Archive for the 'GM' Category

‘No food shall be grown that we don’t own’

Patna, August 7, 2011: The primary objective of multinational seed companies that ‘no food shall be grown that we don’t own’ came under a sharp attack by the members of civil societies here today, who gave a call for ‘Monsanto Quit India’ on August 9 and also announced holding Kisan Swaraj Week till the Independence Day.

“Monsanto is now facing an anti-trust investigation even in theUnited States. But here inIndia, the Centre is bent upon promoting its seeds. And since Agriculture is the State Subject, now the attempt is to bypass States even,” said Pankaj Bhushan, the national co-convenor of the national ASHA coalition and convenor of GM Free Bihar Movement, adding, “this cannot be tolerated, now.”

Bhushan told a press conference that Monsanto is an American company, which has become the world’s largest seed company by employing many devious strategies and tactics. “We will not allow corporatization of our agriculture. That is why we have called for a nation-wide DAY OF ACTION on August 9, 2011 (Quit India Day) and KISAN SWARAJ WEEK, from August 9 – 15 2011.”

He accused Monsanto of adopting notorious means in India for a variety of misdeeds and crimes – polluting natural resources, killing and maiming humans with its products, bribing officials for approvals, falsifying safety reports to show the most dangerous chemicals like dioxin as safe, colluding with regulators through revolving doors between the company and government as also false advertising.

“What Indian farmers should know is that Monsanto is also a company which has sued and jailed farmers for the “crime” of saving and using seeds that have been purchased by the farmers from the company, to protect its patents,” he said, wondering: “Can you imagine farmers not being allowed the right to save seed from their own crop, when it is farmers who have bred thousands of crop varieties over the centuries?”

Addressing the press conference, renowned socialist senior member of theAlliancefor Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) Vijay Pratap said that Monsanto first exploited the other South Asian countries and is now penetrating deeper intoIndia. “This will completely destroy our agriculture and more farmers will be forced to commit suicides,” he said. “I am concerned that not only our fields will be destroyed by promoting such multinational seed companies but common men will get nothing but poison in the platters while such infiltrators will be raking in the moolah.”

“This is a national problem. Therefore we will hand over a memorandum to our state government on 9th August, cautioning it against the such multinational companies and prevent their entry intoBihar,” he said.  Kisan Morcha President Vidya Bhushan expressed concern over some politicians giving preference to genetically modified and hybrid seeds. “What will happen to our traditional agriculture which is so resourceful and self-sufficient?” he said, promising that the movement against the multinational seed companies will take decisive turn this time.

Farmer leader Girish Sharma said the Centre Government was conspiring to end State Government’s role in deciding the agriculture policies which was illegal. “Over 400 organisations have come together this time across the nation to make it an action day on 9th August,” he said, adding a fast and dharna will be observed on this day at Kargil Chowk in Patna from where a march will start at 3 pm to hand over the memorandum to the government.

State president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union Ramanuj Singh said the companies like Monsanto will have their toughest time now since his organisation has decided to oppose it tooth and nail in the interest of the farmers and agriculture. “We have already warned the government. Now it is time for actions,” he said.


Agro-view The ecological disaster in GM crops

By Achyut Railkar

THE researcher, Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company Mahyco and US biotech Giant Corporation Monsanto (MM) claim that genetically modified (GM) food reduces usage of pesticide during the growth of the output. MM alters DNA by introduction of an extra gene, Cry1Ac for cotton, brinjal or other crops to form GM. The insecticide is derived from a soil bacterium bacillus thuringiensis. The hybrid crop is also called as Bt cotton or Bt brinjal.

After the permission for Bt cotton in the country MM hopes to get consent from the government for Bt brinjal. World Bank and WTO probably pressurise central government to adopt GM crops. MM and other companies try to create property rights in the name of GM crops. The European and many more countries oppose GM food cultivation.

