"Stop GM trials -- Monsanto, quit India!"
Farmers protest at Monsanto's GM Corn trial in Kolhapur
Kolhapur, March 23, 2009:
On "Shaheed Diwas" marked across India in the honour of the martyrdom of revolutionary freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru, hundreds of farmers from all across Maharashtra came to Kolhapur to protest against the open air experiment of Monsanto’s GM corn being conducted in the B farm of Maharishi Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV) here. The peaceful sit-in ended when the university officials here assured the activists that all pending concerns with regard to the trial would be responded to in a special meeting convened on the 2nd of April and if no satisfactory responses can be provided, the field trial will be destroyed by the university.
This is the first time that Monsanto, the largest American seed transnational, has applied directly for field trials of GM crops in India and so far, Indians have seen it as a trait seller with Indian farmers paying billions of rupees in the name of technology fees for Bt Cotton. Protestors condemned the Indian government’s nexus with criminal corporations like Monsanto while putting aside the interests of the aam aadmi (common citizen). They demanded that political parties should pay heed to the growing democratic resistance against unsafe food and corporate takeover of our farming and asked all parties to state their stand on the issue immediately.
Addressing the protestors, N D Patil, well known farmers’ leader said, “The government is shamelessly siding with big MNCs like Monsanto and neglecting the interests of farmers and consumers. Where is the need for a herbicide-tolerant GM corn in this country? Why are tax payers’ funds being spent in a public sector body like the state agriculture university, to support the research of a profit-hungry corporation like Monsanto? If the agriculture university has any loyalty left for the Indian farmer, it should immediately stop such field trials. It is clear that GM crops are hazardous and unneeded and the Government of India should stop pushing this technology on all of us. I also call upon all political parties vying for the votes of common citizens to clearly state their stand on GM in our food and farming we will know clearly which side are you on”.
Joining him was Vijay Jawandhia of Shetkari Sanghatan. The veteran farmers’ leader, who had witnessed the distress produced by Bt Cotton, India’s only approved GM crop, said, “Monsanto is a criminal corporation known to have sued or sent to jails scores of farmers elsewhere for doing what farmers around the world have done for millennia saving their seeds! This is a corporation documented to have bribed officials to get regulatory approvals. This is a corporation which has earned crores of rupees in the name of royalty in India while thousands of Bt Cotton farmers have committed suicides. On Shaheed Diwas, we should remember Bhagat Singh’s words, which hold very true today let us declare that the state of war does exist and shall exist as long as the Indian toiling masses and the natural resources are being exploited by a handful of parasites. In this neo-colonial era where parasites like Monsanto and its supporters in the government masquerade as our well-wishers, this is the
time to start the new war of independence”.
Earlier in the month, Col Vikram Bokey, Chairman, Maharashtra organic Farmers Federation, wrote to the Vice Chancellor of the Agriculture University here, citing evidence of the negative impacts of GM crops in general, GM Corn in particular, Monsanto’s criminal record, negative social and health impacts of herbicides like Round-Up etc. and demanded an immediate response from the University on the concerns raised before proceeding further on the trial. “We did not receive a response from the University”, he said.
“GM corn as well as herbicides are known to cause several adverse health and environmental effects. Another fundamental concern is about herbicides displacing the agricultural employment potential for farm women. We are here to assert that we do not need such technologies. As consumers, our right to safe food cannot be violated and we cannot be made into lab rats in this experiment”, added Col. Vikram Bokey, Chairperson of MOFF.
The protest rally was addressed by Shri A.B Patil, the state vice president of Kisan Sabha of CPI[M], Sathish Bansode,CYDA,Pune, Kavitha Kuruganti, Kheti Virasat Mission, Sanjay Bhagat of YUVA, Rajesh Krishnan of Greenpeace India etc. amongst others. Speakers pointed out that the Supreme Court appointee into the apex regulatory body, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, had asked for a moratorium on all GMO releases in India after studying the current regulatory regime and the serious lacunae therein.
