fell as much as 7.5 percent today in Mumbai, and traded down 4.3 percent at 10.12 a.m. A gene known as cry1Ac from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, and sourced from Monsanto has been introduced to help it fend off common borer pests.

Monsanto spokesman Christopher Samuel yesterday referred calls to the Mumbai-based seed maker. Maharashtra Hybrid said in a statement it respected Ramesh's decision and will follow the government's directives. "Mahyco is confident that sound science based on evidence obtained over nine years of rigorous testing will prevail," the company said. Brinjal is a staple that India also exports to the U.K., France, Germany, Hong Kong, and Canada, according to the National Horticulture Board.

Cotton Success
"While we feel relieved that Bt Brinjal will not be on our plates right away we feel that we also lost a chance to change the paradigm of agriculture in this country," Rajesh Krishnan, who campaigns against genetic engineering for pressure group Greenpeace said in an interview from Bangalore.

India's farm ministry wants GM technology to be part of efforts to raise production of staple foods, following the success of transgenic cotton introduced in 2002. GM cotton, including that of Monsanto's Bollgard varieties, now accounts for 80 percent of planting and had doubled yields by 2008. India moved from a net importer to the world's No. 2 producer and exporter.

The success of Bt cotton shows Indian farmers "are not opposed to new technologies," M.K. Sharma, Maharashtra Hybrid's general manager, said in Feb. 3 interview.

Pesticide Risks
With existing varieties of brinjal, Indian farmers have to spray pesticide on as many as 80 days in the six-month crop cycle, Sharma, said in Mumbai. Larvae that bore into plants wipe out as much as 70 percent of yield, he said. "Alongside these losses, there is also the problem of health risks as farmers use pesticides without precautions or masks," said Sharma.

Farm Secretary T. Nanda Kumar said before the announcement that GM is just one technology that India can apply to increase food security. "It could be the technology of better seeds, it could be the technology of using less water," he said in interview in New Delhi. "Ultimately it's going to be combination of all these."

GM plants "are studied much more extensively than any other plant product in the world, and provide equal or greater assurance of safety," Gyanendra Shukla, Monsanto's India director, said in a statement before the decision.

While the U.S. and Canada have grown genetically modified crops like corn and soybean for years, resistance remains strong in Europe, where some countries rejected the use of crops changed to increase resistance to drought, pests or specific herbicides. Germany's BASF SE has had a GM starch potato stuck in the European Union's approval process for 14 years.

Incomes Rise
By 2015 there may be 120 different "transgenic events" in commercial crops worldwide, from 30 in 2008, said a report by the European Commission's Seville, Spain-based Institute for Prospective Technological Studies. As many as 33 may be developed in India, the report said.

While 456 million Indians live on less than $1.25 a day, according to a 2008 World Bank report, as a nation they are eating more than ever. Twenty Indian cities are projected to see household income grow 10 percent annually up to 2016, New Delhi's National Council of Applied Economic Research said.

Whether India can meet demand for food worries Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. There's a "false sense of security" that availability of food has ceased to be a concern for the South Asian nation, he said on Feb. 1.

Rising food costs accounted for 80 percent of December's inflation when wholesale prices rose an annual 7.3 percent, the fastest pace since November 2008, after the weakest monsoon rains since 1972 pushed up prices.
Italian Court Gives GM Go-ahead
Agra Europe,February 5, 2010 http://www.agra-net.com 

The highest appeals court in Italy has overturned a standing ban on the cultivation of genetically modified plants. According to Agra Europe, the highest court in Italy has instructed the Ministry of Agriculture to allow the planting of genetically modified (GM) maize. The existing ban on the cultivation of such maize thereby is lifted. 
The Italian public is fundamentally inclined towards a sceptical view of genetic modification and the court move has provoked great outcry.

When will Europe's politicians liste Europe's farmers again call for access to GM crops to meet challenge to feed the world
EURACTIV 9 February 2010 http://pr.euractiv.com/

Brussels - The uptake of new technology such as genetic modification is the most important tool in the box to meet the challenge of nourishing a growing global population. That is the message from thousands of farmers who have recently taken part in a global poll run in 6 leading farming magazines.

The UK Farmers Weeklyand the Dutch Boerderij gave European farmers the chance to air their views on solutions to feeding the world, while votes also rushed in from their counterparts in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, USA and Canada.

The results tell their own story. With 37.1% of the total votes, new technologies and genetic modification were by far the most popular of the five presented key factors. The remaining votes were split between broader expertise through education and training (20.3%), investment in research and development (18%), removal of trade barriers (14.7%), and government intervention in food production (10%). 

Commenting on the poll, Morten Nielsen, Director of Agricultural Biotech at EuropaBio said "Throughout history, farmers have used new technologies in order to meet the needs of society; these results show that things are no different today. Food security and climate change will be two of the major challenges that the world will face in the 21st century. This will require significant changes in how we produce food and while policy makers can play a part, at the end of the day farmers need practical solutions to practical problems. This poll reinforces the message from many European farmers who have been calling for access to GM crops for several years<#_edn2>[ii]."

Currently, 13.3 million farmers around the world are cultivating a range of GM crops on 125 million hectares of land<#_edn3>[iii]. Many more GM products are in the pipeline, including crops that can tolerate extreme weather conditions such as drought and flooding. In Europe however only one GM crop, an insect-resistant maize, has been authorized for cultivation, with many more blocked in the EU regulatory system.

Morten Nielsen went on to comment "With a global population set to surpass 9 billion by 2050, combined with more extreme weather in many parts of the world, European farmers will be required to produce more, from less land, using fewer natural resources. While the rest of the world is positively embracing innovative and safe technology to achieve this, Europe's politicians are denying their farmers access to the same tools that they clearly want. This poll goes to show that the status quo has to change".