Conference organised by the Ministry of Agriculture on “Doubling Food Production in Five Years” – Ignoring Parliament – In brazen support of corporate interests at the expense of farmers

Coalition for a GM-Free India

New Delhi

29-01-2013

To

Shri Sharad Pawar,

Ministry for Agriculture,

Goverrnment of India.

Re: Conference organised by the Ministry of Agriculture on “Doubling Food Production in Five Years” – Ignoring Parliament – In brazen support of corporate interests at the expense of farmers’ – reg.

It has come to our attention that the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) is organising a Conference on “Doubling Food Production in Five years” from February 1-3, 2013 at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi. On the face of it, it appears to be a regular program of the Ministry. However, two things draw our attention to this particular Conference : first, the predominance of vested interests acting behind it i.e, the ones promoting the Conference with full page advertisements in national newspapers – the Pesticide Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India(PMFAI), the National Seed Association of India(NSAI) and the biotech lobby group-ABLE and second, some of the “eminent” speakers selected to address the Conference – some of them controversial figures well known for their support of GM crops without supporting scientific facts or evidence.

Sir, you know very well that the Standing Committee on Agriculture of the Indian Parliament has in its path-breaking report of August 2012, come down heavily on this dangerous path that your Ministry is leading the country into. It said “In their tearing hurry to open the economy to private prospectors, the Government should not make the same fate befall on the agriculture sector as has happened to the communications, pharma, mineral wealth and several other sectors in which the Government’s facilitative benevelonce preceded setting up of sufficient checks and balances and regulatory mechanisms, thereby, leading to colossal, unfettered loot and plunder of national wealth in some form or the other, incalculable damage to environment, biodiversity, flora and fauna and unimaginable suffering to the common man.” [Para 3.48].

Many of the members of the Committee were UPA Parliamentarians, as you are aware.

It is grossly irresponsible, unscientific, misleading and completely unethical for the Ministry to blatantly promote technologies such as GM crops, when as a country, India is trying to come out of the pesticide tread-mill and make its production, agriculture and its farmers livelihood sustainable, safe and remunerative. It is also reprehensible that the Ministry of Agriculture, which is answerable to the larger public and the farmers is acting at the behest of the industries who stand to profit from these unneeded, hazardous technologies. We would also like to point out that the Ministry’s own inquiry through the Sopory Committee has brought to the fore egregious failings with regard to transgenic research and regulation in this country.

This blatant attempt by the Ministry makes it clear that MoA is not genuinely interested in addressing food security in any lasting fashion or acting in a scientific way when it comes to many problems in our farming, but is interested in blindly promoting certain technologies, for private and possibly vested and corrupt interests.

Food security of a country like India is not an issue the MoA should let vested interests sabotage; it requires serious efforts from the Ministry and its officials to listen to all stakeholders and to arrive at a well thought out and optimal solution to address it, drawing from various areas of expertise, experience and knowledge domains. We reproduce what the Parliamentary Standing Committee had said on this matter.

The present worrisome situation” as regards food security is primarily because of “faulty procurement policy, mismanagement of stocks, lack of adequate and proper storage, hoarding and lopsided distribution, massive leakages in the public distribution delivery system, etc.” It also adds categorically that “If these shortcomings and problems are attended to along with liberal financial assistance to agriculture and allied sectors, proactive measures are initiated to arrest the decreasing trend in cultivable area and farmer friendly and sustainable agricultural practices are put in use, there would not be any compelling need for adopting technologies which are yet to be proven totally safe for biodiversity, environment, human and livestock health and which will encourage monoculture, an option best avoided.”

The committee finally recommends that “the Government come up with a fresh road map for ensuring food security in coming years without jeopardizing the vast bio-diversity of the country and compromising with the safety of human health and livestock health.” [Para – 7.71].

It is unclear how your Ministry thinks that food security can be achieved with the help of the pesticide industry, the seed industry (that is increasingly playing into the hands of the biotech majors such as Monsanto) and the biotech industry with a single agenda of promoting genetically modified seed that is not only inadequately tested but also adequately patented so as to ensure a complete rout of our agricultural sovereignty!!! It is quite perplexing how the post-modern science and discourse in agriculture has evolved towards sustainability and agro-ecology all over the world, but is being denied vehemently by your Ministry in this country. The same applies to the nuanced understanding around the complexity of hunger and malnutrition, including structural poverty-related issues, whereas your Ministry wants unproven techno-fixes to be deployed as a one-size-fits-all solution.

