Australia: Bill Gates funded insanity set to impose inefficient & hazardous GM bananas on India Print E-mail

Z SPACE  Saturday, April 27, 2013

We Don’t Need Genetically Engineered Bananas For Iron Deficiency

By Vandana Shiva

The latest insanity from the genetic engineers is to push GMO bananas on India for reducing iron deficiency in Indian women.

Nature has given us a cornucopia of biodiversity, rich in nutrients. Malnutrition and nutrient deficiency results from destroying biodiversity, and with it rich sources of nutrition.

The Green Revolution has spread monocultures of chemical rice and wheat, driving out biodiversity from our farms and diets.

And what survived as spontaneous crops like the amaranth greens and chenopodium (bathua) which are rich in iron were sprayed with poisons and herbicides. Instead of being seen as iron rich and vitamin rich gifts, they were treated as “weeds”. A Monsanto representative once said that Genetically Engineered crops resistant to their propriety herbicide Roundup killed the weeds that “steal the Sunshine”. And their RoundUp Ads in India tell women “Liberate yourself, use Roundup”. This is not a recipe for liberation, but being trapped in malnutrition.

As the “Monoculture of the Mind” took over, biodiversity disappeared from our farms and our food. The destruction of biodiverse rich cultivation and diets has given us the malnutrition crisis, with 75% women now suffering from iron deficiency.

Our indigenous biodiversity offers rich sources of iron. Amaranth has 11.0 mg per 100gm of food, buckwheat has 15.5,neem has 25.3,bajra has 8.0,rice bran 35.0,rice flakes 20.0bengal gram roasted 9.5,Bengal gram leaves 23.8 ,cowpea 8.6,horse gram6.77, amaranth greens have upto 38.5,karonda 39.1,lotus stem 60.6, coconut meal 69.4,niger seeds 56.7,cloves 11.7,cumin seeds 11.7.mace 12.3,mango powder (amchur) 45.2,pippali 62.1,poppy seeds 15.9,tamarind pulp 17.0,turmeric 67.8, raisins 7.7……..

The knowledge of growing this diversity and transforming it to food is women’s knowledge. That is why in Navdanya we have created the network for food sovereignty in women’s hands - Mahila Anna Swaraj.

The solution to malnutrition lies in growing nutrition, and growing nutrition means growing biodiversity, it means recognizing the knowledge of biodiversity and nutrition among millions of Indian women who have received it over generations as “Grandmothers Knowledge”. For removing iron deficiency, iron rich plants should be grown everywhere, on farms, in kitchen gardens, in community gardens, in school gardens, on roof tops, in balconies….Iron deficiency was not created by Nature. And we can get rid of it by becoming co-creators and co-producers with Nature.

But there is a “creation myth” that is blind to nature’s creativity and biodiversity, and to the creativity, intelligence and knowledge of women. According to this “creation myth” of capitalist patriarchy, rich and powerful men are the “creators”. They can own life through patents and intellectual property. They can tinker with nature’s complex evolution over millennia, and claim their trivial yet destructive acts of gene manipulation “create” life, “create” food, “create” nutrition. In the case of GM bananas it is one rich man, Bill Gates, financing one Australian scientist, Dale, who knows one crop, the banana, to impose inefficient and hazardous GM bananas on millions of people in India and Uganda who have grown hundreds of banana varieties over thousands of years in addition to thousands of other crops.

The project is a waste of money, and a waste of time. It will take 10 years and millions of dollars to complete the research. But meantime, governments, research agencies, scientists will become blind to biodiversity based, low cost, safe, time tested, democratic alternatives in the hands of women.

Bananas only have 0.44mg of iron per 100 grams of edible portion. All the effort to increase iron content of bananas will fall short of the iron content of our indigenous biodiversity.

Not only is the GM banana not the best choice for providing iron in our diet, it will further threaten biodiversity of bananas and iron rich crops, and introduce new ecological risks.

First, the GM banana, if adopted, will be grown as large monocultures, like GM Bt cotton, and the banana plantations in the banana republics of Central America. Since government and Aid agencies will push this false solution, as has happened with every “miracle” in agriculture, our biodiversity of iron rich foods will disappear.

The idea of “nutrient farming” of a few nutrients in monocultures of a few crops has already started to be pushed at the policy level. The finance Minister announced an Rs 200 crore project for “nutri farms” in his 2013 budget speech.

