India to confront Monsanto in US

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/india-confront-monsanto-us

Author(s): Jyotika Sood

Issue Date: Jun 15, 2013

Biodiversity Authority will oppose Monsanto’s patent application involving Indian melon

Indian melonIndian melon (Photo: Seth Vidal)

TAKING the lead in another biopiracy case after Bt brinjal, the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) has decided to challenge the alleged misappropriation of the germplasm of Indian melon, Cucumis melo, by US agri-biotech giant Monsanto Company. NBA plans to file a pre-grant opposition (an application opposing the patent before it is granted) to the patent application of Monsanto before the US Patent Office.

Monsanto has applied for a patent for the breeding of melon seeds resistant to closterovirus using molecular biology. The virus causes cucurbit yellow stunting disorder in melons, turning the leaves yellow and stunting the plant growth. First detected in 2006 in cantaloupe and honeydew melons, watermelon and squash in the US, the virus has since spread across North America, Europe and North Africa.

NBA’s decision has come after the 31-member Expert Committee on Agrobiodiversity, headed by E A Siddiq, recommended taking legal action against the alleged violators of the Biodiversity Act. C melo’s resistance to the virus is already registered in international seed banks as P13 13970.

Sources in NBA say the authority has also decided to serve notice to the Indian subsidiary of Monsanto. NBA is waiting for commitment of funds from the Union environment ministry as opposing such cases in US courts is a costly proposition, they say. However, most committee members were initially reluctant to challenge the patent application of Monsanto despite evidence, Debal Deb, a member of the expert committee, told Down To Earth. “We had to push hard to convince them,” says Deb, adding that even NBA is reluctant to pursue the case. The committee submitted its report last year. Being the apex authority for biodiversity, NBA should have immediately taken action. But it has failed to act till date, he adds. “The irony is,” Deb says, “the patent is being given to a hybrid developed with normal hybridisation.”

Monsanto has already obtained a European patent on this seed breeding through its Dutch subsidiary, Monsanto Invest N V. The patent was originally filed by DeRuiter Seeds Group in the EU in 2005. In 2008, Monsanto Invest acquired DeRuiter and thus received the EU patent—EP1962578—granted in May 2011. NBA sources say by the time they learnt of the patent the time for opposing it was over.

A Monsanto spokesperson says any allegation of misappropriation of the Indian melon germplasm is factually incorrect and grossly misleading. “We understand that the public germplasm melon (Cucumis melo) line P13 13970 germplasm was included into the Russian VIR database (plant genetic resources database of Russia) in 1961 and was transferred to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1966 by Russian research institute, N I Valvilov Research Institute of Plant Industry. DeRuiter Seeds Group lawfully obtained samples of this line from USDA in the 1990s and the subsequent development work relating to the Cucurbit Yellow Stunting Disorder Virus resistant allele was conducted by DeRuiter Seeds using these materials (obtained from) outside India. Thus, the inventors accessed the melon from a public source in accordance with the applicable laws.”

The spokesperson adds that since the scope of the patent is limited, the germplasm line from which the innovation was achieved remains available for all breeders and seed researchers. The patent does not restrict further research and development efforts with the germplasm line, he adds.

No Patents on Seeds, an international coalition of non-profits and advocacy groups like GeneWatch and Greenpeace, however, fears that with this patent Monsanto can block access to all breeding material inheriting the resistance derived from C melo. Melon breeders and farmers could be severely restricted by the patent as it might discourage future breeding efforts and the development of new melon varieties.

U.S. agriculture wary as Monsanto heads to Supreme Court

#Monsanto, #PatentsOnLife

(Reuters) – A 75-year-old Indiana grain farmer will take on global seed giant Monsanto Co at the U.S. Supreme Court next week in a patent battle that could have ramifications for the biotechnology industry and possibly the future of food production.

The highest court in the United States will hear arguments on Tuesday in the dispute, which started when soybean farmer Vernon Bowman bought and planted a mix of unmarked grain typically used for animal feed. The plants that grew turned out to contain the popular herbicide-resistant genetic trait known as Roundup Ready that Monsanto guards closely with patents.

The St. Louis, Mo.-based biotech giant accused Bowman of infringing its patents by growing plants that contained its genetics. But Bowman, who grows wheat and corn along with soybeans on about 300 acres inherited from his father, argued that he used second-generation grain and not the original seeds covered by Monsanto’s patents.

A central issue for the court is the extent that a patent holder, or the developer of a genetically modified seed, can control its use through multiple generations of seed.

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the dispute has sparked broad concerns in the biotech industry as a range of companies fear it will result in limits placed on their own patents of self-replicating technologies.

At the same time, many farmer groups and biotech crop critics hope the Supreme Court might curb what they say is a patent system that gives too much power to biotech seed companies like Monsanto.

“I think the case has enormous implications,” said Dermot Hayes, an Iowa State University agribusiness and economics professor who believes Monsanto should prevail. “If Monsanto were to lose, many companies would have a reduced incentive for research in an area where we really need it right now. The world needs more food.”

The court battle has ballooned into a show-down that merges contentious matters of patent law with an ongoing national debate about the merits and pitfalls of genetically altered crops and efforts to increase food production.

