ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
26 July 2002


1. KRRS: bt cotton set afire
2. Samanvaya: Food Updates July 2002
3. AgBioIndia: seed banks
4. ECO-India: news service


1. From: "Prof. M.D. Nanjundaswamy"

       A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

KRRS and Green Army activists attacked a shop selling Bt cotton seeds near the Chamaraj circle here and set fire to the seeds on Monday. Bt cotton cultivation poses a lot of harm to farmers, the Raitha Sangha said. KRRS activists said they had already warned the government that if Bt cotton seeds were sold, they would be immediately destroyed. Raitha Sangha district President Kuruva Ganesh, Secretary Ucchavvanahalli Manjunath, taluk unit President Honnur Muniyappa and other KRRS activists participated.


2. Samanvaya Food Updates July 2002

NOTE: Food Updates now comes to you as text synopsis alone, you can click to read the full update online at

In this Issue:

Why GM technology will transfer the world food control to a few corporations
What are the implications for the 1% threshold currently in place in EU food legislation?
Secret US 'biopharms' growing GM experimental drugs
Announcements: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: Earth Democracy - National Convention on Community Rights to Natural Resources and the Constitution, New Delhi, Aug 10 & 11
Chief SAMANVAYA Column: STATE and Farmer

Let him (Prof. Peacock) answer the single question raised by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at MSSRF on 29th January 2002. "Tell us how much this technology (GM) is going to help us increase our yields -by 10%, 20%, 50% or 0% with no pesticide inputs and in how many years". - Source: MCRC press release in a rejoinder to The HINDU promoting GM Food, Feb 2002. Read Full Story

It is well known now that increased use of chemical pesticides (rather abuse) and fertilisers have created chain of problems of soil, environment and water degradation. The intensive chemical agriculture that has been followed after green revolution successes is causing heavy pollution of our food, drinking water, air, the life expectancy has improved, but the quality of life has substantially deteriorated. The rural economy is in ruins because of over-dependence of outside inputs in agriculture such as seed, fertilisers, pesticides, growth-promoting chemicals etc. It is even said that the chemical agriculture has destroyed our ability to think about the right way to go forward. Fortunately, alternatives to chemical agriculture are available in organic, biodynamic and eco-technological farming approaches. - From the Report of the Working Group on Organic and Biodynamic Farming for the 10th Five Year Plan

"The multi-national company producing endosulfan in powerful enough to buy both opinion-makers and decision-makers" - V.S. Achuthanandan, Leader of the Opposition Bench, in the  Kerala Assembly

"We will be dealing with these distances until we can gain regulatory approval to lessen or abandon these requirements altogether."  - Anthony Laos, CEO ProdiGene to Farmers on maintaining buffer distance for GM crops.
Why GM technology will transfer the world food control to a few corporations - The Statistics of Gene Modification Technology:

1 One company's GM seed technology (Monsanto's) accounted for 91% of the total world area devoted to commercial GM crops in 2001.

2 Two genetically engineered traits - herbicide tolerance and B.t. insect resistance, accounted for virtually all of the 52.6 million hectares devoted to GM crops in 2001. Herbicide tolerance accounted for 77% of the global GM area, with 15% devoted to Bt crops, and 8% of the total area planted in stacked traits (that is, both herbicide tolerance and insect resistance).

3 Three countries (US, Argentina and Canada) accounted for 96% of the global transgenic area in 2001. The US accounted for 68% of the total GM area; Argentina accounted for 22%; and Canada 6%. China accounted for an additional 3% of the total GM crop area. In other words, just 4 countries grew 99% of the global transgenic crop area.

4 Four industrial crop commodities (soybeans [63%], maize [19%], cotton [13%], canola [5%]) accounted for 100% of the commercial GM crop area planted in 2001. Significantly, 46% of the 72 million hectares of soybean planted worldwide in 2001 was planted in genetically modified soybeans. (20% of the total crop area planted in cotton is transgenic; 11% of the global area devoted to canola is transgenic; 7% of the total world area planted in maize is transgenic.)

5 Five major Gene Giants - Pharmacia (Monsanto), DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow ˆ are the five companies that dominate ag biotech. (Bayer acquired Aventis CropScience for approximately $6.6 billion.) Monsanto will soon be spun off from Pharmacia; BASF has made major investments in ag biotech, but is still considered a junior Gene Giant.

