Indian state govt to fight Bt companies in court (28/12/2005)

1.AP Govt to fight Bt companies in court
2.Non-transparency in GM Crops field trials

1.AP Govt to fight Bt companies in court

Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh Government today announced it would move MRPC over the issue of ''abnormally high trait value'' imposed by the multinational Monsanto and other companies selling genetically-modified Bacillus Thuringensis (BT) cotton seeds to farmers.

Agriculture Minister N Raghuveera Reddy told a press conference here that a leading advocate had been engaged to file the petition before the Monopoly and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRPC) on January two against Mahyco, Monsanto, Proagro, Raasi, Nuzividu and Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech Ltd.

Upset with the Centre allowing field trials of Bt ladies finger without taking the State Government into confidence, it had taken up the matter with the Union Government, he said, adding, ''We need to be informed for monitoring whether the field trials are being carried out as per the conditions laid down by the Centre.'' Pointing out that though no patent rights were granted for multinational companies producing Bt cotton in India, they were charging 300 times of the bare seed cost, Mr Reddy said adding that the trait value charged was much lower in other countries.

''We will fight to the finish to protect the interest of farmers.'' Seed producing farmers were getting only Rs 200 to Rs 250 for a pack of 450 gm from MNCs and their subsidiaries, which provided source material, and charging over Rs 1250 as trait value was totally unjust, he said.

Bt cotton seeds worth Rs 129.95 crore were sold in the state since 2001-02.

Replying to a question, he said Mahyco had been blacklisted for not paying compensation of Rs three crore fixed by the Government for farmers who lost their crops growing Bt cotton during 2003, following a study by an independent team of scientists.

Making it clear that the State Government was not against technology per se, and was ready to take up genetically-modified crops in a big way, he said it would not allow companies to fleece the farmers.

2.NGOs unearth non-transparency in GM Crops field trials
High incidence of pests in Bt Okra
Posted online: Wednesday, December 28, 2005 at 0054 hours IST

NEW DELHI, DEC 27: The Hyderabad-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) has found high incidence of several diseases and pest on Bt Okra under field trials in Narakoduru village in Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh.

The CSA team led by Gangadhar Vagmare, Ram Prasad and Kavitha Kuruganti found incidence of bacterial leaf spot, cercospora leaf spot, yellow vein mosaic, spotted bollworm, powdery mildew, spodoptera, jassids, aphids and white fly on Bt Okra developed by Mahyco. The CSA team noted that so far there had been four sprays of pesticide as per the admissions made by the farmer and a employee of Mahyco.

Field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in India have always been shrouded in secrecy and mystery Such field trials are usually not publicly declared. This gives almost no opportunity to the general public about the on-the–spot verification of the required biosafety norms to be followed and the accuracy of the data to be generated on basis of the trials.

Ms Kuruganti said that the CSA team visited the field of a farmer, Ardula Koteswara Rao in Narakoduru village in Guntur District in Andhra Pradesh. She said : "This is probably the first time since 2001-02 that a GM food crop is being tested in a farmer’s field rather than in greenhouses and campuses of companies and agri-research institutes."

The trial is being conducted on a 40-cent plot leased in from the farmer by Mahyco. The farmer has been paid Rs 7000 as lease rent, she said and added : "the local farmer’s body, Rythu Sangam has already begun protesting against the field trial which is violating all biosafety norms. The farmer was not informed that the company would conduct trials of a GM food crop."

The CSA team has reported that the concerned farmer and his family consumed the untested and not-yet-cleared-for-safety Bt Okra from the trial plots at least twice, without knowning the consequences. The CSA team reported a series of violation of biosafety norms

The CSA team noted that the sowing began onAugust 7, 2005 as per Mr Brahma Raju, an employee of Mahyco. The seeds were first grown in nursery bags and later transplanted. The transplanting took place quite late in the season as compared to the usual sowing time, according to the farmer.

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