More than 50 organizations – from environmental groups to intellectual property experts – as well as the U.S. government, have filed legal briefs hoping to sway the high court.

Companies developing patented cell lines and tools of molecular biotechnology could lose their ability to capture the ongoing value of these technologies if the Supreme Court sides with Bowman, said Hans Sauer, deputy general counsel for the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The case also is important to regenerative medicine that relies on stem cell technologies. A stem cell by definition is a cell that can self-replicate, thus the case may answer the question of whether a patentee can control progeny of a patented stem cell, according to Antoinette Konski, a partner with Foley & Lardner’s intellectual property practice group.

Monsanto, a $13 billion behemoth in agricultural seed and chemical sales, also sees the case as much bigger than itself.

“This case really centers on the question of twenty-first century technology such as what we bring in agriculture and other companies bring for say stem cell research or nanotechnology…. and how they’re going to be handled under principles of intellectual property law,” said Monsanto general counsel Dave Snively.

SELF-REPLICATING

Because seeds self-replicate, creating progeny when planted, they are unlike more traditional patented products. Using a computer or smartphone does not create more computers or phones. But using a seed can make new seeds.

For generations all around the world, farmers have practiced the art of saving seed, holding onto some of the grain they harvest each season to plant in a subsequent season. The advent of patented biotech seeds has changed that as Monsanto and rival seed developers barred farmers from seed saving, arguing that if farmers do not buy new seed each year the companies cannot recoup the millions they spend to develop the specialty seeds.

Transgenic crops, which splices genes from other species into plant DNA, have given farmers crops that resist insects and tolerate treatments of herbicide, making killing weeds easier for farmers. The majority of U.S. corn and soybean acres are now planted with patented biotech seeds.

The case before the Supreme Court traces its roots to 1999, when Bowman decided to plant a “second crop” of soybeans after he harvested winter wheat from the farmstead he runs near Sandborn, Indiana.

While he used Monsanto’s Roundup Ready engineered seeds for his main, or “first” crop, Bowman said he decided to use inexpensive commodity grain that he could purchase from a local grain elevator for his “second” planting of soybeans in late June. Yields are generally lower for late-planted soybeans because conditions tend to be more optimal in April and May.

The mixture of grain Bowman bought, which he dubbed “junk,” carried no patent technology agreement and no directive prohibiting seed saving as do the bagged and branded soybean seeds sold by Monsanto and other seed companies.

The soybean crop turned out so good that Bowman saved some of the seed generated by the plants and sowed them the following year for another late crop. He repeated the process year after year, sometimes supplementing his second planting with more commodity grain he used as seed. All the while he continued to buy first-generation seed each year for his main crop of beans. For those purchases, he signed required “technology agreements” pledging not to save the offspring of those seeds.

Monsanto began investigating Bowman’s planting activities in 2006 and asserted that even though he was not saving seed from the progeny of the first-generation seeds he bought, his use of commodity grain and the progeny was a patent violation.

Bowman argued that Monsanto’s rights to the seeds he purchased from the grain elevator were exhausted because they were not the first generation seeds other farmers had purchased and planted, but rather a mix of later generation progeny.

“It didn’t occur to my mind that this would be a problem,” said Bowman, who doesn’t have a computer at home so he goes to the library to read about his case on the Internet. “Farmers have always been allowed to go buy elevator grain and use for seed. You have no idea what kind of seed you’re buying at an elevator. They claim I’m making a new seed by planting it. But that’s far-fetched reasoning.”

Bowman said he just wanted cheaper seeds. His legal brief states the technology fees for Roundup Ready soybeans have risen to $17.50 per bag by 2009 from about $4.50 in 1996.

BIG STAKES FOR BOTH SIDES

A lower court ruled in favor of Monsanto, and in May 2010 it ordered Bowman to pay the company $84,456. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals also sided with Monsanto in September 2011.

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case has raised the hopes of those backing Bowman.

In one of a dozen briefs filed in his support, farmer, environmental and food safety groups claim the courts have carved out an exception to existing patent law that gives biotech companies too much control. They want the Supreme Court to broaden farmers’ abilities to use seed, not restrict them.

“Through a patenting system that favors the rights of corporations over the rights of farmers and citizens, our food and farming system is being held hostage by a handful of companies,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, one of the groups supporting Bowman. “Nothing less than the future of food is at stake.”

Bowman’s attorneys allege specifically that the appellate court created a “conditional sale” exception to a long-standing doctrine of patent exhaustion in a way that conflicts with existing law.

But Monsanto backers say without extended patent protection, technology companies will not be able to recoup their investment in research and development, and advantageous new technologies could be shelved.

“This case presents a matter of great importance to America’s farmers and the decision will have acute impacts on how agricultural producers will… meet the nutritional demands of a growing global population,” states one brief filed by 20 soybean, corn, wheat and sugar beet growers groups.

Back on his farm in Indiana, Bowman is looking forward to his trip to Washington and said he does not understand what all the fuss is about. He said few farmers make use of commodity grain for planting, and he doesn’t see how a few hundred acres of soybeans hurts Monsanto’s billions in annual revenues.