Now after eight years of Bt cotton cultivation covering almost 95 per cent cotton farms in the country, it has run into trouble. Cattle in Punjab and Haryana fell sick after consuming Bt cotton leaves. The cultivators allege that Bt cotton has created allergies and rise in asthma and rash troubles among them.

The Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) had found in 2005 that resistance of Bt cotton goes down after some period. MM’s scientists have detected survival of a type of pink coloured pest known as bollworm while monitoring the 2009 Bt cotton crop in four districts of Gujarat.

MM misinterprets that GM seeds increase the yield. The three year observation of 87 villages indicate that non-Bt cotton seeds had 30 per cent more yield and its cost of production is 40 per cent less. Because of high cost of production on Bt cotton, 32000 farmers had suicidal deaths across the country during the period 2001 to 2005. Only Bt seeds do not offer more yield, it has to spend for power, fertilizers and irrigation also.

The question on everyone’s lips is why is the government so keen to allow US corporations like MM to privatise the basis of our food production based on seed system?

Even more horrifying is that in some cotton growing areas in the country, only GM seed is available for farmers and they are at MM’s mercy. When rising costs of inputs are making agriculture unviable and causing farmer suicides, it is absurd to promote seed replacement. GM seeds are four to five times more expensive than normal certified seeds because GM seed’s price covers MM’s proprietary right charges (PR).

After a period of 3-5 years, all brinjal growing areas will be contaminated and the gene will have crossed over into tomato, potato and other crops and PR would apply. After Bt cotton and Bt brinjal MM would plan to tamper with bhindi, rice and many other crops with the same methods. Once its cultivation becomes widespread, there is no looking back because genes released into the environment cannot be recalled even by God.

But the introduction of GM brinjal has convulsed the government into action. Is brinjal production one of the government’s priorities? There is no crisis in brinjal production; we have more than enough of brinjal. Its agenda probably has been decided by MM. Brinjal has been cultivated in India for the past 4000 years and the area under cultivation is around 500,000 hectares. India produces 9 million tonnes of brinjal every year and the farmers and consumers both are happy as it has innumerable varieties and tastes.

Indian agricultural experts negate Bt cotton’s success story and say gene merely helps to keep pests at bay. GM crops essentially need chemical fertilizers (CF) in abundance and the CF kills the productivity of the land gradually. The unfortunate fact is that farmers ought to buy GM seeds and CF from MM’s representatives, which obviously benefits MM or any other seed supplier by high profits through PR.

Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), India’s biotech regulator, cleared Bt Brinjal on October 14, 2009. However there is a lot of opposition after this:

  1. Many activists sent more than 40000 e-mails to Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Environment and Forest (MoEF) accusing him of having sold out to biotech companies. The expert Biologist and Supreme Court appointed observer PM Bhargava commented that GEAC’s decision was pre-decided and farcical.
  2. The Chief Ministers of the 13 states, which have almost over 75 per cent share of brinjal production in the country, officially conveyed to the Centre that they do not want their farmers to grow the Bt brinjal. The opponents also argued that the tests required to dispel fears about adverse consequences on human health had not been done satisfactorily.
  3. During April 2010, NGO Greenpeace held the survey of around 5600 individuals on various socio-economic levels from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Guwahati and Indore. It found that an overwhelming 89 per cent of people believe they have the right to protest against the GM food. The introduction of GM foods has tremendous health effects. It can lead to cancer, allergies, birth defects and disability. Some studies on Bt food have shown lung, kidney and liver damage in lab rats.

The opponents give us a clear indication that we need an impartial and independent agency, which is democratic and transparent, and has a mandate to put people’s health, biosafety, food security and environment before corporate interests.

On February 9, 2010, MoEF imposed a moratorium on the cultivation of BT brinjal after experiencing huge opposition. However the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill (BRAI) takes away the right to say no to GM food. The government should therefore withdraw BRAI Bill as it is termed as blatant subversion of the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression.