Humans need a biodiversity of nutrients including a full range of micronutrients and trace elements. These come from healthy soils and biodiversity.

Second, our native banana varieties will be displaced, and contaminated. These include Nedunendran, Zanzibar, Chengalikodan, Manjeri Nendran II

Table varieties
Monsmarie, Robusta, Grand Naine, Dwarf Cavendish, Chenkadali, Poovan, Palayankodan,Njalipoovan, Amritsagar, Grosmichel, Karpooravalli, Poomkalli, Koompillakannan, Chinali, Dudhsagar, Poovan, Red banana

Culinary varieties

Monthan, Batheea Kanchikela Nendrapadathy
Njalipoovan, Palayankodan, Robusta.


There is a perverse urge among the biotechnology brigade to declare war against biodiversity in its centre of origin. An attempt was made to introduce Bt brinjal into India which is the centre of diversity for Brinjal. GM corn is being introduced in Mexico, the centre of diversity of corn. The GM banana is being introduced to the two countries where banana is a significant crop and has large diversity. One is India, the other is Uganda, the only country where banana is a staple.

Fourth, as recognized by Harvest Plus, the corporate alliance pushing Biofortification, there could be insurmountable problems with the biofortification of nutrients in foods as they: “... may deliver toxic amounts of nutrients to an individual and also cause its associated side effects (and) the potential that the fortified products will still not be a solution to nutrient deficiencies amongst low income populations who may not be able to afford the new product and children who may not be able to consume adequate amounts." (Food Biofortification: no answer to ill-health, starvation or malnutrition By Bob Phelps - see HERE or scroll down to read)

Fifth, Australian scientists are using a virus that infects the banana as a promoter. This could spread through horizontal gene transfer. All genetic engineering uses genes from bacteria and viruses. Independent studies have shown that there are health risks associated with GM foods.

There is no need for introducing a hazardous technology in a low iron food like bananas (which brings us many other health benefits )when we have so many affordable, accessible, safe and diverse options for meeting our nutritional needs of iron.

We have to grow nutrition by growing biodiversity, not industrially “fortify” nutritionally empty food at high cost, or put one or two nutrients into genetically engineered crops.

We don’t need these irresponsible experiments, that create new threats to biodiversity and our health, imposed by powerful men in distant places, who are totally ignorant of the biodiversity in our fields and thalis, and who never bear the consequences of their destructive power. We need to put food security in women’s hands so that the last woman and the last child can share in nature’s gifts of biodiversity.
Monday April 22, 2013

Are we ready for genetically-modified bananas via Australia?


By Shalini Bhutani
Even before the debate on the safety regime on genetically modified (GM) food crops has been settled in India, there are now new challenges with GM fruit in the pipeline. This time it is with the banana, supposedly modified at the genetic level in the laboratories of Australia being shipped to India. But this is not simply about an Oz connection.
The Australian Queensland University of Technology (QUT) signed a deal with the Government of India's Department of Biotechnology in August 2012 which is to run for six years. Professor James Dale,  Director of Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, heads the project at QUT.

As per the planned first phase of the project, which is in the news now, the technology is being transferred from Australia to the five Indian partner institutes. The first being the National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute based in Mohali, Punjab.

Then the National Research Centre for Bananas of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research at Tiruchirappalli. Ironically NRCB has one of the Asia’s largest field genebanks with 340 indigenous accessions of banana. The Indian Institute of Horticultural Research near Bangalore. Also, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Trombay, Mumbai and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University's Centre for Plant Molecular Biology & Biotechnology, Coimbatore.

In stage two the training of Indian scientists will be undertaken. As per previous media reports India's Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) will provide US$1.44 million towards the QUT component of the project and Rs 80 million (US$1.43 million) towards the cost of the Indian component. The priority areas (2012-2013) for the Oz-India biotech R&D include 'Biotechnological Interventions for improved agricultural productivity'.

Collaborative research
Support for biotech R&D is provided under Indo-Australian Fund for S&T Cooperation in Biotechnology (Indo-Australian Biotechnology Fund) for bilateral collaborative research projects and workshops involving Indian and Australian partners. This has been an  on going programme since 2006.

That was also the year in which both countries signed a Trade and Economic Framework (TEF). The TEF institutionalises government-to-government collaboration in a range of activities including biotechnology. A specific MoU for a Joint Biotechnology Committee (led by Australia’s Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research and India’s DBT) was also signed in 2006.