For more information, contact:
1. Vijay Jawandhia, Shetkari Sanghatan, at 94-217-27998
2. Mathew Mattam, CYDA, at 93-733-08126
3. Nitin Mate, YUVA, at 93-721-56005
4. Rajesh Krishnan, Greenpeace India, at 098-456-50032
5. Kavitha Kuruganti, Kheti Virasat Mission, at 093-930-01550
6. Vikram Bokey, MOFF at 9822060606
March 11 2009
To: The Vice Chancellor
Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyalaya
Sub: Open Air Field Trial of Monsanto's GM corn by the University
Based on a permission letter issued by the Department of Biotechnology’s RCGM on 8th December 2008, an open air trial of Monsanto’s transgenic corn hybrids (HiShell and 900 M Gold containing MON 89034 event and NK603 event), your University had gone ahead with the planting of this GM corn trial in Kolhapur.
We have several serious concerns with regard to this trial in terms of its need, biosafety issues and the fact that tax-payers’ funds for a public sector body are being utilized to further the commercial interests of a private company which is the world’s largest seed company. We request you to respond to each of our concerns immediately.
1. What is the need assessment with regard to this GM Corn? Has the MPKV taken up a need analysis and impact assessment of this GM corn before undertaking the trial? Are there no other alternatives to this GM corn available in the agricultural research system? Have the impacts of the herbicide use by such crops been assessed including on the employment potential for the poorest farming households in the country?
2. Has the University questioned the application by Monsanto or the decision by the DBT to undertake the trial in the University? By what legislation can the Union Government impose its decision on a State Agriculture University which is under the state government, and when agriculture is a state subject by the Constitution of India? Has the state government expressly taken any decision to allow this trial in the state when, where and how?
3. Is the University aware of the fact that several recent studies have actually pointed out to problems with the NK603 GM corn event? One such important and independent study is one that was undertaken by the Austrian government, for which the report came out in November 2008; this was a 20-month-long, multi-generational study conducted by the health department of the government of Austria. Prof. Dr. Jürgen Zentek, Professor for Veterinary Medicine at the University of Vienna and lead author of the study, summarized the findings as: ‘Mice fed with GE maize had less offspring in the third and fourth generations and these differences were statistically significant. Mice fed with non-GE maize reproduced more efficiently. This effect could be attributed to the difference in the food source”. (Annexure: “Biological effects of transgenic maize in long term reproduction studies in mice”). Whether it is aware or not aware, should it be jeopardizing the environment by undertaking an open
air trial of this GM maize?
4. As corn is a completely cross pollinated crop and evidences exist of pollen transfer up to a kilometer has the university alerted the farmers in a radius of a kilometer about the trial at its farm and ensured that no cross contamination happens.
5. Glyphosate, the popular herbicide that accompanies this GM corn of Monsanto, has been implicated in findings of adverse health effects in a recent study. French researchers recently sought to examine the toxicity of four popular G-based herbicide formulations on human placental cells, kidney cells, embryonic cells and neonate umbilical cord cells and surprisingly found total cell death of each of these cells within 24 hours. Why then is the University keen on promoting a herbicide-tolerant GM crop for a big MNC despite all these issues?
6. Does the University know that Monsanto is known to have criminalized farmers in America for saving their own seeds? This company is known to have bribed officials to get regulatory clearances elsewhere and is known to have suppressed biosafety information from public scrutiny. For more information on the antecedents of this giant corporation seeking more and more profits, please watch the attached film called “The World According To Monsanto”. Why then are public-funded bodies like yours eager on helping this profit-hungry corporation, which is reported to have announced “No food shall be grown that we don’t own”?
7. Has the University adhered to the Environment Protection Act’s 1989 Rules? Does a DLC exist in Kolhapur and when was the last time that a meeting was convened of this DLC? Does the SBCC function in Maharashtra and were they appraised of this trial and did they take a decision to permit the trial and decide ways on ensuring scientific and transparent trials without any biosafety violations?
As aware and concerned farmers and consumers, we demand immediate responses from you on all the above points before the University proceeds with the trial. Thank you.
Col. Vikram Bokey/Diliprao Deshmukh,
Maharashtra Organic Farmers’ Federation