ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
17 January 2003

US GM FOOD AID TO INDIA STANDS REJECTED/AGBIOINDIA UNDER ATTACK

The bulletin below, 'US GM food aid to India stands rejected', is being put out on behalf of AgBioIndia.

The AgBioIndia site is currently inaccessible and its list inoperative as its ISP has suspended its membership. Why? Someone who subscribed to AgBioIndia via its website then complained to the ISP that they were being spammed by AgBioIndia. This has led to its suspension which is, of course, being contested.
 
It's curious, given the content of the bulletin below, that this should happen just now to such a successful Third World centered list which has been proving both hugely popular and very influential. But then you only have to read the spin coming out of the industry and the US administration to see that the world is being presented with a clash between the U.S. and the EU with all other actors and centres of resistance marginalised or portrayed as stooges or victims of European governments or activists.

The fact that there have been people, like Devinder Sharma, in India warning about the dangerous irrelevance of GMOs to the problems of hunger and sustainable development for almost a decade is simply ignored. Likewise, in the current southern African context, consider the following statement from delegates from 20 African countries (every country on the continent bar 1) to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations made some *five years ago*:

"We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial to us. On the contrary, we think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for millenia and that it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves." [for many more statements like this: http://ngin.tripod.com/feedingorfooling.htm]

AgBioIndia is a voice they need to silence. For this reason please circulate this bulletin as widely as you possibly can.
 
Jonathan Matthews, editor GMW daily
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[circulated on behalf of AgBioIndia]

Sub -- US GM foodaid to India stands rejected

AgBioIndia Bulletin has done it again. Its Jan 9, 2003 Bulletin (Sub: India rajects GM food aid from US) has been instrumental in forcing the two US agencies -- CARE India and CRS -- to withdraw their appeal before the National Environment Appellate Authority seeking reconsidering of the GEAC's decision on the controversial GM foodaid from the United States.

The US foodaid of 1000-tonne corn-soya blend therefore stands rejected.

The withdrawl of the appeal comes before the GM food aid controversy turned into a major political issue. Although the government of India was under a strong pressure to accept the GM foodaid from America, NGOs and civil society groups had woken up to the threat and were preparing to launch a nationwide campaign. Political parties too are reportedly getting ready to take up the issue. After all, receiving foodaid from America at a time when the country is overflowing with 51 million tonnes of surplus food is nothing short of a crime.

A US Embassy spokesman in New Delhi had earlier said the soya-corn blend was safe for human consumption and contained no Starlink DNA. There is no rejection, they have deferred approval and it is going to the appellate authority and we believe it will make a favourable determination, the spokesman said. "We are encouraged that the committee has agreed to review the issue of importation of corn-soyabean blend for food aid deliveries, especially since it has been proven to be safe for human consumption, the spokesman added."  We wonder if this is true than why did the GEAC turn down the food aid shipments at the first instance?

Meanwhile, we bring you a detailed representation from a respected Orissa-based civil society group, Loka Pakhya. This organisation was on the forefront when foodaid, at the time of super cyclone that hit coastal Orissa in 1999, was also shrouded in the GM food controversy. Loka Pakhya draws from the story of 1999 to establish the link to the present controversy.

Contents:

1. Using Malnutrition in India to Market American GM Foods -- Loka Pakhya
2. Role of CARE, CRS and WFP in Promoting GM Foods -- Loka Pakhya
3. Caution Needed In Imports Of Starlink Corn -- Financial Express
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1. Using Malnutrition in India to Market American GM Foods

An appeal to all concerned to raise their voice against such activities of CARE and CRS and be watchful of the activities of WFP.

If you thought that CARE India and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are agencies working for the poor in India and more specifically for removing acute malnutrition in selected areas of India, you have made a serious judgmental mistake. For CARE and CRS have actually used malnutrition to market American food surpluses. [Please refer to AgBioIndia bulletin dated Jan 9, 2003]

