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Friday, July 6, 2012

Monsanto's Dirty Tricks Campaign Against Fired Berkeley Professor Ignacio Chapela

PROFESSOR CANNED FOR STANDING UP  RELEASING PAPER ON GE CONTAMINATION

A well-respected and popular professor at the University of California in
Berkeley has been fired after publishing a scientific paper regarding the
uncontrolled contamination of irreplaceable native Mexican corn varieties
by genetically engineered corn. Dr. Ignacio Chapela, whose corn
contamination article was published in the science journal "Nature," was
denied his tenure due to pressure from the biotech company Monsanto on the
University (the UC Berkeley tenure review panel had actually voted almost
unanimously to approve his tenure). Professor Chapela has been told to have
his office cleaned out by December 31.

Monsanto's Dirty Tricks Campaign Against Fired Berkeley Professor Ignacio Chapela
Posted 12/16/04.

Monsanto's dirty tricks campaign against Chapela - Interview with GM Watch
founder

excerpt from: Marina Littek of Italy's 'Green Planet' interviews Jonathan
Matthews of GM Watch
http://www.gmwatch.org/p1temp.asp?pid=49&page=1

Q: Tell me about your involvement in uncovering who was orchestrating the
attacks on the Berkeley researcher, Ignacio Chapela.

GM WATCH: That really is a tangled web. To understand it you need to
understand what happened with the Internet campaign in 2000. In 98 and 99,
the biotech industry really took a hammering in the way that unfavourable
information exploded across the Internet. On top of that, their own PR
attempts to promote GM as the saviour of the developing world blew up in
their face. Their answer was CS Prakash, who launched his website and his
AgBioView list at the beginning of 2000, as part of a campaign that he said
was all about supporting GM crops for the developing world.

We initially took Prakash completely at face value. We saw him as a pro-GM
scientist who was genuinely standing up for a cause he believed in. But it
soon became clear that his list was being used as a conduit for black
propaganda. There was stuff on his list accusing those who were critical of
GM of everything from murder to terrorism to God knows what. GM-critical
scientists were even accused of having blood on their hands over 9/11!!

...Gradually... our research started to show us that Prakash was not
operating alone but was intimately connected to a network of rightwing
pro-corporate lobbyists. In fact, it turned out the co-founder of his
campaign was Greg Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Over time,
Prakash has been forced to be more open about this CEI connection, but back
then Conko just appeared to be a contributor.

You can see why they wanted to present the whole thing as if the AgBioView
campaign were really that of a lone Indian scientist rallying the science
community to the GM cause. As soon as you admit to the CEI connection then
you have the fact that the CEI has had money out of Big Tobacco and the
likes of Dow Chemicals and Monsanto, and that it lobbies just as vigorously
against restrictions on smoking and toxic chemicals as against those on GM
crops.

By the end of 2001 our research had taken us further. We had a whole dossier
showing AgBioView was a major vehicle for covert biotech industry PR. We'd
also uncovered the involvement in all this of Monsanto's Internet PR
company, Bivings. In particular, regular poison pen attacks against critics
of GM had been appearing, principally on AgBioView, though later, they
started turning up elsewhere as well, posted in the name of 'Mary Murphy'.

We'd tracked Murphy's IP address. It was that of Bivings. We were also
interested in a similar contributor to the AgBioView list - Andura Smetacek.
Smetacek kept promoting the website of a fake agricultural institute which
also led back to Bivings. That website tried to link Monsanto¹s critics to
violence and terrorism.

At this point we teamed up with the investigative journalist Andy Rowell
whose research had helped expose the treatment of Arpad Pusztai. Andy got a
private detective on the case, trying to track down Smetacek, and we were
also getting help from a couple of technical experts. They confirmed that
Monsanto¹s Internet PR firm also had a role in designing Prakash¹s website
and that they were running the AgBioView archive off the company's server,
although they¹d tried to disguise that.

It was while we were busy tracking this, that the Berkeley researchers,
Ignacio Chapela and David Quist, had their paper on Mexican maize
contamination published. We then witnessed this vicious campaign of
vilification being unleashed on AgBioView. Chapela compared it to "being fed
to the dogs".

That campaign really impacted on coverage of the research and even led to a
kind of editorial disassociation from the paper by Nature, the scientific
journal that had published it. And the catalysts in all of this were Murphy
and Smetacek. Their hate mails against Chapela came out on AgBioView on the
very day the research was published and those mails fuelled a frenzied
campaign against the researchers with Prakash calling on the scientific
community to inundate Nature with complaints. Because we knew who the actors
were we could see the whole thing unfolding right in front of our eyes. It
was extraordinary.

The result of our research was a whole series of articles that appeared in
The Ecologist, The Guardian, New Scientist, Wired News and elsewhere, as
well as stuff on radio and TV. Importantly, alot of the coverage not only
questioned the way in which the Berkeley scientists had been attacked and
the role of Prakash, AgBioView, Monsanto¹s PR firm and so on, it also
brought into question the wider campaign to overturn the research and why
that had succeeded to the extent it had. The editor of Nature faced some
pretty tough questions about why he'd buckled when the majority of the peer
reviewers supported the principal conmclusions of the original paper, and a
lot came out about the threats against Chapela even before he published his
research.

Q: In the end I think you tracked the whole thing back directly to Monsanto.

That was an amazing break. A few weeks before the story broke, they had
suddenly suspended the AgBioView archive - my guess is that they had sussed
it pointed to Bivings¹ technical involvement. They would also have known by
then we were on their trail - we were making so many enquiries -and this was
a good way to obstruct us. But one result of all the publicity, particularly
following George Monbiot's first two Guardian articles, was that a couple of
people who¹d kept personal archives of Prakash's AgBioView from the very
start of the list, forwarded us all their Murphy and Smetacek postings. And
when we looked at the earliest postings from Smetacek we realised that they,
like all the other very early postings on the list, had gone to subscribers
with the posters¹ technical headers, ie you could track exactly where the
Smetacek mails had been e-mailed from. Smetacek in these mails presented
herself as an ordinary citizen - in fact, as a lady living in London - but
the mails¹ IP address showed they had been sent directly from Monsanto in St
Louis. George Monbiot then revealed this in The Guardian.

****************************************************************************
*****************************
This GMO news service is underwritten by a generous grant from the Newman's
Own Foundation and is a production of the Ecological Farming Association
www.eco-farm.org <http://www.eco-farm.org/>



http://www.organicconsumers.org/ge/ignacio121304.cfm
Firing of Biotech Critic Ignacio Chapela Mobilizes Students & Professors at
Berkeley

December 12, 2004

GM WATCH daily
http://www.gmwatch.org
---
Here's a great report on this week's rally at Berkeley in support of Ignacio
Chapela. Here are quotes from some of the speakers:

"I have come to the conclusion that Aristotle could not have made tenure
here. Honesty is not something that's appreciated at this campus." -
Professor Andrew Gutierrez

"If we lose Ignacio, diversity in the biological sciences will decrease by
50 percent. Isn't it a coincidence that Ignacio and I have wound up on the
wrong side of the same corporation that was funding research here at the
university?" - Professor Tyrone Hayes of the Department of Integrative
Biology

"This case send a clear message that faculty who challenge the dominant
paradigm are not welcome, especially if they don't accept corporate
funding." - Ethnic Studies Professor Carlos Munoz

"The university is egregiously violating its own rules. I hope this struggle
continues." - Barbara Epstein, professor of history at UC Santa Cruz

"The Budget Committee knows the chancellor wants to get his hands on that
corporate loot. . . Chapela is exactly the kind of person we need around
here. He has wisdom, and above all he has courage and integrity." - Joe
Nielands, emeritus professor of biochemistry, who came to UC Berkeley in
1952

"[the denial of tenure is] unethical and unprecedented. I would urge the
chancellor to look at the process and grant tenure, Right here. Today. Now."
- Carolyn Merchant, professor of environmental history, philosophy, and
ethics

"[the Chancellor] said, 'Is there something so wrong that it would cause you
to leave?' Ignacio and I replied, 'If there was something so wrong, the last
thing we would do is leave. We would stay and fight'." - Jennifer Miller, an
assistant professor in the English Department

"this is a public university. We cannot allow this hypocrisy... The
university does not belong to the university or to the corporations. It
belongs to us." - Miguel Altieri, a professor of insect biology

Express your support for Ignacio: http://www.gmwatch.org/proemail1.asp?id=7
---
Ousted Professor Holds Final Class
By RICHARD BRENNEMAN
Berkeley Daily Planet, December 10, 2004
http://www.berkeleydaily.org/text/article.cfm?issue=12-10-04&storyID=20257

It began inside a classroom, where a world-renowned professor was holding
his last session with students, barring a decision from UC Berkeley's new
chancellor.

Then it moved outside as ever-growing numbers of students, academics and
journalists marshaled for a march on California Hall.