“I bought new seed every year for my first crop. If I had such a good scheme why did I do that,” said Bowman.

“If I done something wrong I should pay for it. If I didn’t then I shouldn’t. I don’t think I did,” he said.

(Reporting By Carey Gillam; Editing by Tiffany Wu and Leslie Gevirtz)

By Carey Gillam

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/u-agriculture-wary-monsanto-heads-061928893.html;

 

Monsanto maize seeds hit roadblock in Gujarat

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/monsanto-maize-seeds-hit-roadblock-in-guj/472683/

Monsanto maize seeds hit roadblock in Guj
BS Reporter / Mumbai/ Ahmedabad Apr 27, 2012, 00:24 IST

The Gujarat Government has decided to stop procuring double-cross hybrid maize seed made by seed major Monsanto, which were distributed among the farmers in the tribal areas of the state under the tribal a development scheme.

The seeds sold under the brand name ‘prabal’ were being distributed to farmers in the tribal regions under the Sunshine Project, which falls under the Vanbandhu Kalyan Yogna, since 2008. It is estimated that the seeds were distributed among half a million farmers by the Tribal Development Department.

“The decision was taken during the Cabinet meeting of the state government held yesterday,” Gujarat agriculture minister Dilip Sanghani told Business Standard.

“We have decided not to procure Monsanto seeds which were distributed among the farmers of tribal area. Instead, the farmers would be asked to buy government approved seeds of their own choice for which the government would provide financial support,” Sanghani said.

This has been done to break the monopoly of Monsanto company in the state, he added.

The state government’s decision follows several representation by the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) and some MLAs from the tribal areas. In last session of state assembly in March, Congress MLAs including deputy leader of Congress in the house Mohansinh Rathava and senior MLA Bachubhai Kishori had demanded ban on maize seeds of Monsanto, claiming that there were ill-effects of Monsanto’s maize seeds which were being distributed by the state government in tribal areas.

Also, during the assembly session last month Minister for Tribal Development Mangu Patel had said that the government had sought opinion of Anand and Navsari agriculture universities on the issue side, effects of using Monsanto’s maize seeds, before taking further action.

BKS Gujarat president Magan Patel said that they have demanded complete ban on all seed of Monsanto in Gujarat.

“We have demanded that no seed of Monsanto be sold in Gujarat. Also, we have asked the government to stop any kind of field trial on genetically modified food crops being done in couple of agriculture universities of the Gujarat,” Patel said.

“We have received no such information from Government of Gujarat,” Monsanto spokesperson said, adding, ”Monsanto’s Prabal maize hybrid seeds have been thoroughly tested in the state at the Anand Agriculture University, Anand for more than three years and has consistently performed year on year, both in the university and on the fields of the four lakh maize farmers who continue to plant the seeds in both rainfed and irrigated conditions over the last four years.”

http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/guj-govt-changes-policy-on-seed-purchase-from-mnc/991156.html

Guj Govt changes policy on seed purchase from MNC

PTI | 11:04 PM,Apr 26,2012

Ahmedabad, Apr 26 (PTI) Gujarat government has decided not to buy seeds directly from the seed major Monsanto for distribution among farmers from the tribal region following protest by Bharitya Kisan Sangh and some NGOs. The State government would purchase hybrid maize seeds, named `prabal’ from the multinational company Monsanto and distribute it to tribal farmers at subsidised rates. “We have decided to change our scheme. Earlier, we used to purchase the seeds directly from the company and distribute it among tribal farmers. Now we have decided that we will provide subsidy to tribal farmers for maize seeds purchased by them from anywhere,” state agriculture minister Dilip Sanghani said. “The state government has also taken a policy decision that they would not purchase any seeds directly from any company and provide it to farmers. But instead give subsidies to farmers for the seeds they will purchase from the market,” Sanghani further said. After the Gujarat government started the policy of purchasing seeds from the company in 2008, few other states had also followed similar scheme. Bharitya Kisan Sangh (BKS) today welcomed the decision of the government to not to purchase seeds directly from any company, and also demanded that Monsanto should be banned from the state and all field trials of genetically modified crop of all the multinational companies should be stopped in the state. (MORE) PTI PD ABC

MONSANTO SEED WITHDRAWN FROM GUJARAT GOVT PROJECT

BKS & ASHA welcome Gujarat Govt’s decision

project sunshine rapid appraisal rpt-ASHA-feb2012 finalAhmedabad/New Delhi, 26th April 2012: The Gujarat government’s cabinet decision yesterday to withdraw controversial American MNC Monsanto’s proprietary seed from ongoing government projects was welcomed by Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) and Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA). BKS state President Maganbhai Patel, Kapil Shah of Jatan and Prabhakar Kelkar, National President of BKS organized a press conference in Ahmedabad today, thanking the government for its decision, having protested and campaigned against the unscientific, controversial and unsustainable aspects of Project Sunshine for several seasons now. Earlier, a Cabinet Sub-Committee has recommended the withdrawal of Monsanto’s seed from government projects.

