|More biosafety violations in India / Monsanto forced to cut cotton seed prices (6/3/2006)|
1.Biosafety violations in GM food crop trials again
EXCERPT: the biotech companies assured everyone present [at the meeting convened by India's regulatory body] that all material from field trial plots was being destroyed as per the norms, after being bought back from the trial farmers. However, the latest evidence from the field trial farmers of Mahyco's Bt Rice and Bt Brinjal shows clearly that this is not happening. Untested products are routinely being allowed to contaminate the food/feed chain.
1.CSA presents evidence of biosafety violations in GM food crop trials again case of Bt Brinjal and Bt Rice in Andhra Pradesh
Hyderabad March 4, 2006: Presenting damning evidence of blatant violations in biosafety guidelines of the Environment Protection Act in the case of GM food crop trials, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture [CSA] showed yet again that such violations have now become a routine phenomenon, with no liability and monitoring mechanisms in place. On the eve of the next GEAC meeting on March 8th 2006, a CSA team consisting of Mr S Ramprasad and Ms Kavitha Kuruganti has now uncovered violations that took place in field trials of Bt Brinjal and Bt Rice in farmers fields in Andhra Pradesh in 2004 Kharif. This is close on the heels of various companies denying in a GEAC-convened meeting recently that there were any violations of EPA norms at all.
"In the February 27th meeting called by the GEAC specifically on the issue of biosafety violations, biotech companies assured everyone present that all material from field trial plots was being destroyed as per the norms, after being bought back from the trial farmers. However, the latest evidence from the field trial farmers of Mahyco's Bt Rice and Bt Brinjal shows clearly that this is not happening. Untested products are routinely being allowed to contaminate the food/feed chain. It is really time that GEAC and DBT stop giving permissions for trials when they do not obviously have any control over the situation", said Ms Kavitha Kuruganti of CSA.
Earlier, in the month of December 2005, CSA uncovered a Bt Bhindi field trial being conducted by Mahyco in Narakoduru village of Guntur district where biosafety violations were recorded. In January 2006, the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee [MEC] of 20 civil society organizations presented evidence on many biosafety violations in Bollgard II GM Cotton field trials [Monsanto's stacked, 2-gene Bt Cotton] and of Nath Seeds' Fusion Bt Cotton. Based on the findings of their investigations, the MEC members pressurized the GEAC to act on the violations and fix liability. In response, GEAC called for a meeting of all the companies involved in such trials, the concerned state governments and representatives of Greenpeace India and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture on February 27th 2006. In this meeting, the state governments clearly told the GEAC that no information is being provided to them on various field trials happening. The GEAC was also forced to admit that even it had no information on where trials are happening in this country!
Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director of CSA added, "India is yet to decide through a coherent and publicly-debated policy on whether GM food crops are needed and what are the various risks involved. On the other hand, most recent studies on GM crops point to the potentially serious dangers of GM foods on human health, including studies suppressed by the biotech industry. Yet, it is preposterous that the Department of Biotechnology [DBT] is giving permissions for field trials to happen in farmers fields where many violations are happening. We found that often the farmers do not even know what is being tried on their fields and the state governments are not informed about the trials. Further, from the three case studies that we investigated on three different GM food crop trials, the companies are fully aware of the EPA guidelines, follow them to a certain extent until the DBT team visits the plots after which they encourage the trial farmers to contaminate the supply chain. This is completely unacceptable".
The EPA penal clauses specify that contravention of the law and guidelines will be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees. While the GEAC is not acting on the evidence being presented of regulatory violations, the state governments express their inability to do anything on the matter, given that the central government bodies are acting independently in this regard. However, as the case of Bt Cotton shows, the onus of protecting farmers interests will ultimately fall on the state governments in the case of failures and other problems.
For more information, contact:
1. CSA's Report on Bt Brinjal and Bt Rice field trials in farmers fields in AP 2. CSA's Report on Bt Okra [Bt Bhindi] trial in a farmers field in AP 3. MEC's Press Note on "GM Crop Trials Shrouded in Secrecy", on the February 27th meeting between the GEAC, MEC members and representatives of Bollgard II companies 4. Letter to the GEAC Chairperson by Greenpeace India and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture following the February 27th meeting
2.Monsanto forced to cut Bt cotton seed prices
NEW DELHI, MARCH 5: Faced with the allegations of high prices of Bt cotton, Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (MMB) has decided to reduce the technology fee by 30%. From the next season, MMB's licencees would require to pay technology fee of Rs 900 for a 450 gram pack of Bt cotton seeds. MMB and its licencees have 20 approved varieties of Bt cotton seeds in the country.
MMB's senior manager, Sarita Bahl said, "This has been done with a view to meet the market conditions. If the seed companies choose to lower their sale prices, it will encourage more farmers to choose genuine Bt cotton seeds instead of spurious ones."
It may be noted in context that MMB's Mech 162, Mech 184 and Mech 12 Bt cotton varieties had failed to give the desired results in Andhra Pradesh in 2004. The Andhra government had threatened that it would cancel MMB's licence if the company do not adequately compensate the farmers by the beginning of the new marketing season. The case is now under the jurisdiction of the Andhra High Court. Sale of Mech 12 is banned in South India.
The Andhra government has also filed a petition before the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission for the high "trait value" charged by Monsanto, which had raised the seed prices.
According to the government, the high trait value of Rs 1,250 had raised the prices of Bt cotton seeds to Rs 1,700 (450-gm) in 2004. In 2005 the prices shot up to Rs 1,850. The actual price should be only Rs 450.