12 Myths About Hunger

What can we do about it?
To answer these questions we must unlearn much of what we have been taught.
Only by freeing ourselves from the grip of widely held myths can we grasp the roots of hunger and see what we can do to end it.

Myth 1
Not Enough Food to Go Around
Reality: Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world's food supply. Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide every human being with 3,500 calories a day. That doesn't even count many other commonly eaten foods-vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. Enough food is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day worldwide: 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-enough to make most people fat! The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food. Even most "hungry countries" have enough food for all their people right now. Many are net exporters of food and other agricultural products.
Myth 2
Nature's to Blame for Famine
Reality: It's too easy to blame nature. Human-made forces are making people increasingly vulnerable to nature's vagaries. Food is always available for those who can afford it—starvation during hard times hits only the poorest. Millions live on the brink of disaster in south Asia, Africa and elsewhere, because they are deprived of land by a powerful few, trapped in the unremitting grip of debt, or miserably paid. Natural events rarely explain deaths; they are simply the final push over the brink. Human institutions and policies determine who eats and who starves during hard times. Likewise, in America many homeless die from the cold every winter, yet ultimate responsibility doesn't lie with the weather. The real culprits are an economy that fails to offer everyone opportunities, and a society that places economic efficiency over compassion.
Myth 3
Too Many People
Reality: Birth rates are falling rapidly worldwide as remaining regions of the Third World begin the demographic transition—when birth rates drop in response to an earlier decline in death rates. Although rapid population growth remains a serious concern in many countries, nowhere does population density explain hunger. For every Bangladesh, a densely populated and hungry country, we find a Nigeria, Brazil or Bolivia, where abundant food resources coexist with hunger. Costa Rica, with only half of Honduras' cropped acres per person, boasts a life expectancy—one indicator of nutrition —11 years longer than that of Honduras and close to that of developed countries. Rapid population growth is not the root cause of hunger. Like hunger itself, it results from underlying inequities that deprive people, especially poor women, of economic opportunity and security. Rapid population growth and hunger are endemic to societies where land ownership, jobs, education, health care, and old age security are beyond the reach of most people. Those Third World societies with dramatically successful early and rapid reductions of population growth rates-China, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Cuba and the Indian state of Kerala-prove that the lives of the poor, especially poor women, must improve before they can choose to have fewer children.
Myth 4
The Environment vs. More Food?
Reality: We should be alarmed that an environmental crisis is undercutting our food-production resources, but a tradeoff between our environment and the world's need for food is not inevitable. Efforts to feed the hungry are not causing the environmental crisis. Large corporations are mainly responsible for deforestation-creating and profiting from developed-country consumer demand for tropical hardwoods and exotic or out-of-season food items. Most pesticides used in the Third World are applied to export crops, playing little role in feeding the hungry, while in the U.S. they are used to give a blemish-free cosmetic appearance to produce, with no improvement in nutritional value.
Alternatives exist now and many more are possible. The success of organic farmers in the U.S. gives a glimpse of the possibilities. Cuba's recent success in overcoming a food crisis through self-reliance and sustainable, virtually pesticide-free agriculture is another good example. Indeed, environmentally sound agricultural alternatives can be more productive than environmentally destructive ones.
Myth 5
The Green Revolution is the Answer
Reality: The production advances of the Green Revolution are no myth. Thanks to the new seeds, million of tons more grain a year are being harvested. But focusing narrowly on increasing production cannot alleviate hunger because it fails to alter the tightly concentrated distribution of economic power that determines who can buy the additional food. That's why in several of the biggest Green Revolution successes—India, Mexico, and the Philippines—grain production and in some cases, exports, have climbed, while hunger has persisted and the long-term productive capacity of the soil is degraded. Now we must fight the prospect of a 'New Green Revolution' based on biotechnology, which threatens to further accentuate inequality.
Myth 6
We Need Large Farms
Reality: Large landowners who control most of the best land often leave much of it idle. Unjust farming systems leave farmland in the hands of the most inefficient producers. By contrast, small farmers typically achieve at least four to five times greater output per acre, in part because they work their land more intensively and use integrated, and often more sustainable, production systems. Without secure tenure, the many millions of tenant farmers in the Third World have little incentive to invest in land improvements, to rotate crops, or to leave land fallow for the sake of long-term soil fertility. Future food production is undermined. On the other hand, redistribution of land can favor production. Comprehensive land reform has markedly increased production in countries as diverse as Japan, Zimbabwe, and Taiwan. A World Bank study of northeast Brazil estimates that redistributing farmland into smaller holdings would raise output an astonishing 80 percent.
Myth 7
The Free Market Can End Hunger
Reality: Unfortunately, such a "market-is-good, government-is-bad" formula can never help address the causes of hunger. Such a dogmatic stance misleads us that a society can opt for one or the other, when in fact every economy on earth combines the market and government in allocating resources and distributing goods. The market's marvelous efficiencies can only work to eliminate hunger, however, when purchasing power is widely dispersed.

