Bayer terminates GE work in India

Biotech company falters for third time in one year

Feature story - 15 November, 2004
Bayer has pulled out of GE research in India after sustained pressure from Greenpeace; this is the biotech giant's third defeat this year proving just how unsustainable and unwanted GE agriculture is.

Traditional farming methods in India are safer from the biotech threat now that Bayer has terminated its GE projects.

Bayer conceded to Greenpeace India that ALL its projects on genetically engineered (GE) crops have been "discontinued" in a letter sent by Aloke V. Pradhan, head of Bayer's Corporate Communications in India.

"We don't need genetically engineered crops to feed India," said Divya Raghunandan, GE campaigner for Greenpeace India. "In fact globally, the promises made by the genetic engineering industry have been unfulfilled, whether increasing crop yields or reducing pesticide use."

She continued: "It doesn't surprise us that Bayer is giving up in India as they saw the writing on the wall - the Indian public was not going to accept their manipulated cabbages and cauliflowers and they cut their losses. It's time for the rest of the industry to give up on this misguided and inappropriate technology."

The letter outlining Bayer's retreat was sent following a protest which saw six activists chain themselves to the Bayer headquarters in Mumbai at the beginning of October. During their protest they demanded to know exactly what the biotech giant was doing in India.

They also presented documentary evidence obtained from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) proving that ProAgro, a Bayer subsidiary, was using the highly controversial Cry9C gene in Indian cabbage and cauliflower.

Bayer's only response was to issue a statement denying it had any involvement with the Cry9C gene. But it then contradicted itself by stating that "the (Cry9C gene) trials were conducted in a contained environment and were harvested well before flowering. Since these research trials never went to the phase of development or commercial production the question of biosafety assessment does not arise."

"The apathy and indifference of this company is unbelievable!" said Divya Raghunandan. "They took 11 hours to eventually respond with half-truths and an inconsistent statement. This statement only vindicates our stand that we are dealing with an irresponsible corporation with many skeletons to hide."

The use of this gene also proves the double standards systematically used by biotech companies. In the US Cry9C was only approved for animal feed and industrial purposes as there were concerns that it could cause allergies due to shared characteristics of other allergens. In 2000 a scandal involving the gene, which was used to create StarLink GE corn, cost the US agro-biotech industry US $1 billion when traces were found in Taco shells.

This retreat follows other decisions by Bayer earlier this year. In March of 2004, the company announced it would be pulling out of GE crop research in the UK. A few months later, in June, it announced it would not pursue commercialisation of GE canola in Australia.

"It is clear that popular resistance to genetic engineering is not diminishing as hoped for by the industry," said Doreen Stabinsky, GE campaigner for Greenpeace International. "No matter what country we're talking about, consumers are on the same page. They don't want to eat genetically engineered food. That's good news for farmers and good news for the environment."

Find out more:

- Read the letters exchanged between Greenpeace India and Bayer.

- Find out the history of Bayer in India.

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