Source: Ag Biotech Countdown ˆ June 2002 Update / ETC group /
Small but significant statistic - whereas the increase in the cropping area of GM has slowed down in the most GM growing countries, the Organic Farming movement has increased by 25% in the last year in US and Canada alone.
What are the other genetic wealth that we might loose in the near future? - THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA HAS THE FOLLOWING PROPOSAL VISION

Transgenics of rice, brassica, moongbean, pigeonpea, cotton, potato, tomato, and some vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower etc. would complete field assessment and some of them would be ready for the large scale seed production by 2005. Nutritionally enhanced potato and BT-cotton are among the important ones. Transgenic wheat with more protein content and better quality and also higher lysine content and marker assisted breeding programme is expected to be introduced in farmers' field by 2003-2005.

The sequencing of Chromosome 11 in rice would be completed by 2005 with an annual contribution of 2 Mb to international rice genome project. This would ensure that India would have the total information on rice genome; and functional genomics work would start by identification of the important markers and genes.

Edible vaccines, particularly for cholera, rabies and hepatitis B, work on which is already under progress, would be ready for clinical trials by 2003-2004, with an expression gene in tomato, cabbage and banana.

Source: Department of Biotechnology / Ministry of Science & Technology / Govt. of India / New Delhi - 110 003  / BIOTECHNOLOGY - A VISION (Ten Year Prespective)

Compliance with the 1% threshold is possible, however in some cases only through changes in farming practices. This also means setting up monitoring systems as well as insurance needs. It may result in additional costs to 1 to 10% of current product price for the farm-crop combinations studied (in the 50% scenario of GM crops in a region). Costs reductions might be possible with segregation becoming an integrated part of agricultural practice and with decreasing costs of GMO analysis. Generally, organic farms face higher costs, especially indicative insurance cost, than conventional farms. However, when relating costs to product prices, the price premium for organic crops may reduce this difference in percentage terms.

Cultivation of GM and conventional or organic crops on the same farm might be an unrealistic scenario, even for larger farms.

Source: European Commission, Agriculture Directorate-General
Secret US 'biopharms' growing GM experimental drugs

WASHINGTON, DC, July 16, 2002 (ENS) / Experimental plants engineered to produce pharmaceuticals are being grown at over 300 secret locations nationwide, a new report has revealed. Biotechnology firms are conducting experiments with corn, soy, rice and tobacco that are genetically manipulated to produce drugs designed to act as vaccines, contraceptives, induce abortions, generate growth hormones, create blood clots, produce industrial enzymes and propagate allergenic enzymes.

"Just one mistake by a biotech company and we'll be eating other people's prescription drugs in our corn flakes," said Larry Bohlen, director of health and environment programs at Friends of the Earth, a member of a coalition of consumer and environmental groups that produced the report, released late last week. The experimental application of biotechnology in which plants are genetically engineered to produce pharmaceutical proteins and chemicals they do not produce naturally has been termed "biopharming." Companies engaged in biopharming keep their activities secret, citing the secret plantings as confidential business information.

The report, entitled "Manufacturing Drugs and Chemicals in Crops: Biopharming Poses New Threats to Consumers, Farmers, Food Companies and the Environment," was produced by the Genetically Engineered Food Alert coalition and presented to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman on Thursday. To date, the secretary has made no public comment on the report. In a letter to Veneman, the coalition called for an end to open air cultivation of crops engineered to produce prescription drugs or industrial chemicals. "The USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] should prohibit the planting of food crops engineered with drugs and chemicals to protect the food supply from contamination," Bohlen said.

The USDA has primary authority for experimental biopharm crop cultivation. Historically, the agency has kept all drug and chemical crop sites secret from the public and neighboring farmers, and has hidden the identity of the drugs or chemicals being produced. The agency has condoned companies' preferred practice of anonymously planting biopharm crops without identification, security measures or notification of neighbors, the report claims.

Coalition members are concerned that genetically engineered traits could spread from biopharms through pollen carried by wind or insects, spilled seed, unharvested seed sprouting the next year, and biopharm seed residues carried by farm equipment to conventional fields. "Current gene containment strategies cannot work reliably in the field, the editors of the journal "Nature Biotechnology" said. "Can we reasonably expect farmers to [clean] their agricultural equipment meticulously enough to remove all GM seed?"