The seeds of Monsanto, under the brand name “Prabal”, a double-cross hybrid of Maize, were being distributed to more than half a million tribal farmers of Gujarat since the inception of Project SunShine under Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana in 2008. This project came under great criticism not only from within the state but also at a national level by various agencies including farmers’ organizations, tribal organizations and leaders, organic farming promoters, ecologists and scientists. It is estimated that the Gujarat Govt has procured seeds from Monsanto worth of 500 million rupees in the last four years, to be distributed in turn to poor tribal farmers, thereby providing ready markets for this controversial corporation seen by many as anti-farmer. It is not clear whether proper bidding and other transparent procedures were followed or not while favoring Monsanto in this project, apart from several questions on the scientificity of proprietary hybrid seed being chosen to be distributed to resource-poor, vulnerable farmers.

Several efforts were put in by various groups and individuals against this project, through letter campaigns, rapid appraisal visits, public debates and personal meetings with policy makers. Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the largest farmers’ organization in Gujarat, has also been demanding withdrawal of Monsanto and its ‘Prabal’ seed from such government support. This proprietary hybrid seems to have been selected against the opinions of agricultural scientists. There has been increasing opposition in the state since the past couple of years against such encroachment of MNCs in State’s agriculture. In February 2012, ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture) released a Rapid Appraisal Report visiting tribal farmers of project villages and pointed out to several problems and flaws in the project. The last Assembly Session witnessed a debate and questions being raised on Monsanto’s seed. It appears that finally, the government has sought opinion of State Agriculture Universities, which gave their scientific opinion against these seeds for distribution to tribal farmers.

Four reputed scientists having enormous experience of working with maize and agricultural universities including two past Vice Chancellors were requested to opine about selection of ‘Prabal’ for distribution through government project.

All of them have opined about it in writing and have voiced strong views against the inclusion of this proprietary brand..

Dr. M. C. Varshneya, Former Vice C hancellor of Anand Agriculture University said, “Prabal variety of maize  was selected by tribal department without consulting Research Scientists.
1. Prabal is suitable only for deep soils.
2. Prabal needs more water than other varieties.
3. Heavy doses of fertilizers are needed for Prabal.
4. Prabal is not suitable for Godhra (where the maize Research Station is located) conditions where shallow soils and rainfed crop is taken”.

He adds, “ Inspite of candid opinion of University Scientists, Prabal seed was distributed to the farmers. Rather to say it was pushed on farmers without caring for technical suitability of the variety for that area.” As per his view SAU was not given a fair chance to supply its seeds. Showing his helplessness he says “Nothing could be done to stop the Monsanto released variety Prabal from entering in Gujarat.”

A well known maize breeder Dr. S. N. Goyal (awarded by the state government for his remarkable work) who worked as a Research Scientist for Maize at Anand Agricultural University for 12 years (from 1994 to 2006), and during whose tenue some of the most popular maize varieties in Gujarat were released, opined that, “My considered opinion about “Prabal” hybrid is, being a late-in-maturity, yellow-coloured and dent-type seed, “Prabal” is unsuitable for majority of maize growing areas of Gujarat. He described the following seven reasons for his view.

1.     Majority of maize growing areas, especially eastern part is rain-fed for where early maturity varieties are recommended and grown. Late maturity hybrids grown under rain-fed condition may not set seeds and chances of crop failure will be high which may lead to farmer’s distress.

2.     To overcome the risk of total crop failure in rain-fed area, farmers grow maize with other crops as an inter-crop which is not possible with “Prabal” Hybrid which is meant only for sole cropping.

3.     “Prabal” hybrid requires high inputs involving more expenditure which is not desirable under rain-fed condition, especially for resource poor farmers.

4.     Considering the AAU report, despite of high dosage of NPK application to “Prabal” hybrid, marginal depletion in NPK and Zinc level have been observed in maize fields, which will result in soil deterioration in the long run.

5.     Storability of “Prabal” Grain / seed, which is dent type is less compared to flint type, which may lead to food insecurity for tribal families.

6.     “Prabal” hybrid is double cross hybrid. Double cross hybrids are less uniform and unattractive as compared to single cross hybrid. Double cross hybrid has high cost of seed production. Now-a-days, only single cross hybrids are developed and released. Using double cross is considered as an age old technology in the scientific forums. Double cross hybrid technology is rejected in USA also. World over, including at ICAR and SAUs in India, single cross hybrids are developed.

7.     Economic survey of “Prabal” growing hybrids in Gujarat revealed that financial gain is achieved only to 25% to 30% sample farmers in Dahod, Panchamahal and Vadodara and 40-50% in Sabarkantha and Banaskantha district, where as in rest of the area, it had no significant impact on economy.

 

Another retired senior plant breeder and former Research Scientist for forage crops at State Agricultural University Dr. J. P. Yadavendra, told that, “The crop varieties are developed and released as per regional requirements and specific agro-ecological niches.  Any crop variety/hybrid which has not been tested in a particular environment and disseminated for general cultivation among farmers poses a great danger in the long run. To safeguard the farmers’ interest, there should be an honest follow up of the official guidelines set up for the purpose by the state agricultural universities.  In case of cross-pollinated crops, the contamination of the well-adapted local cultivars may lead to the loss of valuable existing gene pool. In my opinion, the popularization of Prabal maize hybrid amongst the tribal farmers of Dahod and Panchmahal districts of Gujarat has been done without considering the proper procedures and opinion of the cultivators.” It is important to note that he is working in tribal areas of six states of India through an NGO called Gramin Vikas Trust.