India has rejected a large consignment of soya-corn blend from the US on the ground that it might contain the genetically modified and controversial StarLink corn which is suspected to cause allergy and which has been banned in that country. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests rejected the 1,000-tonne shipment last month, saying it lacked any "proper certification" to say the corn was not genetically modified.  The Indian arms of two US-based global NGOs -- CARE India and CRS -- were importing the soya-corn blend from US firms to make food for poor schoolchildren in India. The shipment was to be the first in a series. GEAC chairman A.M. Gokhale, an additional secretary in the ministry, told the Hindustan Times that the decision was taken not to allow the shipment "until and unless" the US government "gives it in writing", saying the corn in the food blend is not StarLink or any other genetically modified and harmful variety. Instead, the US has appealed to an appellate authority saying the committee has not properly provided the reasons for rejecting the shipment. The appeal is expected to be taken up for consideration on January 28 (now shifted to Feb 11), says joint secretary D.D. Verma.  Meanwhile, last week in a parallel development that may have nothing to do with this decision, Gokhale was transferred to the Food Corporation of India. His successor, Ms Meena Gupta, is to take over.

This news report raises two important issues:

i) What are the real intentions of organisations such as CARE India and CRS?
We should also look into the role of World Food Programme (WFP), as its name
has been referred in the news report.
ii) What are the credentials of the new GEAC chairman Meena Gupta and whether she would be able to face the challenge from the GM lobby and the wrath of the US Government?

>From what is presented in the attached note "Role of CARE, CRS and WFP in Promoting GM Foods"  detailing the role of these agencies during the Orissa Super Cyclone in 1999 it is clear that CARE, CRS and WFP have been actively promoting the spread of GM Foods and have been using the conditions of malnutrition, poverty, and natural disasters to push GM Foods. By rejecting the 1000 MT the Indian government has once again proved that CARE and CRS are not willing to honour health concerns of recipient countries and instead are trying to use Govt. of USA to pressurise the Govt. of India to accept these foods. This reminds us of another case when even in a situation of acute food scarcity, due to famine, the Government of Zambia refused to accept GM Foods as food-aid from USA. Thus we have to learn from this small African nation and stop all food aid from USA and put a ban on the activities of CARE and CRS as long as they continue to import food from outside.

As regards the credentials of the incumbent Chairman of GEAC we would be sending a separate communication. But what can be said in short is that Ms Meena Gupta is thoroughly misfit for such an important and sensitive position. Ms.Gupta was forced to leave Orissa as she was linked to a number of wrong decisions. The GEAC is not safe in the hands of Ms Gupta. The GM industry couldn't have asked for anything better.  We appeal to all concerned to raise their voice against such activities of CARE and CRS and be watchful of the activities of WFP. We also want all to raise voice against the appointment of Ms. Meena Gupta as the new Chairman of GEAC.

Thanks and regards

Rajendra Sarangi , Sudhir Pattnaik and Prashant Paikray
LOKA  PAKHYA, Bhubaneswar 751 002, Orissa, India; Email:
loka_pakhya@rediffmail.com
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2. Role of CARE, CRS and WFP in Promoting GM Foods:

A Report by Lok Pakhya

In earlier days, foodaid related issues were not discussed in the open because then India was not self-sufficicient in foodgrains. But now we are told that the country has achieved self-sufficiencey in foodgrains for quite a long time and more than 51 million tones of foodgrains is surplus, much of it is rotting in the godowns of the country. The Government says  that the money required annually to manage this surplus food grains equals the total annual budgetary provision for rural development, agriculture and irrigation put together. Thus it is only proper to question the need for foodaid from America.

The continuance of foodaid was not noticed till the 1999 when some people found out that food that comes in the name of foodaid contains genetically modified food, which is banned in Europe and many other countries. During the 1999 super-cyclone in Orissa, CARE India, CRS and WFP were found to be engaged in using cyclone as a means to dump large quantities of a powder mix of genetically modified soyabean and maize. At that time a strong protest was raised by many groups in Orissa and elsewhere. It is relevant to bring to notice the protest made that time and what CARE, CRS and WFP had to say on the issue.

In Orissa the issue was raised first by the Orissa Disaster Mitigation Mission (ODMM), an alliance of voluntary organizations working for relief
and rehabilitation in the aftermath of the super cyclone 1999. We quote the
extracts from a letter written by ODMM dated July 7, 2000 to CARE, CRS and WFP:

". The least that is expected of CARE, CRS and WFP is to clarify whether the food items that they have been bringing from USA and distributing in India are genetically engineered or not. ..

".. In fact due to popular pressures GE Foods are currently banned in Europe and Japan.."