So all those who believe in the usefulness of the market and the necessity of ending hunger must concentrate on promoting not the market, but the consumers! In this task, government has a vital role to play in countering the tendency toward economic concentration, through genuine tax, credit, and land reforms to disperse buying power toward the poor. Recent trends toward privatization and de-regulation are most definitely not the answer.
Myth 8
Free Trade is the Answer
Reality: The trade promotion formula has proven an abject failure at alleviating hunger. In most Third World countries exports have boomed while hunger has continued unabated or actually worsened. While soybean exports boomed in Brazil-to feed Japanese and European livestock-hunger spread from one-third to two-thirds of the population. Where the majority of people have been made too poor to buy the food grown on their own country's soil, those who control productive resources will, not surprisingly, orient their production to more lucrative markets abroad. Export crop production squeezes out basic food production. Pro-trade policies like NAFTA and GATT pit working people in different countries against each other in a 'race to the bottom,' where the basis of competition is who will work for less, without adequate health coverage or minimum environmental standards. Mexico and the U.S. are a case in point: since NAFTA we have had a net loss of 250,000 jobs here, while Mexico has lost 2 million, and hunger is on the rise in both countries.
Myth 9
Too Hungry to Fight for Their Rights
Reality: Bombarded with images of poor people as weak and hungry, we lose sight of the obvious: for those with few resources, mere survival requires tremendous effort. If the poor were truly passive, few of them could even survive. Around the world, from the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico, to the farmers' movement in India, wherever people are suffering needlessly, movements for change are underway. People will feed themselves, if allowed to do so. It's not our job to 'set things right' for others. Our responsibility is to remove the obstacles in their paths, obstacles often created by large corporations and U.S. government, World Bank and IMF policies.
Myth 10
More U.S. Aid Will Help the Hungry
Reality: Most U.S. aid works directly against the hungry. Foreign aid can only reinforce, not change, the status quo. Where governments answer only to elites, our aid not only fails to reach hungry people, it shores up the very forces working against them. Our aid is used to impose free trade and free market policies, to promote exports at the expense of food production, and to provide the armaments that repressive governments use to stay in power. Even emergency, or humanitarian aid, which makes up only five percent of the total, often ends up enriching American grain companies while failing to reach the hungry, and it can dangerously undercut local food production in the recipient country. It would be better to use our foreign aid budget for unconditional debt relief, as it is the foreign debt burden that forces most Third World countries to cut back on basic health, education and anti-poverty programs.
Myth 11
We Benefit From Their Poverty
Reality: The biggest threat to the well-being of the vast majority of Americans is not the advancement but the continued deprivation of the hungry. Low wages-both abroad and in inner cities at home-may mean cheaper bananas, shirts, computers and fast food for most Americans, but in other ways we pay heavily for hunger and poverty. Enforced poverty in the Third World jeopardizes U.S. jobs, wages and working conditions as corporations seek cheaper labor abroad. In a global economy, what American workers have achieved in employment, wage levels, and working conditions can be protected only when working people in every country are freed from economic desperation.
Here at home, policies like welfare reform throw more people into the job market than can be absorbed-at below minimum wage levels in the case of 'workfare'-which puts downward pressure on the wages of those on higher rungs of the employment ladder. The growing numbers of 'working poor' are those who have part- or full-time low wage jobs yet cannot afford adequate nutrition or housing for their families. Educating ourselves about the common interests most Americans share with the poor in the Third World and at home allows us to be compassionate without sliding into pity. In working to clear the way for the poor to free themselves from economic oppression, we free ourselves as well.
Myth 12
Curtail Freedom to End Hunger?
Reality: There is no theoretical or practical reason why freedom, taken to mean civil liberties, should be incompatible with ending hunger. Surveying the globe, we see no correlation between hunger and civil liberties. However, one narrow definition of freedom-the right to unlimited accumulation of wealth-producing property and the right to use that property however one sees fit-is in fundamental conflict with ending hunger. By contrast, a definition of freedom more consistent with our nation's dominant founding vision holds that economic security for all is the guarantor of our liberty. Such an understanding of freedom is essential to ending hunger.

