Keep up with the latest news and comment on genetically modified foods          

Baseless GM cotton ads earn Monsanto flak

1.Baseless genetically modified cotton ads earn Monsanto flak
2.GM regulator openly propagandises for GM crops with ISAAA
3.Science academies report presents data and information from ISAAA without attribution

NOTE: Good to see the claims of the GM industry-backed lobby group ISAAA being classed as baseless (item 1). ISAAA's manufactured statistics and creative accounting are too often accepted uncritically by the mainstream media, by governments and even by regulators. And nowhere can ISAAA's baleful influence be seen more clearly than in India (see items 2 and 3, for example). For more on ISAAA, see:
http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/International_Service_for_the_Acquisition_of_Agri-Biotech_Applications
---
---
1.Baseless genetically modified cotton ads earn Monsanto flak
Dinesh C. Sharma
India Today, January 14 2012
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/baseless-genetically-modified-cotton-ads-earn-monsanto-flak/1/168817.html

New Delhi - Biotech major Monsanto has suffered yet another setback with the advertising regulator finding claims made by it about benefits of genetically modified (GM) cotton to be baseless.

The company, in a series of newspaper advertisements issued in August 2011, had claimed that GM cotton technology had boosted the income of Indian cotton farmers by over Rs 31,500 crore.

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has found that the claim has not been substantiated and has asked the seed company to drop this claim. "We have conveyed the decision of the council to the advertiser and they have agreed to comply with it," ASCI secretary general Alan Collaco said from Mumbai.

The complaint against Monsanto was filed by Gurgaon-based consumer-turned-social activist Rachna Arora in August last year. It was forwarded to the Consumer Complaints Council of ASCI, which, after deliberations over two meetings, upheld the complaint as far as the claim about monetary benefits to cotton farmers was concerned.

According to their decision, the claim made in the advertisement contravened Chapter I.1 of the ASCI Code, which deals with ensuring "truthfulness and honesty of representation and claims made by advertisements and to safeguard against misleading advertisements".

The ad had claimed that its Bt cotton seeds had "helped create Rs 31,500 crore additional value for 60 lakh cotton farmers" by reducing pesticide use and increasing yield. The figure of monetary claims was apparently sourced from reports of a GM industry lobby, ISAAA. This, however, did not cut ice with ASCI and it found the claim to be unsubstantiated.

Arora said she had also challenged the claims made with regard to Bollgard technology on reduced insecticide usage, increased yields, inbuilt plant protection and higher incomes for farmers due to the Monsanto technology. She had pointed out that these claims are either false or unsubstantiated.

"The council has upheld my complaint relating to the claim on additional income to farmers. I would still pursue to challenge other claims made by Monsanto under various sections of the ASCI Code," said Arora, who runs an Internet-based consumer group against GM crops.

The code provides for safeguards against 'indiscriminate use of advertising for the promotion of products which are regarded as hazardous to society or to individuals,' she said.

The monetary benefits GM cotton has brought to farmers in cotton-growing states since it was introduced in 2002 is often cited as the success story of GM crops in the country, and is used to justify introduction of the technology in food crops. With the advertising council finding this very claim to be unsubstantiated, supporters of GM crops may be on the defensive once again.

Monsanto, however, did not react to the development. "Nobody from the senior management is available to offer a comment," a corporate communication official said.
---
---
2.GM regulator openly propagandises for GM crops
GMWatch, 19 Jan 2007
http://www.gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/6127

Back in October the Times of India reported that a leading Indian GM regulator was simultaneously 'a director of an international network funded by biotech majors such as Monsanto, Bayer and Dupont'. (GM regulator on panel funded by biotech majors) http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2162116.cms

At the centre of the controversy over conflict-of-interest was Charudatta Mayee, the co-chairman of India's apex GM regulatory body - the GEAC, who the Times of India pointed out was also on the board of directors of ISAAA - the controversial GM propaganda and 'technology transfer' outfit whose high-profile board members, past and present, include Monsanto's Robert Fraley, Wally Beversdorf of Syngenta, and Gabrielle Persley, Executive Director of the AusBiotech Alliance.
If that weren't bad enough, yesterday Mayee went one better by taking a leading role in the PR promotion of one of ISAAA's controversial annual reports. These reports are renowned for inflating and distorting the figures on GM crop acceptance around the world. Mayee not only contributed to the ISAAA press release but also took an active part in promoting GM crops at the ISAAA's press conference, even doing his best to bat away 'a pointed question on farmer suicides in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra allegedly due to the failure of Bt cotton'.

At the time of the Times of India revelations, Mayee was said to be considering his position. If Mayee has not already resigned as co-chairman of the GEAC, then he must now go immediately. For a regulator to be working hand in glove with a biotech industry front organisation in this way is an absolute scandal, even in a country where GM governance is riddled not only with conflicts of interest but outright corruption.

Equally scandalous, though, is the content of what Mayee had to say, and also ISAAA's carefully calculated PR exploitation of India as an exemplar of the benefits of GM crops. One reason that Vidarbha - the main cotton growing belt of Maharashtra - came up at the ISAAA's press conference is not just that Vidarbha has been so horrifically scarred by farmer suicides but because the sudden escalation in suicides has tallied exactly with Bt cotton adoption.