It climaxed in a chant outside California Hall, a cascading chorus of
protest aimed at Chancellor Robert Birgeneau: "Justice Now! Justice Now!
Justice Now! Justice Now!"

For Ignacio Chapela, a member of the Cal¹s department of Environmental
Science, Policy and Management faculty since 1995, the day marked the end of
the latest chapter of his battles for academic freedom and his challenges to
an increasingly corporatized academic culture.

An overflowing crowd of students, faculty, and supporters crammed into his
last class. As the 8:30 a.m. class drew to a close, Chapella thanked the
crowd and vowed to "keep raising hell." After a standing ovation, the group
led a march to the chancellor's office in California Hall. There they
protested Chapella¹s dismissal and called on the university to grant him
tenure.

Chapela's once-promising career at Berkeley foundered on two critical
issues.

When Swiss biotech giant Novartis (now renamed Syngenta) struck a five-year
$25 million deal with the College of Natural Resources¹ Department of Plant
and Microbial Biology, Chapela was quick to criticize, citing the obvious
potential of conflicts of interest and corporate control of research.

His frankness did nothing to endear him to college Dean Gordon Rausser, one
of the architects of the agreement.

But the crowning blow followed from a discovery made by Chapela and one of
his graduate students, David Quist, one of the founders of Students for
Responsible Research.

A native of Mexico, Chapela has remained deeply involved with his homeland,
conducting research and helping indigenous people work toward economic
self-sufficiency.

Quist and Chapela discovered strands of genetically modified DNA in the
genome of native strands of corn cultivated in the heart of the region where
maize was first domesticated.

Chapela and Quist submitted their findings to Nature, the British scientific
journal which remains the world¹s preeminent scientific publication. Their
publication in November 2001 ignited a firestorm.

Their discovery wasn't the first instance of artificial genetic intrusion.
Reports have surfaced of strands of DNA conferring resistance to the
pesticide Roundup finding their way into the weeds the herbicide was
designed to kill.

But the Chapela/Quist discovery was especially troubling to the agribusiness
giants whose patented strains of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are
being spread throughout the world and generating huge profits.

The implicit threat their research raised was of homogenized crops, of a
reduction of genetic diversity that could render crops far more vulnerable
because diverse varieties with a wide range of resistances would vanish into
a giant genomic blender.

The attack was instant and fierce. A British web site posted scathing
critiques from non-existent scientists who turned out to be creations of a
corporate advertising and Nature received letters, one from a UC Berkeley
colleague of Chapela, who questioned the scientists' methodology.

In the end, Nature published a partial retraction - the first in the
publication's history - that advised readers to make their own
interpretations of the findings.

Other research has since verified their findings, but the damage was already
done.

Chapela was already up for tenure when the Nature furor erupted, but the
flap didn't prevent department members from voting 32 to 1 in favor of
tenure, followed by tenure recommendations from both his department chair
and the dean of the College of Natural Resources.

On Oct. 3, a five-member Campus Ad Hoc Committee voted unanimously in favor
of tenure.

The first blow came on June 5, 2003, when the university's budget committee
made a preliminary vote against tenure.

Then, on Nov. 12, the vice provost asked the ad hoc panel chair to
reevaluate tenure in light of new critical letter, prompting the resignation
of the chair.

After another negative vote from the budget committee, Chancellor Robert
Berdahl denied tenure on Nov. 20, 2003, despite repeated tenure
recommendations from the chair and dean.

Chapela's supporters are hoping for a more receptive hearing from new
Chancellor Birgeneau, an academic with a history of involvement in the civil
rights movement of the 1960s.

Professors, journalists and supporters joined the regular student contingent
for Thursday's final class, an undergraduate course in environmental
biology. They filled the seats, lined the walls and sat on the floor.

The discussion was wide ranging - "part of the class is to show how
environmental biology is connected to everything else" - and he invited all
those in attendance, students and others, to comment on a current event and
show its connection to environmental biology.

One student raised the issue of Proposition 71 as corporate welfare, the
voter-approved $3 billion in funding for stem cell research, embodied in the
California Institute for Regenerative medicine.

"It's the bailout of an industry that was in pretty bad shape," said
Chapela. "It's exempt from public scrutiny. The Legislature can scream and
scream, but they really can't do much."

Another student cited the Bush administration's decision to undo protections
for salmon spawning runs and to include hatchery populations in the census
of wild salmon.

Other issues raised included the implications of Bush administration
research bunker-busting nuclear weapons and UC's long-standing in nuclear
weaponry and the planned nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

During the class volunteers passed out cut sections of ribbons, red and
earthy green, and audience members tied them to their forearms, reminiscent
of two forms of protein on which so much of life depends, hemoglobin and
chlorophyll.

As class drew down to the end, Chapela declared, "I will keep raising hell
in different forms."

After a standing ovation, one after another, professors rose to pay tribute
to their colleague.

"Today is also my last class," Professor Andrew Gutierrez told the crowd.
Unlike Chapela, Gutierrez is retiring.

"I have come to the conclusion that Aristotle could not have made tenure
here," he said. "Honesty is not something that's appreciated at this campus.
The Mario Savio Steps and the Free Speech Cafe are two monuments to
hypocrisy."

Miguel Altieri, a professor of insect biology, urged the audience of "the
need to remember that this is a public university. We cannot allow this
hypocrisy."

Two weeks ago, Altieri said, he had written the new chancellor, "saying this
was your chance. I didn't even get a reply. The university does not belong
to the university or to the corporations. It belongs to us."

Jennifer Miller, an assistant professor in the English Department, said that
the last time she was in Chapela's classroom she'd been lecturing on
oppression

"We are very, very lucky to have had Ignacio as a teacher," she said.

Miller recalled a time when she and Chapela had been serving on a committee
and Chancellor Berdahl had asked them what might cause them to leave the
university.

"He said, 'Is there something so wrong that it would cause you to leave?' "

"Ignacio and I replied, 'If there was something so wrong, the last thing we
would do is leave. We would stay and fight'."

Then everyone filed outside and began the march on California Hall.

After a pair of chants calling for tenure, the audience listened as speakers
addressed them through an amplified bullhorn.

First up was Dan Siegel, Chapela's attorney in his fight for tenure and a
veteran of the '60s protest movement.

"The last time I came to California Hall, I was sitting in," he said. "I was
arrested for protesting the actions of another chancellor."

Birgeneau, he said, "is caught in the conflict between doing the right thing
and doing the expedient thing. As time goes on, we may need to escalate our
tactics, but we will succeed."

Siegel pointed to another colleague of Chapela's who had run afoul of
corporate power, "Professor Tyrone Hayes of the Department of Integrative
Biology, whose research discovered the unintended consequences of corporate
intervention into biology."

Hayes discovered the effects of the pesticide Atrazine on frogs, which
developed severe malformations when exposed to the toxins.

Hayes then stepped forward. "If we lose Ignacio, diversity in the biological
sciences will decrease by 50 percent. Isn't it a coincidence that Ignacio
and I have wound up on the wrong side of the same corporation that was
funding research here at the university?"

Hayes said he had consulted for Novartis and his work had been published in
Nature and by the National Academy of Sciences. "I was lucky I had tenure;
the vice chancellor wrote a letter saying I shouldn't be doing any work here
on campus.

"This is bigger than frogs or corn."

David Quist, Chapela's collaborator on the transgenic corn research, said
Chapela's tenure case should've been open and shut. "Then we get to the top
levels of the administration and they show him the door."

Carolyn Merchant, professor of environmental history, philosophy, and
ethics, said the denial of tenure is "unethical and unprecedented. I would
urge the chancellor to look at the process and grant tenure, Right here.
Today. Now."

"Something is rotten, not in Denmark, but here in Berkeley," said Ethnic
Studies Professor Carlos Munoz. "This case send a clear message that faculty
who challenge the dominant paradigm are not welcome, especially if they
don't accept corporate funding."

Barbara Epstein, professor of history at UC Santa Cruz, blasted the tenure
denial. "The university is egregiously violating its own rules. I hope this
struggle continues."

Joe Nielands, emeritus professor of biochemistry, came to UC Berkeley in
1952. In a firm, clear voice, he decried "the privatization and the
corporatization of the university," harkening back to the days when the
school's funding came primarily from Sacramento.

"The Budget Committee knows the chancellor wants to get his hands on that
corporate loot. . . Chapela is exactly the kind of person we need around
here. He has wisdom, and above all he has courage and integrity."

After more praise from John Garcia, instructor at the University of San
Francisco, it was finally Chapela's turn.

It wasn't his first time outside California Hall. After his denial of
tenure, Chapela had brought a desk and held "office hours" outside
administration headquarters in protest of the decision.

Chapela said the idea of the march first came up Saturday, and when the word
got out, e-mails and phone calls poured in from around the world.

"You are standing here for many others," he told the crowd.

"At exactly the moment this was scheduled, the university scheduled another
media event," a press tour at the university Richmond Field Station, where
the university is planning a major corporate/university research park
adjacent to Campus Bay.

