Friday, October 19, 2012

Well done, India

TL;DR: India tells Monsanto to GTFO.



 Farmers protest open air field trials of GM corn; demand an immediate ban

Farmers protest open air field trials of GM corn; demand an immediate ban

Kurukshetra/New Delhi, October 18, 2012: Hundreds of farmers from Bharat Kisan Union carrying banners and monster corn placards reading Monsanto GM corn Quit India gathered together in a peaceful protest outside the Regional Research station of Choudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University (CCHAU) at Kurukshetra today, to show their resentment towards open air field trials of genetically modified (GM) corn in the state. American multinational  seed giant, Monsanto, is conducting the open field trials of its herbicide tolerant GM corn variety in the research station here. The farmer's protest comes close to the heels of the recommendation of the Supreme Court Technical Expert Committee (TEC) to put a 10 year moratorium on all field trials of Bt food crops, HT crops (till independent assessment of impact and suitability), ban on transgenic crop field trials for which India is Centre of Origin/Diversity and so on.
Public opposition has been building up ever since the field trials of GM food crops like GM corn of multinational seed companies had started in the public sector research stations in the state.  Various organisations under the banner of Allaince for GM free Haryana had met the state Agriculture Minister Mr Paramvir Singh last month and requested him to stop all open air field trials in the state; however the state government is yet to take any constructive step. In their submission they had pointed out that there is a growing scientific evidence on the negative impacts of GM crops on human health and environment. Concerns were also raised on the manner in which seed companies are taking control of our seed sector using their proprietary GM seeds as was seen in the case of Bt Cotton, the only commercially cultivated GM crop in India.
Addressing the gathering Gurnam Singh, Haryana State President of BKU said that “A month has passed since we met our agriculture minister but the government has failed to act on our behalf. The onus is now on us”. He urged the farmers to stand united in the fight for their farms and food free from GM contamination and corporate control and declared that BKU will not permit any more field trials happening in the state.
The field trials currently taking place in Haryana include GM corn which have bacterial genes inserted in them for giving herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. While field trials have been permitted for Monsanto, Pioneer, Syngenta and Dow Agro Sciences, Monsanto leads the pack with one small scale (BRL 1) of its herbicide tolerant (HT) GM corn and one large scale (BRL 2) field trial of its stacked gene GM Maize which has one bacterial gene for both herbicide tolerance and one (Bt) for insect resistance. The alliance in its letter also had pointed out that these field trials are happening in the absence of any biosafety assessments that proves their safety to human health and environment.
It is unfortunate that Haryana is becoming the testing ground for risky GM crops which have been rejected by other states in the country” said Pankaj Bhushan, Co-Convenor, Coalition for GM Free India. Addressing the assembled farmers he further stated that “Massive opposition from all quarters in the past forced the central government to put a moratorium on Bt Brinjal 2 years ago but now the governments, both at the centre and state, are  permitting back door entry of GM crops through such open field trials”.
Experiences from the few countries that grow GM corn commercially, shows that this eventually leads to super weeds that are tolerant to these herbicides and the farmers will end up using more and more herbicides with less and less impact. What is worrisome is the recent scientific studies that points to the potency of herbicides like Monsanto's Glyphosate (commonly called as Round Up) to cause cancer, birth defects, female hormone disruptions etc.” said Dr Ramkumar, retired Senior scientist, CCHAU. He further stated that “By promoting such GM crops, companies like Monsanto make double profits by selling its proprietary seed and its chemical herbicide”
Speaking at the occasion Sunder Lal, Chairperson, Svashaasan Mission, Khori, Haryana urged the state govt to immediately stop the field trials and opined that “Given that GM crops in general & the GM corn in particular pose a grave threat to the health of the state's people, our food & farming the state govt. should take the side of the people and not that of biotech seed companies who have nothing but profits in their mind”.
The Technical Expert Committee set up by the Supreme Court of India in its interim report submitted to the court on Monday this week has recommended a 10 year moratorium on all field trials of Bt food crops as well as HT crops, until an independent assessment of their impact and suitability is done. The TEC, comprising of eminent scientists in the country on the field of molecular biology and biotechnology, after doing wide spread consultations with experts said that the moratorium is necessitated by the potential harm of GM crops to human health, that of livestock and biodiversity and the possibility of field trials to contaminate our regular crops and our food supply. The concern was also because of the inadequacy of the current regulatory system to assess the safety of GM crops and its ability to safely conduct field trials.
In August this year the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture comprising of 32 members of the parliament cutting across party lines in its report on GM food crops, tabled in the Parliament  had clearly recommended the 'stopping of all field trials under any garb' 2.
Talking to farmers about these developments Rajesh Krishnan, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace India said that “It is unacceptable that after repeated recommendations from such credible agencies, both legislative and judicial, our government continues to permit open releases of GM crops in the country in the  name of field trials” he further stated that “the Minister of Environment and Forests, Smt Jayanti Natarajan, under who sits the nodal agency for  open releases of GM crops, should immediately stop all open air releases of GM crop including field trials.”
Those gathered demanded the central and state governments to stop the promotion of destructive agricultural technologies like GM crops and support ecological farming which is socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. They also took a solemn pledge to keep both the state and the country free from GM crops and to take action if any open releases of GM crops are permitted in the name of experimental trials.
Notes to the Editor:
2.    The copy of the BKU and Alliance for GM Free Haryana letter to the state govt is attached.
3.    The Parliamentary Standing committee report on GM Food crops is available at
For More Information:
1.            Sunder Lal, Chairperson , Svashaasan Mission, Khori  Rewari , Haryana
2.            Gurnam Singh, State President, Bharat Kisan Union, Haryana.
 Mob: 9812335244  email: 
3.            Pankaj Bhushan, Co- convenor, Coalition for GM Free India,
Mob: 09472999999  
4.            Rajesh Krishnan, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India,
Mob: 09845650032  email:
5.         Dr. Ram Kumar, Sustainable Agri. & Social Activist , Dulina  Jhajjar , Haryana
Mob: 09991522270 email:

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