“STOP GM TRIALS; MONSANTO, QUIT INDIA”: Farmers protest at Monsanto’s GM Corn trial in Kolhapur

Press release - March 23, 2009
KOLHAPUR, India — On “Shaheed Diwas” marked across India in the honour of the martyrdom of revolutionary freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru, hundreds of farmers from all across Maharashtra came to Kolhapur to protest against the open air experiment of Monsanto’s GM corn being conducted in the B farm of Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV) here. The peaceful sit-in ended when the university officials here assured the activists that all pending concerns with regard to the trial would be responded to in a special meeting convened on the 2nd of April and if no satisfactory responses can be provided, the field trial will be destroyed by the university.

Close to 400 activists protest GM corn field trials at Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth in Kolhapur

This is the first time that Monsanto, the largest American seed transnational, has applied directly for field trials of GM crops in India and so far, Indians have seen it as a trait seller with Indian farmers paying billions of rupees in the name of technology fees for Bt Cotton. Protestors condemned the Indian government's nexus with criminal corporations like Monsanto while putting aside the interests of the aam aadmi (common citizen). They demanded that political parties should pay heed to the growing democratic resistance against unsafe food and corporate takeover of our farming and asked all parties to state their stand on the issue immediately.

Addressing the protestors, N D Patil, well known farmers' leader said, "The government is shamelessly siding with big MNCs like Monsanto and neglecting the interests of farmers and consumers. Where is the need for a herbicide-tolerant GM corn in this country? Why are tax payers' funds being spent in a public sector body like the state agriculture university, to support the research of a profit-hungry corporation like Monsanto? If the agriculture university has any loyalty left for the Indian farmer, it should immediately stop such field trials. It is clear that GM crops are hazardous and unneeded and the Government of India should stop pushing this technology on all of us. I also call upon all political parties vying for the votes of common citizens to clearly state their stand on GM in our food and farming - we will know clearly which side are you on".

Joining him was Vijay Jawandhia of Shetkari Sanghatan. The veteran farmers' leader, who had witnessed the distress produced by Bt Cotton, India's only approved GM crop, said, "Monsanto is a criminal corporation known to have sued or sent to jails scores of farmers elsewhere for doing what farmers around the world have done for millennia - saving their seeds! This is a corporation documented to have bribed officials to get regulatory approvals. This is a corporation which has earned crores of rupees in the name of royalty in India while thousands of Bt Cotton farmers have committed suicides. On Shaheed Diwas, we should remember Bhagat Singh's words, which hold very true today - let us declare that the state of war does exist and shall exist as long as the Indian toiling masses and the natural resources are being exploited by a handful of parasites. In this neo-colonial era where parasites like Monsanto and its supporters in the government masquerade as our well-wishers, this is the time to start the new war of independence".

Earlier in the month, Col Vikram Bokey, Chairman, Maharashtra organic Farmers Federation, wrote to the Vice Chancellor of the Agriculture University here, citing evidence of the negative impacts of GM crops in general, GM Corn in particular, Monsanto's criminal record, negative social and health impacts of herbicides like Round-Up etc. and demanded an immediate response from the University on the concerns raised before proceeding further on the trial. "We did not receive a response from the University", he said.

"GM corn as well as herbicides are known to cause several adverse health and environmental effects. Another fundamental concern is about herbicides displacing the agricultural employment potential for farm women. We are here to assert that we do not need such technologies. As consumers, our right to safe food cannot be violated and we cannot be made into lab rats in this experiment", added Col. Vikram Bokey, Chairperson of MOFF.

The protest rally was addressed by Shri A.B Patil, the state vice president of Kisan Sabha of CPI[M], Sathish Bansode,CYDA,Pune, Kavitha Kuruganti, Kheti Virasat Mission, Sanjay Bhagat of YUVA, Rajesh Krishnan of Greenpeace India etc. amongst others. Speakers pointed out that the Supreme Court appointee into the apex regulatory body, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, had asked for a moratorium on all GMO releases in India after studying the current regulatory regime and the serious lacunae therein.

For further information, contact

1. Vijay Jawandhia, Shetkari Sanghatan, at 94-217-27998
2. Mathew Mattam, CYDA, at 93-733-08126
3. Nitin Mate, YUVA, at 93-721-56005
4. Rajesh Krishnan, Greenpeace India, at 098-456-50032
5. Kavitha Kuruganti, Kheti Virasat Mission, at 093-930-01550
6. Vikram Bokey, MOFF at 9822060606