"Now we are all students and teachers together, and I hope you will get the
word out."

And then came the last chant, "We Want Justice!" repeated over and over
again.

While Birgeneau refused to meet with the protesters, one of his staff did
agree to accept copies of a letter signed by 145 university professors and
174 others calling for a review of Chapela's case and extension of his
employment.

Calls placed to the Chancellor's office met with no response.

The "Biggest Scientific Fraud" in India


The "Biggest Scientific Fraud" in India, affecting the livelihood of millions of people 
Montsanto Genetically Modified Cotton
Pushing Indian Farmers into a Death Trap 
   Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG),  globalresearch.ca,  17  December 2001

PRESS CONFERENCE
'This is in reality the greatest scientific fraud to have hit Indian science.' - from the front page of the Rediff.com, India's biggest news portal --- 'Bt cotton will kill farmers, financially and literally'
Devinder Sharma has been a vocal critic of the government's stand on genetically modified food. Sharma chairs an independent collective in New Delhi, called the Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security.
The forum is a collective of policy makers, agriculture scientists, economists, biotechnologists, farmers and environmentalists. They examine and analyse the implications of policy decisions.
Cotton farmers all over the country are panicking. Thousands of them have used the Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) cotton seed which has been genetically modified. Suddenly, the government has sat up to take note of how thousands of acres are now under cultivation all over the country.
The realisation came after activists raised a hue and cry of the harmful effects it could ultimately have.
The government initially said that farmers had grown the variety as it was pest resistant, but later when experts warned that pests would develop a resistance to it, it backtracked saying that states like Gujarat should burn the crop. But farmers have already sold the cotton.

Dr Devinder Sharma talks to Ramesh Menon about the perils that stare the Indian cotton farmer in the face.
Excerpts:
*Dr Manju Sharma, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, has recently said that the first genetically modified crop --Bt cotton -- will formally be approved for commercial cultivation in a month or so. How do you view this?
Devinder: This is not only shocking, but scandalous. First of all, Dr Manju Sharma has no business saying this. She is merely the head of India's biotechnology department. The actual approval has to come from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, an apex body constituted by the Ministry of Environment & Forests. How can she pre-empt the decision of the GEAC?
Secondly, even before the research trials for Bt cotton began in India, Dr Manju Sharma has been making public statements about its utility and effectiveness. How does she know the outcome of the research trials before they were actually being conducted and finalised? Isn't it scandalous?
The way she has been going about singing praises for an untested and risky technology looks as if she is on the board of directors of Mahyco-Monsanto, the company which is promoting the genetically manipulated cotton seed.
*What about the research trials? After all, they were conducted scientifically.
Devinder: No, not at all. In fact, scientific norms were thrown to wind and for obvious reasons. And this is what I call scandalous. This is in reality the greatest scientific fraud to have hit Indian science.
The entire expenditure for research on nine genetically modified crops, including cotton, amounts to Rs 600 million. And it is entirely being borne by the industry. How can you trust that data?
*Why do you say this?
Devinder: For three years, the crop trials were conducted by Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Limited and Monsanto. The data so compiled was never made public. Why, what is so secretive about it? After all, it is not national security that is at stake. The seed has to be ultimately used by farmers. Why shouldn't they know what they are being asked to buy?
Secondly, the data was never scrutinised by an independent team of experts and representatives from the civil society and various other groups from different walks of life.
If you look at the composition of the three committees that evaluate the data at three stages, the Department of Bio Technology has very cleverly stuffed the committees with pro-industry scientists and farmers. The conclusions of these committees was therefore known to us even before they met...
*But what about the scientific trials?
Devinder: Yes, let us come to the scientific fraud aspect. There are norms that are clearly laid out for agricultural experiments. As an agricultural scientist myself, I was appalled to learn that for the three years of research trials, the crop was not once sown in time.
For instance, it was sown as late as two to three months last year. Yet, the department says that the crop yields were as high as 50 per cent.
Manju Sharma even mentioned that the yields were as high as 80 per cent! This is something that Monsanto doesn't claim.
*How can the research data from such trials be accepted?
Devinder: Actually, when the crop is sown late, it escapes the insect attack which is at its peak in the first two months. With no insect attack, the crop losses are minimal. So where's the great success?
Moreover, if sowing late by three months gives a higher yield why doesn't the government advise farmers to also sow the crop three months late?
But scientists were looking for data on pest control and so how does the date of sowing becomes important?
That is right. If that be so then why not ask agricultural scientists working with 31 agricultural universities and the 81 national centres of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research also to follow the same criteria? Why make an exception only for Mahyco-Monsanto?
If the crop is sown late and it escapes the major pest attack what kind of data has been collected? Doesn't it put a question mark on the whole exercise? Isn't it a scientific scam?
The GEAC was completely wrong when it asked the company Mahyco-Monsanto to repeat the research trials for one year. In fact, as per scientific norms the research trials should be re-conducted for another three years considering that the data so far collected is incorrect.
Even the ICAR had asked for two years of more research trials. Mahyco-Monsanto had objected and therefore a compromise for one year was reached at. We have started compromising on science too.
*How about the environmental and health risks? There is a lot of public concern about its environmental fallout.
Devinder: That is right. In its undue haste to promote a risky technology, environmental, animal and human health risks have been ignored. A year earlier, the ICAR had pointed to eight to nine areas of concern where additional research needs to be conducted.
Interestingly, the Department of Biotechnology is happy with one year of data on these aspects. This is against all scientific norms. No research is conclusive without a minimum of three years' data.
Take the case of gene flow, for instance. Gene flow is the term that denotes the distance to which the pollen can fly. The DBT says that gene flow in Bt cotton is two metres. Mahyco-Monsanto says that it is 15 metres and the US Department of Agriculture says that it is three miles.
We still don't know what will be the impact on human health once the genetically modified seed gets into the food chain. So why take a risk when there is no cause for desperation?
*But isn't there desperation? Cotton alone consumes more than 50 per cent of the pesticides sprayed in the country.
Devinder: It is true that cotton alone consumes more than 50 per cent of the pesticides. But it is also true that these very agricultural scientists had all these years said that there was no escape for cotton farmers but to use more potent pesticides.
These scientists were actually promoting the pesticides industry's interest all these years. They were not looking for more sustainable and farmer-friendly options.
The same class of agricultural scientists are now backing the genetically modified cotton. In essence, once again they are promoting the industry's commercial interests. This time it is the biotechnology industry which has more money to sponsor research and other activities.
In the bargain, cotton farmers are being asked to get out of the 'pesticides treadmill' and get into a hitherto unknown and more dangerous 'biological treadmill', the consequences of which can be disastrous.
*The farmers seem happy with Bt cotton. They want it and have even gone and sowed it again this year despite all this controversy.
Devinder: Yes, you are right. This is exactly what had happened when the fourth generation pesticides synthetic pyrethroids were introduced in the country less than 20 years ago. And since then over 10,000 cotton growers have committed suicide.
Synthetic pyrethroids are fourth generation pesticides, which were introduced in India sometimes in mid-1980s as the answer to the bolloworm pest problem in cotton.
I had at that time warned against its use saying that the pest would develop resistance against it and then what would be the answer. But the scientists as well as the farmers were very happy with the results for the first two to three years and then the insect started developing resistance.
The pest-host relationship became so hostile that farmers were a dismayed lot and then began the spate of suicides....
*The suicides were a result of the cotton pest problem?
Devinder: Exactly. The suicides began when farmers were unable to control the American bolloworm pests which in turn devoured the crop. The farmers were also under heavy debt and the only option for nearly 10,000 of the estimated 15,000 farmers in the past few years was to take the fatal route to escape the humiliation that comes along with indebtedness.
*Is this a small price for the experiments that agricultural scientists keep on conducting to prop up the commercial interests of the companies?
Devinder: Who is accountable for these deaths? Why shouldn't the agricultural scientists be held responsible for such a massive human tragedy, perhaps the greatest in the history of independent India?
What will happen when the insect develops resistance to Bt cotton? What will happen when farmers once again start committing suicides? Who will be responsible for those poor families whose only bread-earner passes away? Already the pest has started developing resistance to Bt gene in Australia and China.
*This sounds serious. What do you think is the answer?
Devinder: We have to bring accountability in scientific decisions. I think the government should make it clear that the agriculture minister as well as the minister for science and technology would be held responsible for any deaths as a result of the introduction of Bt cotton in the country.
If that happens, I can assure you no one will have the cheek to push in an untested and unproven technology at the cost of the farming community.
And since necessity is the mother of invention, you will see the focus of research shifting to environment-friendly and sustainable farming practices.
*But isn't there a viable alternative?
Devinder: Yes, the only viable alternative is to ban the use of pesticides on cotton. But this will not happen for two reasons.
First, it requires political will since the pesticides lobby industry is a strong one. And second, agricultural scientists will resist because this will mean that they spend more time in the crop fields rather than in air-conditioned laboratories.
American bolloworm, the dreaded cotton pest, actually has 27 natural enemies or predators in the same crop field. They are the first one to get knocked down once the pesticides sprays begun. By the time the bollworm appears on the scene, the field is bereft of its natural enemies.
It then multiplies and merrily devours the crop and in the process develops immunity against the chemicals.
*Would cotton production fall as a result of not using pesticides? </b>
Devinder: No, not at all. It has been conclusively demonstrated both within and outside the country of much better yields and much-cleaner environment as a result of not using pesticides on cotton. We don't want to talk about it because such practices are not backed by industrial interests.
*Low productivity of cotton is being cited as the reason for the introduction of Bt cotton.
Devinder: This is a completely wrong argument. Cotton productivity or yields in India are amongst the lowest in the world not because we do not have high-yielding varieties.
In fact, the first cotton hybrids were evolved in India. What is not know is that in the past 20 years, cotton farmers have been deliberately paid 20 per cent less every year by way of administered price to keep the textile industry afloat. Which means, that our cotton farmers subsidised the industry. If they had received an attractive price, they would have produced more.
Now, the government has allowed cotton import. This will result in further fall in yield as there will be imports of cheap and highly subsidised cotton. Farmers will be faced with an unprecedented crisis of protecting their livelihoods.
*So cotton imports will kill farmers
Devinder: Yes. Cotton farmers are opposing the imports. Under the World Trade Organisation defined rules, India will have to allow the import of cheap and highly subsidised cotton.
Ironically, the sad aspect is that the same textile industry which was subsidised by the cotton farmers all these years has bunked the domestic farmers at the first given opportunity. They are asking for cheaper imports.
The introduction of Bt cotton will also rob the cotton farmers of whatever little they could benefit from. More and more cotton farmers will get into the spiral suicide dance.

