1.More on Monsanto ban in Andhra Pradesh
2.Imported soy and corn products may be harmful - Secret research carried out by Monsanto points to serious health hazards

Following on from the stirring news of the blacklisting of Monsanto in Andhra Pradesh, this morning the dangers of GM are splashed across the front page of a leading national newspaper that's read by millions in India. ------

1.More on Monsanto ban in Andhra Pradesh
from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture

Dear Friends,

The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister has announced that Mahyco is being blacklisted in AP and that their new Bt Cotton varieties approved by GEAC would not be allowed in the state either.

The stated reasons for the decision include that the company has supplied low quality seeds and has refused to pay compensation ordered to the tune of Rs. 4.5 crores to Bt Cotton farmers who have incurred losses despite an earlier MoU with the government saying that it would.

"We will not allow firms like Mahyco to sell their Bt Cotton seed in any part of the state", the Chief Minister announced. [The Hindu, June 4th 2005, Regional Page]

As per a news report in Eenaadu (a leading vernacular daily in AP) on June 4th, 2005, the state government has decided not to allow even field trials in the state by the company. The government has also expressed its deep opposition to the GEAC for approving new varities without consulting the state government and without taking into account past performance. The Minister for Agriculture and the Commissioner-Agriculture have confirmed the reports of the company being blacklisted in the state, as per this report.

In this context, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture congratulates the AP government for its bold decision. However, the government should also be pro-active and consistent on the matter of Bt Cotton in this state. Without working out any (new) accountability mechanism, what does the government propose to do when Bt Cotton fails again this season? What are the steps now to compensate farmers who have incurred losses earlier? What new monitoring mechanisms has the government put in place to monitor Bt cotton in a comprehensive manner? what mechanisms to prevent falsification of data, to the benefit of the company, as it had happened in the past?

Unless these issues are resolved, there is only experimentation happening at the expense of hapless farmers of the state and we demand that the government put an immediate stop to this.

Kavitha Kuruganti

Centre for Sustainable Agriculture

2.Imported soy and corn products may be harmful
Secret research carried out by Monsanto points to serious health hazards
Gargi Parsai
The Hindu (front page), 4 June 2005

NGOs demand publication of all food and feed safety data on genetically modified crops being researched in India

NEW DELHI: There is a chance that imported products like sweet corn, corn blends, soy nuggets, soy granules, tofu, soy drinks, soymilk and others that have flooded the market could have been made from genetically modified (GM) maize/corn and soya. There is no way to know this as India does not insist on labelling for GM foods, nor has it a proper regulatory system in place for screening such imported products.

There have been widespread concern following recent reports that rats fed on a diet rich in genetically modified maize developed organ abnormalities and changes in their blood profile.

Data on the collapse of the immune system and organ abnormalities in rats fed with GM maize (MON 863) have been leaked from secret research carried out by the American multinational food giant, Monsanto. The study is reported to have shown that rats fed on normal maize were healthy. Despite requests from several official quarters, the multinational company is said to have declined to make its 1139-page report public, stating that it "contains confidential business information which could be of commercial use to our companies." The MON 863 variety was meant for release in Europe.

Efforts to talk to the Monsanto representative in New Delhi proved futile.

Quoting the reports, civil society groups like the Gene Campaign and the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security on Friday sought an immediate and complete ban on the release of GM foods.

"The Monsanto study should be reason enough for a serious overhaul of the draft Biotechnology Policy, introducing elements of precaution, safety and public participation," said Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign.

Devinder Sharma of the Forum said India was being used as a "dustbin" for GM foods. "Let there be transparency on the data about such products and let people decide. Why should GM research and results be shrouded in mystery if everything is fine with them?"

Both the scientist-NGOs have demanded immediate publication of all food and feed safety data on the GM crops being researched in India including cabbage, cauliflower, brinjal, potato, tomato and even rice. They have strong objection to the government's accepting food and feed data on GM crops generated by the companies themselves.

Official sources said so far no GM food has been approved in India except Bt cotton, but GM products may be unknowingly imported for lack of proper regulation, monitoring and testing facilities. "Unless the importer declares GM foods to be as such, it would not be known that they have been imported. Countries like the United States do not have a policy of labelling GM crops," said the sources.

With the advent of GM food technology, the Health Ministry had proposed amendments to the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act for references for GM foods in the interest of food safety. However, the proposal was not accepted and it was decided to move a reference under the proposed Integrated Food Law for regulation, labelling, testing and monitoring of GM foods.

From all accounts, India's safety laws on GM foods are hazy and there is no visible system in place for its implementation.