Online Source acknowledgment:
12 Myths About Hunger based on World Hunger: 12 Myths, 2nd Edition, by Frances Moore Lappé, Joseph Collins and Peter Rosset, with Luis Esparza (fully revised and updated, Grove/Atlantic and Food First Books, Oct. 1998)
Institute for Food and Development Policy Backgrounder
Summer 1998, Vol.5, No. 3 Copyrights:






The Top 10 Medical Myths

1. Lowering your blood cholesterol levels will prevent heart disease. Science has never been able to link cholesterol with heart disease. Population studies show that many groups with high levels of heart disease don't have high levels of blood fats. Careful examination of the studies supposedly demonstrating that cholesterol-lowering drugs work show they fail to translate into a significant number of lives saved (WDDTY, the book).

2. Screening for cancer can catch it early and save lives. Mammograms, cervical cancer screening and the latest PSA screening have never been shown to save lives. All screening tests are highly inaccurate. The latest study of the PSA test shows screened men are more likely to die (see p 10).

3. The mercury in your fillings is permanently locked in and therefore harmless. Numerous studies in animals and humans demonstrate that mercury particles and vapours are a timed-release poison, which migrate to various parts of the body, including the brain, and cross the placenta in pregnant women. We still don't know the extent of the damage (The Dental Handbook).

4. Fluoridating the water and dental products is good for your teeth and stops tooth decay in children. Rather than strengthening bone tissue, fluoride causes osteoporosis. New evidence shows fluoride can also damage the central nervous system, causing brain dysfunction, lower IQ and possibly even Alzheimer's disease (WDDTY vol 3 no 9 and vol 9 no 3).

5. Vaccination has conquered infectious disease. Careful examination of polio and smallpox casualties shows that the disease had a higher incidence in many areas that were highly vaccinated. The incidence of all infectious diseases were plummeting long before the onset of vaccination, which took the credit (WDDTY, the book).

6. Women need hormone replacement after the menopause to protect them from osteoporosis and heart disease. All the major studies supposedly demonstrating a survival benefit with HRT have been criticised as biased or flawed. Virtually every major study of HRT also shows it causes at least a 30 per cent increase in breast cancer (The Guide to Menopause).

7. Modern drugs have conquered many diseases. The only drug capable of curing anything is antibiotics. No other drug out there cures-it simply suppresses symptoms, usually at the risk of causing a load of other ones (WDDTY, the book).

8. Routine X-rays aren't dangerous. The UK National Academy of Science believes that x-rays could be responsible for 4 per cent of leukaemias and up to 8 per cent of all other cancers (WDDTY vol 4 no 6).

9. Mental health has nothing to do with diet. Work in Princeton and now the UK shows links with schizophrenia and depression and allergies or nutritional deficiencies. Virtually every case of depression seen by the Institute of Optimum Nutrition relates to an allergy to wheat (The Guide to Mental Health).