". This issue of genetically engineered seeds/foods is being taken up as a major issue world over by food rights activists. According to them if GE Seeds are allowed without proper public scrutiny and control it would endanger bio-diversity, make agricultural lands infertile thereby seriously affecting the sustainable food production. The lives and livelihoods of millions of poor families would be affected almost immediately and slowly but surely the entire life in the world would be in danger.

We at ODMM are quite aware about the great contribution of your organization in mitigating the suffereings of the people of Orissa in the aftermath of the super-cyclone. In the desire to help the victims of the super-cyclone and the poor of India you may be unknowingly receiving food materials that is part of a process of destabilizing the age-old agricultural practices of the farmers of the developing and poor nations. Hope your organization would not like to be a party to the process that has the potential of seriously affecting the entire life world."

As a sequel to this effort of ODMM some like minded people formed the Ordisha Khadya Adhikar Abhijan (OKAA) which then spearheaded an alliance of like minded organistions and citizens and launched a protest movement against CARE, CRS and WFP. The responses received from these organizations are summarized below:

The response from WFP:

Extracts from the WFP letter dated June 29, 2000( This came before the above referred letter from ODMM):

" We bring to your kind attention that WFP has been providing blended food, Corn Soya Blend (CSB), imported from USA. This CSB imported from USA carries proper Export Certification signifying representative samples examined by the authorized representative of the US Department of Agriculture, which means that the commodity is of good quality and meets US regulatory standards of human health and environmental safety."

"Further, at the time of arrival at the Indian Ports, the Port Health Officer (PHO) draws samples for analysis in the Government laboratory before allowing clearance from the port for distribution. The commodity is not released for distribution until and unless the PHO receives the laboratory analysis report and issues a certificate that the commodity is fit for human consumption.

"Parenthetically, we may add here that WFP-assisted Project 2206 has been in operation in various states of the country and the beneficiaries have been receiving this commodity for nearly 25 years. Moreover, the aim and objective of WF is not only to fight hunger but also to take care of the health and nutrition aspect of the beneficiaries.

"Therefore, we assure the Government that the commodities being delivered by
WFP are perfectly fit for human consumption and meet the food safety
standards set forth in the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarus."
The following is what the UNDP chief in India, Ms Brenda Gael Mcsweeney, had
to say on the role of WFP in dumping GM Foods:

After this issue was raised by ODMM and OKAA, Ms. Mcsweeney had come to Orissa to participate in a workshop on reconstruction of cyclone-ravaged Orissa. Rajendra Sarangi, the Convenor of OKAA and the Co-ordinator of ODMM, who was present in the workshop, raised the following question to her:

How is that WFP, a UN body, is using GM Foods for its relief and nutritional programmes while the same is banned in many countries and there is a world wide protest against GM Foods? Whether the UN has any policy on GM Foods or not?

To this, Mr Ajit Tripathy, a senior bureaucrat of the government of Orissa, who was co-ordinating the workshop, tried hard to silence such questions by ignoring the same. But due to the pressure from many participants, Ms. Brenda Mcsweeney was forced to give a reply:

"... We at WFP receive food from USAID free of cost. The food that we have supplied to the victims of Orissa cyclone is what we have. It is for the Govt. of India to decide whether they would like to receive such food or not. The WFP has nothing to do in this regard."

Our Comment on WFP's response:

It is very clear from the written reply and the verbal reply that WFP is least concerned about the consequences of GM Foods. In fact the written reply has completely ignored the issue of GM crops. The reply of Brenda Mcsweeney speaks volumes about the real role that WFP has been playing. In fact Rajendra Sarangi was forced to ask her as to from when onwards has the UN become a marketing wing of the US Department of Agriculture ?

The response From CARE (extracts from a letter dated August 21, 2000):

" .We appreciate the concerns raised by ODMM and the Campaign for Food Rights relating to foods derived from genetically engineered plants. In fact we would like to promote research and transparency on the issue in keeping with an underlying notion of freedom of choice and respect for divergent moral, ethical, religious and philosophical views on the subject. . CARE is currently in the process of formulating a position on the subject based on balanced information to help weigh the complex trade-off pertaining to this technology so that unwanted risks are fully understood and so are the potentials of this technology."

