On 10th anniversary of Bt Cotton, Farmer Unions, Scientists and Social activists reject the False Hype and Failed Promises

Rytu Swarajya Vedika & Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA)

Press Release

Hyderabad, 26/03/2012

 Roundtable meeting demands comprehensive review of Bt Cotton

On the 10th anniversary of introduction of Bt cotton in India, the Roundtable meeting and press conference organized by Rytu Swarajya Vedika and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture exposed the false hype and failed promises of Bt cotton. The Roundtable, which was attended by farmer union leaders, scientists and representatives of people’s organizations, came out with a consensus that “the Government, legislators, policy-makers, farmer organizations and media should reject the false hype about Bt cotton, closely examine the crisis in the cotton belt and critically re-assess the 10 years of Bt cotton. A few companies, particularly Monsanto, are controlling the seed industry and also setting the agenda for the government. The government should stop acting as an agent for the seed companies and act independently in the interests of farmers against the monopolistic exploitation by companies pushing technologies like Genetically Modified crops.” The prominent attendees included Mr. Kodand Reddy, President of A.P. Kisan Congress, Mr. Nallamala Venkateswara Rao, Secretary of Telugu Rythu, Dr. A.Prasad Rao, advisor to A.P. Rythu Sangham (CPM), Prof. Satya Prasad, President of Jana Vigyana Vedika, Prof. N.Venugopala Rao, well-known agricultural scientist and leader of Jana Vigyana Vedika, Prof. Ramana Murthy, agricultural economist from Hyderabad Central University, Dr.Narasimha Reddy from Chetana Society, Kondal Reddy from Caring Citizens Collective, K.Ravi, assoc. editor of Tolakari magazine, Kiran Vissa from Rytu Swarajya Vedika, and Dr. G.V. Ramanjaneyulu from Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

 

Rytu Swarajya Vedika and CSA released a Telugu report on 10 years of Bt cotton, using data from government institutions, which highlighted that the hype around Bt cotton as revolutionizing the cotton production in India is clearly wrong. Closer examination of the data from the last 10 years negates the two important claims of dramatic yield increase and significant fall in pesticide usage. The report clearly exposes the dark side of the Bt cotton story  – stagnant yields, pest resistance, new pest and disease attacks, the need for high levels of expensive farm inputs and the spate of tragic farmer suicides in the cotton belt.

 

The organizers said, “The aggressive PR campaign by the biotechnology industry is being uncritically accepted by the government and regulators. The government should stop promoting Bt cotton and pro-actively advise farmers about its unsuitability and risks.”

 

The cotton farmers are in deep crisis after ten years of Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers. The extensive crop failure has exposed the false hype and advertising, often repeated by policymakers and regulators. In Andhra Pradesh, state government estimates show that out of 47 lakh acres planted with Bt cotton during Kharif 2011 season, the crop failed in 33.73 lakh acres (71% of the area). The state government reported that 20.46 lakh farmers suffered from cotton crop failure and lost Rs.3071.6 cr.

 

Presenting some of the analysis, Kiran Vissa of Rytu Swarajya Vedika said, “The real yield gains in the past decade (from 278 kg/ha to 470 kg/ha) happened from 2000-01 to 2004-05, i.e. when Bt cotton area reached only 5.6% of the total cotton area. From 2005-06 to 2011-12, when the Bt cotton area grew to exceed 90% of the total cotton area, there is no sustained yield gain – only going from 470 kg/ha to 481 kg/ha. It is the pre-Bt cotton yield gains that have proved to be stable, resulting from various factors including fresh land brought under cotton cultivation, expansion of irrigation and use of high-yielding hybrids. In A.P. state, in the period from 2001-02 to 2007-08 when the Bt cotton area had not fully expanded, the yield went from 454 kg/ha to 690 kg/ha, but by 2010-11 it had fallen to 505 kg/ha and in 2011-12 reports indicate it is as low as 320 kg/ha.” The report also refers to the statement of Dr. K.R. Kranthi, Director of Central Institute for Cotton Research(CICR), “The main issue that worries stakeholders is the stagnation of productivity at an average of 500 kg lint per ha for the past seven years. The gains have been stagnant and unaffected by the increase in area of Bt cotton from 5.6% in 2004 to 85% in 2010.”

 

Kondal Reddy from Caring Citizens Collective said, “We have been working for six years with farmer suicides in 3 districts of A.P. We find that the farmer suicides are maximum in areas of Bt cotton – for example, the Parakala area in Warangal district. This technology showed some temporary gains but has trapped the farmers in debt cycle. At the farmer level, pesticide spraying quickly went back to pre-Bt levels after the first two years.”

 

Regarding pest protection, scientific studies and the company statements show that the target pest bollworm has developed tolerance to Bt cotton, whereas secondary pests like mealy bugs and whiteflies which were hitherto unseen are causing major damage. Data from Directorate of Plant Protection that in five out of six major cotton-growing states there is an increase in pesticide usage during the period 2005-06 to 2009-10 when the Bt cotton cultivation expanded in a big way. This is despite the heavy increase in use of more powerful low-volume pesticides during the same period, which should have reduced the total volumes. This shows that Bt technology is a false solution to the pesticide problem – the NPM methods which eliminate pesticide usage completely have been successfully demonstrated A.P. in various crops in the large-scale CMSA program (Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture) in 30 lakh acres while the Bt technology with all its risks, at best reduces pesticide usage temporarily for a given target pest.

 

Farmer leader Mr.Kodand Reddy from A.P.Kisan Congress said, “My experience as a farmer, as well as official information shows that Bt cotton requires more inputs in terms of fertilizers and irrigation, and is particularly susceptible to rainfall shortage at peak bolling period. The costs of cultivation have gone up significantly after the introduction of Bt cotton, leading to increased risk and debt for small farmers. Based on the experience of Bt cotton, the government should be extremely careful with promoting any other Genetically Modified crops, and the state government rightly took a stand in 2010 that Bt Brinjal should not be allowed.”

 

Dr. Ramanjaneyulu of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture said, “The fact is that the crisis of cotton farmers in A.P. has only become deeper after the adoption of Bt cotton. A large number of farmer suicides in A.P. have happened with cotton farmers. Though studies have shown that Bt cotton is not suitable for rain-fed regions which form majority of the cotton cultivation area, it is promoted aggressively with farmers through misleading advertising. Even the government institutions do not have non-Bt seed available for the farmers. Farmers who were frustrated with one unsustainable technology of chemical pesticides were asked to adopt another unsustainable technology promoted by the same companies which sold the pesticides.”

 

Prof.N.Venugopal Rao, entomology professor at the Agricultural University (ANGRAU- Hyderabad) and leader of the people’s science movement Jana Vigyana Vedika, said, “As believers in true science and people-friendly science, we can say clearly that the Bt cotton technology is a temporary unsustainable solution that doesn’t address the problem of the farmers. Jana Vigyana Vedika will take up public programs with farmers in four cotton-growing districts along with Rytu Swarajya Vedika to raise awareness about pitfalls of Bt cotton.”