In response to the report, a National Academy of Sciences spokesperson who preferred not to be identified, said, "It is possible that crops transformed to produce pharmaceutical or other industrial compounds might mate with plantations grown for human consumption, with the unanticipated result of novel chemicals in the human food supply."

In response to one report of biopharm contamination, Chris Webster, a representative of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals said, "We've seen, on the vaccine side, where modified live seeds have wandered off and have appeared in other products." ProdiGene, the company with the most plantings of drug and chemical producing plants, projects that 10 percent of the U.S. corn crop will be devoted to biopharm production by 2010.

Some companies propose extracting drugs or chemicals from plants, then selling the remainder of the plant material. Incomplete extraction would mean drug and chemical residue in food or feed. "Farmers cannot afford another contamination incident hurting sales and  throwing the harvest into turmoil like StarLink did in 2000," said Matt Rand, biotechnology campaign manager at the National Environmental Trust.

The complete report is available online at:

ISIS Report, Poison Pharm Crops Near You:
Pharm crops are crops genetically modified to produce gene products that are pharmaceutically active. Such bio-pharmaceuticals are frequently active in minute quantities and expensive to produce in cell cultures or whole animals, and so the companies turn to crop plants. Prof. Joe Cummins reveal how these plants are poisoning our air, soil and water with potentially disastrous health consequences.
Chief SAMANVAYA Column: STATE and Agriculture

The State of India seems to be in some kind of war with the soil and the farmers of the nation. Consider the following:

§             An agricultural minister in a state not only defends a chemical pesticide which has  repeatedly  proved to be bad and the victims of the pesticide spray meanwhile pay for the State‚s decades of misdemeanors.

§             The State government and Centre cannot decide who is responsible for banning a pesticide, as no western consulates have offered any advise, they have safely let the pesticide lobby decide the issue for them.

§             The intensive and ugly practice of cattle breeding as part of the Operation Flood has wiped out part of the native cattle genetic pool;  It has been repeatedly proved that the most energy intensive method of food consumption is through meat eating. Yet, we are being told that the Planning Commission is considering a document that wants to ‘promote’ consumption of meat among the population through advertisements.

§             The State is hell bent on polluting the genetic wealth of the staple diet of the country through sponsored efforts as the ‘vision’ document indicates.

§             While an EU Commission very clearly states that the cultivation of GM and conventional and organic crops on the same farm might be an unrealistic scenario even for large farms, the government agencies and promoters of this technology are saying exactly the opposite in India.  The cost of cultivation of GM crops is higher than the conventional crops, yet, the small land holding millions of farmers in this country are being told that this technology is good for them.


History of the State's policy on Agriculture - heard recently - the agricultural minister who introduced green revolution, got the names of the most suitable bureaucrats for the programme, recommended to him by the Consulate of the super power.
Ram, Chief SAMANVAYA,  Phone: + 91-44 - 5550781 / Email:
More about us at


3. AgBioIndia Mailing List   Subject: Seed banks to the rescue

26 July 2002

At a time when the entire forcus is on private control and takeover of traditional resources and the crop seeds, traditionally marginalised dalit women in Andhra Pradesh, India, have set up community grain and seed banks to gain control over their land as well as their lives.

Facilitated by the Deccan Development Society (DDS), the revival of the traditionally-known seed banks has brought the power and control back into the hands of the dalit women. This is perhaps the only way to wrest control of the seed and the accompany intellectual capital that belongs to the community, and to the society. Taking back the control of the seed means taking control of the entire food chain.

We would like you to share with the world such great success stories. We need to know of such classic tales of human ingenuity, of the will of the people to retain control over their own resources, and thereby over their own destiny.

Along with this report, we are also providing you a related article by Devinder Sharma, entitled "Grain banks: the way to food security", which was published sometimes back by The Times of India, New Delhi.

1. Seed banks to the rescue

Upper-class men buying seeds from Dalit women! Members of the Deccan Development Society (DDS), an organisation that aims to empower women and reverse ecological degradation in rural areas, accomplished this first in Zaheerabad, Andhra Pradesh. By growing mainly food crops and gaining control over seed banks, these women have achieved 'intellectual leadership' in their villages.

