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Battling India's Monsanto Protection Act, Farmers Demand End to GMO

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

On August 8, thousands of farmers and activists from across 20 Indian states demonstrated in New Delhi against the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, and demanded an end to GMOs in India. 53-year-old farmer Jaswant Sainhara, standing with his son, proudly held up a placard that read, "Monsanto, Quit India."

August in Delhi is among the hottest months of the year, with temperatures ranging from 40 to 45 degrees Celsius (104 to 113 Fahrenheit). Yet under the sweltering summer sky, the people whose voices rose together that day knew they were not fighting for their justice alone, but were fighting for the basic human right to safe food.

India seems to have awoken to the dangers of GM crops. In a recent move, the courts here rejected two patent appeals by biotech giant Monsanto, dealing a sizable blow to a company that recoups its research investments in large part via patents.

Monsanto wanted to patent its "Methods of Enhancing Stress Tolerance in plants and methods thereof," and "A method of producing a transgenic plant, with increasing heat tolerance, salt tolerance or drought tolerance." But both the Patent Appeals Court and the Intellectual Property Appellate Board rejected the company's claims, saying they involved no "inventive steps" as required in the Patents Act of 1970, and that they offered a "mere application" of already known science.

For the many farmers protesting the GM poisoning of their fields, crops and their very livelihoods, the courts' decision was a significant victory and validation for India's food growers. Sainhara, for example, said he didn't really understand what GM crops were all about until his son - who had been educated through a local NGO - explained to him how GM food and seeds worked.     

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