 

Prof. A. Prasada Rao, retired soil scientist from Agricultural University (ANGRAU-Hyderabad) said, “Farmers around the state need to be more aware of the dangers of the technology and the manipulations and monopolistic control of these corporations. As with any technology, we should look at the sustainability, impact on environment and the question of who controls the technology. Bt cotton is not an appropriate technology on any of these counts.”

 

Demands emerging from the participants of roundtable:

  • The government, political parties and scientists should reject the false hype about Bt cotton.
  • Government should perform a comprehensive, independent review of 10 years of Bt cotton.
  • Government agencies should stop promoting Bt cotton, and revive non-Bt seed production to make it available for farmers. Especially in rainfed areas, government should clearly educate farmers about the unsuitability and problems of Bt cotton.
  • Strict action should be taken against false advertising and penalties imposed for sub-quality seed
  • Lessons from the false propaganda of Bt cotton should be learnt, and policy-makers should reject the false hype about GM crops being the inevitable way forward for increasing productivity.
  • Promote more sustainable solutions such as NPM, crop diversity and sustainable agriculture.
  • More public funding should go into agricultural research and our institutions should be freed from the heavy influence of big corporations such as Monsanto setting the research priorities.

 

Contacts:

Dr.G.V.Ramanjaneyulu                 Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 09000699702, ramoo@csa-inda.org

Kiran Vissa                                          Rytu Swarajya Vedika,   09701705743, kiranvissa@gmail.com

Dr. D. Narasimha Reddy                Chetana Society, 09010205742, nreddy.donthi@gmail.com

Prof. N.Venugopala Rao               Jana Vigyana Vedika, 09490098905, nvgrao2002@yahoo.com    

K. Ravi                                                  Assoc. Editor, Tolakari magazine, 09912928422, ravi@csa-india.org

Kondal Reddy                                    Caring Citizens Collective, 09505518443

10 years of Bt Cotton – False Hype and Failed Promises Exposed

Coalition for a GM-Free India

 

Press Release

New Delhi, 20/03/2012

Coalition for a GM-Free India demands comprehensive review and halt to the promotion of Bt cotton by the government

The false hype and failed promises of Bt cotton in India were exposed by the Coalition for GM-Free India with a special report released in a press conference here today. As the 10th anniversary of Bt cotton’s regulatory approval in India approaches, the Coalition, using data from government institutions, highlighted that the hype around Bt cotton as revolutionizing the cotton production in India is clearly wrong. Closer examination of the data from the last 10 years negates the two important claims of dramatic yield increase and significant fall in pesticide usage. The report clearly exposes the dark side of the Bt cotton story  – stagnant yields, pest resistance, new pest and disease attacks, the need for high levels of expensive farm inputs and the spate of tragic farmer suicides in the cotton belt.

In the face of aggressive PR campaign by the biotechnology industry which is being uncritically accepted by the government and regulators, the Coalition said, “This is a wake-up call for the Government, Parliamentarians, policy-makers, farmer organizations and media to closely examine the crisis in the cotton belt and critically re-assess the 10 years of Bt cotton. The government should stop promoting Bt cotton and pro-actively advise farmers about its unsuitability and risks.”

The cotton farmers are in deep crisis after ten years of Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers. The extensive crop failure has exposed the false hype and advertising, often repeated by policymakers and regulators. In Andhra Pradesh, state government estimates show that out of 47 lakh acres planted with Bt cotton during Kharif 2011 season, the crop failed in 33.73 lakh acres (71% of the area). The state government reported that 20.46 lakh farmers suffered from cotton crop failure and lost Rs.3071.6 cr. In Maharasthra, the cotton crisis forced the government to take the unprecedented step of declaring Rs. 2000 cr. as compensation (the estimated loss is Rs.10,000 cr.). The cotton production estimates had to be downgraded despite the large expansion in cotton cultivation area.

Presenting some of the analysis, Kiran Vissa, co-convener of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) said, “The real yield gains in the past decade (from 278 kg/ha to 470 kg/ha) happened from 2000-01 to 2004-05, i.e. when Bt cotton area reached only 5.6% of the total cotton area. From 2005-06 to 2011-12, when the Bt cotton area grew to exceed 90% of the total cotton area, there is no sustained yield gain – only going from 470 kg/ha to 481 kg/ha. It is the pre-Bt cotton yield gains that have proved to be stable, resulting from various factors including fresh land brought under cotton cultivation, expansion of irrigation and use of high-yielding hybrids.” The report also refers to the statement of Dr. K.R. Kranthi, Director of Central Institute for Cotton Research(CICR), “The main issue that worries stakeholders is the stagnation of productivity at an average of 500 kg lint per ha for the past seven years. The gains have been stagnant and unaffected by the increase in area of Bt cotton from 5.6% in 2004 to 85% in 2010.”

Regarding pest protection, scientific studies and the company statements show that the target pest bollworm has developed tolerance to Bt cotton, whereas secondary pests like mealy bugs and whiteflies which were hitherto unseen are causing major damage. At the farmer level, pesticide spraying quickly went back to pre-Bt levels after the first three years. Data from Directorate of Plant Protection for six major cotton-growing states shows that in Maharashtra with the largest Bt cotton cultivation area, there has been a steep increase in pesticide volume (3198 MT in 2005-06 to 4639 MT in 2009-10) whereas in four other states (Gujarat, M.P., Punjab, Karnataka) there is a marginal increase. The only decline is in A.P., possibly due to the successful campaign against pesticide use by the government’s Non-Pesticidal Management (NPM) program. At the national level, even in the peak expansion years of Bt cotton, the pesticide usage increased by 10%. This is despite the heavy increase in use of more powerful low-volume pesticides during the same period, which should have reduced the total volumes. This shows that Bt technology is a false solution to the pesticide problem – the NPM methods which eliminate pesticide usage completely have been successfully demonstrated in states like A.P. in large-scale government programs while the Bt technology with all its risks, at best reduces pesticide usage temporarily for a given target pest.

 

Official information shows that Bt cotton requires more inputs in terms of fertilizers and irrigation, and is particularly susceptible to rainfall shortage at peak bolling period. The costs of cultivation have gone up significantly after the introduction of Bt cotton, leading to increased risk and debt for small farmers. The Coalition’s report also criticizes the false and unethical advertising by the companies like Mahyco-Monsanto whose advertisements were pulled up by Advertising Standards Council of India, earlier this year.

Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti which has been campaigning for several years on farmer suicides and agrarian crisis in Vidarbha said, “The fact is that the crisis of cotton farmers in Maharashtra has only become deeper after the adoption of Bt cotton. This year, we estimate that Bt cotton farmers have lost Rs.10,000 crores due to crop failure. Even the government compensation of Rs.2000 crores is quite small considering the loss. It is an irony that the state government is compensating for the failure of private company seeds. Maharashtra tops the nation in farmer suicides, with 3181 in 2010, and the number is likely to be worse in 2011. Though studies have shown that Bt cotton is not suitable for rain-fed regions which form majority of the cotton cultivation area, it is promoted aggressively with farmers through misleading advertising. Even the government institutions do not have non-Bt seed available for the farmers. We exposed the false media campaigns of the companies regarding Bhamraja and other villages, and the ground situation in Yavatmal district was also witnessed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture recently.”

Vijay Pratap of the Kisan Swaraj Sampark Kendra added that said, “We are asking farmers around the country to be aware of the dangers of the technology and the manipulations and monopolistic control of these corporations. Farmers who were frustrated with one unsustainable technology of chemical pesticides were asked to adopt another unsustainable technology promoted by the same companies which sold the pesticides. The Bt cotton story also cautions us about the false hype around other Genetically Modified crops being pushed as inevitable, and the bull-dozing of the technology through legal frameworks such as Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill. We will continue to push for food security and sovereignty, sustainable farmer livelihoods, and democratic decision-making on science & technology”.

Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convener of the Coalition for a GM-Free India demanded, “The government, political parties and scientists should reject the false hype, and perform a comprehensive, independent and participatory review of 10 years of Bt cotton. The Parliament should have a special discussion on cotton farmers’ crisis and 10 years of Bt cotton. Government agencies should stop promoting Bt cotton, and rejuvenate the non-Bt seed production to make it available for farmers. Strict action should be taken against false claims and advertising by the companies. It is shameful that while the Indian farmer is reeling under the crisis and Bt Cotton faced its worst failure, the recent State of Indian Agriculture report talks of Bt Cotton as an unqualified success and promotes GM technology as a magic bullet.”

Coalition for a GM-Free India is a broad national network of organizations, scientists, farmer unions and consumer groups.Website: www.indiagminfo.org, Contacts:

Sridhar Radhakrishnan (convenor), 09995358205, mail.thanal@gmail.com;

Kavitha Kuruganti, 09393001550, kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com

WHO’S BENEFITING FROM PROPRIETARY HYBRID MAIZE PROMOTION IN RAJASTHAN, ASK CIVIL SOCIETY ACTIVISTS & FARMERS’ LEADERS

Press Release

Rajasthan hybrid maize Report-Download

Another controversial seed-based project favoring big corporations is emerging in Rajasthan, after the recent controversy around MoUs with seven seed companies by the state government which led to a scrapping of the agreements due to civil society pressure. Releasing a Fact Finding Report on Project Golden Rays of the Rajasthan Government here today, civil society activists and farmers’ leaders demanded to know how this project came about and who is really benefiting from the project. They pointed out that there is no scientific basis on which the large project has been undertaken with poor tribal farmers of the state, that accountability systems were completely missing, that food and nutrition security questions are coming to the fore with projects such as this and asked for an immediate scrapping of the project.

“The Rajasthan government has utilized around eighty crores of rupees from the public-funded central scheme called Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana to expand the proprietary seed markets of anti-farmer corporations like Monsanto. It is apparent that there is no basis on which particular companies and particular brands of seeds have been chosen for this project called Project Golden Rays, in five tribal districts of the state. There is no process visible by which this project has been designed and implemented – why and how are such decisions related to Public Private Partnerships and other projects being taken? Why is it that public sector varieties tested for the growing conditions of farmers in these regions are not being promoted? Why is it that farmers’ preferred varieties are not being improved with these kinds of investments? Where is the ex-ante impact assessment of this project, which has assessed short, medium and long term impacts of such a project? Given that many of these villages are Schedule V areas, why is it that the local governance structures were not consulted and involved in the project formulation stage? Even the weak seed laws in the country do not seem to apply to these projects, increasing the vulnerability of farmers in case of failures as happened this year. There are several issues of concerns with this project as a fact finding visit show and the project should be scrapped immediately. Further, farmers who incurred losses should be compensated”, said Dr Alok Vyas of CECOEDECON, Jaipur.

Rajasthan government has been implementing Project Golden Rays from 2009, utilizing funds from RKVY, in Banswara, Dungarpur, Pratapgarh, Sirohi and Udaipur. The project is huge in its magnitude and in 2011-12, the project is supposed to have covered seven lakh farmers. The Fact Finding visit was undertaken in December 2011 by civil society activists from different parts of the country, for a rapid assessment of its implications on food and livelihood security in addition to environmental sustainability.

The Fact Finding team had the following to say: “It is obvious from our interactions with farmers from three districts (Udaipur, Dungarpur and Banswara) that the yields with proprietary hybrid maize from Project Golden Rays are not as high as claimed or projected; in fact, they are on par with desi varieties of the farmers. Further, there are emerging questions on food security with this project as farmers do not prefer consuming hybrid maize and the fact that shelf life of hybrid maize grain is significantly lower. Further, monocropping is increasing, which in turn affects resilience of a farm as well as food/nutrition security of a poor family, especially in the era of climate change. It is also clear from our interactions that the adverse weather conditions in which a majority of farmers cultivate their crops are not suitable for the hybrid maize seeds being promoted. The cost of cultivation is shooting up with hybrid maize and it is foreseeable that the poor farmers in the region cannot sustain the kind of investments that this technology requires. Our fact finding visit clearly shows that there is misplaced and inappropriate emphasis on hybrid maize and that too, proprietary hybrid maize in this project and we want to know who is ultimately benefiting from this project”.

Even though there are public sector maize lines (composite as well as hybrid) tested and cleared for these parts of Rajasthan, Project Golden Rays chose to promote seeds of Monsanto, an American MNC ignominous the worldover for its environmental pollution and anti-farmer behaviour. It is only in 2011 Kharif that the Rajasthan government, coming under pressure from critics of the PPP project, changed its seed procurement procedures to open bidding and included other seeds too in the project. There have been no questions asked about the high seed price charged by this corporation in two years of the project before the open bidding took place, even as no compensation has been paid to loss-incurring farmers.

Reiterating the demand to the Rajasthan government to immediately scrap the project, Kavitha Kuruganti of ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) which organized the fact finding visit, along with Astha and Vagad Mazdoor Kisan Sanghatan, questioned whether such aggressive promotion of maize is really supposed to cater to enhanced food security needs of the country. “If that is the case, why is the larger picture showing that 51% of maize is being utilized for Poultry Feed, 11% for Animal Feed (62% in all for Feed!), 11% for Starch, 1% for Seed, 1% for Breweries and only 25% as Food in India? If that is the case, why are cultivars which are not suitable for local food consumption, but for other purposes being promoted? Why are cultivars that cannot be stored by the farmer’s family for more than 2-3 months being promoted? Why are agronomic practices that increase mono-cropping being promoted? Will this benefit industry or poor tribal farmers, in the name of Food Security?”, she asked. She lamented the fact that sustainability and accountability, in addition to self-governance for development by tribal communities are all critical missing components in the project.

