Tag Archives: ecological issues

Bio Tech or Bio Terror

On October 14, the Indian Government’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) gave a green signal for the first commercial release of a genetically modified food crop (BT eggplant, brinjal), despite widespread disapproval from citizens, NGOs, farmer organizations and scientists. The decision has led to fury, protests and fasts in states across India on October 16, World Food day.

After having successfully reduced the fertility of the fertile soil making it poisonous with chemical fertilizers, cheating the innocent poor farmers by alluring them to buy terminated seeds and chemical fertilizers with false promise of increased yield, causing the death of many domestic animals by producing BT cotton, the BT (Biological Terrorism) scientists are now experimenting on food crops.

To know more about Genetically modified foods, their disastrous consequences on health etc, read the below article.

==How are Genetically modified foods created? ==
Genes are found in every cell of all living organisms, determining the characteristics, structure, and growth of successive generations. To create genetically modified food, a gene is taken from one organism and forcibly inserted in the genetic code of another unrelated organism, giving it new traits. Overriding ethical and specie barriers, scientists have introduced genes from bacteria, viruses and animals like fish and scorpions into vegetables, and human genes into rice. (www. iamnolabrat. com).

In “a plate full of toxins” (9/11/09), an open letter to M. S. Swaminathan, the chairman of the National Commission on Farmers, agricultural activist Dr. Vandana Shiva writes: “Genetic engineering is a crude and blind technology of shooting genes into an organism through a “gene gun.” It’s like infecting the organism with cancer. It is not known if the transgene is introduced, and that is why antibiotic resistance markers have to be used. Nor is it known where in the genome the transgene gets introduced. This is not “accuracy”, it is literally shooting in the dark.”

Advocates of genetic modification claim that BT (Bacillus Thuringenesis) is a naturally occurring bacterium that produces crystal proteins lethal only to insect larvae. A brinjal with inbuilt BT toxin in every cell could kill unwanted pests (like the Brinjal Fruit and Shoot Borer, Leucinodes orbonalis), and theoretically increase yields and reduce hunger, all without the external usage of pesticides. Raju Barwale, the managing director of Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Ltd, Mahyco (owned by multinational biotech giant Monsanto) argues that “insect-resistant BT brinjal has been in development for nine years and has been tested in full compliance with the guidelines and directives of the regulatory authorities to ensure its safety. It is the most rigorously tested vegetable, with 25 environmental biosafety studies supervised by independent and government agencies. It has the same nutritional value and is compositionally identical to non-BT brinjal, except for the additional BT protein which is specific in its action against the BFSB.”

== Consequences at all levels ==
To this Vandana Shiva replies, “while it is true that the naturally-occurring BT (which is an endo toxin) becomes a toxin only in the gut of insect larvae, the genetically-engineered BT is a readymade toxin. Navdanya’s research in Vidarbha, Maharashtra, has shown that BT cotton is killing beneficial micro-organisms in the soil. Reports of deaths of animals grazing in BT cotton fields are also related to the fact that BT in plants is a broad spectrum, readymade toxin unlike the naturally occurring BT.”

According to Sangita Sharma, who leads My Right to Safe Food campaign in India, “genes that are inserted into GE crops transfer into the DNA of the bacteria inside your intestines and might turn it into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of your life. This means that long after you stop eating GE foods, your own gut bacteria might be producing these foreign proteins, which might be allergenic, toxic or carcinogenic.” (www. myrighttosafefood. blogspot. com). In addition, the antibiotic resistant marker gene (used to mark cells in the host organism that have successfully received the alien genes) can spread to other disease-causing organisms in the environment, making them immune to antibiotics as well.

A study conducted in January 2009 by Gilles-Eric Seralini, professor of molecular biology at the University of Caen in France, concluded that “BT brinjal cannot be considered as safe. The agreement for BT brinjal release into the environment, for food, feed or cultures, may present a serious risk for human and animal health and the release should be forbidden.” He also added that the tests conducted by Mahyco were simply not valid and raised serious health concerns.

Additional studies linked genetically modified food to stunted growth, impaired immune systems, potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, enlarged livers, pancreases and intestines, higher blood sugar and reduced fertility. These encouraged over 175 regions and 4,500 municipalities in Europe to declare themselves GM-free zones and oppose genetically modified exports from the US, which grows 57 percent of the world’s transgenic crops.