Padmashree Dr. M. H. Mehta, Former Vice chancellor of Gujarat Agricultural University opined that, “ We do not seem to have given enough back up and large scale extension support to promising new maize varieties of Agri. University in Gujarat. Instead there seems a stronger support and preference to the varieties of multinational company. I have watched the organic model of Bihar where through a state level lead up & the package of eco-friendly agri. bio inputs, excellent yields of vegetables could be achieved in some of the poorest & backward districts. Low input cost, eco-friendly technology is the most appropriate for tribal people. It is time to adopt such a model for Gujarat farmers.”

Multinational seed companies including Monsanto are encroaching upon Indian agricultural fields by using government funds. At least four other states began spending public money to buy such seeds in the name of farmer/tribal/rural welfare, emulating the Project Sunshine model and serious opposition has been mounted against this in the other states too, with Odisha dropping this support after piloting it for one season.

“Gujarat’s Project Sunshine is a classic case of how Agri-MNCs like Monsanto bypass scientific opinion and administrative procedures and promote their unscientific and risky products. It is also a matter of investigation whether proper bidding was done to buy these seeds or not. It is the same companies like Monsanto that also promote GM crops and sell patented technology. Even as genetically modified maize is knocking on the door, pushed by corporations like Monsanto, ready ground is being created for this controversial technology by replacing public varieties through various questionable practices.”, said ASHA.

BKS appreciates the Gujarat Government’s move and strongly demands withdrawal of such seeds & projects in all states of India. At the same time, it warned the state government to be extra cautious to ensure that the same seed does not take back door entry. It is high time to set up a non-corrupt, transparent, efficient and scientific system so that such case never occurs in future

Gujarat Govt should ban Monsanto and GM crop trials in the state

Various groups in Gujarat and elsewhere in the country are now demanding a ban on Monsanto and various GM crop trials allowed in the state of Gujarat. This was in the context of Gujarat Government’s decision to withdraw this controversial agri-business corporation’s proprietary seed from government projects in the state. Monsanto’s seeds worth crores of rupees have been distributed without proper scientific basis and by bypassing proper administrative procedures. The Press Release added that “Monsanto is the company along with other corporations trying to introduce GM crops including Bt Brinjal, Roundup Ready Bt maize and so on. This company already controls around 93% of India’s cotton seed through its proprietary Bollgard technology when it comes to GM cotton. It is also being proceeded against by the National Biodiversity Authority for violations in Bt brinjal development, while being investigated by Indian biosafety regulators for violations in its GM maize trials”.

The Gujarat government decision to withdraw Monsanto from Project Sunshine is significant in the context of GM crop trials also. Last year, Rajasthan government had annulled agreements that it made for seed-related R&D with Monsanto and other corporations while Odisha did not pursue a Public Private Parntership programme initiated in the state after one season.

In India, at least eight states including Bihar, Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Orissa, Kerala and Karnataka have decided not to allow any GM crop trials, while Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have also said NO to such trials. Some of them have declared their desire to remain totally GM free. Only three states have allowed trials of this controversial and hazardous technology: Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat. In Gujarat, NOC by state govt was given to about 10 “events”, all of which have proprietary right of MNCs. It was also found that this was done without the legally obligated institutions in place for monitoring and supervision. It is also worth noting that illegal planting of GM crops has been recorded in the past without any liability being fixed.

Why Gujarat Should Ban GM Crop Trials

There are various important reasons to ban such trials in Gujarat as mentioned below:

1.     The very need of Bt Maize, HT Maize and HT cotton has not been assessed or decided by scientists and farmers and there are safer alternatives available with SAUs. Need assessment and assessment of alternatives is not governing GM crop trials-related decisions.

2.     Open air trials precede biosafety clearance (biosafety testing runs parallel to such open air trials) and these open air trials pose a great risk since this technology is a living, imprecise, unpredictable, irreversible and uncontrollable technology.

3.     Open Air Trials are permitted based on privately-generated safety data and not even independent scientific analysis. This was also stated as an argument against such crops being released by very senior and credible scientists in the country.

4.     All the GM crops trials are sponsored by the seed developer. (No Blinding is done). This may lead to biased results. There is a need to cut off the relations between company and evaluating agency.

5.     There are chances of contamination from novel organism to local germplasm as the facilities and isolation requirements to avoid the contamination are limited and questionable. Moreover, the agri-campuses where such trials take place are also repositeries of valuable germplasm collections.

6.     As per the EPA, there is a need to have State Biosafety Coordination Committee (SBCC) in function, In Gujarat, SBCC is non-functional with different agencies washing off their hands on their responsibility.

7.     There are mounting evidences depicting risks related to transgenic crops including unexpected changes in the organism, ecological and health risks.

8.     Even the export and trade of certain farm products will be at risk (as example of rice in China and basmati rice in India). Field trials have been known to cause enormous damage to trade security in various parts of the world in the past.