TEXT OF LETTER TO THE INDIAN PRIME MINISTER
At a press conference in New Delhi Thursday the Director of The Ecological Foundation, Dr Devinder Sharma, released the text of a letter to the Prime Minister of India, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, warning of the potentially devastating impact GE cotton seeds could have on farmers in India and the scientific fraud involved in the way the research trials have been conducted and monitored - perhaps "the biggest scientific scam" to have ever hit India.
We have previously reported aspects of how this scam has been carried out, with the field trials for Bt cotton sown two months late in 1999. The attack of the American bollworm, the relevant insect pest for Bt cotton, is in the first two months of the crop being sown, so by sowing the crop late the entire insect profile is changed. In 2000 the crop was sown late once again. The resulting data has been hyped as showing wonderful results! [Those following the UK's farmscale trials be warned!]
It is vital that the truth gets out as there has been a massive pro-industry campaign underway on the back of the crisis in India over the large scale plantings of illicit Bt cotton and industry is trying to use the current confused situation, and the general public and governmental sympathy for the Indian farmers caught in the middle of the scandal, to promote the early introduction of Monsanto's Bt cotton.

12 December 2001
Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hon’ble Prime Minister, New Delhi-110 001.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED COTTON ---- PUSHING FARMERS INTO A DEATH TRAP ?
Respected Prime Minister,
The Ministry of Environment and Forests as well as the Department of Biotechnology under the Ministry of Science & Technology is currently reviewing the procedural norms for the controversial genetically modified cotton, popularly called Bt cotton. The decision on its commercial approval, expected to be formalised by February 2002, will have profound consequences for farmers, human health and environment.
Perhaps no other scientific decision since India’s independence generated so much of heat and debate as the likely introduction of Bt cotton has. Add to it the illegal introduction of Bt cotton seeds in over 10,000 hectares in Gujarat, ostensibly to create a suitable environment for the immediate release of the genetically modified cotton, shows how crucial science policy decisions are being manipulated for the sake of ‘profit security’ of a few private seed companies.
Amidst the heat and din that has been raised by the pro-industry scientists and the critics of the unproven and risky technology, what is very conveniently being pushed under the carpet is the damming impact Bt cotton seeds will have on farmers. We have been told that the cotton farmers who grew the transgenic cotton on the sly (in Gujarat) are visibly happy with the results. We are also being told that since the farmers are happy the country should waste no further time in approving transgenic cotton for commercial cultivation.
I am sure your Government, which has always stood for human dignity, and is striving hard to ‘wipe every tear from the eyes of the poor and downtrodden’, will not like to add on to the misery of the small and marginal farmers. The BJP-led coalition will surely not like its saffron flag to be sprinkled with blood of the poor and toiling farmers. I am sure your Government will not take any decision in undue haste that eventually pushes thousands of farmers into a virtual death trap.
Why I am saying so is because a faulty decision in the mid-1980s to introduce fourth generation chemical pesticides synthetic pyrethroids has so far resulted in the death of an estimated 10,000 cotton growers throughout the country. The spiral death dance that began from Andhra Pradesh, first in 1987 and then again in 1998-99, has so far taken a heavy toll. The suicides by cotton farmers had subsequently spread to Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajastha, Haryana and Punjab. Perhaps the large-scale suicides by cotton growers would rank amongst the biggest man-made tragedies in independent India.
These suicides, if one were to examine the reasons, were spurted by the resistance the American bollworm insect developed to all kinds and cocktails of pesticides. Some 15 years back, cotton growers and agricultural scientists had rejoiced for the first two and three years as the potent chemical killed the insects. We had even then warned that spraying more deadly chemicals is not the answer to the menace of American bollworm. And no sooner the insect began developing resistance, farmers once again became a victim of the circle of poison or what is called the ‘pesticide treadmill’.
Bt cotton is no different from other chemical pesticides. It too will cause a temporary reduction of pesticides in the first few years and then the insect will develop resistance to the toxin gene. If the past experience is any lesson, the resulting ‘biological treadmill’ will force farmers again to commit suicides. Dear Prime minister, who will be responsible for those families whose only bread-earner will prefer to end his life? Isn’t the death toll from the cotton conundrum already too high for the nation to draw a lesson from its past follies? How long should cotton farmer continue to give their lives for the ‘experiments’ that agricultural scientists and now the department of biotechnology continues to conduct in their name?
The insect has already begun to develop resistance to Bt gene in cotton in Australia and China where genetically modified cotton was introduced in a large-scale. Farmers are now being advised to increase the number of sprays of chemical pesticides on the genetically manipulated cotton. In case of India, the chances of the insect developing immunity against the Bt gene are still more considering the small land holdings and the resulting management problems. Agribusiness companies are now inserting two Bt genes to keep the insect under check and it would not come as a surprise to find companies using genes from scorpion and snakes to ward off pests in future.
Equally more distressing is the way the department of biotechnology conducted the ‘scientific’ research trials. In fact, what is more baffling is despite your Government’s commitment to bring in the right to information, the department of biotechnology has maintained complete secrecy over the research trials results and the lack of transparency in itself is an indication that the trials were not conducted in a scientific manner. It is with lot of pain and anguish that we would like to bring to your notice the fraudulent manner in which the research trials have been conducted and monitored. This may go down in contemporary history as the biggest scientific scam to have hit the country.
* Even before the limited research trials first began in November 1997, the secretary department of biotechnology, Mrs Manju Sharma, has been saying that Bt cotton will soon be introduced in the country. Even last week, she told Reuters that procedures for the commercial release of Bt cotton are being streamlined and the genetically modified crop would be approved for farmers planting by December 2001. Interestingly, the approval for the genetically modified crops have to come from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) an apex body constituted by the Ministry of Environment & Forests. This raises the obvious question as to why is Mrs Manju Sharma so keen to push the genetically modified crops? Is she on the board of directors of the multinational seed company or the head of the government’s main regulatory body?
* It is primarily for this reason that the research data from faulty trials has been accepted. In none of three years of the crop being sown for research, was the Bt cotton sown even once in time. Last year, in 2000, the crop was sown as late as two months late and yet the results have not only been accepted but the secretary DBT has gone on record saying that the yields were as high as 80 per cent. This is completely untrue for the simple reason that first of all such research data has to be summarily rejected. Secondly, when the crop is sown late by two to three months, the crop escapes the peak insect attack. And when the insect attack is not there, Bt cotton would obviously look to be very effective. Thirdly, if the crop yields so high after being sown so late why doesn’t the government advise cotton growers also to sow the crop two to three months late?
* In June 2001, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) had asked GEAC for two more years of research trials. Mahyco-Monsanto, the promoter of the genetically modified seed, had objected to this saying that the data so compiled by them was correct. Interestingly, a compromise was then reached and the company was asked to go in for one more year of trials. This may perhaps be the first case when a compromise has been reached in scientific research !!
* It is clear that the research so far conducted is completely ‘unscientific’ and should be rejected out rightly. Why is the DBT still legitimising the data and that too in the name of scientific research? In any case, the entire expenditure for research into nine genetically modified crops, amounting to Rs 60-crore, has been incurred by the private companies. How can such data be accepted at its face value?
* Worse is the scientific inadequacy when it comes to environmental and human health risks. In the case of gene flow, which measures the distance the pollen flies, the DBT says that it is only two metres. The company says that it is 15 metres and latest studies by the US Department of Agriculture ascertain that it is three miles. Perhaps the DBT is not aware that there is quite a massive gap between two metres and three miles, which obviously casts doubts about the efficacy and credibility of the research so far conducted. Moreover, the plot size was so small that pollen dispersal data from such plots cannot be accepted.
* There are no creditable and conclusive studies conducted on the nutritional impact on buffaloes and cows to ascertain whether transgenic cotton and transgenic cottonseed has any effect on animal health, milk production and quality of milk, which in turn affects human health. This can only be established on the basis of long-term studies and the DBT unfortunately is willing to go ahead on the basis of inconclusive data from one year of trials.
* Studies on the development of resistance of other plant pests, toxicity studies on other animal species like poultry and fish, studies on the gene flow and pollen dispersal and an assessment of the impact of such migration on non-transgenic crop have not been studied. Nor has the DBT studied the stability of the Bt gene.
Sir, you will agree that in view of the glaring flaws that have been deliberately overlooked, and since genetic engineering involves big companies and mega-bucks, the manner in which the so-called ‘scientific’ research trials have been conducted is not only deplorable but shocking. This also has put a big question mark on the credibility of Indian science and the regulatory authorities. We shall therefore be grateful if you can order a CBI inquiry into the whole sordid affair.
Thanking you,
Sincerely yours,
Devinder Sharma,
 Director, The Ecological Foundation,
7 Triveni Apartments, A-6 Paschim Vihar, 
New Delhi-110 063, India. Email: dsharma@ndf.vsnl.net.in
Dec 12, 2001