Nilesh Desai of Beej Swaraj Abhiyan, who was also a part of the fact finding visit pointed out that seed sovereignty is being compromised by these ill-thought-out projects by governments, where medium and long term concerns are being given the short shrift. “It is not as though alternatives to such projects, which will focus on livelihood improvement of the farmers, are not present. There are certainly several examples which show that alternate seed production and supply mechanisms can be put into place which do not compromise seed sovereignty, which rely on suitable composite lines etc.. Further, agro-ecological approaches to cultivation will ensure higher net returns rather than promoting chemical-based intensive farming. We would like governments to scale up such efforts”.

The fact-finding team demanded for the immediate scrapping of the project in Rajasthan, and instead asked for appropriate financial investments on projects that promote food security and seed self-reliance at the grassroots level.

 

PM’s Speech at the Workshop on Agriculture at Rashtrapati Bhavan


15 February 2012, Press Information Bureau, Government of India
http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=80324

Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh addressed the workshop on “Policy initiatives for promoting partnership between stakeholders in agriculture with particular reference to rainfed/dryland farming” at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi today. Following is the text of Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s speech on the occasion:

“Let me begin by thanking respected Rashtrapatiji for bringing us all together for this workshop. I understand that the workshop is a part of the initiative on agriculture that arose out of the deliberations of the last biennial conference of Governors. We are now at the final stages of formulation of the 12th Five Year Plan and therefore this is an opportune time to discuss how we can strengthen the agricultural sector in all its dimensions. I am sure that the varied and vast experience and expertise that the participants bring to this event will result in very meaningful contributions to the cause of Indian agriculture.

The importance of agriculture to our society and economy has stayed undiminished over the years. A strong agricultural sector is necessary for our food and nutritional security and for the welfare and well being of the very large proportion of our population that is still engaged in farming. Indeed without providing livelihood security to the farmers, we cannot achieve the goal of inclusive growth in its true sense.

I believe that our government has given considerable attention to agriculture in the last seven and a half years or so. We have been able to channel nearly 4.75 lakh crore rupees of bank credit into agriculture and allied sectors. Minimum support prices for key agricultural commodities have been significantly enhanced. Indeed they have been enhanced as never before. We have increased Public investment in agriculture and with the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana given States a strong incentive to increase their involvement and their investment in agriculture. Consequently, allocation for agriculture & allied sectors as a proportion of State Plan expenditure has gone up from 4.88% in 2006-07 to 6.04% in 2010-11.

I am very happy that our agricultural policies have yielded positive result. Gross Capital Formation in agriculture and allied sectors has increased from 13.1% of GDP in agriculture in 2004-05 to 20.1% in 2010-11. Agriculture and allied sectors have grown at an estimated rate of 3.5% during the Eleventh Plan compared to the growth rates of 2.4% and 2.5% during Tenth and Ninth Plans respectively.

Our farmers have done us proud again this year. The 2nd Advance Estimates for 2011-12 indicate that the production of food grains is expected to reach the record level of over 250 million tonnes, exceeding the target for the year by 5 million tonnes. The production of cotton in 2011-12 estimated at 34 million bales is also a new record.

But we still have a long way to go. I would like to repeat here what I had stated on the occasion of the Foundation Day celebrations of the Indian Council of Agricultural research on July 16 last year- the challenges that India’s agriculture faces in the coming years remain enormous. As an illustration, to meet the total demand of foodgrains in the year 2020-2021, we need a growth rate of at least 2 percent per annum in food production. This has to be contrasted with the average annual rate of only 1 percent that we achieved in the ten year period 1995-96 to 2004-05. Although food production has regained momentum in the recent years, we cannot afford to be complacent since the demand for horticulture and animal products is increasing very rapidly and this will require some shift of area away from production of foodgrains. Therefore agricultural productivity in foodgrain production has to go up handsomely.

The broad tasks that lie ahead of us are well known. We need to increase agricultural productivity which has generally reached a plateau over the years. Yields in the Eastern regions of our country are particularly low. The gap between what is achievable and what is actually achieved needs to be bridged. For this we need to strengthen the agriculture research system, the system of extension services and ensure availability of quality inputs to farmers on time.

We also need more efficient produce markets so that farmers see tangible gains from their effort and so have the incentive to produce more. There is a big gap between the farm gate prices and the retail prices that the consumers pay. There is also volatility, with prices being low after harvest. We need to address all this by reforming the agricultural marketing systems and in investing in supply chain logistics, including the cold chain. The Minimum Support Price Mechanism for pulses and oilseeds should also be made to work more effectively.

Investment by the private sector is complementary to public investment. Accordingly, private investment is being encouraged in various areas of agriculture, including extension activities, soil testing, seed production and agricultural marketing. A substantial portion of hybrid and certified seeds today comes from private seed companies and private investment in marketing logistics will be vital for growth, particularly in sub-sectors with perishable products.

More importantly, a substantial part of our agricultural growth has to come through Research and Development efforts – through application of new technologies and new knowledge to processes of production. Therefore, we need to both invest more in agricultural research and improve its quality. And we must in turn improve the quality of the human resource engaged not only in research but also in agricultural extension and in other areas of agriculture.

The States of course have a critical role to play in all this. I would particularly stress the importance of reforms in agricultural marketing and the revitalization of the Agricultural Universities in our countries.

In the whole range of our efforts we must pay special attention to the needs of rainfed farming, which I believe is the special focus of this very important workshop. Rainfed areas contribute more than 80 percent of the oilseeds and pulses grown in our country and more than 40 percent of our total agricultural production. They account for about 60 percent of our total cropped area. Yields continue be low in the rainfed areas of our country and these must be increased not only to enhance our agricultural production but also for the benefit of the large number of farmers dependent on rainfed agriculture.

Once again, I must point out that our government’s efforts seem to be bearing fruit. The acceleration of agricultural growth after 2004 has been particularly marked in States with relatively low irrigation facilities and in the yield of rainfed crops such as pulses, coarse cereals, oilseeds and cotton. Nonetheless, rainfed farming continues to be a gamble with nature and cases of distress continue to be reported despite our efforts. We have introduced innovations such as weather-based insurance, our schemes now encourage unconventional practices such as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and our scientists have created many new and appropriate technologies which are drought resistant. But these can achieve results only when they are adopted by a large number of farmers. To achieve such adoption, an enormous amount of work needs to be done in strengthening institutions and partnerships among governments, the private sector, farmers’ institutions like cooperatives, producer companies, self help groups and civil society organizations and last but not the least, the Panchayati Raj institutions.

We must also take care of two other overarching concerns while formulating our strategy for agricultural growth. These are efficient use of water, which is increasingly becoming scarce in our country, and concerns about environmental degradation, paying particular attention to reducing energy intensity in agricultural processes.

Distortions arising from pricing and subsidy regimes, which have resulted in degradation and depletion of soil through unsuitable cropping patterns and disproportionate use of resources, need to be reviewed.