9.     The seed owner wants to enjoy IPR restricting the very right of farmer to produce their own seeds. We cannot have such trials until several basic things are made clear.

10.  GM crop trials are disallowed in an overwhelming majority of states in India. Why should Gujarat allow them, and on what additional scientific basis and regulatory capability?

 

 

Contacts:

Maganbhai Patel, BKS:  09426394801

Kapil Shah, Jatan:  09427054132

Kavitha Kuruganti, ASHA: 09393001550

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.

 

Monsanto let off the hook on Bt Brinjal Monsanto let off the hook on Bt Brinjal

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main51.asp?filename=Ne250212Monsanto.asp

CURRENT AFFAIRS
KARNATAKA

Despite violating the Biodiversity Act, American seed major escapes legal action, reports Imran Khan

Farmers protest against Monsanto in Bengaluru
Bad genes Farmers protest against Monsanto in Bengaluru

AFTER GUNNING for American seed major Monsanto and its Indian subsidiary Mahyco for violating the Biological Diversity Act in the Bt Brinjal case, the Karnataka State Bio-diversity Board has decided not to prosecute the violators.

The decision was taken on 20 January while reviewing the complaint of Bengaluru based Environment Support Group (ESG) against Monsanto, Mahyco and the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad, accusing them of violating norms by illegally accessing six varieties of brinjal endemic to India and genetically modifying it, resulting in Bt Brinjal.

In a letter dated 15 February 2010 addressed to the KSBB and the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), ESG had alleged that Monsanto, Mahyco and UAS used six local varieties of brinjal for developing Bt Brinjal without the approval of the board or the local biodiversity committees as required by law.

ESG said that the development of Bt Brinjal was undertaken on the basis of an MOU signed between Mahyco along with Sathguru (a front company of USAID and Cornell University) and UAS based on their deal of 2 April 2005. A similar deal was signed with Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, and Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Lucknow.

The KSBB wrote a letter to the NBA on 10 March 2010 seeking its legal opinion. On 11 August 2011, the NBA acknowledged that the complaint merits a legal case.

On 28 September, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan said in the Lok Sabha: “The NBA has recommended legal action against the alleged violators for accessing and using local brinjal varieties without prior approval of the competent authority.”

However, in a U-turn, the KSBB resolved: “It is for the NBA to take necessary action against the institutions/companies regarding alleged violations of provisions under the Biodiversity Act.”

The resolution made Leo Saldanha of ESG furious. “There is little doubt that this controversial resolution was passed to unhook Monsanto and its collaborators from biopiracy charges,” says Saldanha. “It is tenable to draw such a conclusion as the current action agitates against the consistent position held by the KSBB that our complaint has merit and action must be initiated.”

In a U-turn, the KSBB resolved that it is for the NBA to take action against Monsanto

Saldanha claims that former state environment minister and KSBB chairman Krishna Palemar had earlier demonstrated his intent to prosecute the violators. However, in the 20 January meeting of the KSBB, he became party to passing a resolution that amounts to abdicating his responsibility. Interestingly, Palemar was one of the three ministers caught in the infamous porngate scandal.

But KSBB officials had a different story to tell. “We lack the staff and technical expertise to pursue the case,” says KSBB Member Secretary KS Sugara. “The Act is new and our officers are not well versed with it. We don’t have the powers to prosecute anybody, it can be done only through the wildlife wing.”

Meanwhile, Additional Chief Secretary Kaushik Mukherjee was more forthcoming in his support for Monsanto. “It has not violated any laws and there is no need to seek permission from the board, since it’s an issue concerning the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. It’s just a hue and cry raised by NGOs. While they are eager to point out genetic modification in food crops, they don’t utter a word when it comes to drugs that have GM molecules,” he says

NBA Chairman Balakrishna Pisupati refused to comment on this issue. So was the case with Monsanto. A letter addressed to Mahyco Chief Technological Officer Usha Barwale Zehr seeking her company’s comment went unanswered.

“This is an astonishing act of abandoning the KSBB’s obligatory functions of taking appropriate legal action against Monsanto and Mahyco and their collaborators for committing criminal acts of biopiracy,” says Saldanha.

Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.com. 
imran@tehelka.com

300,000 Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto in Federal Court: Decision on March 31st

 Published: Sunday 12 February 2012
“Willie Nelson calls for Occupy the Food System”

Lit­tle did Willie Nel­son know when he recorded “Crazy” years ago just how crazy it would be­come for our cher­ished fam­ily farm­ers in Amer­ica.   Nel­son, Pres­i­dent of Farm Aid, has re­cently called for the na­tional Oc­cupy move­ment to de­clare an “Oc­cupy  the Food Sys­tem” ac­tion.

http://www.nationofchange.org/300000-organic-farmers-sue-monsanto-federal-court-decision-march-31st-go-trial-1329059467

Nel­son states, “Cor­po­rate con­trol of our food sys­tem has led to the loss of mil­lions of fam­ily farm­ers, de­struc­tion of our soil…”

Hun­dreds of cit­i­zens, (even in­clud­ing NYC chefs in their white chef hats) joined Oc­cupy the Food Sys­tem groups, ie Food Democ­racy Now, gath­ered out­side the Fed­eral Courts in Man­hat­tan on  Jan­u­ary 31st, to sup­port or­ganic fam­ily farm­ers in their land­mark law­suit against Big Agribusi­ness giant Mon­santo. (Or­ganic Seed Grow­ers & Trade As­so­ci­a­tion v. Mon­santo) Oral ar­gu­ments were heard that day con­cern­ing the law­suit by 83 plain­tiffs rep­re­sent­ing over 300,000 or­ganic farm­ers, or­ganic seed grow­ers, and or­ganic seed busi­nesses.