On the contrary, it shows that the developing countries have benefited in the crops of Organic type of Food (OF). South Brazil has doubled the yields for maize and wheat crop. Mexico has increased production by over 60 per cent. Today New Zealand, Australia, Cuba, European countries, Latin America are leading countries, for growing OF. India is in 4th position which has 3 million hectares of cropland for OF.

OF has self-developing capacity of regenerating seeds, power and manures. It reduces emission of green house gas and can control climatic changes. It preserves all the varieties of the different crops unlike GM food. OF is a win-win proposal. It builds the soil instead of depleting it. It takes the assistance of soil fauna and microbes. It rejects synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and grows safe and nutritious food.

Briton’s Lancaster University and Stock-bridge Technology Centre research shows, if the seeds are kept in jasmonic acid for some period, they develop the power of repelling insects and there is no need of GM foods.

GM crops spell a bleak and grim future for OF. The certifying agencies will refuse to certify OF grown adjacent to GM foods. By killing OF in this manner, we would kill ecologically developed agriculture.

The government’s decision of stopping Bt brinjal cultivation appears temporary and the issue may trigger any time because BRAI Bill is not yet withdrawn by the government. The people therefore have to be alert on the issue of GM food to save the agriculture in the country. We should encourage OF that would preserve ecological balance. Indian scientists should carry out independent biotechnological research and tests to wipe out the danger of GM foods.


The Pesticides Management Bill can be Pesticide (Production and Distribution) Management Bill, 2008

21st March, Patna. Pesticide industry is an unregulated industry, which has been growing on the demand created by anxieties of the poor and marginal farmers, hollow scientific research and unscientific behaviour of scientists related to agriculture.

Pesticide Management Bill, as a next step, in the process of regulation is a welcome initiative. However, there are number of issues, as experienced from 1962, which have not been addressed by this Bill. Thus, one would be circumspect of the motive of the Bill, and the purpose it is expected to achieve. To discuss the context, pesticides have consistently proven to be a non-factor in agricultural productivity. Pesticides have become a huge burden on the economic and physical health of the farmers and their family members. Pesticides have come to occupy a major percentage of costs in the per acre cost of agricultural production. This is not because of any rise in pesticide prices, but due to the intensive, and unproductive usage of pesticides. Such a scenario has its implications on science of pesticides and policies.

Pesticide Management Bill, 2008, needs to be reviewed for the following:

