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Millennium Post

Playing games of distortion

The global lobbyist for genetically modified (GM) crops, ISAAA, has now shifted its focus from advocacy for transgenic crops to the geopolitics of re-drawing political boundaries of countries.
In its recent document, ISAAA Brief 44: Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops – 2012, it has boldly displayed a map of India gifting to Pakistan and China parts of an Indian province, Jammu and Kashmir.

It is true that parts of Indian territories are under forceful occupation by Pakistan and China. India has not accepted the illegal occupation by re-drawing international boundary. Talks are in progress for settling India’s border disputes between Pakistan and China. A resolution passed by the Indian Parliament confirms and asserts the original boundary of the country.

But ISAAA without waiting with patience for the final outcome of the border talks preferred to publish maps of India, which are officially incorrect in this country. On page 61 of ISAAA Brief 44: Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops – 2012, a map of India has been displayed slicing the Indian province, Jammu and Kashmir. Again on page 83, similar position is taken where India’s map is juxtaposed with that of China. Further on page 109, Pakistan’s map is shown with its international boundary extending deep into the Indian territory.

This attitude of ISAAA makes one to think whether the organisation is an advocacy group for the promotion of GM crops on basis of scientific evidence (as it claims to be), or is it a frontal organisation for playing a critical role in the global geopolitics by re-drawing political boundaries of countries.

It is unfortunate that the Government of India has not yet reacted to the nefarious activities of ISAAA even as ministers and senior officials in the Indian bureaucracy are in constant touch with this global lobbyist for GM crops. Former Chairman of the Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board (ASRB) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), CD Mayee is taken on the ISAAA Board of Directors due to his contribution in promoting Bt cotton in India.

ISAAA pushed hard for commercialisation of Bt cotton in India and the resultant crop failures at places increased the incidences of farmers’ suicides. However, as a matter of precaution, India has not ventured to further approve any GM crop for commercial cultivation.

The ISAAA South Asia Office operates in India through ICRISAT offices in Hyderabad and Delhi.
ISAAA has listed several US multinational companies such as Monsanto as its donors and is at the forefront of promoting the products of these multinational seed companies while ignoring the genuine interests of small and marginal farmers. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also appear in the list of donors.
The global lobbyist is now aggrieved with India for keeping on hold the approval of Bt brinjal (eggplant) for commercial cultivation. The regulator in India, GEAC, had approved Bt brinjal for commercial cultivation, but the then the Indian union minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, put his foot down after a series of public hearing across the country which brought to light the health and environmental hazards of this genetically modified crop.
The Supreme Court of India is deliberating on a public interest litigation calling for a ban on the open field trials of GM crops.

After being aggrieved with India, the ISAAA shifted its focus on Pakistan, which has recently allowed commercialisation of Bt cotton. It has devoted 12 pages lauding Pakistan’s ‘success’ of Bt cotton. It seems that behind the ISAAA pronouncement of promotion of GM crops on basis scientific evidence, is its political and geopolitical agenda. Words like ‘political support’ and ‘political will of the government’ appear at many places in the report. It is evident that ISAAA wants the national governments to forcibly introduce GM crops against the willingness of the people and farmers. It wants a world of GM crops so that the GM crops produced by US, particularly corn can be exported freely without hassle. Many countries including those in Europe have not allowed GM crops on account of its conceived health and environmental hazards.

‘Any hesitation on our part to prevent the further development of this technology on unfounded apprehension would not only demoralise our scientific community but also render meaningless the progress made by us so far and increase our future dependence on other countries where research in transgenic is being given more and more importance,’ the quote attributed to Sharad Pawar said.
ISAAA role in the geo-politics of GM crops is quite evident from its praise of the Consejo Agropecuario del Sur (CAS) – Souther Agricultural Council, which met in Santiago in Chile in 21-22 October 2010, and issued a statement endorsing development of GM crops. CAS is a regional government network of the Ministers of Agriculture of the Southern Cone countries of Latin America, which include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Due to stiff consumer resistance in the European Union, fresh introduction of GM crops has not been possible.
But it seems that ISAAA has not given up its efforts in playing an active role in the geo-politics of GM crops even as fresh evidences of health and environmental hazards of the transgenic crops are coming to light.
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