In December 2011, the biotech industry propaganda body – ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications) reported that a USD 7.07 million grant was given by the United States Agency for International Development to Cornell University for research on the Matoke banana. The grant is managed by the Agricultural Biotechnology Research Project (ABSP II) in Cornell.

The project is to run from August 2011 to August 2016. It is focused on the Matoke – a GM East African Highland (EAH) banana, which is one of Uganda's primary food staples, apparently feeding more than half of the population. Aside from its good nutritional value, it is also a source of income for most Ugandan farmers.

In 2009 at the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy the US President Obama had announced a US Government initiative Feed the Future (FTF). This is led by USAID. The ABSP II Banana project is part of FTF Uganda and very much part of US facilitated Ugandan government plans for the implementation of the multilateral Uganda Nutrition Action Plan (UNAP).

Through the GM banana project, ABSP II also aims to build the biotech capacity of Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organisation. The Government of India is also keen to embrace modern biotechnology in its mission towards food security. Thus crops and fruits 'bio-fortified' technologically and not naturally seem to be on its menu of things.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has been supporting Professor Dale and his team at QUT since 2005. This is part of BMGF's Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) part of the CGIAR and headquartered in Nigeria held the first Pan-African Banana Conference in 2008. Its main aim was to develop a 10-year R&D strategy to boost the banana industry. The said Conference was also funded by BMGF.

Just as USAID provides support for the GM Bt Brinjal R&D in India, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Likewise, it is doing so for GM Bananas in Africa, which are then also to be used in India. The Australian GM bananas sure have a strong US flavour.

(The writer has been working on issues of biosafety in agriculture)

 September 12th, 2012

Food Biofortification: no answer to ill-health, starvation or malnutrition

By Gene Ethics founder and director Bob Phelps

The United Nations and its Special Rapporteur on Food, Olivier de Schutter, assert the universal human right to nourishing foods so everyone can be healthy and achieve our full potential. But micronutrient malnutrition - hidden hunger - and starvation afflict at least a billion members of the human family, through a lack of micronutrients and access to affordable food.

In 1992, 159 countries at an FAO/WHO International Conference on Nutrition pledged to help combat micronutrient deficiencies, especially of iodine, vitamin A, and iron, which then afflicted up to 1 in 3 people world-wide. Though food fortification alone would not end nutrient deficiencies and hunger, it claimed to be a step in the right direction. So a lot of scarce R&D resources have been poured into developing the new technology of biofortification. There are no biofortified foods yet.

Biofortification uses genetic manipulation techniques to cut and paste a gene into a staple crop with the intention that it will make a new or lost micronutrient. It is claimed they will be a solution to nutrient deficiencies, starvation, malnutrition and resultant ill-health, especially in less industrialized countries and regions. For instance, so-called Golden Rice (yellow because it contains beta-carotene) aims to restore Vitamin A to polished rice that has lost the nutrient. Bananas, cassava and sweet potato are also the targets of biofortification research.

But leading global food biofortification R&D organisation, HarvestPlus, also correctly says: "Fruits, vegetables, and animal products are rich in micronutrients, but these foods are often not available to the poor. Their daily diet consists mostly of a few inexpensive staple foods, such as rice or cassava, which have few micronutrients. The consequences, in terms of malnutrition and health, are devastating and can result in blindness, stunting, disease, and even death." So, malnutrition and starvation are really problems of poverty, inequity and social injustice.

The challenge to feed everyone well is much more than adding one or two key nutrients to an impoverished diet dominated by a staple food or two. Yet HarvestPlus and other biofortification enthusiasts such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation do not intend to redress the lack of access to diverse healthy foods for all. They merely propose to add one or two micronutrients to fortify the same few staple foods that most poor people now have to rely on. Biofortification is not a solution to the core problem of access to a good diverse, balanced diet, a human right which would satisfy the health entitlements of all people, everywhere.

Instead of fixing the hidden hunger problem, biofortification defuses and delays the quest for food justice, to meet everyone's right to food. It would further marginalise the world's poor, malnourished and starving people, mostly landless women and children in rural areas or those displaced into urban slums by destruction of their communities. Biofortification would consign poor people permanently to low value, nutrient deficient, staple food ghettos from which they could not escape, permanently denying them the diverse nutritious meals to which they have a right.

Wikipedia notes there could be insurmountable problems with the fortification of nutrients in foods as they: "Š may deliver toxic amounts of nutrients to an individual and also cause its associated side effects (and) the potential that the fortified products will still not be a solution to nutrient deficiencies amongst low income populations who may not be able to afford the new product and children who may not be able to consume adequate amounts."