It is surprising that solutions offered by globally recognised initiatives such as the IAASTD do not seem to have attracted your attention at all. And again here the Standing Committee on Agriculture has some excellent suggestions. It says “the Committee would like to remind the Government of India that they are a signatory to this path breaking effort (IAASTD Report) and in the opinion of the Committee, the Government would do well if they adopt this Report as the way forward for development of agriculture and allied sectors in India, in a sustainable and environmental friendly manner, and with no unwanted risks to biodiversity, human and livestock health, flora and fauna. The Committee also desire to be apprised of the concrete action taken by the Government on each of the findings contained in IAASTD Report during the four years after the release of the Report.” [Para 5.52]

All said and done, the Ministry of Agriculture seems to be least interested in anything that is even remotely connected to sustainability (farm as well as farm livelihood) and is only interested in helping corporate and MNC powers to dominate and profit, even at the cost of the lives of farmers and the hapless Indian consumer. There is also deep disrespect being shown towards the Indian Parliament, whose report your Ministry is ignoring and acting in contravention to its recommendations.

Hence, we are writing this letter to express our deep anguish and anger at the really worrying direction that your Ministry and hence the Government of India is leading Indian agriculture into. The fact that you are hosting people like Dennis Avery, Peter Raven, Patrick Moore and Mark Lynas to name a few demonstrates the desperation that your Ministry shares with the GM and pesticides industries to shove such dangerous technologies down the throats of the Indian public. As recently as last week the ruling party in its conclave promised that it will listen more to the people of the country, and this is definitely not the peoples wish!

Therefore, we are sending this letter to express our condemnation of such blatant vested interests being involved in policy-making and within the government. Moreover, there are accountability questions with public funds utilised for such promotional activities of profiteering industries and unscientific worldviews. The government should appreciate that this will only instigate a greater public outcry from citizens for their science, knowledge, experience and worldviews to be heard and taken on board, while shaping future directions.

We urge you not to go ahead with such a wrongly-founded Conference and also urge you to not host these controversial speakers and provide a platform to hazardous industries and waste precious public funds on events such as these.

With due respects and concerns

ridhar Radhakrishnan

Convener,

Coalition for a GM-Free India.

Copy to :

  1. Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

  2. Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, United Progressive Alliance

  3. Sri.Jaipal Reddy, Minister for Science and Technology

  4. Smt.Jayanti Natarajan, Minister of State for Environment and Forests

Coalition for a GM-Free India is a broad national network of organizations, scientists, farmer unions, consumer groups and individuals committed to keep the food and farms in India free of Genetically Modified Organisms and to protecting India’s food security and sovereignty.

 Coalition for a GM-free India

c/o INSAF, A-124/6, First Floor, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi 110 016, Phone/Fax: 011-26517814

Website: www.indiagminfo.org, email: indiagmfree@gmail.com, Facebook – GM Watch India

ANNEXURE:

The announcement of the Conference lists atleast two Chief Ministers, many ministers and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture. In addition there are representatives from FAO and ILRI. The CEO of one of the largest  agro-business corporations in Latin America and the President of EMBRAPA ( Brazil) find a place in the speakers list.  It also has four known  GM crop promoters. Some information on them is provided below:

A short note on the affiliations of some of the ‘eminent speakers’

