Monsanto caught red-handed violating rules!

Civil society and farmer unions demand action against the company and an immediate ban of GM field trials in India

Add a comment
Press release - July 4, 2011
July 4th 2011, Bangalore: After Monsanto was caught red-handed violating bio-safety rules in the case of GM corn by Greenpeace and a local TV channel, leading farmers union in the state, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) and civil society organisations demanded an immediate ban on all open field experiments of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in the country.

Monsanto, the American multinational seed giant had taken up seed production for two transgenic corn hybrids containing stacked cry2Ab2, cry1A.105 (Event MON 89034) & cp4epsps (Event NK603) genes[1] on the field of one Mr. Amrit Gowda in the village of Banihatti P.A in Sindagi Taluk, Bijapur, Karnataka. It has been found that the company has flouted every required norm or procedure to ensure biosafety from such GM products in experimental & research stages. What is most worrying is the fact that the biosafety assessment of this GM corn has not been completed while such open cultivation leading to seed and transgene leakage have been permitted.

The following are the major violations that Greenpeace has documented in this case:

a. GM corn cobs with viable seeds have been lying at the field, which was harvested almost a month ago (June 1, 2011) leading to concerns about seeds from the plot leaking/dispersing/spreading to nearby areas and volunteer plants coming up in the upcoming season. Thus the rule to destroy all residues properly after the GM crop has been harvested have been violated.

b. The existing guidelines [2008] for field experiments of GM crops in confined conditions also says that all crops, including the refuge, has to be destroyed post the harvest. In this case the farmer has been allowed to keep the refuge, which could already be contaminated with the transgenes from the GM corn. This raises serious concerns about the health to the farmer and his family who may have consumed the corn and also about the possibility of these contaminated seeds spreading further. As a matter of fact, the refuge was left over by the company for the farmer to use as feed for his cattle.

c. The field has been left open with residues of GM corn lying there for more than a month and cattle have been found grazing in the trial plot. Only small patches of the cultivated field have been burned down, and only this has been documented/photographed by the company at the time of harvest [probably just to satisfy the statutes]. There has been no contact made by the company thereafter.

d. Most alarmingly there was neither a fence around the trial plot while the trial was happening nor any sign board indicating that the field had a regulated, untested GM corn in an experimental stage was being cultivated.

e. Bijapur does not have a functional District Level Committee (DLC)  in place; neither the Deputy Commissioner, Bijapur nor the  Joint Director of Agriculture knew about the existence of such a body or of any cultivation of GM crops happening in the district. According to existing regulatory regime, a DLC is a mandatory body in any place where field trials are permitted/in progresss.

f. Monsanto has executed a seasonal agreement with the farmer's relative. This is in contravention to the guidelines set forth by GEAC for the usage of farmers fields, which says that the applicant has to have at least a 3-year lease agreement with the farmer whose plot is being used. This is also to ensure that proper post-harvest monitoring of the plot can happen.

g. There was no information given to the farmer on what precautionary measures need to be taken to ensure biosafety norms are adhered to before or after the trial.

h. Monsanto was permitted to take up trials in Rabi 2010-2011 or Kharif 2011 but this plot was neither a rabi crop nor a kharif crop but was sown as a summer crop.

“While these are the violations that could be documented almost after a month after the harvest of the GM corn, one shudders at the thought of the numerous possibilities of contamination that would have happened while the GM crop was in the field”. said Shivani Shah, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India. She further stated that “What we saw on ground proves once again that the citizens of this country cannot trust the regulatory body in this country to ensure that our health, farming and environment from the risks of GM crops”.

Greenpeace is sending the video documentation of the field and other relevant evidences collected along with this letter to the Minister for Environment & Forests, Sri Jairam Ramesh and the regulators, which substantiates our concerns. The same is being sent to the Chief Minister of Karnataka too.

“Karnataka is fast becoming a hotbed of such field trials. It is high time that the state government comes forward, like Madhya Pradesh has done for instance, to save the citizens of this state” said Krishnaprasad of Sahaja Samrudha. He demanded Karnataka state government follow the path of other states governments like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh which have written to the Government of India informing that they will disallow such trials in their respective states.

Kodihalli Chandrasekhar, President, KRRS said, “Field trials and seed production of this GM corn has also been permitted for this Kharif . The Karnataka farmers are being made scapegoats by multinational seed corporations like Monsanto, whose past is checkered with numerous cases of violations of farmers’ rights over their seeds. If our elected governments remain silent spectators to such onslaughts of seed corporations whose eye is on taking control of the multi billion seed market in the country, the farmers of the state will have to resort to direct action to protect their seeds, farms and livelihoods. The state government has to come forward to ban such trials in Karnataka and to immediately stop Monsanto from operating in the state”.

Speaking at the press conference, Kavitha Kuruganti, Convenor, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture [ASHA] said, “It is clear that our regulators have no control whatsoever on the open air release of GM seeds even as they sit in Delhi and clear dozens of applications for such environmental release. Field trials today pose a grave threat and we have highlighted the failures of the regulators time and again, including in a presentation we made to the GEAC on 11th May this year. It is also clear that regulators are allowing the industry and conflicting interests to prevail in their decision-making forgetting that they have been given a mandate of protecting our environment, health and Nature from the risks of modern biotechnology, Liability has to be fixed on Monsanto for the grave violations found here; further, the government should fix liability on the regulators for such lapses. It is time that environmental releases including for open air trials and seed production be stopped immediately”.

In the light of this new evidence, speakers demanded that the Union Minister for Environment and Forests under whose Ministry GEAC operates to

  • Blacklist Monsanto and ensure that liability measures under EPA1986 are invoked against the company. The regulators liable for such lapses.
  • Cordon off the region around this GM seed production site immediately and a contamination study of the region should be ordered and a report brought out immediately about the extent of contamination if any.
  • Given the lack of monitoring mechanisms in place, they also demanded that no more field trials be permitted in India which is critical to keep our food and environment safe from potential dangers of Genetically Modified Organisms.

 

Notes to the editor:

* A copy of the letter to GEAC can be accesed at http://www.greenpeace.org/india/Global/india/docs/Letter%20to%20GEAC-%20Monsanto%20Bijapur.pdf

 

For more information, contact:

Shivani Shah - Campaigner, Sustainable Agriculture campaign, Greenpeace India

mobile:09986877364 , email:


Kodihalli Chandrashekhar - President, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha

mobile:09844293908

Kavitha Kuruganti-Convenor,Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA]: 09393001550, email:

Krishna Prasad - Convener, Coalition for GM Free Karnataka

Mobile: 09880862058, email:

 


[1] http://www.moef.nic.in/divisions/csurv/geac/decision-nov-104.pdf