While we broadly know what needs to be done, we must find new pathways and means to do solid research. And it is here that initiatives like the present one are so useful. I understand that the Committee of Governors constituted by respected Rashtrapati ji to recommend measures to enhance productivity, profitability and sustainability of Indian agriculture has already concluded two meetings. The Committee is paying particular attention to the area of farmer-industry partnership. I am told that the deliberations of this workshop will feed into the work of the Committee.

We had earlier constituted three groups to look into the issues of agricultural production, consumer affairs and public distribution system under Chief Minister of Haryana, Chief Minister of Gujarat and Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission respectively. These groups have given their reports and the Ministries of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs and Food & Public Distribution have examined them. I am told most of the recommendations are acceptable and action on them has either already been taken or is underway.

I have no doubt that the representation of all the key stakeholders, including the concerned ministries of the central government, state governments, farmers’ organizations and industrial houses, this workshop will come up with technically sound and administratively implementable recommendations for benefit of agriculture in rainfed areas.

I once again thank respected Rashtrapati ji for her initiative on agriculture, which shows her deep and abiding interest in issues relating to farmers. I also wish all the participants in this workshop all the very best in their endeavours to contribute to the noble cause of Indian agriculture.”

“BLACKLIST MONSANTO IMMEDIATELY : MNC CAUGHT VIOLATING BIOSAFETY NORMS YET AGAIN IN GM MAIZE TRIAL”

Press Release

http://indiagminfo.org/?p=360 (RTI document downloadable at this link)

New Delhi/Bengaluru, February 6th 2012: Ahead of a regulators’ meeting on February 8th 2012, and reacting to the confirmed reports of Monsanto’s illegal planting of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) maize in its GM maize trial, the Coalition for a GM-Free India demanded that Monsanto be blacklisted immediately. The violation was revealed in a response of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee to an RTI application. “This agri-business corporation has been caught violating the law and norms repeatedly. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has also been caught failing in its duties. GEAC, in spite of violations brought to its notice earlier also, has never taken up any deterrent and penal action against this MNC”, said the Coalition in a press statement issued in Delhi and a Press Conference held in Bengaluru. Monsanto’s illegal planting was known to the regulators (as the information was obtained through an RTI response from GEAC), but they chose not to look into the matter pro-actively and the regulators were in effect protecting Monsanto, alleged the Coalition.

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. This is also the first GM product of Monsanto in India in its own name and not in the name of associate companies like Mahyco. Monsanto and the biotech industry have been claiming that the herbicide tolerant, insect resistant GM maize with stacked traits would be approved soon.

“Monsanto’s GM maize trials have been going on for several seasons now in various locations around the country. It took a rare scientist in one monitoring team to point out the fact that planting of the herbicide-tolerant GM maize took place without permission from competent authorities! What is more damning is that there is no evidence of any discussion or action by the regulators on this finding. This clearly demonstrates that the regulators are unconcerned about biosafety violations or contamination and are protecting and supporting offenders like Monsanto”, said Kavitha Kuruganti, Member, Coalition for a GM-Free India.

The 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”. This clearly demonstrates that this field trial consisted of an unapproved, illegal GM herbicide tolerant maize while the trial is supposed to be for the hybrid of Bt genes’ line (MON89034) and herbicide tolerant line (NK603) (HT/Bt maize). A point to be noted is that 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.

“This appears to be a repetition of an earlier episode of herbicide tolerant cotton (Roundup Ready Flex – RRF cotton) planted by Monsanto’s affiliate, Mahyco, 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”, reminded the Coalition.

What is ironic in the case of the GM maize trials of Monsanto is that further field trials have been approved after this visit of the monitoring team on 5th May 2011 recorded the illegal planting!

Monsanto has also been caught violating several biosafety norms in its GM maize cultivation plot in Bijapur in early 2011, around the same time as this Monitoring Team’s finding of illegal planting inside the University in Dharwad. The Bijapur episode, documented by Greenpeace and a Kannada TV Channel had been brought to the notice of the regulators and no investigation has been completed so far into this complaint.  Egregious violations were also found during various other field trials from 2005 onwards.

“In the face of such impunity from these seed corporations and irresponsible inaction by the regulators, it is ironic that when civil society groups try to prevent contamination from these untested GMOs by objecting to such trials like in the case of the Bayer GM rice trial in Patancheru or DuPont GM rice trial in Doddaballapur, they are being treated as criminals! The history of GM crop regulation in India is replete with violations and illegal plantings and repeated failure on the part of the regulators in checking these or even taking serious action post facto. Therefore citizens are forced to step in to uphold biosafety.

“The Coalition demands that the Minister for Environment & Forests fix accountability on Monsanto and its Indian associates for violating Indian law. It also demands that MoEF take action against the regulators who repeatedly fail to check the violations of the corporations, and call on state governments of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to drop all charges against activists involved in biosafety protection”, added the Coalition.

 

For more information, contact:

Kavitha Kuruganti – 9393001550

Sridhar Radhakrishnan – 9995358205

ps: Page 10 to 14 in the attached scanned document do not pertain to the GM maize in question but got inadvertently included in the scanned document. Page 15 to 20 is the relevant monitoring report in this instance.

 

ASHA demands on Agriculture and Indian Budget 2012-13

 Agriculture is the foundation of the rural economy which supports nearly 70% of our population and the basis of food security for the entire nation and its citizens. At this juncture, India is in a precarious situation both in terms of the economic condition of the farming community, especially the small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers and those dependent on rainfed agriculture, and the ecological condition in terms of poor soil health, abysmal groundwater situation, poor crop diversity and extent of chemical poisoning of our farm ecosystem and our food.

The Budget should give the highest priority to strengthening Indian agriculture, with the focus on sustainable livelihoods, especially for the small, marginal and medium farmers, and agricultural workers who together constitute more than 90% of the farming community. The need of the day is for the nation’s economic policies to focus on providing dignified livelihoods to these 700 million people and making agriculture and allied sectors economically vibrant and ecologically sustainable. Without this, the nation cannot hope to achieve poverty reduction or human development goals meaningfully – whether in the realm of food and nutrition security, health, rural employment, tribal development, Dalit empowerment or reducing the alarming rural-urban disparity.

Our immediate demands for the Indian budget are as follows, and we hope that this will mark a new beginning towards an economic policy focused on sustainable rural livelihoods.