Biofortication is, thus, a misallocation of scarce research and development resources that would entrench poor people's lack of access to the balanced nutritious food of which there is an abundance, if only it were fairly distributed to all. But in food systems dominated by global trade in bulk commodities and waste, food goes where it is most profitable rather than where it is most needed. We must work to dispel the inequities which allow nutrient deficiency to remain a chronic problem even though, as de Schutter and others confirm, there is sufficient good food to adequately feed everyone in the world right now.

Thus, biofortified food staples will not ensure people's health is improved, nor that their human rights to food are met. Public resources should be directed to helping empower malnourished and starving people to gain access to the land, water and seeds they need to locally produce the fresh fruits and vegetables that all agree will solve the problem of hidden hunger, starvation and illness.

It's our responsibility to ensure that every child, woman and man has access to the fresh fruits and vegetables needed for childhood growth and development, and adult health.

Bob Phelps is founder and director of Gene Ethics, a public interest advocate for GM-free futures.


 March 27, 2013

Scientists Engineer Genetically Modified Bananas Despite Hundreds of Studies on Their Adverse Impacts

Under the guise of making Indians "super healthy" and preventing iron deficiencies, Indian researchers are preparing to produce genetically-modified (GM) bananas despite hundreds of published scientific papers on the adverse impacts of transgenic foods.

Australian scientists have shared the technology with Indian scientists and farmers they say to help address widespread anemia in the country.

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) signed an agreement with India's department of biotechnology to invest in a four-year project to develop the iron-rich bananas.

Australia will now hand over the genes to the experts from five Indian institutes for injecting them into the local bananas.

Professor James Dale says the research is an extension of a far north Queensland program backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Dale and his team had earlier experimented with genetically-modified bananas in Uganda. The banana fortification project in Uganda, he said, was in development stage and would take around six years to come to market. They have also developed the genetically modified bananas in Australia.

The Coalition for a GM-Free India, and informal network of scores of organizations and individuals from across India, campaigning and advocating to keep India GM-Free, has voiced strong concerns for GM technology and has released a compilation of scientific papers titled "ADVERSE IMPACTS OF TRANSGENIC CROPS/FOODS: A Compilation of Scientific References and Abstracts" which showcases the mounting evidence on the adverse impacts of transgenic crops and foods on various fronts.

“While the government does not hesitate to announce even on the floor of the Parliament that there are no adverse impacts from transgenic crops/foods, with this compilation that we are releasing today, we hope that fooling of the public by the proponents would stop. This is by no means an exhaustive compilation but only illustrative”, said the Coalition in a statement accompanying the release of this compilation.

“The implications of this living, irreversible technology have to be understood on different fronts (as much as possible, because there is still a severe dearth of research, that too on long term implications and from independent sources) by policy makers and citizens before GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) are released into the environment, particularly on a large scale”.

“The debate on GM crops is always peppered with statements that opposition to GM crops stems out of “misguided emotion” or “ignorance” and that there is no “scientific evidence” for the negative effects of the technology. But the reality is that there is significant amount of scientific evidence that shows the problems with GM crops.

Several studies also point out to the need for further, detailed investigations. It is ironical that the scientists promoting GMOs in India do not want to look at such research and deliberately try to avoid discussions on scientific footing. They should understand that they would drive the nation into a deep and irreversible crisis related to food and farming if they continue this blinkered approach. At this juncture we would also like to reiterate that 150 scientists of repute had recently sent a letter to the Minister for Environment & Forests that GM crops have no connection to food security.

“However, we would like to reiterate, as we have always done, that GM crops are not about technical issues alone. It is a much broader and deeper issue which the industry and GM proponents want to circumscribe in the name of science. In that context we want to showcase that there is enough evidence against this technology even on that front”, said a statement of the Coalition.

We would like to point out, “these studies exist despite vehement opposition to independent research (not allowing access to GM seed, not allowing publication of adverse results, attacking unfavourable papers) on GM crops due to intellectual property right barriers, opposition from the companies that own the technology and merciless attacks on, vilification of and threats to independent scientists who have found negative impacts of this technology. This effectively means that if free and independent research were allowed on GM crops many more such studies will come to light, said Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convener of the Coalition for a GM-Free India.


Dave Mihalovic is a Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in vaccine research, cancer prevention and a natural approach to treatment.