It's important to understand that Maharashtra is the Indian state where farmers have bought into a bigger acreage of Bt cotton than anywhere else in the country. And they have bought into it not because of Bt cotton's demonstrable benefits but because of a massive PR campaign claiming Bt cotton means bumper returns. And what Mayee and ISAAA were doing with their press release and news conference in Delhi was - yet again - feeding that devastating campaign of hype.
At the press conference Mayee tried to dismiss the embarrassing issue of the spiralling suicides by claiming 'there was a good performance of Bt cotton in other parts of the country'. But we only have Mayee's word for that whereas the latest official overview of 'Farmers' suicides in Maharashtra' - from the office of the Divisional Commissioner - reports that Bt cotton 'yields have been unstable' and 'the net return has often been negative.' It goes on to say that, 'Bt cotton has not paid good returns' in the conditions under which 97% of Maharashtra's cotton is grown. Yet Bt cotton has been relentlessly hyped to farmers there. (New Bt cotton disaster in Maharashtra)
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7323

More generally, Mayee tried to claim that Bt cotton has boosted India's overall cotton output, but these type of productivity claims have already been effectively demolished as nonsense with the help of ISAAA's (and USDA's) own data!
http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7433

What is particularly unsavoury is the way that Mayee and ISAAA sought to reinforce their hyping of Bt cotton by deploying 'Ravinder Brar, a widowed mother of two and biotech cotton farmer' to sing Bt cotton's praises. This is not the first time this 'widowed mother of two' has been used in this way. Earlier this year the industry flew Ravinder Brar to its BIO 2006 jamboree, where they presented her to former president Bill Clinton, amongst others.
http://www.truthabouttrade.org/article.asp?id=5611

The terrible irony of the biotech industry selecting a 'widowed mother' as the face of GM crops in India will not have been lost on those who've witnessed the devastation wrought there by the industry's murderous campaign of hype.
---
---
3.Academies copied to push for Bt brinjal
Dinesh C. Sharma
India Today, September 26 2010
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/114057/India/academies-copied-to-push-for-bt-brinjal.html

New Delhi - India's top science academies have done the unthinkable. They have copied and quoted extensively from an industry lobby report to give a clean chit to the controversial genetically modified (GM) brinjal.

Key portions and data in the much touted Inter-Academy Report on Genetically Modified Crops have been lifted straight from a report of a lobbying group funded by seed companies, including Monsanto and Mahyco.

In March, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had asked the six science academies - the Indian Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Academy of Engineering, the Indian National Science Academy, the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the National Academy of Medical Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences (India) - to give an unbiased scientific assessment on the feasibility of transgenic crops and the proposed regulatory mechanism for GM food. They submitted the report to Ramesh this week, recommending the commercial release of Bt brinjal.

But it turns out that the academies have relied heavily on data generated by USbased GM lobby International Service for the Acquisition of Agri- biotech Applications (ISAAA). They have recommended the commercial release of Bt brinjal and the lifting of the moratorium imposed on it by Ramesh.

Earlier, science and technology minister Prithviraj Chavan had plagiarised from reports by the same ISAAA in a letter to cabinet colleague A. Ramadoss while defending Bt brinjal. This was exposed by M AIL T ODAY in February this year.

The report in question currently has copied most of the data and information in support of Bt brinjal from an ISAAA report The Development and Regulation of Bt Brinjal in India and an article Bt Brinjal: A Pioneering Push by Dr P. Anand Kumar in Biotech News - a publication of the Department of Biotechnology.

Both were published in 2009. Being a developer of GM crops himself, Kumar is a vocal supporter of Bt brinjal.

The academies have declared Bt brinjal safe by copying the following paragraph verbatim from Dr Kumar's article: " Bt brinjal ' Event EE- 1' has been subjected to a rigorous biosafety regulatory process encompassing all aspects of toxicity, allergenicity, environmental safety, socio- economic assessment etc.

"Studies on food and feed safety have been conducted on rats, rabbits, fish, chickens, goats and cows. Similarly, environmental impact assessments to study germination, pollen flow, invasiveness, aggressiveness, weediness, and effect on non- target organisms were also carried out." The data that has been lifted from the industry document relates to key issues.

The copied portion says: "It (brinjal) is an important cash crop for poor farmers who transplant it from nurseries at different times of the year to produce two or three crops, each of 150 to 180 days' duration."

Again, on losses caused by pests, an entire paragraph has been lifted from the ISAAA report: "Brinjal Shoot and Fruit Borer (BSFB) causes significant losses of up to 60 to 70 per cent in commercial plantings. Damage starts in the nursery, prior to transplanting, continues to harvest and is then carried- over to the next crop of brinjal. BSFB damages brinjal in two ways.

First, it infests young shoots during the vegetative phase, which limits the ability of plants to produce healthy fruitbearing shoots, thereby reducing potential yield."

Another piece of data used to justify Bt brinjal has been lifted from the industry report: "Farmers usually spray twice a week, applying 15 to 40 insecticide sprays, or more, in one season depending on infestation levels."

Figures relating to the financial cost of insecticide spray by farmers too come from the industry document. The similarities in the ISAAA report and the Inter-Academy report go on without anyone getting a hint about the source of the data. No references or citations have been given, as is normal with any scientific document.