  • Public investment in agriculture is very low, with a large portion of it going towards subsidy for chemical fertilizers. As a sector which provides livelihood for about 60% of the population, at least 25% of the Indian budget should be allocated to agriculture and allied sectors.
  • The prices for farmers produce are not increasing commensurate with the rise in inputs costs and living costs. The Minimum Support Prices for the food crops are kept on a leash due to possible impact on food inflation. The National Farmers Commission recommended that farmers should be paid at least 1.5 times the Cost of Cultivation C2. The Government should set up the ‘Price Compensation mechanism’ which will directly pay the farmers the gap between the Target Price (C2+50%) and the MSP (or the average Farm Harvest Price if lower than MSP).
  • Government should set up a Price Stabilisation Fund to address the market fluctuations in commercial crops
  • Special program to support expansion of ecologically sustainable agriculture should be initiated by the government as a pilot in 100 districts, with at least 50% of these being in rainfed areas. This program should integrate ecological management of soil fertility, pest control, crop diversity, water conservation and livestock.
  • Ecological Services bonus to farmers who practice ecological agriculture and cultivate eco-friendly crops like millets.
  • A major mission should be taken up to identify and record tenant farmers, and to provide them access to crop loans, insurance, compensation for crop loss, and all government subsidies and programs. Tenant farmers form the most vulnerable section of the agrarian community and constitute a majority of farmer suicides.
  • A concerted program to update land records should be taken up in a time-bound manner, especially with a view of implementing land reforms and ensuring that the benefits of government programs and compensation for land acquisition reach the real cultivators.
  • Drastic increase in outlay for Disaster Relief Fund for farmers, which should provide timely compensation for crop loss due to any disaster such as floods, drought, cyclone and untimely rains – at Rs.10,000 per acre on the lines of recommendations of the Hooda committee.
  • Adequate crop insurance should be provided for all crops in all regions. Expanded outlay for crop insurance program should ensure doubling the number of farmers and acres covered during this year, and should subsidize the premium payments which have become unviable for many small farmers.
  • Labour subsidy of 50 person-days/hectare for agricultural operations on private lands of farmers to compensate for the steep rise in labour wages. This should be in addition to the 100-day entitlement of labour work under NREGS and should be operationalized through a pilot program involving farmer and worker collectives.
  • A rural livelihoods program should be introduced that focuses on agro-based processing, storage and marketing facilities to be set up in rural areas, managed by farmer collectives.

for more details contact ramoo.csa@gmail.com, kiranvissa@gmail.com, kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com

ADVERTISING STANDARDS COUNCIL OF INDIA CONCLUDES THAT MAHYCO MONSANTO BIOTECH’S CLAIMS ON BOLLGARD ARE NOT SUBSTANTIATED

Press Release of “Public Awareness on Genetically Modified Foods”

 

New Delhi, January 12th 2012: A prominent advertisement by Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech Ltd titled “Bollgard boosts the Indian cotton farmers’ income by over Rs. 31,500 crores” that appeared in Hindustan Times on August 30th 2011, was found to be not substantiated in its claims by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). ASCI found that the claims made in the advertisement were not substantiated under the self regulation code I.1. of ASCI which has been laid down ‘to ensure the truthfulness and honesty of representations and claims made by advertisements and to safeguard against misleading advertisements’.

This advertisement was a part of the massive publicity campaign initiated by MMB when numerous prominent advertisements appeared in various national dailies in August 2011.

“This is a vindication of what we have been saying so far that claims on Bt cotton are hyped up and not based on facts. We are glad that the Advertising Standards Council of India’s Consumer Complaints Council deliberated on the issues raised by a complaint on the matter at length and arrived at this conclusion. I urge all those who are being misled by such advertisements to re-look at all facts available and arrive at rational and scientific conclusions on products like Bt cotton”, said Rachna Arora of ‘Public Awareness on Genetically Modified Food’, a group working to create informed debates on this matter.

Rachna Arora, in her complaint to ASCI dated the same date as the date of the appearance of the advertisement (Aug 30th 2011), challenged the claims made with regard to Bollgard technology by the advertisers, on Reduced Insecticide Usage, on Increased Yields, on Increased Farmer Incomes, on Inbuilt Plant Protection and on Increase of Income of Farmers by Rs. 31500 crores and pointed out that these claims are either false or unsubstantiated.

ASCI had forwarded the complaint to the advertiser for their comments. ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council then discussed the complaint in a meeting held on November 22nd 2011 and the observations of the CCC were also reviewed with the advertiser subsequently. After completing this process also, the CCC upheld the complaint of Rachna Arora and concluded that the claims made in the advertisement and cited in the complaint, were not substantiated.

The CCC of the ASCI upheld the complaint made by Rachna Arora  “as the advertisement contravened Chapter I. 1. of the ASCI code” which states the following:

Advertisements must be truthful. All descriptions, claims and comparisons which relate to matters of objectively ascertainable fact should be capable of substantiation. Advertisers and advertising agencies are required to produce such substantiation as and when called upon to do so by the Advertising Standards Council of India.

Monsanto was earlier fined 15000 Euros in France in January 2007 after being found guilty of false advertising with regard to its herbicide. In May 2010, the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa found the claims made by Monsanto through an advertisement called, “Is Your Food Safe? Biotechnology: The True Facts” in a magazine to be unsubstantiated and asked for the advertisement to be withdrawn immediately.

“This goes to show that this is a repeated feature in the claims made on its products by Monsanto and its associates and companies like Monsanto are having to resort to spending their resources on such advertisements even as the general public is awakening to the dangers of transgenic and other toxic products”, said Rachna.

For more information, contact:

Rachna Arora : +91 9811746647

 

===========================

 

ANNEXURES: CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN ASCI & RACHNA ARORA VERMA

 

On Monday, January 2, 2012, ASCI <asci@vsnl.com> wrote:

Further to our e-mail of 7th December 2011, the complaint was considered by the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) at their meeting held on 22nd November.

As per their decision, the complaint has been UPHELD as the advertisement contravened Chapter I.1 of the ASCI Code.    The CCC concluded that the claims made in the advertisement and cited in the complaint, were not substantiated.

In response to the CCC decision, the Advertiser has informed us that the said Ad has been modified.

Thank you for having referred this complaint to us.

Assuring you of our services in the pursuit of Self-Regulation in Advertising.

Alan  Collaco
Secretary  General
A S C I

========================

From: ASCI <asci@vsnl.com>
Date: Wed, Dec 7, 2011 at 6:51 PM
Subject: C.3738 – Your complaint against the advertisement of “Bollgard”, which appeared in the Hindustan Times, New Delhi dated 30th August 2011
To: rachna01@gmail.com
Cc: asci@vsnl.com

Further to our letter No.C.3738 dated 17th October  2011, the complaint under reference was taken up for discussion at the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) meeting held on 22nd November 2011.

 

The information provided by the Advertiser was deliberated at length and the issues involved were reviewed.

 

We are in the process of reviewing with the Advertiser, the observations made at the meeting.  We shall advise you of the outcome by 22nd December.

 

Alan  Collaco

Secretary  General

A S C I

 

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Rachna <rachna01@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 12:53 PM
Subject: {swaraj yatra planning} False and misleading advertisement by Monsanto Mahyco Biotech limited
To: asci@vsnl.comalan@ascionline.org
Cc: swarajyatraplanning@googlegroups.com

Dear Sir,

 

Please find attached my complaint regarding a false and misleading advertisement in The Hindustan Times dated 30th August 2011, New Delhi edition.  I attempted to file an online complaint but could not do so due to a server error on the ASCI website. I am attaching the screen shot of the error response for your information and action.

