Monsanto under siege in India
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998
Dear friends,

On Monday the 16th the public was informed by Indian newspapers that
Monsanto (well known in India for the Terminator Technology) has been
conducting 40 field trials with genetically manipulated cotton across five
Indian states for the last three months. Monsanto is testing a hybrid
cotton seed that has been genetically engineered to produce the Bacillus
thuringiensis (Bt) enzyme. The permission granted by the federal government
in Delhi pertains the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andrah Pradesh,
Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Now that peoples' movements are
starting to mobilise on this matter, the same central government that
granted the permission is inviting Monsanto to leave the country.

Monsanto has formed a joint venture with Mahyco (a 30 years old seed
company) to carry out these field trails. According to the media, Monsanto
now owns 26 percent of Mahyco.

In the rest of the message I include some excerpts of the newspaper
coverage of this affaire. We will keep you informed of the developments in
this part of the world, which will most probably include a number of
non-violent direct actions to burn down the genetically modified crops and
kick Monsanto physically out of the country. We encourage you to do similar
actions all over the world - maybe we can make Monsanto's shareholders feel
our pressure reflected on the value of their stocks.

Friendly greetings,

Prof. Nanjundaswamy
President, Karnataka State Farmers Association
swamy.krrs@aworld.net

'Curiously though agriculture is a state subject, Karnataka Government
seems unaware of the trials going on in the State. Agriculture Minister C.
Byre Gowda admitted that he had been informend of the on-going trials but
was unaware of where they were being undertaken - in Karnataka or in
Maharashtra.' (The Indian Express, Bangalore edition, cover page, 16th
November)

The trials started three months ago although the 'Ministry of Science and
Technology has admitted that it does not have the requisite regulatoy
regimen to assess the risk of dealing with such transgenic material for
which biosafty guidelines have only now been issued.' (The Indian Express,
Bangalore edition, cover page, 18th November). In that sense, the
University of Agriculture Science (UAS) Bangalore warned that 'The genetic
modification involved in geneticlly engineered hybrid seeds is a concealed
one that cannot be ascertaiened with existing regulations of the seed act
and quarantine.' (ibid.) B.R. Hedge, Director of Research at UAS, affirmed
that 'The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) was only now
starting to look at ways which regulatory mechnisms should be put in place
to check the clandestine import of such genetic material. Nevertheless, for
the moment we have nothing ready' (The Indian Express, Bangalore edition,
page 9, 18th November)

The KRRS has issued a deadline to the State Government and Monsanto to
disclose the places where the trials are being conducted and the exact
description of the seeds that are being tested. '"Monsanto should reveal
immediately where the trials are being conducted" failing which "direct
action would follow on the company's office in Malleswaram" he [Prof.
Nanjundaswamy] threatened. "The government can foist 100 cases of attempt
to murder [against us], but we will throw it [Monsanto] out... first from
Karnataka, next from Maharashtra" ... The former professor of law wondered
how the State's Agriculture Minister could be unaware of the trials. "The
Government cannot continue for three minutes" considering its irresponsible
behaviour, he said'. (The Indian Express, Bangalore edition, page 4, 20th
November)
'Monsanto will have to leave the country within a week. Otherwise we will
be forced to throw them out. We have given a day's ultimatum to the company
to furnish details about the seed trials undertaken in the state and the
country.' (Prof. Nanjundasway in The Times of India, Bangalore edition,
page 5 20th November).

Although the field trials are testing BT cotton, the Indian press and
politiciancs seem to be rather confused and are mixing up this issue with
the terminator technology, which has been used by opponents of Monsanto as
an example of the destructive potential of this corporation. However, this
confusion is making it easier for Monsanto to reject any accusation by
denying the use of this technology. Here are some statements about this
issue taken from the last days press.

'Second and Third World markets are the main targets for the terminator
seed.'
William Phelps, Spokesman, Department of Agriculture, USA (quoted in The
Indian Express, Bangalore edition, cover page, 18 November)

'It is not merly the economic factors that threaten the poor farmers of the
world, but it is nature of the Terminator gene itself, since the pollen
from the crops carrying the Terminator will infect the fields of farmers
who either reject, or cannot afford the technology.'
(UAS, quoted in The Indian Express, Bangalore edition, cover page, 18
November)

'This is a terminator of bio-diversity, terminator of food security. It is
a damaging technology because pollination pollution can render all
indigenous varieties sterile. This gene will slowly remove all
characteristics of germination from seeds. This means the harvest seeds
cannot be used for sowing during the next seseason. It will also force seed
dependency on farmers who cannot afford to buy seeds.
Mono-culture was introduced in the country in 1965 with an aim to provide
food security. When Green Revolution -Technology introduced mono-culture it
was thought the method would be very effective. Terminator-gene is being
dubbed as a second Green Revolution -Technology. This, too, will prove
ineffective.
Genetically modified seeds are polluting the local species. It will not
solve the food problem, in fact it will terminate food security along with
bio-diversity.'
(Prof. Nanjundaswamy, quoted in The Times of India, Bangalore edition, page
5, 20th November)

The sincerity of Monsanto can be easily assessed by the usual roguish reply
it gave to the critics: 'Monsanto will only bring to India, products and
technologies which are consistent with what India wants and its laws
aprove.... Monsanto has not, and will not, bring to India any technology
that will adversely affect the environment, current agricuture practices
and force farmers to use any technology it provides.' (Monsanto statement
quoted in Deccan Herald, Bangalore edition, page 9, 21th November)

Yesterday the Union Minister for Rural Development, Babagouda Patil,
declared that 'Monsanto wil be asked to leave India' (headline, The Times
of India, Bangalore edition, page 5, 23 November).

'He said that he recieved Information that Monsanto is developing and
conducting field trials on the "terminator gene" seeds at a private farm in
Ranebennur taluk of Haveri district. "I have informed the Prime Minister
and Union Agriculture Minister", he said. He said he knew the complications
arising out of the issue due to WTO stipulations. "But the government will
not compromise on this issue as crores of farmers' lives will be in danger.
The terminator gene seed will pose a serious threat to Indian agriculture."
The Union cabinet is expected to deliberate on the issue besides initiating
measures to close Monsanto's buisness operations in the country... He said
that the Center would not hesitate to withdraw from WTO if its provisions
threaten our very existence.' (The Times of India, Bangalore edition, page
5 23rd November)


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