Environmentalist Petitions India’s Court for GMO Moratorium

GMO India: Supporters of Janata Dal (United) or JD(U), protest against genetically modified mustard outside the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. The ministry had earlier made public an all clear report given to genetically modified mustard by a technical body which also said that it was fit for consumption. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)
Supporters of Janata Dal (United) or JD(U), protest against genetically modified mustard outside the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. The ministry had earlier made public an all clear report given to genetically modified mustard by a technical body which also said that it was fit for consumption. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)
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Saving Seeds

By Sanjay Acharya (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Sanjay Acharya (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
One of the big reasons that might cause one to distrust the large seed companies and their motives (Monsanto, Syngenta, etc.) is the fact that their product can only be used for one generation. I had in my head a picture of the farmer very carefully setting aside some of the seed for planting the following year. While this may have been the case in the distant past this is no longer the case. For the most part (according to Amada at thefarmersdaughter.com) farmers have no desire to go through the motions of collecting, cleaning, and packaging seed for subsequent years. Evidently this practice was discontinued with the advent of hybrid varieties in the 1930s. Here’s a great video about hybrids and how they relate to seed.

Cry Foul

Therefore, the fact that a layman might be crying foul over this practice (of allowing a farmer to use seed for only one season) may actually be a non-issue. It was a hot-button for me, but now no longer thanks to Amanda. If anyone has access to statistics regarding the practice of saving seed, please leave a comment. Here is an article that mentions some resources for those who still want to save seed (seed exchanges, seed swaps). This is obviously directed more toward the small/niche farmer and heirloom crop varieties. See our post about the ‘Seed’ movie which is presently screening for a competing view here.

Seed, the Movie

SEED: The Untold Story (Official Theatrical Trailer) from Collective Eye Films on Vimeo.

 Few things on Earth are as miraculous and vital as seeds. Worshipped and treasured since the dawn of humankind, these subtle flecks of life are the source of all existence. Like tiny time capsules, they contain the songs, sustenance, memories, and medicines of entire cultures. They feed us, clothe us, and provide the raw materials for our everyday lives. In a very real sense, they are life itself.

SCREENINGS

Desi Seeds
Compete with Monsanto

Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.
Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.

In this IndiaTimes article, Madhvi Sally reports that India is preparing to release an indigenous GM cotton. The new variety reportedly does not infringe on Monsanto’s intellectual property rights and should produce a better yield than that previously used. The key genetic trait is the time it takes from planting to harvest. This strain reduces that time by about a third, reducing the chance for pests to ruin the crop (late season pink bollworm infestation).

Monsanto Withdraws
Cotton Seed from India

Cotton plant, Texas, 1996. Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. ==Source== http://photogallery.nrcs.usda.gov/Index.asp
Cotton plant, Texas, 1996. Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

In this Bloomberg piece, Lydia Mulvany reports that the world’s largest seed seller, Monsanto, has pulled the regulatory application for GM cotton seeds in India. That government has been debating with the agri-giant over royalty fees for their product, known as Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex. Monsanto sells seed in India through a third party, which licenses the technology from Monsanto and collects fees.

Who owns the seed?

seed
Close-up of Wheat Grains – By DesignbyNur [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

After doing some reading recently about GMOs and labeling I tripped over this rather scathing article that mentioned the fact that seeds are now patented. I was not aware of that; of course now that I think about it, it makes sense. If someone invests millions of dollars in a product, he should be able to patent it. On the other hand, it is troublesome to me that we are patenting living organisms (seeds, and in some cases animals – see this piece about salmon). If I take a step back from this for a moment, it occurs to me that this would have made good subject matter for an episode of the Twilight Zone or Night Gallery in the 1960s. In this Brave New World there are advancements being made that astound and at the same time frighten. All the while, the spector of hunger and a exploding population hang over our heads. It’s no wonder this is such a hot button for many people.

See Seed, the Movie.