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In 1865, a child was born in Madras, India. Her parents named her Lucy Deane. As destiny would have it, in 1893, Kensington Vestry (UK) wanted to hire women Inspectors where, at that time all inspectors were men. Lucy Deane was hired and was a factory inspector. In 1898, she cautioned the authorities that asbestos was causing lung disease. The report collected dust. It took a century and in 1998, EU and France banned all forms of asbestos. (1)

As we stand today, Government of India has approved the use of GM Mustard for use in India. Like all throughout the world, there is a pro-GM and anti-GM groups in India. There have been spate of articles and influential voices who are supporting GM Mustard and its widespread use, without knowing the ramifications. Those who are against it are being labelled Luddites, risk averse, unscientific, elites and hypocrites. With government approving this, we know where the government stands.

Comparing the incomparable:

In a recent article in Indian Express(2), an author compares Viagra, Insulin and cell-phone towers and makes a point whether the elites sought zero risk proof for these products. First it pitches the GM crop as pro-poor and pro-farmer and insinuates all others as elites who swallow Viagra and go out to protest. Let me not rebut on this clever ploy of making this about one man versus the other.

The larger stupidity of this is the comparison of risks of Viagra against the risks arising out of a GM Crop. Though it is appealing to the common sense and immediately identifiable, its conceptually flawed from the first word. Viagra is a thin tailed risk and GM is a fat tailed risk. Thin tailed risks are common sense probabilistic and form the majority of Risk Management. The world as we see, revolves around with the use of such risk.

Insurance, the business which completely relies on risk had a seminal paper by Filip Lundberg in 1903 which formed the basis of what risk managers and many insurance actuaries know as Ruin Theory. Ruin is “the physical destruction or disintegration” which has no chance of recovery. There cannot be an un-ruin. Rebuilding is not bringing back the same structure which was there. By ruin, in this context, we mean the ruin of the complete system. This is not fear mongering and is grounded on sound logic and evidence.

The system here is the nature. This system is so complex that we cannot predict the weather pattern for the next month. The complexity of the system also makes the impact of GM crops unquantifiable. In 2005, UNESCO with its advisory body World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), released a paper called as “The Precautionary Principle.”(8) It states:

“The emergence of increasingly unpredictable, uncertain, and unquantifiable but possibly catastrophic risks such as those associated with Genetically Modified Organisms, climate change etc., has confronted societies with the need to develop a third, anticipatory model to protect humans and the environment against uncertain risks of human action: The Precautionary Principle (PP).”

What it states is essentially this: lets protect before something bad occurs and not get into the damage control where we may not have any chance. This paper also puts forth when we need to apply this principle. Just by quoting this, we cannot stop the human progress.

Conditions to satisfy are:

  1. Complexity of the system
  2. Unquantifiable scientific uncertainty

If we look at GM Crops, it is a tailor case to apply this principle.

One, interaction of GM Crops with nature cannot be ascertained because nature is highly complex system and it is non-localised. Two, the impact is unquantifiable. Applying the risk of ruin, which essentially states that the impact cost will be infinity, and any non-zero probability will make the overall risk as infinity.

This is not same as one crore road accidents nor losing Titanic nor losing MH370. These are localised risks. Or the aforementioned opinion item provocatively mentions – Viagra.

Anyone who states that GM is completely safe is fooling us and fooling themselves. A recent study has revealed unintended mutations were induced in mice by a genome editing technique. And we are not sure how that will affect GM Crops.(3)

Thus we can safely conclude, that this is a system which must be seen from the Precautionary Principle and Ruin Theory view.

For detailed study of these risks, please read the books The Black Swan and Antifragile by Nicholas Taleb.  Also, he, along with many has authored a paper on GMO based on Precautionary Principle.(7)

Anti GM is essentially anti-corporates:

This is another lie that is being spread against the principled, theory and research oriented stand against GM Crops. What this essentially states are that since the anti-GM group, doesn’t like profits, are somehow socialists or communists and hence hate corporate profits. The same author(2)chides us for being perfectly fine with the duopoly of only Boeing and Airbus for travel and iOS and Android for mobile. Be that as it may, let me not address the trap again but the logic why this is wrong.

