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Cover Letter:

31 December 2018

THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE

 

Dear Friends and Colleagues

India’s Swaminathan Criticises GM Crops as Highly Unsustainable

M.S. Swaminathan is known as the "Father of the Green Revolution in India". Although the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation has promoted GM crops since the early 2000s, in a newly published peer-reviewed paper he co-authored with P.C. Kesavan, Swaminathan criticises GM crops as unsustainable and questions their safety and regulation.

The authors state that none of the new agricultural technologies, including the Green Revolution, has been truly sustainable largely because of their adverse environmental and social impacts. They conclude that Bt and herbicide-tolerant crops are highly unsustainable. The authors state that Bt cotton has failed in India as a sustainable agriculture technology, failing to provide livelihood security for poor cotton farmers.

The authors draw attention to the "rising health concerns associated with Bt-crops", as well as evidence pointing to the conclusion that "Bt toxins are toxic to all the organisms, including mammals". They state that the Indian government was right to place a moratorium on Bt brinjal (eggplant) and call for a ban on Bt crops (except Bt cotton) in the country.

The paper is highly critical of India's GMO regulators for endemic conflicts of interest, lack of expertise in GMO risk assessment protocols, including food safety assessment, the assessment of their environmental impacts, the lack of ‘need’ for expensive transgenic technology, and the lack of a socio-economic assessment of their farming impacts on small farmers.

The authors call for independent, rigorous oversight of GM crops, without any conflict of interest; persons of proven competence in genetic toxicology and safety analyses, able economists who will prioritize rural livelihoods and the interests of resource-poor small and marginal farmers rather than serve corporate interests and their profits; and ecologists of high competence and dedication to biodiversity conservation.  They stress that scientific integrity and social responsibility are not negotiable.

The paper has sparked furious pushback from some Indian scientists. In response (see https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/12/under-fire-gm-crops-article-iconic-indian-scientist-clarifies-his-views), Swaminathan says what he wants readers to focus on is that scientists should think critically about new technologies and how their deployment will affect users. “The bottom line is the welfare of the farmers and the welfare of the consumers,” he says.

With best wishes,

Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
10400 Penang
Malaysia
Email: twn@twnetwork.org
Websites: http://www.twn.my/and http://www.biosafety-info.net/
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