Greenpeace alerts nation that Indian Rice is in danger

Press release - June 22, 2009
HYDERABAD, India — Greenpeace activists today raided a genetically modified (GM) rice field trial of Bayer Crop Science in a company-owned research farm in the village of Chinnakanjarla, about 45 kilometers from Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. 10 activists planted 5 scare crows and painted the words ‘Bio Hazard” and held the message “Bayer, Hands off our Rice” in English. They also painted the universal warning symbol for bio-hazard on the field.

Scarecrows planted by Greenpeace activists are seen during a protest against genetically modified rice at a trial field of Bayer Crop Science company at Chinnakanjarla, about 45 kilometers from Hyderabad, India.

The 1440 sq meter Chinnakanjarla field is growing herbicide tolerant rice, which requires farmers to buy Bayer's herbicide Glufosinate, a chemical that has been banned and is to be phased out in Europe due to its hazardous nature. Glufosinate (trade name Basta in India and Liberty in the EU and USA) is classified in the EU as toxic for reproduction, category 2 (R2) it is teratogenic meaning it can also causes birth defects.

In 2004, Bayer had written to Greenpeace stating that they had discontinued GM research in India. "The current field trial is a clear violation of the statement made to us", said Jai krishna, Greenpeace Sustainable Agriculture campaigner. "It is a scandal that there is no data available on the rice's bio-safety even after repeated requests by Greenpeace to the authorities under the 'Right to Information' Act,'' he added.

"The union minister for environment, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, has gone on record that his ministry would not encourage GM food crops (1). We have pointed out the hazard and it is now his responsibility to curb the herbicide and keep our fields safe" said Jai Krishna.

In 2007, India declared a ban on GM rice field trials in 3 states of the Basmati-rice export zone. This came after European Union and other countries rejected imports of rice contaminated with unauthorized GM strains of Bayer (2).

 "India has the most to lose when untested GM rice such as the one experimented by Bayer will lead to serious contamination of other non GM rice, (3). To protect the Indian farmer our minister must protect our fields from such GM trials and save the robust export market"(4).

Volunteers installed a warning sign declaring the area contaminated and a bio hazard zone and gave away information brochures to the locals on the dangerous experiments the company is conducting in the midst of their farm lands.

Contact information

Jai Krishna, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India, Email: , Mobile:91-9845591992.

Stella Paul, Communications officer, Greenpeace India, Email: , Mobile: 91-9845068125.

Notes to Editor

1. Currently 41 food crops are being genetically modified in India, 11 of which have reached open air trial phase. Rice is the most researched crop and has the greatest number of (25) genetically modified versions. (Source: Ministry of Science & Technology)

2. An unauthorized GM rice variety of Bayer, LL601, was found to contaminate non GM rice stocks in the USA in 2007, as a result of which imported rice shipments worth more than 1 billion USD was rejected by the EU and by many countries the world over.

3. India is a centre of origin of rice and has more than 100 thousand varieties of rice of which 86,330 accessions have already been officially recorded. (Source: proceedings of the international rice commission meeting, Bangkok, 2002,http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/y4751e/y4751e0b.htm)

4. India is the 2nd largest producer of rice and 2nd largest exporter of rice in the world.