Zaheerabad is a semi-arid region, drought-prone and with a plummeting water table. Increasing amounts of agricultural land are turning fallow and untenable.

The DDS is trying to reverse this process through activities like community grain, green and gene funds and village medicinal commons. DDS is also regenerating local health systems. DDS works through Sanghams, which are village-level groups of poor women, mostly Dalits, who suffered substantial losses while buying and selling in the mainstream market.

Through the Sanghams, the women form markets of their own, with prices fixed according to their own needs and priorities. Coarse millets, which are sold at rock-bottom prices in the mainstream market, get a higher price here. Farmer's produce also has an assured buying.

Through the community grain fund programme, which aims to rejuvenate marginalised lands, the women brought 1,000 hectares of fallow land under cultivation. They produced an extra 8,00,000 kgs of sorghum in the very first year of the project. This meant nearly 3 million extra meals in 30 villages or 1,000 extra meals per family. The extra fodder from the fields fed 6,000 cattle in 30 villages. In each village 2,500 extra wages were created, thus creating 75,000 wages in 30 villages.

The community gene fund programme emphasises biodiversity in agriculture and the restoration of traditional crop varieties. Marginal lands that used to produce crops worth Rs 250-300 per acre are now producing crops worth Rs 4,000 per acre. A seed bank to crop 4,000 hectares of land has been built up in four years. Traditional crops and agricultural methods are being promoted. Tractors, which bring up the hard and infertile subsoil while ploughing, are being discarded in favour of bullocks.

In two years, 500 women have recovered 50 traditional crop varieties and set up banks for traditional seeds in 30 villages. The fact that poor, illiterate and marginalised women are managing such a complex system is an achievement in itself.


2. Grain Banks: The Way to Food Security

By Devinder Sharma

At a time when the BJP-led coalition and mainline economists are grappling to work out a plausible and effective system of food distribution among millions of rural poor languishing below the poverty line, a series of traditional grain banks spread out in the heart of the perennially drought, poverty and hunger-stricken belt of dryland India, shows the way to food security.

That the answer to the intricately complex, economically unsound and politically sensitive issue of public distribution rests with the poorest of the poor is a tribute to human ingenuity, cooperation and traditional knowledge. Economists may not acknowledge it for it does not fall within the accepted parameters of a neo-classic paradigm, bureaucrats may turn it down for it has no provisions of kickbacks and underhand deals and the politicians may spurn it as it comes without any assurance of additional votes. And yet, what began as a humble experiment in few of the starvation hit villages of Bolangir district in Orissa or in Kodagu district of Karnataka is perhaps the only viable path for the nation to wriggle out of the growing threat from food insecurity.

More so at a time when successive governments have failed to arrive at a consensus on effectively targetting the public distribution system to reach the needy and the poorest of the poor. For several years now, the exclusion of the well-to-do beneficiaries, including income tax payers, from the provisions of the PDS have been resisted by all political parties, irrespective of their ideological leanings. And yet, it had to be implemented because the World Bank and IMF were pushing for it. In any case, the World Trade Organisation clearly asks for the dismantling of the PDS. While the debate goes on, Bolangir and Kodagu have, however, demonstrated that the real beneficiaries, the poor in the villages, are not dependent upon food doles. Such a system of sharing the benefits of the harvest with the village community also exist in several other parts of the country.

Starvation and hunger no longer stalks a cluster of 20 villages, about 150 kms away from Bolangir town. At a time when recurring drought has brought acute misery and suffering for tens of thousand people in the district, and with the latest controversy shrouding the starvation deaths and sale of children from western Orissa showing no signs of healing, hundreds of families in and around Sundhi munda village have built a food insurance system that keeps sure hunger and death at bay. That the food security system has successfully withstood varying degrees of natural calamities and has, in fact, grown and multiplied clearly demonstrates its social relevance and effectiveness.

It all began in 1990-91, when a social activist Bansi Dhar Behera, coordinator of the Anchalika Jana Sewa Anusthan in Sundhi munda village, was looking for a permanent solution to mitigate human suffering arising from the non-availability of foodgrains, especially at times of distress. His appeal to fellow villagers to donate surplus paddy and rice after the harvest so as to build a grain reserve brought in 22 quintals of paddy. In all, 150 families from eight villages, almost all of them marginal farmers, responded to his call. The village grain bank was thus formed.