 

I have filled up the downloadable form from your website and have attempted to provide all relevant information for your information.  Please feel free to contact me for any additional information that you might need to take action against the multi national organisation indulging in unfair practices.

 

The internet link to the said advertisement is given below. I am also attaching the screen shot of the advertisement for your convenience.

http://epaper.hindustantimes.com/PUBLICATIONS/HT/HD/2011/08/30/index.shtml

 

I request you to stop all advertisements and paid news  by Monsanto-MahycoBiotech limited and associated organisations immediately till this complaint is resolved. Please acknowledge receipt and update me regarding the action taken by your esteemed organisation.

 

Thanks and regards

NOTE: News that Monsanto is in trouble in India over its advertising claims for GM cotton, need to be seen in context:
1.France: Monsanto guilty in ‘false ad’ row
2.UK: Watchdog slams Monsanto ads
3.South Africa: Falsified GM food safety claims rejected
For more on the Indian decision:
http://www.gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/13606


1.Monsanto guilty in ‘false ad’ row
BBC News, 15 October 2009
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8308903.stm

France’s highest court has ruled that US agrochemical giant Monsanto had not told the truth about the safety of its best-selling weed-killer, Roundup.

The court confirmed an earlier judgment that Monsanto had falsely advertised its herbicide as “biodegradable” and claimed it “left the soil clean”.

The company was fined 15,000 euros (£13,800; $22,400). It has yet to comment on the judgment.

Roundup is the world’s best-selling herbicide.

Monsanto also sells crops genetically-engineered to be tolerant to Roundup.

French environmental groups had brought the case in 2001 on the basis that glyphosate, Roundup’s main ingredient, is classed as “dangerous for the environment” by the European Union.

In the latest ruling, France’s Supreme Court upheld two earlier convictions against Monsanto by the Lyon criminal court in 2007, and the Lyon court of appeal in 2008, the AFP news agency reports.

Earlier this month, Monsanto reported a fourth quarter loss of $233m (£147m), driven mostly by a drop in sales of its Roundup brand.


2.Watchdog slams Monsanto ads
John Arlidge
The Observer, 28 February 1999
http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/1999/feb/28/food.foodanddrink

Monsanto, the US company at the centre of the storm over genetically modified food, has been condemned for making ‘wrong, unproven, misleading and confusing’ claims in a GBP1m advertising campaign.

The ruling, by the Advertising Standards Authority, the industry’s official watchdog, is a humiliating blow to the company which is struggling to persuade sceptical consumers that food from genetically modified crops is safe.

The Observer has obtained a draft report on the authority’s investigation into more than 30 complaints about Monsanto’s advertisements. It says the US giant expressed its own opinion ‘as accepted fact’ and published ‘wrong’ and ‘misleading’ scientific claims.

The Green Party and food safety campaigners who are campaigning for a total ban on GM food welcomed the ruling yesterday. Patrick Spring, of the Green Party, said: ‘Monsanto has been caught out misleading the public. They should apologise to consumers and print a retraction in full-page newspaper ads.

‘If they are prepared to hoodwink the public, what have they been telling their friends in Government? We know they have been lobbying ministers and officials to try to get their products onto supermarket shelves. Have they been economical with the truth? The public need answers.’

The Greens, GeneWatch, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Soil Association and members of the public wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority last year complaining that Monsanto had breached the ASA’s rules.

The series of commercials, by the London-based advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, began with a full-page ad which read: ‘Food biotechnology is a matter of opinions. Monsanto believes you should hear all of them.’

Over the next few weeks the company went on to describe ‘the real benefits of biotechnology for both consumers and the environment’. GM foods were ‘grown in a more environmentally sustainable way, less dependent on the earth’s scarce mineral resources’.

GM technology had undergone ‘rigorous tests throughout Monsanto’s 20-year biotech history to ensure our food crops are as safe and nutritious as the standard alternatives’. Government agencies in 20 countries, including Britain, had approved them as safe.

In its report the ASA criticised the firm for wrongly giving the impression that genetically modified potatoes and tomatoes had been tested and approved for sale in Britain. The authority also dismissed Monsanto’s assertion that GM crops were grown ‘in a more environmentally sustainable way’ than ordinary crops as unproven.

Monsanto has seven days to challenge the draft report before it is submitted to the full council of the ASA. If it is approved, the criticism will be published in full next month.

Dan Verakis, spokesman for Monsanto, expressed disappointment last night at the ASA’s report but pointed out that some advertisements had already been amended.

‘We were the first biotech company to attempt to explain this complicated science and to help consumer understand it better. We expected it to be controversial and we expected the activist industry to be very critical,’ he said. ‘We do not wish to mislead anyone.’


3.Falsified GM food safety claims rejected by South Africa
Trevor Wells
Farmers Legal Action Group – South Africa
http://www.gmfreecymru.org/documents/monsanto_slammed.htm

On 26 June 2006 Farmers legal Action-South Africa published an article headed “Monsanto tells a pack of lies in South Africa”. See article below. The article exposed how Monsanto had told the South African Advertising Authority (ASA) that MON 863 was not their product. MON 863 was in fact their product and had been found to cause damage to rats in independent trials in Europe. Monsanto had in fact made an application for this product to be released in South Africa. The ASA ordered Monsanto SA to withdraw its advert which depicted a mother with two children in a kitchen looking at a cake. Among other false claims the advert stated “no negative reactions to GM foods have ever been reported”. The advert also falsely claimed that genetically modified foods contained enhanced proteins, vitamins and anti-oxidants and removed allergens. Whilst there was an uproar from responsible parenting organisations and in fact proof that no commercial GM products had ever been commercially rele
ased
with
the enhanced claims, the ASA found it unnecessary to deal with those aspects. It ordered the removal of the advert based on the false claim that “No negative reactions to GM foods have ever been reported.” During the hearing, Monsanto attempted to distract the worthy panel of arbitrators, headed by Justice King, a no non-sense judge who rose to fame as the doyen of “Corporate Governance”, by arguing the merits of GM products as against the truthfulness of their claims. They produced a letter from Covance Laboratories in the USA, which claimed that they were an independent laboratory and which “praised the benefits of GM Corn.” Justice King ruled that the benefits of GM corn had nothing to do with the case in front of them.

Covance Laboratories have a history of abuse and have been fined on several occasions in Europe and the USA for the appalling conditions under which experiments are conducted and for outright vicious treatment of laboratory animals. Their track record is second only to Monsanto’s long history of convictions for racketeering, bribery and corruption. Covance was used by big tobacco to produce propaganda which was also proved false

Monsanto clearly lives under the misconception that South African judges are stupid, because apart from the serious submissions mentioned above they would not have presented Covance Laboratories as an “independent” source in order to verify their safety claim. Covance, USA’s support of Monsanto is even more surprising given the fact that European researchers employed by Covance Laboratories (Europe) discovered and reported numerous biological effects on rats fed MON863, i.e. blood stream anomalies that varied by sex (increase in white blood cell levels and lymphocytes in males, decrease in new red blood cells in females, increase in female blood sugar levels, in addition to renal lesions (inflammations, kidney stones) and variations in kidney weight.