  1. The Nomenclature of the bill is itself inappropriate. Instead, it can be Pesticide (Production and Distribution) Management Bill, 2008
  2. The five objectives of the Bill, as mentioned, do not bring into focus the core objectives of such a Bill, namely (a)Reducing the impact of chemical pesticides on natural resources, including land, water and all living species, (b) Prevention of misuse of pesticides for purposes other than crop protection, (c) Increasing the effective quality of the pesticides, (d) Reducing the incidence of residues in agricultural commodities, crop wastage, soil and water resources, (e) Controlling malpractices in research, production, marketing and distribution of pesticides
  3. The objective of this Bill is to control and regulate the production, marketing, sale and distribution of pesticides. The objectives cannot include the purpose of the pesticide, namely ‘control of pests’. This Bill should not be burdened with the mandate to control pests.
  4. In Chapter I (2), the Bill does not say this is replacing the existing Act (1962). This needs to be done, in case, the purpose is to update the existing Act. The wording “shall be in addition to” needs to be considered, and probably should be replaced with line, as mentioned in the Environment Protection Act, giving it a precedence
  5. Definitions should include “all living species” replacing the presently mentioned “animals”, as pesticide impact is on every living species including animals, birds, bacteria, etc.
  6. There should not be any “deemed registered pesticide” as scientific research is coming up with new evidences on pesticides registered earlier. Every pesticide, registered and unregistered, prior to this Act, should go through a similar process of registration.
  7. Overall, the section on definitions needs to be revisited, especially with regard to definitions such as ‘misbranding’, etc.
  8. Constitution of “Central Pesticides Board” is completely out of tune with its objectives. All the members are officials, whose primary purpose is to ‘control pests’ that is they create demand for pesticide usage. Their approach would be against the management of pesticides as this Bill envisages. Further, most of the them are fully loaded with their official work, and would not be able to give enough time for deliberations and discussions. There is a need to bring in more independent persons with knowledge into this Board
  9. Member Secretary should not be from the Directorate of Plant Protection, but from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry or Ministry of Environment
  10. The functions of the Board need to be revisited. Presently, it is only advisory in nature. Such a role would not help in achieving the objectives of the Bill, namely regulation and management of production, sale and distribution of pesticides.
  11. The relationship between the Board and the Registration Committee needs to be specified. Board should have the mandate to review the decisions of the Registration Committee, and also in defining the functions of the Registration Committee and also its constitution of members.
  12. In Chapter III, Section 12(3), the Bill calls for applicants to furnish information “on all the known inimical effects of the pesticide”. This should be changes to “on all the inimical effects of the pesticide, on the date of application, and periodically, later on, as the knowledge of science grows”
  13. All registrations, and related provision for submission of information by the applicant, should have a period. Every two years, these registrations should be reviewed by an independent scientific body, with due consultations.
  14. The Bill should prescribe a minimum fee in terms of percentage of the turnover or economic value of production (In Chapter III, Section 12(4)).
  15. In Chapter III, Section 12(6), there should be a provision to add, “any registration can be reviewed, if fresh evidence through proper research data is provided by a body of persons, or individuals, in public interest, by the Registrations Committee”.
  16. In Chapter III, Section 12(8) leaves scope for registration without any proper data. This provision should be removed. Hazardous substances without evidence cannot be permitted for sale and distribution as it would create scope for misuse.
  17. In Chapter III, Section 11(2), the Committee should also include in its functions: “- maintain a database of scientific and other research on the efficacy and inimical effects of various pesticides across the world”
  18. In Chapter IV, Grant of Licenses, the provision for a single Licensing Officer si fraught with pitfalls, as the individual would be overburdened and might not be in a position to arrive at suitable decisions. Instead, at the State Government level, a Board has to be constituted with similar functions as the Registration Committee, for licensing
  19. In Chapter IV, Grant of Licenses 21(1), accreditation of private laboratories should be a function of the Central Pesticide Board. The accreditation process has to be established by the Board, and not by the Plant Protection Adviser.
  20. In Chapter V, a provision has to be included: “Every pesticide that has been banned in any other country, that was registered in India, has to be reviewed with the available evidence, and the license for its production and distribution has to be decided upon accordingly”.
  21. There should be a ban on importing pesticide from the country of origin, wherein that pesticide has been banned from production, distribution or usage.
  22. In Chapter VII, offences and punishment, the penal provision of Rs.25,000 is far less to deter anybody from committing any offence. There has to be different rates at different levels. Probably, Rs.50,000 at the retail level should be sufficient, but the amount has to increase as the geographical area of offence increases. At the manufacturers level it has to be a percentage of the total turnover, say 10 percent.
  23. Same is the case with imprisonment.
  24. In Chapter VII, section 41 is very weak. Companies have to own up the liability. They should be made liable for all the inimical effects, immediately and over a period, of the pesticide manufactured by the company.

Addition issues that need consideration:

1. India is a party to various conventions by consent and participation. This Bill should include commitment to such Conventions such as Stockholm Convention. Central Pesticide Board should be responsible for implementation of all the International Conventions, wherein the government of India has become a party to

2. Criminal liability has to be built in for both manufacturers, distributors and marketers as many instances have been recorded, wherein pesticides have been used to for other than crop protection purposes such as poisoning of lakes, and other water bodies and suicides.

