Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Modified rats smell too

I've thought and thought about food. Food crisis. Food prices. Ways of growing food. Intensive? Manual? Organic? What about access? Is it fair to push for organic when so many people are so short of food and why does everybody keep saying that organic farming techniques will bring down overall production? But what if they're right? But how will we know if we don't try the alternative?

All those questions, to which that latest, scariest addition is the question of GM food. Safe? No? How unsafe? Does it keep you alive? Does it warp your genes? Why isn't the government taking some sort of stand on it instead of saying one thing ("we don't let in anything until it's been proven safe") and doing another (allowing field trials, ignoring violations of trial procedures, ignoring research already conducted in other countries).

And though it happened way back in 2000, it was not until today that I read about how biologist Arpad Pusztai from the Rowett research Institute in Scotland was treated:

"The 69 year old Hungary-born Pusztai, who had been working at the RRI for 36 years, was removed from service, his research papers were seized, and his data confiscated ~ and he was prohibited from talking to anyone about his research work. All this for having spoken "all of l5O seconds," he says in a programme called World in Action on Granada TV in August 1998, about his findings on the effects of GM foods that ran counter to the prevalent scientific dogma that they were safe. He had also expressed concern that the testing procedures to establish the safety of GM foods may not be adequate.

Pusztai's controversial experiments, which he carried out in collaboration with his colleague Stanley W.B. Ewen, for over30 months between 1995 and 1998, comprised the use of GM potatoes expressing the gene for snowdrop lectin called Galanthus nivalis agglutinin (GNA) as feed to rats. (Snowdrop is a small white flower that hangs from a bulb and blooms in spring; lectin is a protein normally obtained from plants that have antibody characteristics.) This, he found, resulted in impairment in the condition of the rats. This was a surprising finding for Pusztai, because in six years of work with the lectin itself; he had found no toxic effect when it was mixed with feed as a protein supplement. But when genetically expressed it showed health effects.

Even before his work was published, based on incomplete information and data, it was denounced at various levels, including the Royal Society and the Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology. Also, a campaign was unleashed in the media to discredit Pusztai. But it was a slap in the face of critics when Pusatai's paper got accepted for publication in The Lancet. This, in fact; prompted a senior biologist of the Royal Society to threaten The Lancet's editor with dire consequences.

You know what they say about smoke? It usually alerts you to a fire. And I personally am inclined to smell very large rats when people threaten editors with dire consequences.

You can read the whole piece here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Unheard of

The unheard of came slamming into my sleep. Last night, for the second night running, I woke to thunder and flashes of lightning - after a strange dream that someone was flashing a torch in my face, on and off, on and off. And the sounds of a susurrating piece of plastic, sliding from one end of the terrace to the other. It was like listening to a god howling through a gag.

It's rained! In May. And not the odd shower, but rain enough for an umbrella. Rain enough to bring muddy marks of slippers into the bedroom. Rain enough to have to watch out for cars whizzing past.

Rain so chill that when I woke up again, feeling cold and had to switch off then fan. And then, woke up again, feeling cold, so had to bring out a blanket, and stepped out of the house in a light-winter shirt. In Delhi. In May. Unheard of.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Just linking

A friend's taking a renewed interest in his blog

A new blog by economists on development economics.


Look who's in Jesustan again!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

An Annoucement

Jasmeen, the founder of Blank Noise, will be in Delhi this week and would like to interview people who have been involved with the campaign in this city. Each interview will take approximately 5- 10 minutes and will be about you and your experience on the streets. Interviews will be with both male and female Blank Noise members/ volunteers/ supporters.
She requests you to take a few minutes out this week to met her.

What and why?

This is a video based project that interviews men and women on the streets of various cities- Delhi, Lucknow, Chandigarh/ Ludhiana/ Agra, and Kolkata. It will hopefully also reveal and spell out the various realities that exist in public and how they influence each other based on their gender and socio economic background.

Jasmeen is looking for sound assistants and camera people to help with the shoot. Anybody who can volunteer their time, and is interested in shooting, assisting and traveling with Blank Noise after May 20t, please get in touch immediately.

Blank Noise volunteers with friends, aunts, mothers, grandmothers, uncles, fathers, neighbours- anyone you might know who would be willing to talk about eve-teasing/street sexual harassment, please bring them along.

For everyone interested in participating in this project please get in touch at the earliest possible. right now! blurtblanknoise@gmail.comwith BLANK NOISE VIDEO in the subject line.

Friday, May 09, 2008

mothers, flowers

Update: A photo of one of her paintings.

This Mother's Day, my mom (Yasmin Zaidi) is paying a Floral Tribute to her own mother who passed away last year. She's having an exhibition of pretty detailed oil paintings - of flowers - in Pune. (Details below) Those who can go see it, please do.

"Mother's Day - A Floral Tribute" begins on Mother's Day, Sunday, 11th May 2008, at the Corinthian's Club, and will go on for a few weeks. Be there for the opening at 11 AM, if you would like to meet the artist.

Yasmin Zaidi has been drawing and painting for nearly forty years now. She has always had a keen eye for colour and composition and an enduring love of nature, which dominates her painting.
However, she has not needed to retreat into the wilderness to transmit this love onto canvas. She has sought, and found, beauty in small gardens in crowded suburbs, bouquets of cut flowers and wild trees fighting against the overbearing concrete in urban spaces. She considers the creation of anything beautiful a "co-creation with the Creator".

The artist comes from a family that has had a close association with various forms of art. Her father Padma Shri Ali Jawad Zaidi was a poet and a scholar; her daughter is a journalist and poet, and her grandfather also painted, though not professionally.
Some of Zaidi's early poems were published by various newspapers and journals and she has painted for and written a children's alphabet book. Her long career in education meant spending at least two decades imparting her painting skills to young and eager students. Post-retirement, she has picked up the brush again and has been painting full time and much of her recent work has been almost exclusively centred around flowers.
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