Monsanto Reaps As It Sows. And So Shall The GEAC.

Feature story - June 22, 2005
BANGALORE, India — Barely four months ago, Greenpeace astounded a press conference by revealing that farmers in the Narsampet mandal of Warangal district, Andhra Pradesh, had been cheated by agro-chemical giant Monsanto to the tune of over Rupees 20 Million (two crores). We also exposed the accomplices to this crime: local officials who had doctored data of Monsanto’s poorly performing Bt cotton varieties to minimise compensation that Monsanto owed to small farmers.

Corporate cotton?

This June, following our report and demand for an enquiry into the falsification of records, the JDA of Warangal has been suspended. Even better, the state government has accepted that the compensation in Warangal is actually Rupees 45 million (4.5 crores).

Monsanto has been blacklisted in the state. The company is barred from any field trial activity. It also cannot sell its products in Andhra Pradesh any more. The State Agriculture minister has gone on record saying that Monsanto has not behaved like a good corporate citizen.

Andhra Pradesh is the only state where the government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bt cotton seed companies to safeguard the interest of small farmers. Greenpeace believes that the MoU has proved to be a useful tool and other states that have allowed the cultivation of the Bt cotton crop must quickly adopt it. The MoU must be further strengthened since it makes large corporations accountable to small farmers.

In the absence of a protective and progressive state government that works for the interest of small farmers, Greenpeace has been disseminating the Kisan Suraksha Kawach, which enables the farmer to fight his battle with the corporation in the consumer court at an individual level.

Recently, the GEAC has been on an approval spree. The Warangal scandal raises serious questions regarding the authenticity of data elsewhere in the country on which the GEAC bases its decisions on Bt cotton performance. The credibility of the entire data-gathering system (and the decisions based on such data) is at stake and remains highly questionable.

Greenpeace maintains that the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) cannot simply make decisions on the data it receives citing expressions like “agriculture is a state subject” or “not within our purview”. If the GEAC has to retain the trust of all stakeholders and must base its decision on certain data, it must also look into the veracity of that data.