Nature provides biodiversity. What we essentially see in GM crops are close to monoculture. The single minded approach to GM crops as espoused by the pro-GM side is productivity. More, for less. More, for less land. More, for less water. More, for less pesticide. More for less, insecticide. More, for less fertilizer. Even our love of our own mother has some negatives but nowhere will you find any negatives that the pro-GM lobby presents with us. This is logical.

Let me present you another evidentiary proof. Between, 1845 and 1852, more than 10 lakh people died of famine in Ireland, also known as Great Famine of Ireland or Potato Famine. The root cause of this is a blight had wiped out the entire crop in Ireland.  What is also said and repeated many times, which we tend to forget is that the entire population was dependent on just one or two varieties of potato.

Now, you can see that why one loss of MH370 is not as same as a crop failure.

Now, you can see why the risk is unquantifiable and the losses in this case is near infinity or what we call as ruin.

With our single minded aim to improve productivity, we are laying the foundation for the unknown. Again, this is not fear mongering to be ignored, this is rooted in risk theories and in history.

Recent studies have also shown that GM crops may not be as insect resistance as we might have thought.(4)(5) This states that there is an evolutionary resistance to the GM crop. Again, we do not understand the nature as much as we think we do. And as stated above, nature is complex.

Mankind has always tampered with crops:

This is another half-truth that is being peddled by the lobby. For example, we are shown a black rose which is not available in nature but has been modified by the influence of mankind.

In 1865, Gregor Mendel, gave a speech on his experiments on peapods. The translated title of that speech stands “Experiments in Plant Hybridisation.”(6) This is essentially wrong comparison, again. Methodologies, processes and techniques were human but the ‘law of selection’ was left to nature. But, in present GM crops, we tend to select on behalf of nature. And herein lies the greatest issue we have.

Mankind have played with crops and animals. All the dogs that we see are examples. The interracial kids that we see are examples. We, you and I are examples of this selection. But nowhere but in GM crops have we altered at this micro level, the DNA.

The march of technology is inevitable. The advancement of science is unstoppable. But what can be and must be done is to make these crops into more and more trials till we are near certain that there won’t be any systemic impact of ruin.

The Precautionary Principle also states that the burden of proof does lies with the entity which brings into the system the GM crops.

To borrow Sun Tzu, “it’s a matter of life and death. A road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry, which can on no account be neglected.”

  1. http://www.wilpf.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Streatfeild-Lucy-Deane.pdf
  2. http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/gm-mustard-us-them-the-farmers-4683373/
  3. http://www.gmwatch.org/en/news/latest-news/17657-crispr-induced-mutations-what-do-they-mean-for-food-safety
  4. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carey-gillam/new-research-shows-failin_b_14003604.html
  5. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0169115
  6. https://archive.org/details/mendelsprinciple00bate – Page 317.
  7. http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/pp2
  8. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001395/139578e.pdf

This post was originally published here.

Mumbai, 30 June 2016: Hundreds of savvy and well-educated flat buyers have purchased "luxurious" flats in RNA Exotica without noticing what their sale-purchase agreements clearly says: that RNA Exotica is actually a large and shabby slum rehabilitation scheme with a tiny island of rich flat-buyers. The rich people's housing project is married and tied to the rehab component in the same undivided compound -- a marriage made in hell! Not just RNA Exotica's sale-purchase agreement, but also project layouts and plans presented to MOEF, give a birds-eye-view of this nightmarish neighbourhood. With clever advertizing, a tight-lipped sales staff, and several clauses in the sale-purchase agreements that forbid investors from asking the right questions, RNA Corp has been consistently misleading its investors for many years. A prospective home-buyer never gets to read the true facts before he is inside the builder's trap!