Our comments on the CARE response:

Through this response CARE has actually stated that it has already taken a position to support GM technology and is only interested to silence critics by way of so-called research and transparency on the issue. Neither ODMM nor OKAA received any clarifications from CARE about the position that they have taken, although more than 2 years have passed since then. In the meantime CARE has been engaging itself in an effort to silence protests against CARE' s food distribution by spreading a rumour that it has taken a decision to stop importing food from USA and is instead using only Indian Foods in its nutirion and other programmes.

The response from CRS:

CRS never gave any response.
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3. Caution Needed In Imports Of Starlink Corn

By Ashok B Sharma
Financial Express, Jan 13, 2003

The Indian government and the country's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has rightly expressed concerns about the possible hazards of Starlink Corn and other genetically modified (GM) food products which are not yet approved in this country.

The GEAC has recently disapproved the request of CARE-India and the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to import of the first consignment of 1,000 tonne of corn-soya blend from the US on the ground that it may contain GM products. The GEAC also has apprehensions that the consignment may contain the 'hazardous' Starlink Corn, which is not yet been found fit for human consumption in the US.

Both the CARE-India and CRS has now approached the appeallate authority on imports of GMOs to intervene and allow them to import the consignment. The Appeallate Authority is likely to hear the contending parties on February 11, 2003. The GEAC gave its disapproval for the import of the US consignment after the the US government and the exporting agency failed to certify that the consignment does not contain GM foods.

The issue is now clear. There are reports of many countries refusing the US consignments of GM foods on grounds of health and environmental safety. Since, the rejected consignments was said to contain GM corn and soya, it would be better to limit the scope of discussion to only to these two GM crops. Concerns about the US export of GM corn has been recently raised in Japan and Australia. Reuters News Service from Washington in December 30, 2002 had reported "Japan has found trace amounts of unapproved Starlink Corn in an American shipment bound for Tokyo's food supply, renewing fears that major trading partners may once again turn their backs on the US crops."

Japan's ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries detected Starlink Corn in in the vessel, The North King docked at Nagoya harbour. The USDA officials in Washington was reported to be then unaware that the said consignment contained Starlink Corn.

The genetically modified Starlink Corn was developed by Aventis CropScience. It slipped into the US food chain in September 2000 sparking a nationwide recall of more than 300 kinds of cornbased foods. The regulatory authority in the US has approved Starlink Corn for animal feed only. It has not approved Starlink Corn for human consumption as it might cause allergic reactions. Though the USDA's Federal Grain Service has put in place specific procedures to identify and segregate Starlink corn and its traces from the food chain it seems that the system has not worked well.

Japan has found that about 1,200 tonne of cron in a 19,234 tonne shipment from US contains traces of Starlink Corn. It has decided to enhance its capability in testing and decting Starlink Corn and any other hazardous GM foods. China has developed a microchip for testing and detecting hazardous GM foods. There are reports that one of the major importer of US corn in South Korea, KOCOPIA is now insisting on non-Starlink certification and samples for its tenders.

There are reports that 50,000 tonne of the US corn containing genetically engineered (GE) varieties arriving in Brisbane, Australia on January 9, 2003 for use as chicken feed. The Australian Gene Technology Regulator licenced the cargo even though some GE lines have not been assessed or approved in that country. This has caused widespread resentment in Australia. The Democrats agriculture spokesperson, Senator John Cherry had said that mixing of GM corn with GM-free corn into the animal feedstock chain could interfere with certification that Australian pork, poultry and beef exports are GM free. Australian government is now concerned that their meat and poultry exports to the European Union and other countries may be hampered.

Thus it shows that the concern of the Indian government and the GEAC over the unapproved GM foods entering the country is really serious. The Indian government should put in place effective mechanism for detecting traces of unapproved GM products in the food chain in the country and be stern in refusing imports of such hazardous foods. It should import the technology for detecting and testing unapproved GM traces in the food chain from either Japan of China. The sooner the better.

Further it a matter of concern to note that an independent consultant to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Norbert Hirschhorn has found that food companies have attempted to place scientists favourable to their views on WHO and FAO committees. They have financially supported NGOs which were invited to formal discussions on key issues on the UN agencies. They have financed research and policy groups that supported their views and they have financed individuals who promote anti-regulation ideology to the public. It is, therefore, necessary that national governments and the public should be very cautious of such moves of the multinational companies.
 


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