Tuesday, September 28, 2010

David Andow on BT Brinjal risk assessments

Abi alerts us to a remarkable happenning A slap in the face of India's science academies:
"Clearly unhappy over the report which he (the Environment Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh) had sought from the country’s leading academic institutes, the Minister said, “I do not want the six top science academics to tell me Anand Kumar’s view. I already know that.” "
It seems that he did even better. From the preface to Bt Brinjal: The scope and adequacy of the
GEAC environmental risk assessment by DAVID A. ANDOW
"The Minister instituted a process by which he invited documented responses to the
EC-II. The Minister also contacted the United States National Academy of Sciences (US-NAS) for a scientific evaluation of the EC-II. The research arm of the US-NAS organised and solicited comment from a small group of about 10 noted US scientists, including the author of this report, who are internationally-acknowledged experts on the environmental risks of genetically engineered crop plants. The US-NAS is held in great esteem by its ability to generate balanced, objective scientific comment to complex social controversies, injecting logic and structure to help policy makers better understand the issues and take more reasoned decisions. The author of this report along with other solicited scientists submitted such comments to the Minister, which were duly included among the responses he received to his invitation.

Minister Jairam Ramesh’s initiative is unique, and the global response he received is also unique. The global scientific community responded to his invitation with an outpouring of comment, significant both in number and quality. Together, these provided a searching critique of Mayhco’s Bt brinjal bio-safety dossier and the EC II Report. Such a response is astonishing because it is based purely on altruistic concerns – none of the commenting scientists received compensation for their efforts – but it reflects the importance of the implications of releasing the world’s first major GM food crop, the brinjal and in a centre of diversity and origin of that crop.

On 9 February 2010, Jairam Ramesh declared a moratorium on the commercial approval of Bt brinjal, citing the need for further safety testing.

This Report is the outcome of a series of discussions with several scientists, at the request of Aruna Rodrigues, Lead Petitioner to the Supreme Court, following the moratorium on Bt brinjal called by Minister Jairam Ramesh. The aim of those discussions was to provide a comprehensive appraisal of the bio-safety impacts of Bt brinjal and the regulatory protocols that were used by the GEAC. In a meeting in Delhi during 19-21 February 2010, it was decided that the author with the assistance of Dr. G. K. Veeresh would present an analyses of the EC-II assessment of the environmental effects of Bt brinjal. This is expected to be the first of two appraisals of EC-II to be produced during 2010. The other analysis is expected to
address the human and animal health effects of Bt brinjal, and will be undertaken by other scientists."

I quickly browsed through the paper. It seems to me to a good primer on the problems involved while introducing genetically modified seeds and the research that should be done. The author does not seem to be any particular camp. In another recent paper The Risk of Resistance Evolution in Insects to Transgenic Insecticidal Crops, he says "Resistance risks are real and serious. However they can be managed to preserve the usefulness of transgenetic insecticidal crops in to the future."
See http://www.gmwatch.eu/reports/12511-david-andow-book for brief summary.
P.S. (20th October 2010) Another recent article How competent is Indian science? via Nanopolitan

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