3. Licensing has to be made compulsory for all the links in entire supply chain of pesticides from manufacturers to the retailers.

4. Prescriptions by agricultural officers should also be brought under the ambit of regulation. All crop protection advises by various officers and bodies have to be recorded and adequately monitored for any misuse.

5. Emergency management clauses have to be built in, especially hazardous situations such fire accidents in the pesticide factories, spillovers on land and water, pesticide tanker collisions, etc. Local authorities such as Panchayats, municipal bodies, fire services, emergency medical services, etc. should also be included in this Bill. Provision of prior information and preparation of emergency management plans are required.

Pankaj Bhushan, GM Free Bihar Movement


Bihar rejects field trials of GM crops

Patna, March 4, 2011: Farmers and activists today dared multinational seed company Monsanto to conduct field trials of genetically modified crops in the state, and claimed that Bihar was in fact fit to be declared totally GM free. “Our efforts have bore fruit as Bihar farmers are now aware of the dangers of the genetic foods. No farmer or his field is thus offering to be a lab rat in Bihar,” they told a press conference here. Bharitya Kisan Union representatives even said they will chase away anyone found to be engaged in such trials even clandestinely.

Bihar Farmers Commission Chairman and former Central Minister Upendra Nath Verma said that Bihar is the first state to have banned commercial use of Bt brinjal but the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee of the Central Government had permitted some open air field trials, some insect resistance management trials and seed production plots for GM Maize of Monsanto and GM rice of Bayer at seven places in the country, including two in Bihar – Begusarai and Bhagalpur. “We view it with great concern. When Bt brinjal was not approved by the government for commercial use why did it then allow conducting of trial of Bt maize etc?”

GM Free Bihar Movement’s convenor Pankaj Bhushan termed any such trials as “totally unwarranted, unnecessary, illegal and hazardous” and said he was in constant touch with officials of the state not to allow any such trials. “Such trials pose hazards of biological contamination as well as intentional leakage of seed as has been witnessed in the case of Bt cotton earlier in the country.” “Herbicide-tolerant crops like the GM Maize pose many socio-economic concerns in addition to health and environmental hazards flowing both from the increased use of agri-chemicals in the form of weedicides like glyphosate as well as from the genetic engineering process,” he said.

“Since the Bihar government had responded positively to our efforts against Bt brinjal, we had again approached all concerned by raising valid objections against any possible field trials in the state,” Bhushan said adding the campaign against field trials was bearing fruit.

He also said that herbicide tolerance technology will have irreversible impacts on farmers of the state where the poorest people survive out of employment generated through manual de-weeding in agricultural fields.

Commenting on the anti-farmer behaviour of Monsanto, farmer union leaders pointed out that seed monopolies are building up in Indian agriculture with lax regulatory regimes and seed prices are reaching unprecedented, exorbitant high levels. “Monsanto wants to strengthen their position of monopoly by bringing in GM crops where their seed as well as chemical businesses will thrive. Therefore, we will not allow any such companies to conduct field trials in Bihar. Rather, our government should find it appropriate to declare Bihar a GM Free state.”

It is pertinent to note that GM Free Bihar Movement had played a crucial role in raising awareness among the people in Bihar about Bt brinjal, the first GM food crop to have been considered for commercial cultivation in the country.

Both the Centre and Bihar Government then responded rightly to the constitutional, democratic and scientific voices all around and placed a moratorium on the commercial release of Bt brinjal on February 9, 2010.

According to Bhushan, multinationals were still conniving to push GM crops without sufficient research on the human health impacts, unscientific test protocols, absence of independent bio-safety tests, and  conflicting interests of  regulators. Besides, adverse results in experiments were also being masked by the crop developers and ignored by the regulators.

Kisan Swaraj Yatra to reach Bihar on November 22

Kisan Swaraj Yatra which will begin from Sabarmati Ashram in Gujaraton October 2 will reach Bihar in between November 22 to 24. The Yatra will be taken out to make the common people aware of the dangers of genetically modified (GM) foods and seeds. The Yatra will spend three days in Bihar-in Patna, Muzaffarpur and Samastipur.