  • Dennis Avery – Director of Hudson Institute1 , considered a conservative think tank, which is supported by large corporations including agri-business corporations2. He is an anti-organicfarming advocate and a strong supporter of biotechnology in agriculture, pesticides and a climate change skeptic.3 4
  • Mark Lynas  The biotech industrys newly minted star, according to his own profile is a speaker on climate change5, nowhere he is featured as an anti-GM activist. He began promotingGM crops since the last three years.6 He has claimed to have ‘helped start’ the anti-GM movement and also said to have ‘coordinated with Indian groups both untrue! The Coalition has already put out a detailed statement which can be accessed here.7
  • Patrick Moore Runs his own consulting firm which reportedly does “public relations efforts, lectures, lobbying.8According to Greenpeace (Moore uses his past link to GP even now)Patrick Moore is , “a paid spokesman for the nuclear industry, the logging industry, and genetic engineering industry, frequently cites a long-ago affiliation with Greenpeace to gain legitimacy inthe media.9 Greenpeace says “Patrick Moore frequently portrays himself as a founder or co-founder of Greenpeace, and many news outlets have repeated this characterization. AlthoughMr. Moore played a significant role in Greenpeace Canada for several years, he did not found Greenpeace.10 It is interesting to note that even in this profile for the Conference of Ministry ofAgriculture, he gives his long ago Greenpeace affiliation( which ended more than 25 years back) rather than his lobbying work of the past 20 years .
  • Peter Raven President Emeritus of Missouri Gardens which has a long standing and close relationship with Monsanto and is an advocate of GM crops.11 Missouri Gardens has beenworking with and receiving funds from Monsanto since 1999. Even as recently as May 2012 Monsanto gifted three million dollars to the Missouri botanical gardens.12 In addition many of thefacilities in Missuori Gardens are funded by Monsanto like the Monsanto Hall, Monsanto Center etc.13 Along with Monsanto the Missouri Botanical Gradens was one of the key groupsinvolved in forming the Danforth Plant Science Centre, which promotes GM crop research.14

10 ibid

Please endorse: CITIZENS’ LETTER TO DR SWAPAN KUMAR DATTA

If you want to endorse the following letter, please write back to me, at kavitha.kuruganti@gmail.com by tomorrow evening (24th May – sorry for the short notice). If you cannot write to me by tomorrow evening for some reason, please send this letter directly to the people marked in the Citizens’ Letter to Dr Swapan Kumar Datta.To:

Dr Swapan Kumar Datta,

DDG-Crop Science,

Indian Council For Agricultural Research,

New Delhi.

Email: ddgcs.icar@nic.in

 

Dear Dr Swapan Kumar Datta,

Sub: Your reported offer of Indian gene banks to MNC partners – our serious objection and resistance to the same

Ref: “India Institute seeks expertise in global seed business”, Wall Street Journal (India) on May 18th 2012, available athttp://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303360504577411540343437830.html?mod=googlenews_wsj#articleTabs%3Darticle

In this news report, you are quoted as saying that ICAR is seeking to collaborate with MNCs, by offering its massive seed gene bank in exchange for “expertise”, to tap into an international seed market and for development of a variety of high-yielding, climate-tolerant seeds that could be used in India and elsewhere, “taking a small share of the profits”. Some of us assume that you have not said so and that you will send in a rejoinder to the journal.

However, if you had indeed said this, this letter is to highlight some pertinent points and register our serious objection to such proposals.

  1. You seem to have forgotten that such collaborations with MNCs and others have already ended up with governments, public sector bodies and the private corporations having mud on their faces. This includes the infamous Bt brinjal bio-piracy issue with the National Biodiversity Authority deciding to prosecute the offenders, the “indigenous” Bt cotton ‘contamination-with-Monsanto-event’ episode and so on. All these cases show that complicated IPR issues are involved in all such collaborations and that farmer communities are not going to be sitting idle when germplasm that they and their ancestors have evolved goes to line the pockets of private corporations or entities such as yours, ostensibly set up for public good and run with public funds. 
  1. The Indian agricultural research establishment has evolved and released many seed varieties, through established varietal release mechanisms, over the years. However, the reason why such seed is not seen in the farmers’ field is because of deliberate government policies around promoting private and proprietary seed markets, not because you did not evolve new seed lines (especially in the past).
  1. The germplasm collection, which you have so gratuitously offered, has been contributed to, by farming communities of the country. Public bodies like ICAR have been made a custodian of invaluable germplasm in good faith, and not to auction it off thereby alienating farmers from their own rightful resources and make such resources unaffordable and inaccessible for them! We have not forgotten all the scandals that abound in this country today, around the government making itself the owner of such natural resources.
  1. We would also like to remind you about the ignominous Syngenta-IGKVV deal about a decade ago and how the farming communities in Chattisgarh forced both parties to beat a hasty retreat from such murky deals. Don’t also forget the attempted Mahyco tie up with the agriculture university in Kerala in the recent past to access their rice germplasm. This is just to remind you that farmers’ unions and all political outfits which are concerned about this country’s and farming communities’ sovereignty will not allow for such proposals. The reasons are obvious, the public is aware of the history of these corporations and the results of such tie-ups in the past. Also the fact of the matter is that even if you seem to want to write the epitaph of the public sector institutions like ICAR, the public is concerned about the genuine functioning  and future of such public sector institutions, meant to support and cater to the real needs of farmers.