Aarpad Pusztai-WHY I CANNOT REMAIN SILENT


GM-FREE Vol. 1 no. 3 August/September 1999

WHY I CANNOT REMAIN SILENT 

Dr Aarpad Pusztai talks to GM-FREE
Dr Pusztai kindly agreed to interrupt his summer vacation to give us an exclusive interview. Here are his views on his suppressed research and the dubious science driving the introduction of GM technology.

On why GM is not safe, predictable or precise
GM-FREE: The rats in your experiment who ate potatoes genetically engineered to produce GNA lectin suffered reduced organ weights and immune damage. Why do you think this was?
Dr Pusztai: I think the reason is not the GNA lectin itself, but the technique. Probably the CaMV (Cauliflower Mosaic Virus [See The Use Of Cauliflower Mosaic Virus in Why Labeling Genetically Modified Organisms is Pointless --ratitor], a promoter used to switch on the introduced gene) had a part in it. It's a problematic thing.
The other problem is the positioning of the inserted gene. Our experiment showed up how imprecise the technique is, because we had two GM potatoes, both contained GNA lectin, and both came from the same pot. They were both grown in greenhouses or in fields in tunnels under identical conditions and at the same time. Yet they came out different. The only explanation is that the incorporation of the transgene [inserted gene] into the host genome happened at two different places. And the effect on the genome was different.
These positioning effects are not simple to predict. Think of William Tell shooting an arrow at a target. Now put a blindfold on the man doing the shooting and that's the reality of the genetic engineer when he's doing a gene insertion. He has no idea where the transgene will land in the recipient genome.
Meanwhile, while we are all arguing in Britain, scientists in other countries are getting on with the job. There are two new papers by Japanese scientists, on GM rice and GM soya. They say that the positioning effect has to be taken into consideration because we don't know which genes in the host organism the inserted genes will make silent or reactivate. It is clear from their evidence that some of the changes cannot be predicted on the basis of the gene insertion.

On substantial equivalence
Dr Pusztai: The idea of "substantial equivalence" is that there is no need for biological safety tests because the plants must be of similar composition as the parent line. This is the basis on which GM crops are being released. However, they cannot be substantially equivalent to the parent because you've introduced new genes. That's why I don't give tuppence for substantial equivalence.
We had two transgenic lines of potato produced from the same gene insertion and the same growing conditions; we grew them together along with the parent plant. With our two lines of potato, which should have been substantially equivalent to each other, we found that one of the lines contained 20% less protein than the other. So the two lines were not substantially equivalent to each other. But we also found that these two lines were not substantially equivalent to their parent. This could not be predicted. It demonstrates that the unpredictability is inherent in the GM process on a case by case basis -- and also at the level of every single GM plant created.
Our project should have ended right there, in my opinion, but we had to develop new testing techniques useful for all GM plants.
In genetic engineering, a lot of GM plants never see the daylight, because for one reason or another they don't grow or they have an unpleasant colour like the GM salmon which turned green. Where unpredictable effects show up, you throw them out. But from the point of view of science, these are important. Because if GM is such a predictable, precise science, then you should be able to produce the same thing again and again. But you can't.
Regarding our potatoes, even after many lines were thrown out, the ones which we retained were still all different from each other. Even though they all came from the same pot, using the same genetic construct, and were grown in identical conditions. So this is my challenge: if it is so predictable, so precise, they should not be any different. They must not be different. Causative logic says that they ought to be the same. That is for me the most worrying aspect.

On the allergy threat
GM-FREE: This lack of predictability is worrying for people with food allergies. These people can only live their lives on the basis that they know which foods to avoid. Biotech companies claim they test for "known allergens" like peanuts. But there are thousands of other foods that can cause serious allergies but which are not classed as known allergens. On top of this, there may be new toxins or allergens in GM foods that are not spotted because they are not looked for.
But what you are saying means that even if you test three potatoes and find that they do not cause an allergic reaction, a fourth potato of the same kind, produced by the same technique, could cause a toxic or allergic reaction.
Dr Pusztai: You are quite right. The only thing you could do is find a stable GM organism, which has been put through tens of generations and still comes out the same, and which is not crossed with any other potato. You keep the purity of the line.
GM-FREE: In the real world, this is impossible.
Dr Pusztai: I totally agree. We are storing up problems for the future.

On the "sound science" behind the GM push
Dr Pusztai: GM foods have been introduced on the back of just one published paper. Just one, in fifteen years of GM. It was written by a Monsanto scientist and published in 1996. The study was a feeding trial of Roundup Ready soya on rats, catfish, chicken and cows. I don't want to say anything about it because it's a published paper, but I could take it apart in 10 seconds.
GM-FREE: Ah, go on.
Dr Pusztai: Well, the main problem is that the researchers appear to have done their utmost to find no problem. They were using mature animals which are not forming body tissues and organs. Adults only need a small amount of protein because their bodies are in equilibrium, in homeostasis. But a young growing animal needs a great deal more protein because it's laying down muscle and tissues, and forming its organs.
With a nutritional study on mature animals, you would never see any difference in organ weights even if the food turned out to be anti-nutritional. The animals would have to be emaciated or poisoned to show anything. In this study, they gave the rats a commercial feed that contained 20% protein, of which only one-tenth was replaced by GM soya protein. Most of this high overall dietary protein was used by the rats for energy, thus masking any possible effect of the GM soya protein. You need to stress the animals if you want to see the effects of a feeding trial in a short enough time. This is my field, so you can take it for granted that if I had had the chance of refereeing that paper, it would never have passed.
Another problem was the way they did the post-mortem. They never weighed the organs; they just looked at them -- what they call "eyeballing". I must have done thousands of post-mortems so I know that even if there is a difference in organ weights of as much as 25%, you wouldn't see it. In my lectures I used to put up two identical computer-drawn rats side by side and put two different sized organs in them, and I asked the audience which rat was bigger, and they always got it wrong. You have to weigh them.

On the British Medical Association's call for a GM moratorium
Dr Pusztai: It stands to reason that they would take a strong line. If there is any problem, the doctors will have to deal with it. It's easy for a gene-basher to say, "I've got some fantastic product," because he doesn't have to see the consequences. He can only see that this or that insect is killed and as far as he is concerned that's the end of the story.
But this is a very unfair and unscientific attitude. It is close to being irresponsible, because we are playing God. You can call it God, evolution, natural selection, natural law, whatever -- but this is what it is.

On the scientific and political establishment's tactics
GM-FREE: In May this year, four major reports, all trumpeting the safety of GM foods and all condemning your work, were released within two days of each other. They were the Donaldson/May report, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report, the Royal Society review, and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics' report. What's your view on the timing of these reports?
Dr Pusztai: Can you believe that four major reports could come out, all condemning me, within two days? That is stretching belief.
It's clear that there was a concerted effort to discredit me. The only body that invited me for discussions, the Environmental Toxicology Committee, gave me just eleven days' notice. I explained that on that day I would be on a plane, so could they please suggest an alternative day. They obviously were not interested, because they did not come back to me. The Royal Society, despite the fact that I offered my full cooperation, refused it; they just wanted to have pieces of paper which they could shred to bits to condemn me.
In 1956, when I was living in Hungary, I got a Ford Foundation Scholarship and they said I could go wherever I wanted. I chose England because I thought the British were fair, and that they would tolerate even an oddball like me. But then I found out about these machinations and duplicity.