This was disclosed at a press conference in Patna on August 25, 2010, organized by the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture & GM Free Bihar Movement.

Kumar Shubhamoorty (Gandhian), Vijay Pratap (Lokayan), Parveen Amanullah (Hum Log Trust), Suresh Kumar (Environmentalist) and Pankaj Bhushan (Tara Foundation) were present at the press briefing.

Outrage Over Claim that Anti-GM Campaign “Causes Hunger”

Claims about a certain flood-resistant type of rice being genetically modified have been refuted. / Credit:Miriam Mannak/IPSCivil society organisations have reacted with outrage to claims that the international campaign against genetically modified (GM) crops is partly responsible for food shortages and food insecurity in Africa.
“Food insecurity in developing regions such as Africa is partially a result of the anti-GM campaign,” David King, director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University in Britain, said during the 15th World Congress of Food Science and Technology held between Aug 22-26 in Cape Town, South Africa.

King added that, “many African countries have the idea that food that is not good enough for Europeans, is not good enough for Africans.

“In Europe, people might have a choice between conventional and genetically modified products. In Africa, this is not the case. Here, any food that is available is great.”

South African organisations that oppose the genetic modification of food, such as the South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering (SAFeAGE), have condemned King’s statements.

“Africa’s food insecurity has nothing to do with the anti-GM campaign,” said Fahrie Hassan, media spokesperson at SAFeAGE.

It has in large part been caused by economic policy measures with strict conditions imposed on countries seeking loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund since the 1980s, he argued.

“Many governments of developing countries were forced to tell their farmers they should farm cash crops, which are predominantly meant for the export market, instead of focusing on subsistence farming for local use,” he added.

“In addition, European countries and the U.S. dump their food surpluses onto African markets while heavily subsidising their own farmers,” Hassan added.

Mariam Mayet, director of the non-profit African Centre for Biosafety (ABC), said that, “malnourishment in Africa is not just a result of food shortage, but of poverty. It does not matter how much food is available, if you don’t have money to buy it you are stuck.

“In addition, the plants the GM industry wants to produce in Africa are mainly cash crops that are not just meant for the export market but are to be used to feed pigs and cows in Europe and China and as bio-fuel and cooking oil.

“These crops are not meant to feed African people, thus they will not contribute to food security,” she added.

Mayet slammed King’s statement that African countries rejected GM crops because of the influence of the anti-GM campaign, which originated in Europe and the U.S.

“King is clearly not aware of the fact that Africans have common sense. Does he think we are stupid, can’t think for ourselves and still listen to whatever Europeans tell us to do, like we did in the colonial era?

“We might be poor, but we make our own decisions free from what Europeans, whether politicians or the GM movement, think. African countries are led by their own understanding, not by the anti-GM campaign,” Mayet stated.

Hassan rejected any suggestion that GM corporations intend to help Africans to overcome problems such as malnourishment. “It has nothing to do with helping Africans, but with helping themselves. If a farmer agrees to switch to GM crops, he or she will be tied to the seeds provided by the seed company.

“This process precludes the saving of seeds for the next year. This means the farmer will have to buy seeds every year, which is profitable to the company.”

Muna Lakhani, spokesperson for Earthlife Africa, agreed that GM “will lock Africa into neo-seed slavery” as GM production increases dependence on imported inputs and is therefore detrimental to African food sovereignty. The non-profit Earthlife Africa seeks a better life for all people without the exploitation of people or the degradation of their environment.

“Organic agriculture produces far more food than the current chemicals- based agro-industry. We need to resist attempts to colonise our food production and insist on sustainable food cultivation that is not geared to benefiting the developed world.