10. Cancer survival statistics are improving, thanks to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy has an all over cure rate of at best 9 per cent, usually for rare cancers. It doesn't affect in any way the solid tumours which make up some 90 per cent of all cancers (The Cancer Handbook).




Amazing Facts About our Body

50,000 of the cells in your body will die and be replaced with :new cells, all while you have been reading this sentence! :

In one hour, your heart works hard enough to produce the equivalent energy to raise almost 1 ton of weight 1 yard off :the ground. :

Scientists have counted over 500 different liver functions. :

In 1 square inch of skin there lies 4 yards of nerve fibers, 1300 nerve cells, 100 sweat glands, 3 million cells, and 3 yards of blood vessels. :

The structural plan of a whale's, a dog's, a bird's and a man's 'arm' are exactly the same. : :The world's first test-tube twins were born in June 1981. :

There are 45 miles of nerves in the skin of a human being.In a year, a person`s heart beats 40,000,000 times.

:Most people blink about 25 times a minute. :

Each square inch of human skin consists of twenty feet of :blood vessels. : :Nerve impulses to and from the brain travel as fast as 170 :miles per hour.

Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks otherwise it will digest itself.

Your left lung is smaller than your right lung to make room for :your heart.

You use an average of 43 muscles for a frown. You use an average of 17 muscles for a smile.

Every two thousand frowns :creates one wrinkle.

The average human blinks his eyes 6,205,000 times each year. :

The average human produces a quart of saliva a day or 10,000 gallons in a lifetime.

Every person has a unique tongue print.

The average human's heart will beat 3,000 million times in their lifetime. The average human will pump 48 million gallons of blood in :their lifetime. : :You burn 26 calories in a one-minute kiss.

The average human body contains enough: Sulphur to kill all fleas on an average dog, Carbon to make 900 pencils, Potassium to fire :a toy cannon, Fat to make 7 bars of soap, Phosphorus to make :2,200 matchheads, and enough Water to fill a ten-gallon tank.

:Among the first known "dentists" of the world were the Etruscans. :In 700 BC they carved false teeth from the teeth of various :mammals :and produced partial bridgework good enough to eat with.

Ophthalmic surgery was one of the most advanced areas of medicine in the ancient world. Detailed descriptions of delicate cataract surgery with sophisticated needle syringes is contained in the medical writings of Celsus (A.D.14-37)

A sneeze zooms out of your mouth at over 100 m.p.h.

If you were freeze-dried, 10% of your body weight would be from :the microorganisms on your body. According to the World Health Organization, there are :approximately 100 million acts of sexual intercourse each day.

Your ears and nose continue to grow throughout your entire life. :

When you eat meat and drink milk in the same meal, your body does not absorb any of the milk's calcium. It is best to have 2 hours between the milk and meat intake.

Only humans and horses have hymens.

The tooth is the only part of the human body that can't repair itself.

Every human spent about half an hour as a single cell. :

One human brain generates more electrical impulses in a single day than all of the world's telephones put together. THE TYANA TABLOID : 2 APRIL 2000

We have a a whole pharmacy within us. We can create any drug inside us.

Our bodies are recreating themselves constantly - we ,make a skeleton every 3 months, new skin every month. We are capable of reversing the Aging Process!!

(From Deepak Chopra's, Magical Mind Magical Body')



New Studies on Pesticide Residues Alarm Consumers & Farmers

Anti-Pesticide Campaigns Get Boost from Worrisome New Studies

Katherine Stapp 5/14/04

New data proving that an array of pesticides have reached alarming levels in
the general population are galvanising calls for a ban on the most harmful
chemicals and greater investment in sustainable farming strategies.

NEW YORK, May 14 (IPS) - This week, the San Francisco-based Pesticide Action
Network North America (PANNA) released an analysis of data on 34 pesticides
collected from more than 9,000 people by the Centres for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), a U.S. government agency that monitors public health.

Their report found that among people who had both their blood and urine
tested, 100 percent showed pesticide residues. Two insecticides --
chlorpyrifos and methyl parathion -- were found at levels up to 4.5 times
greater than what the U.S. government deems ²acceptable².