We are also deeply concerned about, opposed to and will continue to resist the anti-farmer, exclusionary, monopolistic behaviour of MNCs in their profit-mongering and we are unequivocally opposed to public institutions serving their interests. We are yet to see any collaboration where the farmers have actually benefited, that too in sustainable ways, from such partnerships with MNCs or other private entities. Remember that in the recent past, several state governments have realized this and decided against such collaborations in the states of Odisha, Rajasthan, Gujarat etc. In this context, ICAR coming up with such proposals demonstrates hubris and a complete lack of understanding about the real needs of the farming community.

  1. It is ridiculous to talk about India and its public sector institutions capturing global seed markets (or a share of the same) when India’s seed sector is being captured by others leading to greater distress for our farmers – the cotton seed sector is a classic example where the public sector’s ineptitude and apathy was proven beyond doubt, with an American MNC controlling 93% of the seed market today.

 

  1. The mandate for the Indian NARS is not to capture markets here or globally, but to cater to the real needs of our farmers, who are in deep distress. This is the hour when ICAR institutions should be rising to the challenge and providing sustainable solutions for farmers, not selling the germplasm of the nation and further jeopardizing our food sovereignty. Any meek or ambitious abandoning of its role and responsibility, despite the employees paying themselves good salaries and obtaining good infrastructure from public funds will not be tolerated.
  1. Dr Datta, we would also like to remind you that during the Bt brinjal public debate organized by the then Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Environment & Forests, the issue of seed sovereignty was raised repeatedly in the debate, as a matter of grave concern for the citizens of this country.  The Bt brinjal moratorium decision note of the MoEF also refers to potential jeopardy to national sovereignty and developing countervailing power (to Monsanto).

 

We regret having to make a personal statement about you and other people like Dr K C Bansal, who is heading the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, but this has to be said too – We don’t trust you to stand by the farmers in the country. You have personally proven yourself to be untrustworthy by interfering in the decision-making of the apex regulatory body related to GMOs in India (the GEAC – Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee), by blatantly exhibiting conflict of interest in the case of your wife’s and your earlier research project on GM rice. Dr K C Bansal has openly lobbied along with industry associations in favor of transgenics and this ardent advocate of a controversial, unproven technology has now been given the responsibility of safeguarding the germplasm collection of the country, the NBPGR, even though it is well known that transgenic seeds will contaminate other varieties, and affect diversity!

This is to communicate our deep resistance to your proposals related to India’s gene banks. We will vehemently oppose all such moves and urge you to drop them.

 

 

cc:

Director-General, ICAR, Government of India;

Minister for Agriculture, Government of India;

Prime Minister of India.

 

 

Sincerely,

  1. Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad                ramoo.csa@gmail.com
  2. Kavitha Kuruganti, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner, Bangalore
  3. Ramasubramanian, Samanvaya Consulting, Chennai
  4. Ananthasayanan, Safe Food Alliance, Chennai
  5. Usha Jayakumar, Thanal, Trivandrum
  6. Pankaj Bhushan, Tara Foundation, Patna
  7. Aruna Rodrigues, Lead Petitioner, SC PIL on GMOs

GM Free Coalition urges MoEF to bar any move by the GEAC to promote field trials in various States which objected

Coalition for a GM-Free India

New Delhi, 7th May 2012

 To,

 Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan

The H’ble Minister, MoSEF (Independent Charge)

Government of India.

SUBJECT: YOUR STATEMENT IN PARLIAMENT ON 27 MARCH 2012: ‘DELAY IN NOCS FOR GM CROPS TRIALS’

Dear Madam Minister,

Greetings from the Coalition for GM-Free India.

 In your statement in the Rajya Sabha on 27 March 2012, you stated that “the GEAC has been approached by the Seed Industries, Ministry of Agriculture and Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) to reconsider its decision on the need of NOC from the State Government prior to the conduct of GM crop field trial.” Consequently, the GEAC has apparently decided to make presentations to State governments to withdraw their bans on field trials1.