The law­suit ad­dresses the bizarre and shock­ing issue of Mon­santo ha­rass­ing and threat­en­ing or­ganic farm­ers with law­suits of “patent in­fringe­ment” if any or­ganic farmer ends up with any trace amount of GM seeds on their or­ganic farm­land.

Judge Naomi Buck­wald heard the oral ar­gu­ments on Mon­santo’s Mo­tion to Dis­miss, and the legal team from Pub­lic Patent Foun­da­tion rep­re­sented the rights of Amer­i­can or­ganic farm­ers against Mon­santo, maker of GM seeds, [and ad­di­tion­ally, Agent Or­ange, dioxin, etc.]

After hear­ing the ar­gu­ments, Judge Buck­wald stated that on March 31st she will hand down her de­ci­sion on whether the law­suit will move for­ward to trial.

Not only does this law­suit de­bate the issue of Mon­santo po­ten­tially ru­in­ing the or­ganic farm­ers’ pure seeds and crops with the in­tro­duc­tion of Mon­santo’s ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied (GM) seeds any­where near the or­ganic farms, but ad­di­tion­ally any nearby GM fields can with­stand Mon­santo’s Roundup her­bi­cides, thus pos­si­bly fur­ther con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing the or­ganic farms nearby if Roundup is used.

Of course, the or­ganic farm­ers don’t want any­thing to do with that ole con­t­a­m­i­nated GM seed in the first place. In fact, that is why they are cer­ti­fied or­ganic farm­ers.  Hello?  But now they have to worry about get­ting sued by the very mon­ster they abhor,  and even have to spend extra money and land (for buffers which only some­times deter the con­t­a­m­i­nated seed from being swept by the wind into their crop land).   At this point, they are even hav­ing to re­sort to not grow­ing at all the fol­low­ing or­ganic plants: soy­beans, corn, cot­ton, sugar beets, and canola, …just to pro­tect them­selves from hav­ing any (un­wanted) plant that Mon­santo could pos­si­bly sue them over.

“Crazy, crazy for feel­ing so…..”

 

The farm­ers are suf­fer­ing the threat of pos­si­ble loss of Right Liveli­hood.  They are cre­at­ing good jobs for Amer­i­cans, and sup­ply­ing our purest foods.  These or­ganic farm­ers are bring­ing Amer­i­cans healthy food so we can be a healthy Na­tion, in­stead of the un­der­nour­ished and obese kids and adults that Pres­i­dent Obama wor­ries so much about us be­com­ing. 

So what was Pres­i­dent Obama doing when he ap­pointed Michael Tay­lor, a for­mer VP of Mon­santo, as Sr. Ad­vi­sor to the Com­mis­sioner at the FDA?  The FDA is re­spon­si­ble for “label re­quire­ments” and re­cently ruled under Michael Tay­lor’s time as  FDA Food Czar that GMO prod­ucts did not need to be la­beled as such, even though na­tional con­sumer groups loudly pro­fessed the pub­lic’s right to know what is ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied in the food sys­tem.  Sadly to re­mem­ber: Pres­i­dent Obama promised in cam­paign speeches that he would “let folks know what foods are ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied.”  These are the con­flict of in­ter­ests that lead to the 99% move­ment stand­ing up for the fam­ily farm­ers.

Just look at the con­fus­ing head­lines lately that re­vealed that mid-west­ern farms of GM corn will be sprayed with 2,4-D tox­ins found in the deadly Agent Or­ange.  Just refer to the pre­vi­ous law­suits taken all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court by U.S. Vet­er­ans who tried to argue the dan­gers of Mon­santo’s Agent Or­ange, and high rates of can­cers in our sol­diers who had to suf­fer the side ef­fects from their wartime ex­po­sures in Viet­nam.

 

Article image

In 1980 alone, when all this mess started with cor­po­ra­tions wip­ing out the liveli­hoods of fam­ily farm­ers, the Na­tional Farm Med­i­cine Cen­ter re­ported that 900 male farm­ers in the Upper Mid­west com­mit­ted sui­cide.  That was nearly dou­ble the na­tional av­er­age for white men. Even sad­der is the fact that some of the farm­ers’ chil­dren also com­mit­ted sui­cide.  Stud­ies show that when one gen­er­a­tion of fam­ily farm­ers lose their farms, then the next gen­er­a­tion usu­ally can’t re­vive the fam­ily busi­ness and tra­di­tions later. 