The ink on the judgement ordering the withdrawal of this false advert had hardly dried when, on 21 August 2007, Kobus Steenkamp, Marketing Manager for Monsanto, issued this statement headed: “ASA accepts Monsanto’s ‘GM Is Safe’ advertisement” Monsanto’s Steenkamp added: “The Advertising Standards Authority has now approved this advertisement and accepts that the facts have been verified by independent and reliable sources.” He added “The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA has accepted the revised wording from Monsanto, which states, ” no substantiated scientific or medical negative reactions to GM foods have ever been reported”. According to the article “Another spin by GM Giant Monsanto” published by The South African NGO net ,the Advertising Standards Authority categorically denied Monsanto’s statement.

Monsanto’s however went ahead and published their advert with the same picture and wording except for the added “No substantiated medical or scientific ……”.

Mark Wells, the organic farmer, and founder member of Farmers Legal Action Group, South Africa who was the successful applicant in the previous incident, once more challenged the advert.

On 19 December 2007 Judge King of the ASA ruled that despite the amended wording not being exactly the same, the overall communication remains unchanged. A hypothetical reasonable person would interpret the claim to mean that tests were conducted in this regard and no negative reactions were found The Respondent, Monsanto, is therefore found guilty of breaching the previous ruling.

Monsanto tells a pack of lies to the Advertising Standards Authority
Trevor Wells
Farmers’ Legal Action Group – South Africa

Mark Wells, an organic farmer from Cintsa on the Wild Coast, South Africa, challenged the claim of a Monsanto advert that no negative reactions to Genetically Modified food have been reported. The false claim was made in the Monstanto advert which appeared in the widely read “You Magazine” on February 15th, 2007. Wells produced evidence to repudiate the claim.

An arbitration panel consisting of eight members was chaired by former High Court Judge Mervyn King SC whose cutting edge ‘King Report on Corporate Governance’ is hailed as the best practice corporate governance bible.

In view of the prima facie evidence produced by the complainant, the ASA opened the proceedings by stating that the matter before them for consideration was whether the advert was in breach of two sections of the Code of Practice:

1. Substantiation 2. Misleading claims

Dealing with the substantiation section first the ASA ruled that the onus is on the advertiser to substantiate the claim.

Monsanto addressed the ASA at length and submitted inter alia that it had a strict code of conduct and that MON 863 was not their product.

The facts are that MON 863 is indeed a product of Monsanto and that Monsanto had suppressed the evidence of serious damage to the liver and kidneys of rats in their own GM maize trials until ordered to release this evidence by a German Court. Furthermore Monsanto had applied to the South African GM regulatory authority for a commodity release permit for MON 863.

Monsanto then argued that after the rats had contracted liver damage Monsanto contracted five ‘independent’ scientists to assess the data supplied by them and they concluded that MON 863 had no adverse effect as claimed by the complainant.

Monsanto then changed their tack in mid-stream and argued that rather than focus on the two conflicting studies the ASA should focus on the benefits of GM maize.

The substantiation section of the code provides that any advertiser must be able to substantiate any claim objectively with documentary evidence which emanates from an independent, credible and expert source acceptable to the ASA. The ASA then invoked this clause.

Monsanto’s lawyers then pulled a letter out of the hat from Covance Laboratories in the USA which inter alia stated that they were not affiliated with Monsanto.

After applying their minds to the letter from Covance in the USA, Justice King ruled that the benefits of “GM-Corn” had nothing to do with the case in front of them. After having given Monsanto every opportunity to substantiate their claim they had failed to do so. The letter from Covenance made no mention of the issue which was before the ASA for consideration.

“The statement which the complainant alleges is false, to wit: ‘This is one of the most extensively tested and controlled types of food, and no negative reactions have ever been reported.’ goes beyond merely indicating safety. It expressly states that out of all the studies done in this field no negative effects have ever been reported.”

Without reference to the fact that Monsanto had wasted the time of an eight member panel and come to the hearing with dirty hands, Monsanto was politely informed that their claim was unsubstantiated and in breach of the Code of Practice. The ASA further ruled that as the claim was unsubstantiated it was not necessary to consider whether it was misleading.

Monsanto was ordered to immediately withdraw their claim and given the standard polite warning, which applies to all advertisers, that in future they must make sure that they can substantiate any claims before they publish them.

In January, this year, Monsanto was fined 15,000 euros (19,000 dollars) in a French court for misleading the public about the environmental impact of herbicide Roundup.

A former chairman of Monsanto Agriculture France was found guilty of false advertising for presenting Roundup as biodegradable and claiming that it left the soil clean after use. Monsanto’s French distributor Scotts France was also fined 15,000 euros.

In 2005 Monsanto was caught smuggling South African produced GM Bollgard cotton seed into Indonesia disguised as rice. Monsanto was fined for bribing Indonesian officials.

More recently in June this month, a second peer-reviewed case involving another variation of Monsanto’s GM maize, namely, NK603, has been shown by studies to be potentially toxic to humans. NK 603 has been approved for food, feed, processing, and propagation in Europe and the Philippines The new research, carried out by the French scientific research institute CRIGEN, involves biotech firm Monsanto’s NK603 GMO corn (marketed commercially under the name Round- up Ready) which was approved as food and feed in the country in 2003, and for propagation in 2005.

Rats that were fed GM maize showed significant differences in measurements, as well as significant weight differences compared to those fed with normal maize. Almost 70 statistically significant differences were observed and reported – 12 for hematology parameters, 18 for clinical chemistry parameters, nine for urine chemistry parameters, six for the organ weights (brain, heart, liver), 14 for body weights and body weight changes, and eight for food consumption. toxicity, The most alarming was the diminished brain size. Scientists warned that this was a danger warning for growing children.

Here is the unsubstantiated Monsanto’s advert which had to be withdrawn after the judgment:

Is your food safe?

Biotechnology – the true facts

The safety of genetically modified food products though biotechnology remains a subject of uncertainty to many people, but after more than twenty years’ of research and ten years’ commercial use, genetically modified grain products have been found to be just as healthy, nutritious and safe as normal products. All commercially approved grain products that have been genetically modified adhere to strict food, feed and environmental safety guidelines of regulatory authorities worldwide. This is one of the most extensively tested and controlled types of food, and no negative reactions have ever been reported. In fact, these innovative products also lead to food with improved nutritional value, which includes enhanced vitamin A, protein and antioxidant content, as well as better food safety through the removal of allergens and anti-nutrients. In short, you can use it with confidence!

Tested. Healthy. Nutritious. Safe.