So let us take a close look at all the ugly truths that the sale-purchase agreement reveals. As a specimen, take the sale-purchase agreement of actor Arif Zakaria (Flat no. 1903, D-Wing).

Inline image 1

NINE WAYS THE BUILDER SCREWED YOU:

  1. RNA Exotica is a Apartment and Slum Rehab Project in a single compound, so you can't object to general public and outsiders in your compound. The agreement makes sure that flat-buyers will have no right in future to object to the rehab building and car park constructed adjoining RNA Exotica, in the same compound. This clause tells flat-buyers in no uncertain terms that the public parking being constructed on the rehab building is not available for their cars. Read this on page 13 and this on page 21 of the registered agreement. So, the proud flat purchasers should know from this clause that their building compound is only semi-private, unlike most of the apartment compounds that are completely private.

  2. RNA Corp can construct anything on top of your flats, so keep quiet and mind your business. The agreement gives the builder the unlimited right to build anything on top of the "top floor" flat, and the flat-purchaser must keep mum about it. In other words, the builder can continue to commercially exploit any increase in FSI or any changes in rules, even if it causes great delay, inconvenience and losses to the flat-buyers, and the only thing that they can do is smile and feel privileged about owning a luxury flat in RNA Exotica.

  3. RNA Corp can construct servants' toilets, septic tanks, electric sub-stations, closed garages, etc. etc. anywhere in the compound or in the building, so shut your nose, mouth and ears.The ground plans or floor plans shown in the agreement can and will be extensively changed to suit the builder's requirements, and this is plainly stated in the agreement itself. All kind of noisy, smelly or intrusive structures can and will be constructed in various parts of the building and compound where you live, including the same floor where you live, but you cannot object on any grounds because you have signed on an agreement that ties your hands. Your rights as a flat-buyer are restricted to the premises that you have purchased, and not, as is the case in other building projects, the common amenities.

  4. RNA Corp can and will create third-party rights and entitlements to various parts of your building and compound, including clubhouse and various parts that you may mistakenly consider as your common amenities. Read this point carefully again, and you will see that this clause is not just a routinely-drafted formality, but is cleverly drafted to take away all your legal rights.

  5. RNA Corp can decrease the common areas and facilities in your building, and you waived your right to raise any objections.People book luxury apartments not just because of spacious flats, but because of spacious and well-designed common amenities and facilities. These amenities and common spaces are factored into the price of the flat as "super-built-up area". But, after paying lakhs of rupees up front to book a flat in RNA Exotica, buyers are informed by their registered agreement on page 37 that the common areas cannot be taken for granted, and they have no right to object!

  6. You unknowingly gave a power-of-attorney to RNA Corp to sign legal waivers on your behalf before all government authorities, without even informing you. According to this clause, the developer need not consult you or even inform before making big or small changes in the plans, because he can always sign an indemnity or undertaking on your behalf to tell the government that you are OK with anything that he does!

  7. You have surrendered your right to independently verify title and ownership of the plot of land on which RNA Exotica is built... because agreement says you have already verified it and satisfied yourself! Mr flat-buyer, when you signed on every page of the agreement in the Stamp Duty Registrar's office, you definitely were not looking for tricky clauses like this one. But here is a clause on page 17 and another on page 25 that says that you have already verified the title and satisfied yourself, and now you have agreed not to investigate any further, or raise any objections.

  8. Possession date is deliberately left blank. Therefore, you have no way of holding RNA Corp accountable for delay of several years, although there is technically a clause for delays. Read this clause on page 37 and its continuation on page 39.

  9. RNA Corp can allot you car parking according to their own sweep pleasure, and you cannot object. The builder may allot you a really shitty parking in the basement, podium or stilt, and the builder may sell favourably-positioned parkings to others. You have no right to object. Read this clause on page 41.