“The fact of the matter is that the GM industry, having lost the battle in many countries, now sees African countries as easy pickings,” Lakhani argued.

King also repeated claims that he made in 2008 about flood-resistant GM rice, of which a marketable product “was only recently developed” despite the science to develop flood-resistant rice being in existence for 15 years, according to him.

“The delay of developing a marketable product is partially a result of the pressure of the anti-GM campaign. Because of this, millions of poor people unnecessarily suffered from malnutrition and hunger over the past 10 years,” King claimed.

Rice is an important staple food in Africa, the world’s largest importer of Asian rice. Every year floods cause massive rice production losses all across Asia. “Flood-resistant rice could have prevented much of the losses,” King said, adding that rice losses in Asia have had a severe impact on Africa’s food security.

Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, a British organics food and farming organisation, pointed out in 2008 in Britain’s Guardian newspaper that the flood-resistant rice in question is not GM.

Instead, it is the result of “normal breeding informed by knowledge of the genome and supported by environmentalists and organic organisations”.

CAPE TOWN, Aug 27, 2010 (IPS)

Today’s mail today has two important stories on Genetic Foods

This morning’s newspaper ‘Mail Today’ reassures us that its not only we who cry foul over GM. I have been noticing a trend that every then & now GM is in news for Good or Bad. Just to make a point, today’s mail today has two stories on Genetic Foods. While the first story is played in very bold font, talks about even the school children discussing GM.

Springdales best in GM crops contest

THE TWO Springdales schools took diametrically opposite stands on the contentious issue of genetically modified ( GM) crops and walked away with the top two places in a national inter- school multimedia competition hosted by the Vasant Valley School on Friday.

The students of Springdales, Dhaula Kuan, visited the villages of Madhya Pradesh and interacted with farmers who have planted Bt- cotton in their fields. Explaining how India took its first steps into the world of GM in March 2002 by approving three Bt- cotton hybrids for commercial cultivation, the presentation by Karan Kareer, Rajat Sindhu, Raabiya Marici and Sahil Lamba traced the downward spiral that the farmers who opted for these new crops have had to experience.

Bt- cotton was developed by MAHYCO ( Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company Ltd) in collaboration with the American multinational, Monsanto, supposedly to offer protection against all the major species of Indian bollworms.

But the result, said the Springdales quartet, was not what the optimists had envisioned and heir interviews with the Madhya Pradesh farmers proved just that.

Springdales, Pusa Road, had a more positive take on the subject.

To understand the issue, the students went to the Indian Agricultural Research Institute ( IARI) across the road and interacted with the scientists there. Using the guidelines based on the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation ( FAO) report, which talks about how food production needs to be boosted by 70 per cent to feed a world population of 9.1 billion by 2050, the Pusa Road team concluded that GM crops would lead to a manifold increase in productivity.

The Vasant Valley team, which tapped material from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology ( ICGEB) and the internet, took a more philosophical stand, which got them a shared third position with Welham Girls, Dehra Dun. “ Science is part of the answer and the problem,” said Karan Anand, a Vasant Valley team member.

The team’s advice to the supporters and critics of GM crops was not to decelerate the pace of research.

“ Allow objective research to determine the future of GM crops in the country,” they said.

The Welham Girls team, which looked excited to be in Delhi, took an approach that was in parts dramatic and non- committal.

They asked two relevant questions: “ For whom is GM beneficial?” and “ Will it help solve the food problem?” Their final question sounded more like a warning: “ Is it OK to serve poison on a platter?” This was the annual competition’s ninth year and it attracted 21 schools, including Doon School and Welham Girls, Mayo College and Mayo College Girls’ School from Ajmer, and Delhi Public School, R. K. Puram. Ten of these schools qualified for the final round of presentations, which was adjudged by a panel comprising M AIL T ODAY ’s awardwinning science editor, Dinesh C. Sharma; Om Deshmukh, research scientist at the IBM India Research Lab; and Dharmendra Singh Gangwar, chief vigilance officer, STC. Sonya Bahri, Vasant Valley’s technology department head, said, “ This aim of this annual contest is to use the power of technology to spread awareness about social issues, heighten sensitivity and enhance the critical thought processes in the minds of schoolchildren.” The palpable excitement at the competition proved Bahri right.