On the Royal Society review of his research
Dr Pusztai: The Royal Society report was totally negative and unhelpful, and obviously made to cut me down, to give the political masters the backing they required from an august body.
You see, if you submit a paper to a journal, in 7 out of 10 instances, the reviewers are helpful. For example, they say, "I don't think you have done this well; could it not have been done this way instead?" Then there is a dialogue. The point is not to steam-hammer some poor soul, but, as I said in a letter to the Royal Society, to arrive together at the truth. But in this case, there has been no attempt whatever to discover the truth.
The Royal Society, instead of going back to last August and all that history, should be concentrating on how to make the experiments better. There is not a single word in their review that addresses this, apart from saying it should be better designed. My PhD students would have laughed at me if I said anything like that. Sanctimonious phrases are not enough -- if you criticise an experiment, you have to say how you would go about doing it better.
I have published everything in my life. I make a solemn promise that I shall try my best to publish my research. If I fail, I shall put it on the internet. I owe it to the people who have been supporting me that they should know all the facts. No matter how the Royal Society or whoever else machinates against me, I will do it.

On his decision to go public with his findings before peer review and publication
Dr Pusztai: The British tax payer has spent [pounds]1.6m for this Rowett-based research. You have paid for it. Yet if I had not spoken out, the information would have stopped at the Rowett.
Other scientists often ask me why I went against the code of practice and spoke out before publication in a peer reviewed journal. I made my 150-second testimony on TV's World in Action because I had facts that indicated to me there were serious problems with transgenic food. It can take two to three years to get science papers published and these foods were already on the shelves without rigorous biological testing similar to that of our GM potato work. I did indicate my concern and it cost me my job but I would do it again. If I had not done it, we would now be eating these potatoes and not discussing the safety of GM food.

The Myth - Scarcity. The Reality - There is enough food


The Myth - ScarcityThe Reality - There is enough food
Food First (Institute for Food and Development Policy)
www.foodfirst.org 


MYTH:
With food-producing resources in so much of the world stretched to the limit, there's simply not enough food to go around. Unfortunately, some people will just have to go hungry. We must put all our efforts into boosting agricultural production in order to minimize hunger.

OUR RESPONSE:
The world today produces enough grain alone to provide every human being on the planet with 3,500 calories a day.' That's enough to make most people fat! And this estimate does not even count many other commonly eaten foods-vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. In fact, if all foods are considered together, enough is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day. That includes two and half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs.
Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the supply of food in the world today. Increases in food production during the past 35 years have outstripped the world's unprecedented population growth by about 16 percent. Indeed, mountains of unsold grain on world markets have pushed prices strongly downward over the past three and a half decades. Grain prices rose briefly during the early 1990s, as bad weather coincided with policies geared toward reducing overproduction, but still remained well below the highs observed in the early sixties and mid-seventies.
All well and good for the global picture, you might be thinking, but doesn't such a broad stroke tell us little? Aren't most of the world's hungry living in countries with food shortages - countries in Latin America, in Asia, and especially in Africa?
Hunger in the face of ample food is all the more shocking in the Third World. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, gains in food production since 1950 have kept ahead of population growth in every region except Africa. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) found in a 1997 study that 78% of all malnourished children under five in the developing world live in countries with food surpluses.
Thus, even most "hungry countries have enough food for all their people right now. This finding turns out to be true using official statistics even though experts warn us that newly modernizing societies invariably underestimate farm production-just as a century ago at least a third of the U.S. wheat crop went uncounted. Moreover, many nations can't realize their full food production potential because of the gross inefficiencies caused by inequitable ownership of resources.
Finally, many of the countries in which hunger is rampant export much more in agricultural goods than they import. Northern countries are the main food importers, their purchases representing 71.2 percent of the total value of food items imported in the world in 1992. Imports by the 30 lowest-income countries, on the other hand, accounted for only 5.2 percent of all international commerce in food and farm commodities.
Looking more closely at some of the world's hunger-ravaged countries and regions confirms that scarcity is clearly not the cause of hunger.

INDIA
India ranks near the top among Third World agricultural exporters. While at least 200 million Indians go hungry," in 1995 India exported $625 million worth of wheat and flour, and $1.3 billion worth of rice (5 million metric tons), the two staples of the Indian diet.

BANGLADESH
Beginning with its famine of the early 1970s, Bangladesh came to symbolize the frightening consequences of people overrunning food resources. Yet Bangladesh's official yearly rice output alone-which some experts say is seriously under-reported - could provide each person with about a pound of grain per day, or 2,000 calories.'4 Adding to that small amounts of vegetables, fruits, and legumes could prevent hunger for everyone. Yet the poorest third of the people in Bangladesh eat at most only 1,500 calories a day, dangerously below what is needed for a healthy life.
With more than 120 million people living in an area the size of Wisconsin, Bangladesh may be judged overcrowded by any number of standards, but its population density is not a viable excuse for its widespread hunger. Bangladesh is blessed with exceptional agricultural endowments, yet its 1995 rice yields fell sign)ficantly below the all-Asia average. The extraordinary potential of Bangladesh's rich alluvial soils and plentiful water has hardly been unleashed. If the country's irrigation potential were realized, experts predict its rice yields could double or even triple. Since the total calorie supply in Bangladesh falls only 6% short of needs, nutritional adequacy seems an achievable goal.

BRAZIL
While Brazil exported more than $13 billion worth of food in 1994 (second among developing countries), 70 million Brazilians cannot afford enough to eat.

AFRICA
It comes as a surprise for many of us to learn that the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, home to some 213 million chronically malnourished people (about 25 percent of the total in developing countries), continue to export food. Throughout the 1980s exports from sub-Saharan Africa grew more rapidly than imports, and in 1994, 11 countries of the region remained net exporters of food.
The Sahelian countries of West Africa, known for recurrent famines, have been net exporters of food even during the most severe droughts. During one of the worst droughts on record, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the value of the region's agricultural exports- $ 1.25 billion-remained three times greater than the value of grain imported, and such figures did not even take into account significant unreported exports. Once again, during the 1982-85 drought food was exported from these countries.
Nevertheless, by 1990, food production per person had apparently been declining for almost two decades, despite the productive capacity suggested by Africa's agricultural exports, and in 1995 over one third of the continent's grain consumption depended on imports. We use the word "apparently" because official statistics notoriously under-report, or ignore all together, food grown for home consumption, especially by poor women, as well as food informally exchanged within family and friendship networks, making a truly accurate assessment impossible. In fact the author of the AAAS report referred to earlier, argues that despite inaccurate statistics and misleading media imagery, hunger is actually less severe in sub-Saharan Africa than in South Asia.
Repeated reports about Africa's failing agriculture and growing dependence on imports have led many to assume that too many people are vying for limited resources. Africa's food crisis is real, as evidenced by moderately high rates of childhood malnutrition-but how accurate is this assumed cause of the crisis?
Africa has enormous still unexploited potential to grow food, with theoretical grain yields 25 to 35% higher than maximum potential yields in Europe or North America. Beyond yield potential, ample arable land awaits future use. In Chad, for example, only 10% of the farm land rated as having no serious production constraints is actually farmed. In countries notorious for famines like Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and Mali, the area of unused good quality farm land is many times greater than the area actually farmed, casting doubt on the notion that there are simply too many people for scarce resources.
Many long-time observers of Africa's agricultural development tell us that the real reasons for Africa's food problems are no mystery. Africa's food potential has been distorted and thwarted.
* The colonial land grab that continued into the modern era displaced peoples and the production of foodstuffs from good lands toward marginal ones, giving rise to a pattern where good land is mostly dedicated to the production of cash crops for export or is even unused by its owners. Furthermore, colonizers and, subsequently, national and international agencies, have discredited peasant producers' often sophisticated knowledge of ecologically appropriate farming systems. Promoting "modern," often imported, and ecologically destructive technologies, they have cut Africa's food producers out of economic decisions most affecting their very survival.
* Public resources, including research and agricultural credit, have been channeled to export crops to the virtual exclusion of peasant-produced food crops such as millet, sorghum, and root crops. In the 1 980s increased pressure to export to pay interest on foreign debt further reinforced this imbalance.
* Women are principal food producers in many parts of Africa, yet both colonial policy and, all too often, ill-conceived foreign aid and investment projects have placed decisions over land use and credit in the domain of men. In many cases that has meant preferential treatment for cash crops over food crops, skewing land use and investment patterns toward cash crops.
* Aid policies unaccountable to African peasant producers and pastoralists have generally bypassed their needs in favor of expensive, large-scale projects. Africa has historically received less aid for agriculture than any other continent, and only a fraction of it has reached rain-fed agriculture, on which the bulk of grain production depends. Most of the aid has backed irrigated, export-oriented, elite-controlled production.
Because of external as well as domestic factors African governments have often maintained cheap food policies whereby peasants are paid so poorly for their crops that they have little incentive to produce, especially for official market channels. The factors responsible for these policies have included developed country dumping of food surpluses in African markets at artificially low prices, developed country interest in cheap wages to guarantee profitable export production, middle class African consumer demand for affordable meat and dairy products produced with cheap grain, and government concerns about urban political support and potential unrest. The net effect has been to both depress local food production and divert it toward informal, and therefore unrecorded, markets.
Until recently many African governments also overvalued their currencies, making imported food artificially cheap and undercutting local producers of millet, sorghum, and cassava. Although recent policy changes have devalued currencies, which might make locally produced food more attractive, accompanying free trade policies have brought increased imports of cheap food from developed countries, largely canceling any positive effect.
* Urban tastes have increasingly shifted to imported grain, particularly wheat, which few countries in Africa can grow economically. Thirty years ago, only a small minority of urban dwellers in sub-Saharan Africa ate wheat. Today bread is a staple for many urbanites, and bread and other wheat products account for about a third of all the region's grain imports. U.S. food aid and advertising by multinational corporations ("He'll be smart. He'll go far. He'll eat bread.") have played their part in molding African tastes to what the developed countries have to sell.
Thus beneath the "scarcity diagnosis" of Africa's food situation lie many human-made (often Western influenced) and therefore reversible causes. Even Africa's high birth rates are not independent variables, but are determined by social realities that shape people's reproductive choices.