 We must point out that in the present circumstances where these GMOs remain untested, this action to promote open field trials by the GEAC if carried out, would be contrary to its mandate under the EPA and consequently illegal. It forsakes the absolute requirement of independence and objectivity in a regulator, as required by law, to instead become a lobbying body to advance the cause of the biotech Industry. Furthermore, to lobby formally at the behest of the seed industry as explicitly admitted in your statement would then prove the serious charge of a blatant conflict of interest in your Regulator and particularly in the present climate of corruption may well raise serious questions.

Should such corporate influence in the decision making process lead in the future to farmers’ losses and even suicides, the consequences can be imagined. After a decade of escalating indebtedness and suicides, and the deliberate elimination of low priced non Bt seeds from the market, Bt cotton has been declared definitely unfit in rain-fed Vidharba by the Maharashtra Ministry of Agriculture. How was Bt cotton approved for rain-fed regions by the Regulators? Responsibility must be fixed for the extreme farmer distress that has followed and the record number of farmer suicides in Vidharba, because the link with Bt cotton is undeniable. This is stated and emphasised given the background that the only Biosafety Dossier prepared till date is of Bt brinjal and that has been comprehensively critiqued in several of its aspects and found to be fraudulent. The essential risk assessment protocols and key testing were not done, but were only claimed to have been done. As a result, open field trials of all crops are now clearly unsafe and contravene the EPA. In addition, surely you must also consider the reasons for the Bt brinjal moratorium and their implications for bio-safety, including the need for stringent, independent testing.

On what basis therefore, is the GEAC deciding to woo State Governments to their point of view? Given their own culpability in approving unsafe open field trials, which are also routinely in breach of biosafety rules, lacking elementary precaution leave alone rigour and oversight, it is ironic that the reasons being put forward for such an approach to State governments is their “lack of awareness on highly technical issues associated with biotechnology and biosafety measures.” Apart from being surprisingly condescending, it has to be said that on the contrary, that the States that have thus far imposed bans have done so acknowledging the uncertainties of GE technology and arising directly from this uncertainty, they thus also recognise the pivotal importance of the precautionary principle enshrined in India’s constitution and upheld in law. There is no gainsaying the fact that GMOs are a powerful, novel and unproven technology, which was commercialised a mere 20 years ago and whose impacts are irreversible. State governments are demonstrating a remarkable acuity of judgment and farsightedness in order to protect their crops and still rich seed diversity in the national interest, in marked contrast to the breach of these principles and the caution and precaution that are obligatory requirements in the apex Regulator.

With regard to the RCGM, it has to be said that this regulatory body that is essentially instructed by the DBT (in the Ministry of Science and Technology) has exhibited an appalling mind-set over the years as a blatant vendor of GM crops and has gone so far as to foster and openly promote PPP (public-private- partnerships) between our public sector agri institutions (supported by the ICAR), and the biotech Industry. By agreeing to such agreements, the former have comprehensively abandoned their mandate to India’s farmers. Their recommendation to cancel the requirement for NOCs is a serious error of judgment and self-revealing. Given that agriculture is a State subject, the decision to require NOCs by the former MoEF Shri Jairam Ramesh was in reality a formality, but a well judged and directed instruction to the GEAC. We would urge you to uphold this principle, which will send the right message of support from the Centre to State governments in their exemplary action on barring field trials.

We therefore, respectfully urge you to bar any move by the GEAC to promote field trials in various States, by mounting what would be tantamount to a road-show on behalf of Monsanto and the Industry. In the year that India is hosting the CBD, this would be a comprehensively wrong message to send out. On the other hand, we further request that the GEAC in a principled initiative halts all field trials given the current situation where a host of bio-safety issues remain unresolved.