Chlorpyrifos, manufactured under the trade name Dursban by Dow Chemical, was
especially pervasive, according to the study, titled ²Chemical Trespass:
Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability².

PANNA estimates that Dow is the source for some 80 percent of the
chlorpyrifos found in those tested.

In fact, Dursban has been controversial for years. In 1999, the CDC
announced that 82 percent of U.S. citizens had the chemical in their bodies.
As a result, Dow agreed to phase out most household uses of Dursban,
although it is still widely sold both in the United States and abroad.

The chemical is used in products ranging from flea collars for pets to
garden and lawn care products. It is also a component in insect control
products, both in agriculture and for household use.

Under a 1994 agreement, Dow also promised to stop advertising its product as
²safe². After the company continued to claim that Dursban had no ²long term
(health) effects² and posed ²no evidence of significant risk to the
environment,² it was slapped with a two-million-dollar fine last December,
the largest of its kind in U.S. history.

PANNA says the company reacted predictably to the most recent study.

²Dow's response has been to say that these pesticides don't last very long
(in human tissue and the environment), but the CDC data directly contradicts
that,² Monica Moore, co-director of PANNA, told IPS. ²This really needs to
be a wake-up call.²

PANNA gained access to CDC data broken down by gender, age and ethnicity,
but not by geographic area or occupation. However, Moore said that the
particularly high pesticide levels seen in Mexican-Americans, for example,
were suggestive of exposure during farm labour.

²What this study shows is that it's not just an individual solution,² she
said. ²We need to adopt sustainable agriculture techniques. Even if you only
eat organic produce, these chemicals are in the air, the water, the stuff
you touch. That's why we're calling for removal of these pesticides from the

The PANNA analysis came on the heels of another study by the Ontario College
of Family Physicians that found linkages between pesticide exposure and a
host of cancers, as well as birth defects and foetal death.

The Canadian researchers sifted through some 12,000 studies conducted from
1990 to 2003 around the world, and concluded that there is no evidence that
some pesticides are less dangerous than others, rather that they have
different effects on health that take different periods to appear.

While women often register higher exposures then men because their body fat
traps the toxins from pesticides, experts note that children are
consistently the most vulnerable group.

In India, a study released by Greenpeace at the end of April titled
²Arrested Development² determined that exposure to even small doses of
pesticides impairs children's analytical abilities, motor skills and memory.

²When we started on this study, we knew we were likely to find unsettling
evidence of children damaged by pesticides,² said Kavitha Kuruganti, lead
investigator of the study, in a statement.

²But the results of a systematic, nationwide study were far more shocking
than we'd expected: 898 children from backgrounds as diverse as Tamil Nadu
and Punjab who have nothing in common but their exposure to pesticides also
share the inability to perform simple play-based exercises -- like catching
a ball or assembling a jigsaw puzzle -- simply because they've been exposed
to pesticides over a period of time,² she said.

Among four- and five-year-olds in the country's pesticide-intensive cotton
belts, the exposed children performed worse than the control group in 86
percent of the tests. Among older children, ages nine to 13, the figure was
84.2 percent.

²North-eastern states like Sikkim and Mizoram have already recognised the
risks of using pesticides and declared themselves 'organic states',² said K.
A. Chandrasekar, director of the Social Initiative for Rural People's
Integration, a local partner in the project.

²This study will show farmers the real price they have been forced to pay
for succumbing to the marketing tactics of pesticides manufacturers.²

On May 17, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
will take effect. It targets an initial 12 chemicals -- known as ²the dirty
dozen² -- for elimination, nine of them pesticides. The accord, just
ratified by the necessary 50 countries, bans the use of POPs, and also
focuses on eliminating obsolete stockpiles of pesticides and toxic chemicals
that contain POPs.

The George W. Bush administration has so far refused to ratify the treaty.

But some anti-pesticide campaigners are not waiting for the federal
government to act. In the western state of California, a coalition of local
organisations, including an indigenous group, has filed a lawsuit against
the state's environmental protection agency for failing to meet goals on
reducing pesticide use and smog-causing pollutants.