The grain bank became a pivot of food security. Farmers have since then deposited their 'surplus' produce with the bank after each paddy harvest. They withdraw an equal quantity of paddy at the time of need without having to pay any interest. For others, who are landless or do not have any 'surplus' for the grain bank, borrowing paddy at the time of distress is a routine. But at the time of harvest, the grains borrowed have to be returned with half a bucket of paddy as interest. For those, who cannot repay the foodgrain loan, the village samaj decides whether the loan can be waived or not. For the villagers, the grain bank was an escape from the clutches of the money-lenders, who often gave foodgrains to the needy to be returned in double the quantity received, and that too within three months.
Sometimes, depending upon the immediate requirement of the participating villages, the beneficiaries are asked to contribute by way of human labour. In village Batharla, a community temple and a grain store house was constructed by the beneficiaries. Their wages were paid in kind from the interest (surplus grain) that builds up over the years. In Banjupadhar village, a traditional water harvesting tank was rejuvenated for which the society distributed 16 quintals of paddy as wages. The grain bank, in other words, is also being utilised for 'food for work' programmes, all depending upon the need of the village community.

In five years, the grain bank had grown in size and volume. In 1996, the society received and disbursed 220 quintals of paddy. A year later, in 1997, it got back 253 quintals. In all, the number of people donating to the grain bank had grown by almost ten times, with a thousand families depositing paddy this year. The number of beneficiaries too increased over the years reaching 1,066 families this year, in the 20 participating villages. More than the numbers what is important is to understand that these families have perfected a social model that gives them the freedom from hunger.

The ten grain banks in Kodagu district are, however, registered under the Cooperative Act. Successfully in operation for over 30 years now, these grain banks also work on the same principle. After every paddy harvest, each member brings not less than 100 kg of paddy as their contribution to the grain bank. And during the lean months of December-January, paddy can be borrowed as loan by members. The loan is normally repaid after the next harvest with an interest of 12 per cent in terms of paddy. After the harvesting season ends, the left over paddy stocks are sold in the market. Consequently, members receive dividend varying between 10 to 20 per cent of the total share capital.

Such is the underlying spirit of cooperation that like in Bolangir, each member in Kodangu district also deposits about five to ten kg of paddy every year towards what is called as the 'death fund'. The basic idea being that at times of bereavement, the village community comes to the rescue of the family in mourning. It is invariably because of the strong community ties in the villages that the grains banks have succeeded. Also, because these grain banks have remained outside the gambit of government interference. Its replication, therefore, has to be through the panchayats and the grassroot NGOs or perhaps an amalgamation of both.

The AgBioIndia mailing list is an effort by the Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security to bridge the yawning gap in our understanding of the politics of food. We believe this mailing list will create wider awareness and understanding of the compexities of the crisis facing Indian agriculture and food security. This list will keep you posted on the intricacies and games being enacted in the name of eradicating hunger.

It is a non-commercial educational service for non-profit organisations and individuals. Subscribers are welcome to contribute information.

You can view previous issues at


4. ECO-India

*International News Service on GMOs*

Indian pro-nature group in association with Natural Farming Network has launched a News Service called Nature News Network (NNN).

NNN will primarily focus on news and reviews related to GMOs and their impact on ecology and economy. Coordinator of ECO-India Dr Sudhir Kumar Kaura, who is himself plant geneticist, told the press that now the media has to address the need of unbiased information on impact of (Genetically Modified Organisms) GMOs on farmers particularly in third world where biodiversity plays a major role in sustaining the economy of the country.

Highlight of this news service is that the only qualified biotechnologists, molecular biologists and geneticist will be forming the work force as reporters and editors.

Interested media groups, orgnisations and individuals can subscribe to NNN by sending a blank email to

Sudhir Kumar Kaura

(we deal in life)
ECO-India, 10-C Friends Colony, Hisar-125 001, India
Telephone: 91-16 62-291 63
Facsimile: 01 662-30 448 (attention, Dr. Sudhir K. Kaura)
Web site:

ECO-India is a voluntary & non-profit organisation working in the field of environment protection and natural.

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