The other story also displayed in bold font and given a beautiful treatment informs how former cricketer Manoj Prabhakar is set to Bat for organic farming. Thanks to efforts of all the members of GM Free India group. Hard work pays, indeed.

Prabhakar all set to bat for organic farming

MANOJ Prabhakar has worn many hats, both on and off the field. He has been a combative, never- say- die all- rounder, a coach, and a businessman. And now the mercurial former India Test star proudly announces that he is going to become a “ farmer”. Yes, the man who already runs a successful cosmetic company has now decided to grow organic food.

“ I am now going to be a farmer.

I am going buy 50- 60 acres of land in Udham Singh Nagar district in Uttrakhand and grow a variety of foods on this land.” Prabhakar disclosed this in an interview to M AIL T ODAY . “ My main purpose by purchasing this land is to grow all kinds of food and vegetables. We have been eating all kinds of injected vegetables that are harmful. We should avoid them and instead eat organic foods.” Asked what made him turn to farming, Prabhakar says that when he used to tour different countries with the Indian team, everywhere he saw natural products.

“ Wherever I used to go — England or Australia etc — I came across natural products.

That’s what struck me the most,” he recalls.

Prabhakar already has a cosmetics- manufacturing factory on a one- acre plot in Naukuchiatal, about 26 kms from Haldwani in Uttrakhand. He manages the business from his Delhi office, but frequently visits the factory about 270 kms from Delhi.

His brush with cosmetics began after he got married to Sandhya, who used to run a beauty parlour. Soon he got so attracted that he launched his own company, Naturence, while still playing for India ( 1984- 1996). The company has since expanded and added Naturence Research Labs ( P) Ltd. to the stable. “ I have got professionals working for me now,” he points out proudly.

Cricket, nevertheless, remains Prabhakar’s first love. “ I never dreamt that I would become a businessman one day. Even today, when I go to sleep I tell my wife [ actress Farheen] that I [ only] visualise a cricket field and players getting rewards for their performances and other aspects connected to the game,” he insists.

The 47- year- old former Delhi captain says he can’t disconnect himself from cricket, irrespective of his involvement in business, and has some big plans. “ I want to open a residential cricket academy on the land I am going to purchase,” he revealed. “ But it will not happen in the next two or three years; it is my long- term plan.” Prabhakar’s immediate target is to become a successful coach — first of Delhi and then the Indian team — and produce a few aggressive and match- winning players like himself. “ I am not getting my way. I am unable a get place to start an academy where I can get 100 per cent results,” he laments.

“ I looked for a place near my residence in South Delhi, but couldn’t get one. I was even ready to pump in money to start the venture. I also attempted to tie- up with a college in South Delhi, but parking space and a few other issues came in the way,” he said, looking frustrated.

Prabhakar insists that he would make a successful coach even without a formal coaching diploma. “ It’s all practical, and practical lessons can fail all theories,” he quips. “ Mujhe heera tarashna aat hai ( I know how to polish a diamond).” He insists that since he had performed different tasks for the Indian team — from facing the first ball of a match to bowling the first ball — he doesn’t need a coaching certificate. “ I have gone through all kinds of emotions, of a batsman and a bowler, so I am well equipped to coach and can produce players who can represent India successfully,” he says confidently.

Prabhakar’s only son from Sandhya, Rohan, now 23, was once a cricket crazy kid, but he now assists his father at the cosmetics factory. From Farheen, he has sons Rahil ( 13) and Manvansh ( 6). Prabhakar informs that Rahil is a budding cricketer.

Will he emulate his father?

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