Farm workers in Washington state, in the northwest, are suing the federal
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for allowing the use of two toxic
pesticides, azinphos-methyl and phosmet, despite research showing the
dangers of exposure to such chemicals.

Just last week, 13 people working in a California peach orchard were rushed
to the hospital after being exposed to the deadly nerve gas pesticide
Monitor 4 and the pesticide Penncozeb 75 DM, when the wind shifted from a
nearby potato field that was being sprayed.

Activists hope the new PANNA report will galvanise public opinion against
pesticide use the way research documenting the health effects of smoking
turned the tide against cigarette companies in the 1990s.

²The pesticides we carry in our bodies are made and aggressively promoted by
agrochemical companies,² said Skip Spitzer of PANNA. ²These companies also
spend millions on political influence to block or undermine regulatory
measures designed to protect public health and the environment.²



Warning: Food Might Be Addictive

Those who object to comparisons of junk food with tobacco are quick to point
out that smoking tobacco is addictive, while as far as we know, eating junk
food is not. That may no longer be true. A recent study involving brain
scans showed that when people saw and smelled their favorite foods, their
brains lit up in a manner similar to reactions seen in cocaine addicts. When
subjects were presented with foods such as cheeseburgers, pizza, fried
chicken, ice cream, and chocolate cake, brain metabolism increased
significantly in those areas of the brain known to be associated with

"These results could explain the deleterious effects of constant exposure to
food stimuli, such as advertising, candy machines, food channels, and food
displays in stores," said Dr. Gene-Jack Wang, of Brookhaven National
Laboratory, who led the study. He added: "The high sensitivity of this brain
region to food stimuli, coupled with the huge number and variety of these
stimuli in the environment, likely contributes to the obesity epidemic."

Meanwhile, officials at the Food and Drug Administration are considering
placing warning labels on packages of unhealthy foods. According to an
interview in the Boston Globe, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug
Administration, Lester M. Crawford, said that food labels could be
transformed ''from providing information into providing warnings." The bold
idea is still only under discussion among high-level government officials.
Any warning label on food would be less harsh than those on cigarette packs.
''We could consider saying, 'If you indulge in this, there may be health
consequences,"' Crawford said.

Any such effort could take years to enact, especially given the loud
opposition the idea is likely to garner from industry. But someday, we may
find out that warning labels on food are just about as effective as they are
on cigarettes.

Sources: Reuters, 04/20/04
Boston Globe, 04/23/04


India Becoming a Dumping Ground for GE Crops

India becoming a GM-trashbin
By Devinder Sharma
Apr 12, 2004

As the world wakes up to human health and environment nuisance from the
genetically modified (GM) crops, India is fast turning into a dustbin for
the new technology.

In March, Western Australia became the first Australian state to ban
outright planting of GM food crops. Its Premier, Geoff Gallop, said he did
not want to jeopardise his state¹s canola industry at a time when
international consumer sentiment was opposed to GM crops. Within a few days
of this decision, Victoria imposed a four year moratorium on the cultivation
of GM oilseeds rape to ³protect its clean and green² image. South Australia
and Tasmania have already banned GM crops. Four states imposed a moratorium
on growing GM crops in a space of five days.

In the United States, Mendocino county in California became the nation¹s
first to ban the raising and keeping of genetically engineered crops or
animals. In March, the hilly state of Vermont, in a historic decision, voted
overwhelmingly to support a bill to hold biotech corporations liable for
unintended contamination of conventional or organic crops by genetically
engineered plant materials. This bill is the first of its kind in the world
that aims to protect a farmer from being sued by the seed companies if his
crops are contaminated with GMO material.

In Britain, the dramatic turnaround by Bayer Crop Science to give up
attempts to commercialize GM maize, have ensured that the country remains GM
free till at least 2008. Despite Tony Blair¹s blind love for the industry,
tough GM regulatory regime came in the way of the adoption of the
technology. In Japan, consumer groups announced their intention to present a
petition signed by over 1,000,000 people to Agriculture and Agri-Food
Minister, Bob Speller. The petition calls for a ban on GE wheat in Canada.
Japan is one of the biggest markets for Canadian wheat.