In India, poor farmers are promised higher yields by converting from traditional seed saving to BT cotton. However, often times they are not told that BT cotton also requires costly artificial inputs, like irrigation and industrial pesticides, which only a few of them can afford. Although the exact figures and circumstances are subject to much debate between civil and scientific organizations, the fact remains that in the last decade thousands of farmers in the BT cotton belt of Punjab, Vidarbha, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka committed suicide due to repeatedly failing crops and increasing debts.

In the light of such unfulfilled promises, why would anyone support and grow genetically modified crops? Well, huge amounts of money are at stake. The global market in 2000 was worth over two-thousand billion dollars a year, with Monsanto producing 90 percent of the world’s genetically modified crops. Genetic modification provides companies like Monsatno exclusive rights to biotechnology patents under the title of “intellectual property”, allowing them to extract high prices from farmers, either through increasingly expensive research products
(e. g. Round-up herbicide, “Golden Rice”, and sterile “Terminator” seeds) or lawsuits.

The genetic engineering industry is a well-organized system of collaboration between scientific educational facilities, government legislative support, and industry-dependent agricultural subsidies that encourage developing countries to compete over trade instead of meeting their food requirements locally. As Sreedhara Bhasin wrote for the Tribune in “Caution! GM foods may be on the way” (10/11/2009): “Days after the government announced introduction of genetically modified food crops in the country, Hillary Clinton who happened to be on her first visit as the US Secretary of State, which included a trip to India’s leading agriculture institute (PUSA), heartily supported transferring ‘cutting-edge technology’ to raise crop yields. Like many proponents of GM industry, Hillary Clinton mouthed the shibboleths – world hunger and high yielding crops . . . GM research and production are costly ventures and the biotech companies expect to make substantial profits on their investment. Many GM technology, plants and seeds are already patented by the leading GM companies, and it would be childish to believe that the ex-gratia support of the US government is for the future of a hunger-free India.” Besides, do profits really justify the patenting of living organisms and claiming false proprietorship over life?

Gene pollution does not end with eggplants. In India, at least 56 genetically modified crops are undergoing various stages of research and trials, of which 41 are food crops. These include corn, cauliflower, chickpea, peanut, mustard, okra, potato, papaya, tomato, rice, and cabbage. Once genetically modified food is released into the environment, it cannot be contained or recalled. Since the genetic integrity of the species is harmed, there is an increased chance for transgenic contamination of other natural organisms, either by cross pollination in plants or digestion by animals and humans. Furthermore, genetically modified plants are designed to look exactly like the originals, depriving consumers of their right to make informed choices in regard to what they eat, especially in the unlabeled Indian market.

== Conclusion ==
Man’s unnecessary interference in the working of God made nature has always created havoc to ecology, human society and other beings. The modern day demoniac attempts to manipulate nature will only worsen the already bad situation.

Food is a gift of nature to nourish our body so that we can work towards spiritual emancipation. Nature in itself is perfect. All we need to do is to simply live parallel to nature, retain it without polluting. Then all our needs are fulfilled by nature.

Instead of wasting time and the tax payers money in disrupting the nature’s natural way of working, the human society would to do better to accept the nutritious food provided by Mother Nature and utilize the remaining time in spiritual cultivation.

Authored by [[Authors#mgdasa|Madhur Gauranga Dasa]]

Can Man tame Nature?

== Understanding Nature ==
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world or material world. “Nature” refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. It ranges in scale from the subatomic to the cosmic.

Man’s appreciation of nature and the quest to understand her is well known. Beauty in nature has long been a common theme in life and in art, and books emphasizing beauty in nature fill large sections of libraries and bookstores. Some fields of science see nature as matter in motion, obeying certain laws of nature which science seeks to understand.

== Imitating Nature ==
True to the quote of the famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “The counterfeit and counterpart of Nature is reproduced in art” we find several noteworthy accomplishments in the fields of science and technology that in the past have made and in future promises to make a positive impact to the lifestyle of modern man.
To note a few examples,
* The modern aviation industry is a result of multiple attempts of several individuals to mimic the ability to fly as birds;
* One of the combat techniques used in war, the ability to remain unseen by enemies through camouflaging, is a result of studying similar defense mechanism exhibited by certain species of the animal kingdom;
* One of the recent discovery in the domain of nanotechnology is to create adhesive power that aims to recreate the remarkable ability of the Gecko lizard to climb effortlessly across any vertical surface;
* Daniel Nocera, Professor of Energy, MIT predicts water plus light would be the future oil, proposing to mimic photosynthesis to store high-energy bonds of light for later use;

== And trying to control it ==
Besides these positive outcomes of understanding nature one must also admit the negative impact of trying to tame nature. Although humans comprise only a miniscule proportion of the total living biomass on Earth, the human effect on nature is disproportionately large. There exists a highly complex feedback-loop between the use of advanced technology and changes to the environment that are only slowly becoming understood. Man made threats to the Earth’s natural environment include pollution, deforestation, and disasters such as oil spills.

