Report on Bt brinjal’s commercial use plagiarized

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A charge of plagiarism has been leveled by an anti GM crop advocacy group against a high profile report from the six leading science academies of India which declared Bt brinjal as being safe.

The report prepared by the heads of some of the top Indian institutions has it seems lifted material almost verbatim from a biotechnology advocacy newsletter without proper acknowledgement.

Read the whole story: NDTV, India Today, Mint

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Six top science bodies’ verdict: Bt brinjal safe

Six premier Indian science academies, given the task of evaluating Bt brinjal by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, have declared it safe, but their findings also say all genetically modified (GM) items pose a risk if the science behind them is flawed. The academies, as part of their mandate, have made key recommendations, including allowing the use of GM crops to meet growing food demands.

However, they said, India’s food security is “too critical an area” to be left entirely to the private sector. Therefore, public sector organisations should be the main facilitators of GM technologies.

The launch of Bt brinjal, India’s first GM food crop, was aborted in February after a safety debate broke out. While putting a moratorium on the genetically-engineered eggplant, the world’s first, Ramesh had said a decision to release it would have to be “responsible to both science and society”.

Ramesh had then appointed the academies to scrutinise Bt brinjal and give a rigorous opinion on GM crops.

K. Kasturirangan, Planning Commission member heading farm research, was asked to steer the project involving Bangalore-based Indian Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medical Sciences, Indian National Academy of Engineering, Indian National Science Academy and National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, all New Delhi-based, and Allahabad-based National Academy of Sciences.

In GM crops, the genetic material (DNA) is altered to improve its qualities. Bt Brinjal, for instance, has been inserted with a bacterial protein so that it resists pests.

The academies, which have submitted their findings to the government, found no evidence that the protein used in creating Bt brinjal, Cry1Ac, is unsafe. “The same Bt protein present in another food crop has been consumed elsewhere in the world with no evidence of any scientifically established negative effect,” the report, reviewed by HT, states.

Some people can still be allergic to Bt brinjal, the findings say, just as some people develop allergies to common foods such as milk or nuts. So, no food can be declared 100 per cent safe for all from this viewpoint.

Read the whole story:  Hindustan Times

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Researchers develop protein-packed potato in India

Researchers in India have developed a genetically modified potato that is packed with up to 60 percent more protein and increased levels of amino acids.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Tuesday, the scientists expressed hope that the transgenic potato would find more acceptance because it uses a gene from the amaranth seed, another edible crop.

"Because potato constitutes an important part of the diet of many people in developed as well as developing countries, it is apparent that this can add value to potato-based products with enhanced benefits for better human health," they wrote.

Amaranth is a tall, broadleaf plant that produces tiny seeds. It was a major food of the Aztecs and earlier American cultures, and started to be grown as a grain crop in the United States in the late 1970s.

One of its genes, Amaranth Albumin 1 (AmA1), is regarded as agriculturally important because it endows the plant and its seeds with high protein levels and higher concentrations of several essential amino acids.

Led by Subhra Chakraborty at the National Institute of Plant Genome Research in New Delhi, the scientists inserted the gene into seven types of potatoes and then grew the transgenic potatoes over two years.

They found that the transgenic potatoes contain between 35 and 60 percent more protein than unmodified potatoes. They also contain increased levels of amino acids, notably lysine, tyrosine and sulphur, which are usually limited in potatoes.

Read the whole story: REUTERS

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Govt hikes onion MEP for Sept again by $75/tonne

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Barely less than two weeks since the minimum export price (MEP) of onion was revised upward, the government further hiked the price for exporting the commodity by USD 75 to USD 350 a tonne for the current-month to boost domestic availability and curb price rise. Early this month, the government had raised onion MEP for September by USD 55 to USD 275 a tonne from the last month.

"As prices of onion in the wholesale markets are rising, it was decided to further hike the export price of the commodity to ensure domestic supply increases and prices come down," a senior Agriculture Ministry official, who looks into horticultural crops, told PTI. The wholesale prices at Lasalgaon in Maharashtra, which is Asia''s biggest onion market, have risen sharply by 48 per cent in just one month. Onion prices have gone up to Rs 1,373 per quintal today from Rs 925 per quintal the same period last month, according to the official data.

The current demand is being fulfilled with onion stock stored in the cold chains. As a result, prices have hardened because fresh crop is expected to arrive only after November, the official said, adding that the priority is to ensure enough supply in the domestic market.

In Maharashtra, about 13-14 lakhs tonnes of onions are stored in cold chains, of which 40-50 per cent of the stock is sold and the rest will be available till October-end, according to the National Horticulture Research and Development Foundation. An onion trader said that higher MEP would further slow down onion exports, which have declined for the fifth consecutive month in August.

The country''s onion exports fell by 53 per cent to 87,428 tonnes in August, from 1,86,144 tonnes in the same period last year, according to onion export regulator Nafed. Agri-cooperative major Nafed, along with 13 other agencies involved in onion export, regulates exports by fixing the MEP every month.

No export can take place below the MEP and all contracts are registered with the Nafed.

Source: Business Line

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