With best wishes

Yours faithfully

Sridhar Radhakrishnan

Convener,

Coalition for a GM-Free India

email : indiagmfree@gmail.com

Ph : 09995358205

 CC:

  1. Ms Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, National Advisory Council, New Delhi

  2. Sri Basudeb Acharya MP, Chairperson, Parliamentary Standing Committee, Agriculture

  3. Sri M F Farooqui, Chairman, GEAC

  4. Prof M S Swaminathan ( Special Invitee in GEAC as per Supreme Court Order)

  5. Prof Pushpa M Bharghava ( Special Invitee in GEAC as per Supreme Court Order )

  6. Chief Ministers of all States.

  7. Agriculture Ministers of all States

Coalition for a GM-Free India is a broad national network of organizations, scientists, farmer unions and consumer groups and individuals committed to keep the food and farms in India free of Genetically Modified Organisms.

Coalition for a GM-free India

A-124/6, First Floor, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi 110 016,

Phone/Fax: 011-26517814

Farmers’ suicides tripled in 2011: Attention of PMO sought

Government figures of farmer suicides in Vidarbha’s agrarian crisis hit cotton belt of western districts for year 2011 has shocked the local media and civil society after a national daily reported that figures compiled by government at Yavatmal district in Maharashtra- the epicenter of the agrarian crisis.

THE SHOCKING figures completely contract earlier reports of the Government of India and Mahrashtra Government in 2011 – as suicides commited due to agrarian crisis tripled as compared to the last year.

In Yavatmal district as against in 2010 administration confirmed 35 farmer suicides due to agrarian crisis, and all are eligible for government compensation whereas in 2011, 76 suicides were declared – which is more than twice the number of suicide cases reported the last year – reflecting the seriousness of the vidarbha crisis even after a series of relief packages and the Prime Minister’s visit to Vidarbha in July 2006. 

Hence Vidarbha Janadolan Samiti (VJAS) activist group, working for farmers’ rights in the region since 1997, and demanding the complete rehabilitation of farm widows and kids of farmers families who committed suicide. The group has written a letter requesting the prime minister to provide long term solution to the crisis and integrated solution to the vidarbha agrarian crisis.

Kishor Tiwari convener of VJAS, said in a press release that due to farm crisis since 2000, 2,332 farmers have committed suicide in Yavatmal. Out of which 714 have been declared to be due to farm. Tiwari has urged the PMO to review all cases in light of the changed norms.

The Indian government claims to spent more than Rs.5,000 crore apart from Rs.70,000 crore national loan waiver, which has given additional Rs.8000 crore to the package in 2006 and 2008 but there has been no change in the agrarian economy and the rate of farm suicides in the region has exposed total failure of the Indian government to solve the agrarian crisis in dry land regions of Maharashtra.

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Prevent GMO contamination, blacklist erring company, and please take action against monitoring officials and regulators for inaction

6th February 2012

To

Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan
Minister of State (Independent Charge)
Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Respected Madam,

Re: Prevent GMO contamination, blacklist erring company, and please take action against monitoring officials and regulators for inaction – reg.

I am sure you are aware that it has been confirmed officially that Monsanto has violated GM field trial norms during the field trial of its GM maize in Karnataka. In the recent past this is the third instance of field trial violation which has come to light by Monsanto and its affiliates. Such repeated violations by a company and its affiliates need to be treated very seriously and immediate action taken against the company.

The approval for the biosafety research level II trial (BRL-II, the penultimate stage before consideration for commercial cultivation) for Monsanto’s herbicide tolerant, insect resistant GM maize with stacked traits (two Bt genes and one herbicide tolerance gene) was granted during the GEAC meetings held on 15th November 2010 and 8th December 2010. RTI response revealed that a team led by Dr Pradyumn Kumar of the Directorate of Maize Research (DMR is supposed to be supervising all the GM maize BRL II field trials), noted the following in its visit report (5th May 2011): “Before planting NK603 event treatment in future, the permission from competent authority may be obtained”. From this it is evident that the field trial consisted of an unapproved, illegal GM herbicide tolerant maize(NK 603) while the trial is supposed to be for the hybrid of Bt genes’ line (MON89034) and herbicide tolerant line (NK603) (HT/Bt maize). The trial protocols were prescribed by DMR along with GEAC and it was a DMR scientist who recorded the illegal planting of the HT maize line.

The report of violation was not even discussed by the GEAC, let alone any action being taken against the company or erring officials. The company has been doing field trials for this GM maize around the country and immediate investigation needs to be carried out to ascertain where else such violations may have taken place. In case violations are found erring officials who are in charge of monitoring field trials should be immediately removed from their positions and the trials immediately stopped.