Could the man-made disasters and natural catastrophes that continue to periodically strike the world and wipe out the lives of several thousand be a response of nature to bring man to the understanding of being subordinate?
It could well be so, especially when we consider the age old wisdom of living in harmony with nature being a proven ideology. This should not, however, be misunderstood as being conservative at exploring the possibilities of tapping the resources of nature. Rather it is based on acceptance of reality of man being a tiny part of an orderly creation, meant to utilize the facilities provided by nature to achieve a higher dimension of existence. Vedic texts, especially the Bhagavad-Gita, acknowledge the innate inquisitiveness of a human and advices channeling the same towards questioning higher truths of existence.

Francis Bacon, British painter, says “We cannot command nature except by obeying her”. Instead of
* Trying to control hurricanes, as attempted by the ‘giant- tub proposal’ funded by Bill Gates, which the critics say as akin to placing pennies on a railroad track and hoping to stop a freight train or
* Shoot dust into threatening clouds as planned for the 2008 Olympics, an endeavor that had several meteorologists and weather modifiers of the world chuckle or
* Build dams like the ‘Three Gorges’ on Yangtze river whose disastrous environmental/social impact is well documented,
man would do well to lead a life of humility, gratefully acknowledging the gifts of nature and utilizing it towards enabling one to attain higher dimensions of blissful existence that have so often been alluded to in several ancient texts of the world, especially the Vedas.

Else, nature would have to continue to brutally remind man of his foolhardy attempts to dominate.
Nature… She pardons no mistakes. Her yea is yea, and her nay, nay. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

== Vedic Observer ==
Man prides himself on being a creature of reason, above the lowly beasts. Yet it seems that when he applies his reason to unlocking the secrets of nature for his benefit, he sinks deeper and deeper into a quagmire of intractable problems. The internal combustion engine gets us where we’re going faster, but also results in choking air pollution, the greenhouse effect, and a dangerous dependence on oil. Harnessing the atom gives us cheap energy, but also leads to weapons of mass destruction, Chernobyl, and a rising tide of dangerous radioactive waste. Modern agribusiness produces a dizzying variety and abundance of food at the supermarket, but also results in the death of the family farm, the pollution of ground water, the loss of precious topsoil, and many other problems.

It’s clear we’re missing something in our attempts to harness the laws of nature for our own purposes. What is that “something”? We find out in the very first mantra of the Isoupanishad the foremost of ancient India’s books of wisdom known as the Upanisads: “Everything in this creation is owned and controlled by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.”

In nature we see this principle at work. Nature’s arrangement, set up by the Lord, maintains the birds and beasts: the elephant eats his fifty kilos per day, the ant his few grains. If man doesn’t interfere, the natural balance sustains all creatures.
Any agriculturalist will tell you the earth can produce enough food to feed ten times the present human population. Yet political intrigues and wars, unfair distribution of land, the production of cash crops like tobacco, tea, and coffee instead of food, and erosion due to misuse ensure that millions go hungry, even in wealthy countries like the United States.
We must understand the laws of nature from the viewpoint of the Supreme Lord, who has created these laws. In His eyes all the earth’s inhabitants—whether creatures of the land, water, or air—are His sons and daughters. Yet we, the human inhabitants, the “most advanced” of His creatures, treat these sons and daughters with great cruelty, from the practice of animal slaughter to destruction of the rain forests. Is it any wonder that we suffer an unending series of natural disasters, wars, epidemics, famines, and the like?

=== Peace Formula ===
The source of our problem is the desire for sense gratification beyond the consideration of anyone else’s rights. These rights are the rights of the child in relation to the father. Every child has the right to share the wealth of his father. So creating a brotherhood of all creatures on earth depends on understanding the universal fatherhood of God. This is the peace formula.

== Suggested Reading ==
# “Laws of Nature” by A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami.

Written by [[Authors#kndas|Kaushik Balasubramanian]].