So, Mr and Mrs Flat Purchaser, it is only in theory that you bought a luxury apartment in RNA Exotica. Your luxury apartment exists only in pretty advertisements. The fact is, you just bought a 2BHK or 3BHK in a shitty slum rehab neighbourhood overlooking the railway tracks, and you signed up on a document that says that you have no right to keep the people of your neighbourhood and sundry public from accessing your compound... and you have no right to object to this entire scheme of things. The only thing you can say now is, "It was nice being screwed by you, Mr Anil Aggarwal."

Inline image 2

Sincere thanks to Sulaiman "Superman" Bhimani (9323642081) for his continuous detective work, which enabled and motivated me to write this article.

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY

Krishnaraj Rao

9821588114

krish.kkphoto@gmail.com

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Mumbai, 5th March, 2016: Last week, one of RNA builders' thousands of cheated flat-purchasers sent the builder a legal ultimatum, and started taking steps for going to court after discovering that their promised 17th floor flat in RNA Regal, a project in Kandivali West, is the proverbial pie-in-the-sky! In February 2011, Sandeep Kothari and Apeksha Khabiya, a non-resident couple based in Doha-Qatar, booked a spacious 17th floor flat in RNA Regal, based on the builder's promise that they would get possession within three years. The couple planned to return to India to live in this spacious 1365 sq. ft. dream house. After paying nearly Rs 30 lakhs up front as initial booking amount, the couple was kept in the dark by RNA Corp which fed them a steady diet of outright lies during the three-year waiting period. Every time the couple phoned RNA Corp, they were informed that the project was making satisfactory progress. In the end, the couple's rude awakening consisted of not one, but three shocking jolts!

Shock # 1: When the promised possession date arrived in March 2014, Sandeep and Apeksha were shocked to learn that no further progress had been made in three years, and that the project was practically at a standstill at “25% progress”, the same as the time when they had booked the flat in Feb 2011. Today, two years after making this shocking discovery, they are still no closer to getting their dream house.

Shock # 2: Almost five years after booking the flat and two yearsafter the promised possession date (March-April 2014), the couple was shocked to discover documents through Right To Information that showed that RNA Regal didn't even have BMC permission for going up to 17 floors and above!

Shock # 3: The couple recently sent their authorised representative to visit the site and make a first-hand observation about whether the construction work is in progress. They were traumatised to learn that no construction activities were going on, and the plot where RNA Regal was expected to come up, was partly blocked by slum dwellers. The authorized representative estimated that the encroachment by slumdwellers appeared to be two to four years old.

These are many causes for worry, not only for Mr and Mrs Kothari, but also for all the flat buyers in RNA Regal! RNA Corp's owners, namely the late Anil Aggarwal, as well as his sons Anubhav and Gokul Aggarwal, have evidently been keeping a large number of buyers in the dark.

Read the legal notice issued by GC Mehta and Associates on behalf of Mr and Mrs Sandeep Kothari: http://tinyurl.com/RNA-Regal-Kandivali

RNA Regal

How the NRI couple was cheated by RNA Corp:

  • The NRI couple booked a 1365 Sq. Ft. Flat on the 17th floor of RNA Regal, by paying Rs. 29.98 lakhs between February and June 2011 against the builder's demand for Rs. 29.28 lakhs, being 25% of the flat's total cost, along with expression of interest. Against this, the builder issued a letter of allotment.