This is not the first instance of violation by Monsanto and its affiliates. An earlier episode was reported of herbicide tolerant cotton (Roundup Ready Flex – RRF cotton) planted by Monsanto’s affiliate, Mahyco (during Kharif 2010), without permission. The GEAC, in that instance, found the clarifications submitted by Mahyco highly unsatisfactory and warned that any non-compliance in future would attract punitive actions under EPA 1986, sought a resolution adopted by the Mahyco Board of Directors expressing regret and reaffirmation that such lapses would not be repeated, and that the data generated during the BRL II trials using the unapproved GMO shall not be considered for regulatory purpose. All of these were decisions recorded in the July 2011 meeting of the GEAC. However no punitive action was taken against the company and they have been granted fresh approvals to do BRL-II field trials for their RRF cotton during Kharif 2012 in three zones –north, south and central- with no additional precautions or any efforts to strengthen the monitoring mechanism.

In the more recent past (2011), Monsanto was caught for violating field trial norms during the field trials of its maize in Bijapur. Investigations by farmers’ groups and Greenpeace revealed that biosafety precautions laid down for GM field trials were not taken, the farmer whose field was leased was allowed to keep the crop from the refugia and viable GM corn was lying around in the trial fields instead of having been completely destroyed. The company had merely entered into a short term lease with the farmer instead of being in a long term lease as is stipulated for field trials to ensure bio-safety. GEAC ordered an investigation into the incident, however no report has yet been submitted, or any discussion conducted. However Monsanto has been rewarded again with permissions for new GM field trials during Rabi 2011-12 and Kharif 2012.

These margins and leniency are being provided to a company that has time and again shown scant regard for biosafety laws of the country. As you are aware, the National Biodiversity Authority has decided to proceed against Monsanto along with its Indian subsidiary Mahyco for violating biodiversity laws of the country in the case of Bt brinjal as well.

As you are aware, open air field trials even when carried out under close supervision, with the mandated precautions, is a dangerous activity in view of the release of untested, unapproved new modified living organisms into the environment. This risk is magnified manifold when the mandated provisions are violated with impunity and our bio-diversity is exposed to unacceptable threats in the form of illegal GMOs as well. Illegal planting during GMO field trials is an egregious violation in view of the serious threat of contamination and release of illegal GMOs into the biosphere.

In view of the seriousness of the violation and the repeated instances which are coming to light (which we think is just the tip of the iceberg as many more violations could be happening unreported or have gone undetected) particularly from one company and its affiliates, immediate action should be taken.

The Coalition for a GM-Free India seeks that:

  • Immediate investigation into the details of all GM maize field trials by Monsanto across the country to ascertain where all the illegal HT maize planting or other violations may have taken place;

  • Immediate withdrawal /cancellation of permission for field trials by Monsanto and its affiliates till all violation issues are investigated and addressed by GEAC

  • Blacklist Monsanto and its affiliates – no applications to be entertained from this corporation and its affiliates by the regulators

  • Re-examine the monitoring, evaluation mechanism for field trials and temporarily suspend all field trials till loop holes like this are plugged – today, no contamination testing takes place where field trials are taken up, for instance

  • Action against erring officials including in the Monitoring Teams be taken where such violations have gone unreported – such monitoring team members who have not reported violations where they occurred should be removed from their posts immediately

  • Action against regulators for not acting on information that they possessed about illegal planting by Monsanto – this was after all information supplied by the GEAC under RTI, but without any evidence of any action against the erring company

  • GEAC to develop a robust system for acting upon field trial violations and put in place norms for timely and serious consideration of such violations and for punitive actions.

We also request you to immediately instruct the GEAC to take up the matters raised here and take immediate action. We hope to hear from you on this.

Thanking you with anticipation

Yours truly

 

Sridhar Radhakrishnan,

Convener, Coalition for a GM-Free India

H-3, Jawahar Nagar, Kawdiar, Thiruvananthapuram – 695003, Kerala.

Ph : 09995358205

email : mail.thanal@gmail.com, website : www.indiagminfo.org

 

Copy to : Sri M F Farooqui, Chairman, GEAC

Ms Ranjini Warrier, Member Secretary, GEAC