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« Why it's no use blaming Blue Dog Democrats (prasad) | Main | Heidegger And A Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (and Jokes!) to Explore Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything in Between »

February 10, 2010

Comments

I'm sorry, I can't read past the jargon to see what hazards this strain presents for humans - apart from a general suspicion of genetically altered foods. The Bt cotton article was just as opaque to me. Is the problem related to health or economics (as in future bondage to Monsanto/Mahyco)? Some translation might help.
On the other hand, I am generally suspicious of anything involving the irascible and unpredictable Mr. Ramesh.

The hazards may come further down the line, if the Selarini study is anything to go by: For instance (made up numbers here), assuming that one eats Bt brinjal in amounts equivalent to 10 times his body weight over a period of 10 years, there will be a 10% increase in the possibility that he develops a cancer of the kidneys. Of course, it's possible that a car crash may kill him next week, with a 1 in 2 million probability.
What this does add up to is: Ramesh looks good to his constituents and the public. Vandana Shiva can claim that she helped dispel the demon of GE crops with her activism. Mahyco will try again a couple of months later after the brouhaha has died down, marketing the seeds as 'Hybrids', less threatening than 'Genetically engineered' with 'chimeric DNA'. Farmers will see increased yields for a while, followed by decreased yields and increased desperation as the 'pest resistant' veggie strain no longer resists the pest, which is also itself evolving to defeat the toxin in the modified seeds.

That's about as far as I can manage with a Cliff's notes version, Narayan.

I'd assume this was the usual GM fear-mongering, but Swaminathan is a voice to take seriously. I agree with Narayan the news reports are woefully short of actual facts.

I think looking at the way the approvals were given by the advisory committee on genetically engineered crops (GEAC:
http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/Report%20on%20Bt%20brinjal.pdf
lots of steps were missed (around pgs 25-30- bunch of 'not applicable', not considered necessary, couldn't do this because of refusal of institution to test. The only data available on some of the aspects like allergenicity, toxicity in large mammals was supplied by Mahyco, hardly a disinterested party.) Things like this would have given even pre-eminent scientists like Dr. Swaminathan pause in this rush to approve and release Bt Brinjal into the market.
There may be nothing to fear from a Bt Baingan, maybe you might even like the flavor better, since it won't need the pesticide sprayed on it to keep away the Fruit and Shoot Borer and a couple of other pests ( for others, pesticides will still be needed). But are you sure you would like to eat it regularly without having had the necessary toxicity/allergenicity studies performed on it by an independent research body?

Glen Davis Stone has written a few papers on BT cotton in India after spending over 50 weeks in 5 years in India. Some of his work is summarized by Andrew Leonard:
http://www.salon.com/tech/htww/2007/01/31/glenn_davis_stone/index.html
http://www.salon.com/tech/htww/2007/02/08/gujarat/
It may be interesting reread these.


Those were excellent papers indeed-thanks for the links to some very informative reading, Gaddeswarup.
As an agrarian anthropologist, Prof. Stone brings the human dimension into all these discussions of the pros and cons of GM crops, even if he occasionally falls victim to hype himself (vide glowing references to GM cassava as the savior of sub-Saharan Africa in his 2005 paper on the Science of Gray:
http://artsci.wustl.edu/~anthro/research/stone/Stone%202005%20Embedding%20Ethics.pdf.
Hindsight is definitely 20/20, as this article shows that of the 10 super-cassava varieties developed, only 2 managed to show any resistance to the viruses they were all supposed to resist. But Prof.Stone largely brings a sane voice and perspective to a very heated debate.
http://checkbiotech.org/node/23916
Notwithstanding, the Robin Hooding of the Bt Cotton seeds in Gujarat is precisely one of those Indian phenomena where the 'invader' is forced into an assimilation, much like has been done with all the different cultures that live and blend in the subcontinent.

Sujatha,
Thanks for the link to follow up on Stone's work. I liked his 'deskilling paper' but did not really follow up. A Telugu novelist Chanda Latha (her father started as a teacher, turned a farmer and then a seed merchant) has several posts on the topic. The posts are in Telugu; two of them mostly in English containing excerpts of letters from Indian scientists in USA. I linked them in a poat:
http://gaddeswarup.blogspot.com/2010/02/some-posts-on-bt-brinjal.html
The topic is too technical but blogs seem to help in keeping track to some extent.

Mother Nature strikes again: Bt Cotton no longer resists the Pink Bollworm.
http://beta.thehindu.com/news/national/article183353.ece?homepage=true

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