Andhra Pradesh, India: Centre for Sustainable Agriculture catches Mahyco-Monsanto red-handed Print E-mail
 Tuesday March 7, 2006

Monsanto hides facts, allows sale of GM rice

Hyderabad, March 6: Mahyco-Monsanto, the seed firm in the Bt cotton controversy, allegedly got farmers to conduct field trials on Bt rice and Bt brinjal and allowed them to sell the produce. This is the first attempt to introduce genetically modified (GM) food and vegetable crops in the State, a fact-finding team from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), a city-based non-governmental organisation fighting against GM crops, reported.

While the tests were approved by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, Monsanto hired farmers to plant Bt rice and Bt brinjal reportedly without telling them what it was. The tests should have been conducted by Monsanto in its trial farms and the produce destroyed, according to rules. The team reported that Bt rice was grown in the field of farmer Hanumanth Reddy at Mysireddipalli village of Ranga Reddy district and Bt brinjal in the field of farmer Ramanjaneyulu at Pandipadu village, Kurnool district. Mahyco-Monsanto had allegedly taken the fields on lease in Kharif 2004.

The CSA team, consisting of S. Ram Prasad and Kavitha Kuruganti, reported that though the company had taken the permission of GEAC, under the Union ministry of environment and forests, it should have confined the trials to its own fields. But the company, in violation of rules, did not inform the farmers about the GM varieties of Bt rice or Bt brinjal it was sowing. Though two instances have come to the CSA’s notice, trials could be going on in other fields, CSA representatives said.

“As per the guidelines, the produce from the field trial plots should be destroyed after harvesting and reports sent to the GEAC and the State government. During the February 27 meeting called by the GEAC on the issue of biosafety violations, biotech companies assured that all material from the field trial plots was being destroyed as per norms after being bought back from the trial farmers.  However, latest evidence from the field trial farmers of Mahyco’s Bt Rice and Bt Brinjal shows clearly that this is not happening,” Ms Kavitha told this correspondent.

Instead, the companies left the crop with the farmers after paying the lease amount. The farmers, who did not know that these were Bt products, sold them in the market. “There is no permission for commercial sale of GM food crops in the country and the biotechnology policy is yet to be finalised. Second, there is no proper research on the health hazards of GM crops, though certain researches in the US on Bt soya have reported carcinogenic effects in rats. Thus, allowing Bt brinjal or Bt rice into the food chain will contaminate the whole chain,” Ms Kavitha said.

Earlier, in December 2005, the CSA unearthed a Bt bhendi field trial being conducted by Mahyco in Narakoduru village of Guntur district. Meanwhile, on the royalty issue, the State government is insisting that Monsanto should reduce its royalty by another Rs 500. Earlier, pushed to a corner by the State government, Monsanto had agreed to reduce its royalty from Rs 1,200 to Rs 900.