NGOs hail ban on Monsanto's seeds (6/5/2005)

NGOs hail ban on Monsanto's seeds
India News, Hyderabad, May 6 2005

Hyderabad, May 5 : India's decision to reject multinational giant Mahyco Monsanto's plea to continue selling three transgenic cotton hybrids in Andhra Pradesh has been appreciated by NGOs, who have been waging a relentless battle against Bt cotton seeds.

The Deccan Development Society and the AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity, which have been fighting against genetically modified (GM) crops, have said the state government must now ensure that the banned seed stocks are not diverted to the clandestine market.

The groups said the decision of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the central government was great news for those working with small and marginal farmers and on issues of ecological agriculture.

GEAC, the government's apex body on genetically modified crops, had on May 3 rejected the plea of Monsanto and its Indian partner Mahyco to allow commercial cultivation of three Bt hybrids--- MECH 12, MECH 184 and MECH 162.

The hybrids, infused with a bacterial gene to make the crop resistant to the dreaded pest bollworm, were first introduced in Andhra Pradesh and few other states three years ago.

However, the GEAC refused to allow further sale following campaign by NGOs and the performance report sent by the state government.

The NGOs in Andhra Pradesh ran an intense campaign in hundreds of villages involving posters, film shows, discussions with farmers and an independent scientific study that tracked farmers experience with Bt cotton.

"We in the AP Coalition in Defence of Diversity and the Deccan Development Society sincerely believe that we had a major share in shaping this decision of the GEAC through our work in discovering the truth behind Bt cotton," said P.V. Satheesh of the Deccan Development Society.

The NGOs also expressed apprehension about the viability of two new hybrid varieties of Bt cotton seeds allowed by the government in view of the past experience with other varieties.

The GEAC has permitted Mahyco Monsanto to release two new varieties of Bt cotton seeds called MRC-6322 Bt and MRC-6918 Bt.

Activists are demanding that the government instruct Mahyco Monsanto to make available to people the contents and performance of the two varieties. "The companies should also disclose the sites of their field trials and the farmers involved in it so that independent scientists can visit the field trial sites and verify the truth for themselves," said Satheesh.

Studies have shown that farmers who went for Bt cotton suffered more losses compared to those who used conventional seeds. While Bt cotton seeds gave a yield of 535 kg per acre, it was around 650 kg per acre from conventional seeds.

Last year, Bt seeds were sown in an area of 100,000 acres in the state.


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