If USA Knows, Why Don't We?

Feature story - February 25, 2004
NEW DELHI, India — Greenpeace stonewalled by DBT while India remains silent at Malaysia on protecting biodiversity. New Delhi/Kuala Lumpur, February 25, 2004: Even as Indian representatives maintained a stoic silence on the issue of protecting Indian bio-diversity at the Convention of Biodiversity (CBD) in Malaysia, Greenpeace activists demanding information on the field-trials of 60 genetically modified crops were stonewalled by officials from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) today. Meanwhile two George Bush look-alikes walked into DBT office thanking them for sharing information on Indian GM plans with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

DBT, GM Field Trials

Greenpeace activists met Dr. T. V. Ramanaiah at the DBT office to follow up on their long-pending demand for a comprehensive list of - all GM crops undergoing field trials, the corporations involved, the locations of trials and corresponding Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) reports, information on GM imports into the country and the status of the same. This information is crucial given that the irreversible, uncontrolled and potentially dangerous release of GMOs will have an irreversible effect on agricultural biodiversity.

Earlier, on 2 September 2003, Greenpeace activists had delivered desi

(local) kufri variety of potatoes at the doorstep of Dr. Manju Sharma,Secretary of the DBT, to question their decision to expedite the release of risk-laden GM-variety of potatoes and bypass the required regulatory processes including biosafety assessments. On that occasion too, the DBT had refused to part with information on specifics regarding the controversial 'protato'.

"The Indian government's lack of commitment towards protecting the interests of Indian farmers is reprehensible. Why would the government refuse to give us critical information despite repeated requests? Why does the USDA have more information than Indian farmers on the GMO crops being grown in India?

Why did the government fail to oppose Monsanto's patent on Indian wheat?" asked Divya Raghunandan, GE campaigner, Greenpeace India, "Powerful multinational corporations seem to dictate the Indian government's policies on agriculture."

On 21 May 2003, the EPO at Munich granted a patent (Patent No. EP445929) to Monsanto on wheat that has been bred, cultivated and processed in India for decades. Despite Supreme Court directives of 23rd February, the Indian government has failed to take necessary steps to file opposition and have the patent revoked. Since they have missed the deadline for filing opposition in the European Patent Office (EPO), the Government's only option now is to support Greenpeace' opposition to the patent and save Indian farmers from the ignominy of taking permission every time they grow wheat for chapatis.

"It is utterly surprising that India has not taken a definitive position on the issue of protecting farmers' interests or our biodiversity," said Dr. Ashesh Tayal, Scientific Advisor, Greenpeace India, from Kuala Lumpur, "Despite being a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the first legally binding international agreement governing the transboundary movement of genetically modified organisms, the Indian delegation at the Conference of Parties in Malaysia did not raise the liability issue of genetic contamination of our rich biodiversity, thereby severely undermining Indian interests."

For further information, please contact:

Divya Raghunandan, GE Campaigner, Greenpeace India: +91 9845535406

Namrata Chowdhary, Media Officer, Greenpeace India: +919810850092