In April, however, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in
India approved another Bt cotton variety for the central and southern
regions amidst reports that the go ahead came without adequate scientific
testing. The approval also comes at a time when the US Department of
Agriculture¹s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is seeking
public comment on petitions from Mycogen Seeds to deregulate two lines of
genetically engineered insect-resistant cotton. APHIS is seeking public
comment on whether these cotton lines pose a plant pest risk.

Such has been the casual approach to regulate the most-controversial
technology that it has become practically difficult to keep track of the new
GEAC chief. They keep on changing at a pace faster than that expected from
musical chairs. At the same time, while Britain had set in place a tougher
regulatory regime making the companies liable for any environmental mishap,
India continues to ignore the warning. The regulations that the GEAC had
announced at the time of according approval to Bt cotton in 2002 were only
aimed at pacifying the media. The GEAC has not been held accountable for the
deliberate attempts to obfuscate the public opinion in an effort to help the
seed industry make a fast buck.

It is a widely accepted fact that the safety regulations, including the
mandatory buffer zone or refuge around the Bt cotton fields, were not
adhered to. Yet the Ministry of Environment and Forests refrained from
penalizing the seed company. Nor did it direct Mahyco-Monsanto to compensate
crop losses that the farmers suffered in the very first year of planting Bt
cotton in 2002-03. That the crop had failed to yield the desired results was
even highlighted in a parliamentary committee report.

Not all GM decisions are taken in accordance with scientific principles.
While a NGO petition before the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) seeking
an enquiry into the entire monitoring, evaluation and approval process was
ignored, the US authorities have launched an investigation into reports of
alleged bribing of Indonesian government officials who approved Bt cotton.
Both the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission
are examining whether a former consultant to Monsanto made an improper US $
50,000 payment in early 2002.

Monsanto spokeswoman Lori Fisher was quoted as saying: ³These are serious
allegations and we will continue to cooperate.² Reuter reports that the
company is one of the world¹s leading developers of genetically modified
seeds, but has had trouble getting some of its biotech crops approved in
foreign countries, including a biotech cotton introduced in Indonesia in
2001. Monsanto closed down the biotech cotton sales operations in 2003 after
two unsuccessful years that came amid complaints over yields and pricing.

India has meanwhile become a favored destination for the biotechnology
industry that is virtually on the run from the US, European Union and
Australia. In Europe, a 2002 survey showed 61 per cent of the private sector
cancelled R&D as a result of moratorium actions. With highly critical
reports of regulatory mechanism coming in from respectable independent
institutions, the trend in US is also towards still more tougher regulations
thereby forcing biotechnology companies to grow the next generation of GM
crops in abandoned mines, using artificial lighting and air filtration to
prevent pollen movement.

In India on the other hand, besides cotton, genetic engineering experiments
are being conducted on maize, mustard, sugarcane, sorghum, pigeonpea,
chickpea, rice, tomato, brinjal, potato, banana, papaya, cauliflower,
oilseeds, castor, soyabean and medicinal plants. Experiments are also
underway on several species of fish. In fact, such is the desperation that
scientists are trying to insert Bt gene into any crop they can lay their
hands on, not knowing whether this is desirable or not. The mad race for GM
experiments is the outcome of more funding from the biotech companies as
well as support from the World Bank, FAO and the Consultative Group on
International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Interestingly, while the rest of the world is stopping GM research in the
tracks lest it destroys the farm trade opportunities due to public rejection
of the genetically engineered food, Indian Council for Agricultural Research
(ICAR) merrily continues to sow the seeds of thorns for agricultural exports
thereby jeopardizing the future of domestic farming. But then, who cares for
the farmers as long as GM research ensures the livelihood security for a few
thousand agricultural scientists.

(Devinder Sharma is a New Delhi-based food and trade policy analyst)


More news next week!