  • The NRI couple made this booking based on the builder's representations that they would get possession of the flatwithin three years e. in the first quarter of 2014.
  • Afterwards, the NRI couple regularly followed up the progress of construction of RNA Regal and were assured by the builder's office that the project was satisfactory progressing.
  • When the date of possession arrived in March-April 2014, RNA Corp informed the NRI couple that still, only 25% of the construction was complete, and the project was stuck due to some “additional statutory requirements”.The couple was assured that efforts were being made and the necessary clearances would be obtained soon.
  • Upset at being kept in the dark until their promised possession date, the NRI couple now started enquiring about the project status by email on a regular basis.
  • In an email dated 4th April 2014, the builder assured that that construction work would resume by June 2014.
  • In an email dated 14th June 2014, the builder claimed that the approvals are expected within 10-15 days.
  • In an email dated 2ndJanuary 2015, the builder said that the necessary approvals would take another 2-3 months.
  • Later on, the NRI couple's emails dated 31/07/2015, 04/08/2015, 06/08/2015, 07/08/2015 20/08/2015 and 23/08/2015 and letters dated 08/12/2015 and 05/02/2016 were acknowledged by the builder's office only with great reluctance, but they all went unanswered.
  • Whenever the NRI couple or their authorized representatives visited India, they made it a point to visit the builder's office to inquire about the progress on this project and understand the earliest date of their getting possession, so that they could permanently return to India and live in this house. But during their every visit, the NRI couple were told about some or the other kind progress as well as difficulties that the RNA Corp had been facing. RNA Corp continually made promises, but there was no performance to back up these promises.
  • In spite of repeated requests, RNA Corp did not fulfill their obligation for executing a registered Agreement for Sale.
  • The NRI couple got a huge shock when they learned through RTI thatRNA Corp had not even obtained approval for constructing a building with 17 or more floors!
  • The Kotharis requested their authorised representative to visit the site and make first hand observation about the actual progress and whether the construction work is in progress. They were traumatised to learn thatno construction activities were going on and the plot where RNA Regal was projected to be constructed was partly blocked by slum dwellers. This encroachment appeared to be 2 to 4 years old!

Driven by all these unpleasant discoveries, Sandeep Kothari and his wife Apeksha have now reached the inescapable conclusion that RNA Corp has cheated them by retaining their money for more than five years, and has kept on making false statements as well as promises, which entitles them to invoke all legal remedies against the builders, especially under Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

For more details on this case, contact Advocate GC Mehta (Mob 9820141178 Email advocategcm@gmail.com)

Postscript: Of late, RNA Corp has been in the news for failure to fulfill legal obligations to various stakeholders, including flat-buyers, project-affected-persons, lending banks, and multiple government agencies such as MCGM and MMRDA. After years or even decades of slippery behaviour by the late Anil Aggarwal and his sons Anubhav and Gokul, the patience of many stakeholders appears to have run out completely.

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY

Krishnaraj Rao

9821588114

krish.kkphoto@gmail.com

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The Narendra Modi government has allowed 21 new varieties of GMO crops for field trials in India. This decision was made based on the recommendations of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). This is the new GEAC. The old GEAC had the first item listed under "Main functions" on its page as "To permit the use of GMOs and products thereof for commercial applications." This one has "approval of activities involving large-scale use of hazardous living microorganisms and recombinants..." and they are making decisions that will impact our food, here. This is rather like the world's nuclear "watchdog" being created to promote nuclear power.

It is rather strange that a body implies evaluation, but is actually created to proliferate. This GEAC rejected 1 application out of 28 it received. In a world where more and more countries are banning GM crops, India naturally is fertile grounds for yet another reject of the West, where opposition to genetically modified food is increasing. And of course, it helps that if anything can be centralized and made money out of, Indias political cartels will have takers.

In a country where farmers quit farming as a full time profession at a rate that amounts to 2000 less farmers each day over a decade and over a quarter of the country is below an insanely low poverty line, replacing seeds collected from harvests to seed next years crops with expensive genetically modified varieties that need to be purchased each year alone is an economic nightmare, even if GM crops were safe, which I'm going to show below that they are not. It is no coincidence that there are very few suicides among rice and wheat farmers in comparison with cotton farmers whose lives have been devastated by BtCotton.

First, raising some quality concerns. GM crops are not reversible. They introduce new traits into the ecology of the fields where millions of lifeforms live in a symbiosis. The impact of changed traits of crops on other life forms including essential microorganisms in the soil to beneficial insects and contamination of adjacent fields or wild plants is impossible to determine when there are no long term tests of any sort including direct impact on humans. The assumption that it is safe is naive at best and unleashes irreversible changes which cannot be erased with an "oops. Sorry, we thought..." in the future if uncontrolled hybrids emerge.