A FUTURE OF SCARCITY?
A centuries-old debate has recently heated up: just how close are we to the earth's limits?
Major studies have arrived at widely varying conclusions as to the earth's potential to support future populations. In a 1995 book Professor Joel Cohen of Rockefeller University surveyed estimates put forth over four centuries. Always a slippery concept, estimates of the Earth's "carrying capacity," or the number of people who could be supported, have varied from a low of one billion in a 1970 study to a high of 1,022 billion put forth in 1967. Among studies published between 1990 and 1994 the range was from "much less than our current population of 5.5 billion" according to Paul Ehrlich and others, to a high of 44 billion estimated by a Dutch research team, with most estimates falling into the 10 to 14 billion range. By contrast the 1996 United Nations forecast, generally considered to be the best future population projection, predicts that the world population will peak at 9.36 billion in the year 2050, and stabilize thereafter (projections of the maximum future population have been coming down over the past few years). This is well within what most experts view as the capacity of the Earth.
In view of today's abundant food supplies as well as the potential suggested here and elaborated in World Hunger: Twelve Myths, we question the more pessimistic predictions of demographic catastrophe. Only 50 years ago, China pundits predicted that famine-ridden nation could never feed its population. Today more than twice as many people eat-and fairly adequately-on only one-fourth the cropland per person used in the United States.
Not that anyone should take the more pessimistic predictions lightly; they underscore the reality of the inevitably finite resource base entrusted to us. They should therefore reinforce our sense of urgency to address the root causes of resource misuse, resource degradation, and rapid population growth.

LESSONS FROM HOME
Finally, in probing the connection between hunger and scarcity we should never overlook the lessons here at home. In the 1990s over 30 million Americans can not afford a healthy diet, arid 8.5% of U.S. children are hungry and 20.1% more are at risk of hunger. But who would argue that not enough food is produced? Surely not U.S. farmers; overproduction is their most persistent headache. Nor the U.S. government, which maintains huge storehouses of cheese, milk and butter. In 1995, U.S. aid shipments abroad of surplus food included more than 3 million metric tons of cereals and cereal products, about two thirds consisting of wheat and flour. That's enough flour to bake about 600 loaves of bread per year for every hungry child in the U.S.
Here at home, just as in the Third World, hunger is an outrage precisely because it is profoundly needless. Behind the headlines, the television images, and superficial clichés, we can learn to see that hunger is real; scarcity is not.
Only when we free ourselves from the myth of scarcity can we begin to look for hunger's real causes. That search is what Work! Hunger: Twelve Myths, Second Edition is about.

