India bans Monsanto GM cotton seeds / Comments from Satheesh (4/5/2005)

1.India bans Monsanto GM cotton seeds
2.Comments from Satheesh

1.India bans Monsanto GM cotton seeds
Tuesday 03 May 2005

India has barred Monsanto Company and its Indian
partners from selling three varieties of genetically modified cotton in a southern Indian state.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, a federal regulator, refused to renew licences for the sale of three Monsanto BT cotton varieties in Andhra Pradesh state, because these had been found
ineffective in controlling pests there, said Suresh Chandra, the committee chairman.

However, the seeds can be sold in other Indian states, Chandra said.

Years of discussion

"It took us six-and-a-half hours of discussion, but at the end, we decided not to renew those licenses for Andhra Pradesh," he said.

The Andhra Pradesh state government also asked Monsanto to compensate farmers who it said lost money by sowing its transgenic cotton. Monsanto disputed the claim.

Monsanto's spokeswoman in India, Ranjana Smetacek, said the company had yet to receive the federal regulator's order and would not comment.

The licences granted in March 2002 expired last month, and Monsanto applied for their renewal in six southern and central Indian states, including Andhra Pradesh.

Verdict on cotton

In April, the federal regulator asked various state governments to give their comments on the performance of BT cotton over the past three years.

The report (from Andhra Pradesh state) was not satisfactory, and hence we had to disallow the licences," Chandra said.

India has also been hesitant to use GM technology in foods

St Louis-based Monsanto's BT cotton is the only genetically modified crop allowed in India. BT stands for bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium whose gene is injected into cotton seeds to give them resistance against boll worms, which are common in India.

Monsanto sold 1.3 million packets of BT cotton in 2004, but critics say the seeds are environmentally hazardous and could contaminate the genes of native varieties through cross pollination.

However, advocates of genetic modification say it helps fight plant diseases, increases yields, and makes food crops more nutritive.

2.Comments from PV Satheesh

Dear friends

This morning when I woke up, I was greeted by the following news:

All the THREE varieties - Mech-12 Bt, Mech-162 Bt &
Mech-184 Bt have been disallowed for commercial cultivation in Andhra Pradesh.

Nothing could have made my day better. The news was about the decision taken by the GEAC, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Government of India, the apex regulatory body of the Indian Government. Incidentally all the three varieties are products of Monsanto.

The news is specially significant for us because the Deccan Development Society and the Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity have fought a relentless and focused battle against these Bt hybrids for the last three years. In fact on our latest demands the prominent one read as below:


The battle included campaign in hundreds of villages involving posters, film shows, discussions with farmers and a path breaking independent scientific study that tracked farmers experience with the Bt cotton from the day they planted the
cotton till the day they harvested.

The study produced regular annual reports in

2003 : Did Bt Cotton Save Farmers in Warangal?
2004: Bt Cotton Disillusions AP Again
2005: Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: A three year assessment

Another powerful tool used in the struggle were two films made by a group of women farmer-filmmakers from the DDS Community Media Trust. They used their cameras and microphones as instruments of farmer to farmer research by extensively filming in Warangal District touring over 30 villlages every year and recording the impression of hundreds of farmers. They relentlessly returned Warangal month after month in cold winter and searing summer, sought out their focus farmers, patiently spoke to them to get their information and opinion and came up with two stunning films:

Why are Warangal Farmers Angry with Bt Cotton? and
Bt Cotton in Andhra Pradesh: A Three Year Fraud

The films in Telugu have not only been seen by several thousand farmers in over 200 villages in Warangal, Adilabad and Nalgonda districts but also have been translated into French, Spanish, Thai and English and used in as varied parts of the world such as the Francophone West Africa, Meso America, South East Asia and many parts of Europe.

I must make a very special mention of the Warangal Against Genetic Engineering, WAGE, a district coalition of about ten NGOs in Warangal who led the campaign and research from 2002 to 2005. Their spiritied campaign and lead taken by them in the research was the backbone of the entire three year struggle. They have demonstrated that a determined fight from a small band of committed groups can take on the Goliaths of the Life[destroying] Industry and defeat them even if it is in a battle if not a war.

This small victory has buoyed the spirits of the civil society groups particularly in Andhra Pradesh and given them the confidence that by pursuing their larger goal with renewed determination, sharper focus and collective effort, they can attempt to win the war.

There was a tremendous solidarity in this fight from civil society groups, environmenatal action groups and funding partners. We gratefully acknowledge all this support and urge their continued collaboration in the future struggle to see that some parts of AP can be GM-free zones.

with warm regards



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