Jim Ger­rit­sen, Pres­i­dent of the Or­ganic Seed Grow­ers and Trade As­so­ci­a­tion, has pointed out that there are 5th and 6th gen­er­a­tion fam­ily farm­ers being pushed off their farms today, and be­cause of a “cli­mate of fear” (from pos­si­ble law­suits from Mon­santo), they can’t grow some of the food they want to grow.

These farm­ers are the ones who have been able to sur­vive the changes over the past twenty years by choos­ing to go into the bud­ding niche of or­ganic farm­ing.  Now look at what they have to deal with while try­ing to grow suc­cess­ful busi­nesses: Mon­santo’s threats.

Even or­ganic dairy farm­ers have had to suf­fer law­suits ( from Mon­santo) when they la­beled their or­ganic milk “non-BGH” re­fer­ring to Mon­santo’s bovine growth hor­mone used by con­ven­tional dairies.

Con­sumers want or­ganic food, and they want Amer­ica’s pure food source to stay pro­tected in Amer­ica.  Made in Amer­ica, or­gan­i­cally, is the way of the fu­ture, and fam­ily farm­ers and seed busi­nesses should be free to main­tain their high stan­dards for or­ganic foods.  They de­serve pro­tec­tion from Big Agribusi­ness’ dan­ger­ous seeds tres­pass­ing on their crop­lands, not to men­tion the use of pes­ti­cides and her­bi­cides on GM crops.  The or­ganic in­dus­try has an “or­ganic seal” which is also im­por­tant to the suc­cess of fam­ily busi­nesses, and even that stamp of qual­ity is threat­ened by the spread of Mon­santo’s GM seed con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing their pure seed banks.

The Bank­ing in­dus­try is also partly to blame. Years be­fore the mort­gages and home fi­asco we have now, the farm­ers were the first to feel the squeeze.    I in­ter­viewed Willie Nel­son in the 1980’s, and he men­tioned even then the high rates of farmer sui­cides, and that Farm Aid was re­ceiv­ing let­ters from fam­ily farm­ers say­ing the banks had “called in their loans”, even though “we had never missed a pay­ment”. Was this just a veiled land grab for fer­tile lands, or to in­ten­tion­ally bank­rupt in­de­pen­dent fam­ily farm­ers?

It was so in­spir­ing years ago when Michelle Obama planted an or­ganic gar­den at the White House. It was a great prece­dent for the fu­ture, but what hap­pened?  It was ru­ined when they dis­cov­ered sewer sludge from pre­vi­ous Ad­min­is­tra­tions had con­t­a­m­i­nated their beau­ti­ful soil where the or­ganic veg­eta­bles were planted.  Just one small upset but it was reme­died for fu­ture plant­i­ngs.   What about our whole coun­try’s or­ganic food sup­ply being con­t­a­m­i­nated by pre­vi­ous Ad­min­stra­tions’ bad choices? Why did they ever allow Mon­santo to in­tro­duce ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered seeds into our pure, or­ganic, and heir­loom stock­piles across Amer­ica in the first place?

Re­cently, the Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion, in an ef­fort to boost food ex­ports, signed joint agree­ments with agri­cul­tural biotech­nol­ogy in­dus­try gi­ants, in­clud­ing Mon­santo, to re­move the last bar­ri­ers for the spread of more ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied crops.

But in this re­cent law­suit filed by the Or­ganic Seed Grow­ers & Trade As­so­ci­a­tion, it was ar­gued that a pre­vi­ous con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of a “ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered va­ri­ety of rice”, named Lib­erty Link 601, in 2006, be­fore it was ap­proved for human con­sump­tion, “ex­ten­sively con­t­a­m­i­nated the com­mer­cial rice sup­ply, re­sult­ing in mul­ti­ple coun­tries ban­ning the im­port of U.S. rice.”  The world­wide eco­nomic loss was “up­ward to $1.285 bil­lion dol­lars” due to the pres­ence of GMOs…

What are every­day Amer­i­cans going to do to turn it around, to get rid of Mon­santo’s ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied seeds and its dan­ger­ous threat to Amer­ica’s heir­loom and or­ganic seed caches?

There is high rate of can­cer in Amer­ica, and eat­ing health­ier, es­pe­cially or­ganic foods, has been shown to have great ben­e­fits in beat­ing can­cer and other dis­eases.  When we have Agribusi­ness threat­en­ing in­de­pen­dent fam­ily farm­ers, which leads to the farm­ers feel­ing so scared that they don’t even plant their or­ganic crops that Amer­i­cans need, then per­haps we can all see what the 99% Oc­cupy Move­ment is try­ing to say about their con­flict of in­ter­est and seem­ingly abuse of pow­ers.

Willie Nel­son just re­leased a new poem on You Tube: “We stand with Hu­man­ity, against the In­san­ity, We’re the ones we’ve been wait­ing for…  We’re the Seeds and we’re the Core,  We’re the ones we’ve been wait­ing for;  We’re the ones with the 99%.”

Mon­santo’s prac­tices are a clear ex­am­ple of the wrong di­rec­tion that the 99% want our coun­try to go in.   How about shin­ing some light on Mon­santo, and be­fore it is too late, re­al­ize the dan­gers of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied seeds which are con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing the world’s food sup­ply.

“Crazy, crazy for feel­ing so……  99% .