Food and Permaculture


Food and Permaculture
by David Blume http://www.permaculture.com
I wrote this in response to post to the bioregional listserve from a woman at ATTRA who said something like "Of course you couldn't feed the world with such a hippy-dippy, hunter-gatherer, landscape system like permaculture." Well that got me a little steamed so this is what I wrote.
Dear Folks,
I would like to inject some real world experience into this otherwise abstract discussion of food and permaculture.
In addition to being an ecological biologist, a permaculture production food farmer for 9 years, and an expert on biomass fuels, I have also been teaching permaculture since 1997 and have worked in many countries on food/energy production design issues. I have certified more than 400 people in permaculture design since 1997. For more info on this see my site at www.permaculture.com
So in light of my experience I have a couple of things to say. Let us dispense, for the moment only, with the talk of hunter-gatherer models since, to return to that state or to imitate it with design would meet limited acceptance. This is not the core design goal of permaculture although some of our small scale subsistence agriculture designs vaguely look like a hunter-gatherer paradise (i.e. it never existed like this in nature.) The issue of private property as we now define it also complicates that model. We are living in an agricultural age and permaculture offers huge benefits to both production and subsistence agriculture.
As far as I know I was one of the only farmers fully utilizing permaculture to produce surplus food for sale in the US as a full time occupation. On approximately two acres— half of which was on a terraced 35 degree slope—I produced enough food to feed more than 300 people (with a peak of 450 people at one point), 49 weeks a year in my fully organic CSA on the edge of Silicon Valley . If I could do it there you can do it anywhere.
I did this for almost nine years until I lost the lease to my rented land. My yields were often 8 times what the USDA claims are possible per square foot. My soil fertility increased dramatically each year so I was not achieving my yields by mining my soil. On the contrary I built my soil from cement-hard adobe clay to its impressive state from scratch. By the end I was at over 22% organic matter with a cation exchange capacity (CEC) of over 25. CEC is an indirect measure of soil humus or the ability of the soil to hold nutrients available to crops. The higher the number the more nutrients are stored and available. For reference, most Class I commercial agricultural soil is lucky to hit 2% organic matter—the dividing line between a living and dead soil—with a CEC around 5.
At most times I had no more than half of my land under production with the rest in various stages of cover cropping. And I was only producing at a fraction of what would have been possible if I had owned the land and could have justified the investment into an overstory of integrated tree, berry, flower and nut crops along with the various vegetable and fruit crops. The farm produced so much income that I was routinely in the top 15% of organic farms in California (which has over 2000 organic farms) in most years on a fraction of the land that my colleagues were using. I grew over 45 different kinds of crops so my financial success cannot be attributed to growing a few high value crops like Yuppie Chow (salad mix).
Unlike other organic farmers, I almost never used even organic pesticides on my farm. The permaculture ecosystem I designed was so self-managing and self-maintaining with natural controls such as carnivorous insects, toads, lizards, snakes, owls, bats, and other allies, that it was rare that I needed to intervene (I can count the times on one hand that I intervened over 9 years). On the few occasions I did, I used coffee solution made from waste caf é coffee. You didn't think plants made caffeine to get you high did you? Caffeine is an extremely effective natural insecticide, which degrades in the sunlight or air in about 24 hours after use.
On the subsistence agriculture level, we permies regularly have designed productions systems around the world, which feed everyone living in a given house within a 50-foot radius of the house. This rule of thumb holds pretty well because the more folks who live there, the bigger the house, the larger the surface area, so no more than 50 feet is really necessary.
The math is easy. With a polyculture, yields of 3-10 pounds of food per square foot are easy to come up with in most climates. For comparison, commercial agriculture in California , which is way inefficient, routinely runs about 1.5-2.5 pounds per square foot per year across a wide variety of crops. People need to eat about two pounds of mixed food a day if active, or around 750 pounds a year. In a good but somewhat sloppy design, you need about 500 square feet per person MAXIMUM. In a very good design, 200 square feet will do the job. If your diet is heavy on grain you'll need more space but not an astronomical amount. Utilize a greenhouse to extend seasons and exchange air rich in carbon dioxide from chicken houses or human houses, which otherwise would go to waste, and yields ratchet up even more. Take a little more space and include ducks and aquaculture into the mix and the yields become quite diverse and substantial. This sort of system is typical in Vietnam now and there is no longer any measurable hunger there. Wouldn't it be nice if the US could do that with its "superior" first world agricultural system?
Can't do this on a commercial scale? Tell that to Archer Daniels Midland who operates many acres of greenhouses in Decatur using partially integrated production of fish, lettuce and other vegetables using waste carbon dioxide, grain by-products and other by-products from its 100-million gallon per year alcohol fuel production facility, while delivering these profitable agricultural products in trucks running on biodiesel (made from the corn and soybeans they process). This qualifies as commercial scale, very rudimentary permaculture that is wildly profitable and productive.
As a reality check, I'd like to remind everyone that in the 1850's, prior to refrigerated transport, New York City supplied all its food for a population of over a million from within 7 miles of the borders of the city. (It wasn't worth the cost of horse feed and time to go further than 7 miles to export food into the city). No one would discount a system of community food security for one million people as non-commercial.
There are two main reasons known for the dramatically increased productivity of a polyculture?\the benefit of mycorhyzzal symbiosis (which is destroyed in chemical agriculture) and less solar saturation. Solar saturation is the point at which a plants' photosynthetic machinery is overwhelmed by excess sunlight and shut down. In practice, this means that most of our crop plants stop growing at about 10am and don't start again until about 4 in the afternoon. Various members of a polyculture shade each other, preventing solar saturation, so plants metabolize all day. Polyculture as we pursue in permaculture uses close to 100% of the sunlight falling on its mixed crops. Monoculture rarely can use more than 30% of the total sunlight received before saturation. How long could you run any business without external support at 30% efficiency? When you look at a simple Mexican permaculture example, growth of the three sisters of corn, beans and squash (not even counting the 200 vegetables of various sorts growing in the shade of the sisters) you get close to 90% solar efficiency. When you total up the pounds of food from a Mexican acre you get FAR MORE FOOD than the highest yielding nitrogen soaked Iowa cornfield. This is the myth of the green revolution; that the highest total food yields occur in chemical monoculture.
Enough of this. The argument that we don't have enough food to go around is specious anyway. We currently produce more than twice the amount of food we need to feed everyone, even with the extremely inefficient model of monoculture. What starving people lack is money to buy food which is not considered a right but a commodity. Even being able to buy the food isn't a guarantee of access. Midwesterners find it cheaper to burn 5 cent a pound corn in stoves for heat even though Mexican families are willing to pay up to $1 a pound for corn to feed their family.
So you say, "Well if you're such a wiseguy and you obviously would make so much more money from the greater yields of a simple three crop permaculture system, why don't corporations in the Midwest do it to make more money?" This gets to the core of the problemw—hich is not population/resources and/or biological models of overpopulation which typically apply to wild animals.
Capitalism is concerned with more than just making money. The reason why monocultures are favored by corporations EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE THE LEAST EFFICIENT WAY OF PRODUCING FOOD in pounds of food per acre is that it can be done with the least amount of labor. To harvest the three sisters you would need a digital harvester—i.e. two hands—not a combine. Even though the increased labor would be totally justified by the increased profit, corporations are totally allergic to dealing with labor. Labor is messy. It organizes, it wants a fair share of the profit, cities want tax money to pay for worker habitat infrastructure and other pesky things that corporations will avoid at all costs. Our current form of agribusiness is a textbook case of design maximizing the advantage of capital to the disadvantage of labor facilitated by the artificially low cost of energy.
The other reason is control of the market. It is now estimated that 80 percent of the world's arable (read European-style plowed) agricultural land is now in the hands of multi-nationals. It has served their needs to keep productivity low to make it possible to get a hold of as much of the means of production as possible. Farmers who are barely making a living sell their land for a fraction of those making a good profit. Midwest corn farmers generally net only about $50-75 per acre on corn on a gross income of $300 per acre.
My discussion above is not to be taken as a suggestion that population growth is not a problem, it is. So let me make a quick comment on population, from a designer's point of view, which is totally related to the structural issues above. I dare anyone to find an example in which population is stable yet there is no system for security in old age. It has been shown in countless studies that the ONLY consistent reason why population stabilizes is that people know they will have security in their old age. At that point they stop having excess children. Why? It has absolutely nothing to do with the biological resource-population relationships. We are not wild animals and have markedly different behavior. In a developing country, or any country for that matter, without a secure social security system for the aged, you need at least two kids to support each elderly adult. In virtually every case studied where stabilization of social systems occurred, women immediately find systems to end unwanted pregnancy. Herbal indigenous methods for ending fertility are known all over the world. In my own Italian heritage—hardly a herb-oriented aboriginal tribe, even into the 1900's, utilized ergot obtained from the local apothecary to end unwanted pregnancy.
So structural adjustment—the neoliberal formula the World Bank and IMF impose on the developing world—ensures population growth. By intentionally eliminating a secure social safety net as a condition of borrowing money, population growth—and therefore market growth for various consumer goods—continues to grow. Therein lies the rub. If population doesn't continue to grow, capitalists rapidly run out of customers. Can't let that happen now can we?
Permaculture design offers an alternative security for old age when the family has even a little land. In the Deccan desert of India , where there is huge success with permaculture turning hundreds of square miles of man-made desert back into productive designed rain forest, there is a saying: "Trees are better than sons." Sons might take care of you in your old age but income or trade from your productive trees (food, timber and fuel) definitely will. This approach offers families security to limit population growth and takes the supply of old age security back into the people's hands.
Restorative agriculture?\which goes far beyond sustainable agriculture—depends on solar energy replacing fossil fuel use. Buckminster Fuller and I discussed this back in 1983 when he wrote the foreword for my book Alcohol Can Be A Gas!, that accompanied my ten part PBS television series at that time. (Alcohol is a virtually pollution free engine fuel which is superior in almost every way to gasoline.) World photosynthesis in its fully undesigned state, produces biomass in wasteful agriculture and in the wild which far exceeds human need. Our analysis shows that world biomass photosynthesis produces between 6 and 15 times what we used to power every human need every year, including food, electricity, transportation, and heat.
In a designed system, especially a permaculturally-designed system, we could increase the biomass produced by an order of magnitude and in so doing supply all our needs in a much smaller footprint. For instance, you only get about 200 gallons per acre of alcohol fuel from corn, but 1000 gallons from sugar beets, 1200 from Jerusalem Artichokes, 1500 gallons from annual sugar cane in southern states and a variety of other crops which, when properly designed for climate, might yield 2500 gallons per year from two crop cycles. This would be done while increasing soil fertility and providing all the animal food we need as a by-product (replacing the corn which largely goes for animal feed now) at a fraction of the energy cost of corn-soybean agribusiness. This is all possible right now without any new technology.
The Department of Energy-sponsored program to reduce the cost of cellulose-dissolving enzymes. Soon, yields based on that carbohydrate (cellulose) rather than the relatively scarce starch or sugar carbohydrate scenarios described above will ratchet up cost-effective yield another order of magnitude. (We could do it right now with current technology but the fuel would be about $1.65/gallon wholesale). Once again this is just scratching the surface.
I could go on for two weeks non-stop about this?\my colleagues and I do so in my permaculture design courses. The point is that although humans are great at creating deserts and poverty, we also have the incredible capacity to design ecological systems that work for everyone—even some corporations. The argument that we can't produce enough ecologically is, at its source, promoted by corporations who benefit from a view of scarcity and limited resources which they control. Their constant cry is TINA "There Is No Alternative". Right, and the wizard says, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"
Around the world people are demonstrating that, not only are there alternatives, there are alternatives that allow us all to take care of each other and the rest of the species we live with, and to direct surpluses from our designs back to this care. These are the three main tenets of Permaculture design. We aren't waiting for governments, corporations, or bureaucracies to solve the world's problems. We will do it with or without their help. We are already doing it and no one can stop us because we can't be forced to buy what we don't need anymore. Since few of us in permaculture education are hired by anyone in business or government, we can't be fired or threatened.
I like to say, if you want to end transnational capitalism, (the very opposite of bioregionalism), then stop giving them your capital. To do that you need to start producing what you need—plus some surplus for others—bioregionally and I would respectfully suggest that permaculture design is a good tool to begin that process.

What is the future for GM crops?


What is the future for GM crops?

The public reaction in the UK, coupled with the results from the farm scale crop trials, means it is unlikely that GM crops will be grown in the UK in the next few years. Elsewhere, it is a different story. 
Crops are grown in the United States of America, Argentina, Canada, China, Brazil, Australia, Bulgaria, Colombia, Honduras, India, Mexico, Romania, South Africa, Spain and Uruguay. The biggest producer is the USA. The four main crops grown are soya beans, maize, cotton and oilseed rape.
Farmers planted 81 million hectares (or 200 million acres) of GM crops worldwide in 2004, up from 67·7 million hectares (or 167 million acres) in 2003.
-------------
North AmericaEuropeAsia
MexicaAfricaIndiaAsia
South AmericaAustralasia
Area of land planted with commercial transgenic crops by country 2002 (million hectares)
30 - 40
10 - 15
1 - 5
less than 1
officially 0
Worldwide cultivation of the four main commercial GM crops in 2002 (million hectares)
graphgraph key
Click map or links below for more details:
• North America
• Europe
• Asia
• Mexico
• Africa
• India
• South America
• Australasia

Source: C. James Global Status of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: (Preview);www.isaaa.org/kc/
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