Additionally, when GM seeds like these - that are resistant to specific poisons are grown in a region, the adaptations of pests to survive result in pests of the region becoming more and more resistant to pesticides and requiring greater applications of chemicals to control crops (including on the GM crops). This has happened in India. In Modi's own Gujarat. India approved Bt Cotton in 2002. In 2010, it failed pest tests in Gujarat. By 2013, the five year decline in cotton production was being blamed on everything from lack of innovation to climate change by GM apologists in media. Anything but GMO. By 2014, Modi who was CM in Gujarat when above failure happened is Prime Minister and opening more crops like wheat, rice and maize for GM field trials.

And guess what Monsanto did? It blamed the farmers for not following the "fine print" like planting refuge areas. A refuge area is basically a strip of ordinary cotton planted around the main crop of BtCotton. Guess why? Because when pests susceptible to the Bt gene die, the ones that survive are those that are resistant to it. So the idea is that they will breed with the pests from the normal cotton and thus lose some of their resistance. And if this doesn't happen (and tough to imagine how that would work effectively given that species breed to become stronger and survive and most of the field is Bt allowing most pests to find their Bt resistant dates on hand, without going to the other crops), it is apparently the farmer's fault. In other words, GM is not responsible...

Of course, that isn't what they had said when promoting BtCotton.

It [traditional methods of farming] has been a complete failure, because you have to modify infrastructure, you have to re-educate them as to how to modify their farming practices themselves. But with biotech, the technology is in a seed. All you have to do is give them the seed.

Because of course the guy with the powerpoint presentation understands agriculture better than the guy who doesn't even understand English and is too dumb to read instructions.

While there is little evidence of safety on various issues, the evidence that GM crops are not safe is mounting.

About a year and a half ago, a farmer in Oregon, USA found some wheat growing in an empty field. He tried to kill it with a herbicide. IT DIDN'T die. Astonished, the farmer sent the wheat to the Oregon state University for testing and it was found that it was genetically modified wheat containing Monsanto's a Roundup resistant CP4/maize EPSPS gene. The USDA confirms this. When this happened, there was no GM wheat approved for use anywhere in the world. Field trials had ended in 2005 on the wheat that was not expected to be viable for more than 2 years. Do the math.

Chief Technology Officer at Monsanto, Robb Fraley tried damage control "It seems likely to be a random, isolated occurrence more consistent with the accidental or purposeful mixing of a small amount of seed during the planting, harvesting or during the fallow cycle in an individual field." However, that doesn't solve the problem that wheat had turned into what basically amounted to a weed. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan postponed wheat imports from the region to avoid the contamination.

This basically shows that GMO food crops are not a choice as advertized. Seeds propagate, and the best intentioned organic farmer may still end up with GM contaminants.

Speaking of GM maize, in Hesse, Germany, many cows in a slaughterhouse died when they were fed Syngenta’s genetically engineered maize cow food. The remaining cattle were slaughtered on the decision of the authorities to... you guessed it... prevent spread of contamination. Syngenta withdrew the "protein" (not one of the better associations with this word) after being charged for covering up livestock deaths including those on the farm of a tenacious farmer who participated in trials and his cattle developed diseases and five cattle died. Syngenta paid him forty thousand euros basically as hush up money and other cover ups, including in tests. In India, maize is not cattle feed, but consumed by humans for the most part. Remember your "makki roti and sarson saag"? Now Modi sarkar has allowed field trials on GM maize in India.

A research paper published by Dr. Judy Carman last year showed marked increase in abdominal inflammation and on an average a 25% heavier uterus among female pigs fed GM feed. In 2009, American Academy Of Environmental Medicine called for Immediate Moratorium on Genetically Modified Foods stating a whole list of health risks related with GM food.

Citing several animal studies, the AAEM concludes "there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects" and that "GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health."

I could go on listing studies that have clearly shown the danger, but then what is my voice in the face of an all party (including BJP MPs) Parliamentary Standing Committee that overcame attempts of the state government to prevent them interviewing farmers and recommended against GM in its report?