Friday, July 29, 2011

GM Free Bihar Asks Crop Developers To Quit Bt Brinjal Expert Group

“No one can be judge in his own case”

April 25th 2011, Patna: Ahead of a crucial meeting of a newly-constituted Expert Group to review Bt Brinjal, the GM-Free Bihar Movement has asked the members of the panel to recuse themselves from decision making as their presence was in conflict of interest. It also cited latest evidence on the toxicity and inadequate biosafety assessment of Bt brinjal, urging the government to reject the Bt brinjal biosafety dossier in toto.

Bihar had become the first state to say no to genetically modified brinjal, a stand that had led the Centre to declare a moratorium on its commercial release in January 2010. Recently also, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had taken strong exceptions to field trials of Bt Maize. But if the expert group meeting goes ahead, it will be for the first time that an official review of the controversial crop would happen on April 27.

“We would like this so-called ‘expert group’ to look at the very need for Bt brinjal given that many alternatives exist to chemical pesticides without having to resort to genetically modified crops, which is also a hazardous technology, even as it is unpredictable and irreversible,” said Pankaj Bhushan, Convener of the GM-Free Bihar Movement. “We don’t want genetically modified crops in Bihar, We don’t want Bt Brinjal or Bt Maize in Bihar. Bihar’s agriculture policy is also clear about this, After all it will affect our food and farmers,” he said.

He said Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh too had pointed this out in his moratorium decision note, saying that “clearly, Bt technology is not the only route for reducing pesticide use…..The advantage of NPM (non-pesticide management) is that it eliminates chemical pesticide use completely whereas Bt technology only reduces the pesticide spray, albeit substantially”. Civil society groups have time and again provided evidence from within the NARS (national agricultural research system) in addition to evidence from farmers’ fields that scores of safe, affordable and eco-friendly alternatives exist to both pesticides and GM crops for pest management in agriculture, Bhushan said.

He said that the constitution of the Expert Group is a matter of concern for his Coalition for a GM-Free India that is spearheading the campaign across the country in the larger interest of the people. “Despite the huge concern expressed at the prevalence of conflicting interests in our regulatory decision-making during the nation-wide debate last year, it appears that no lessons are being drawn. The new ‘expert group’ of 16 members has at least 5 members associated with GM crop development and it is not clear why they were included in this panel,” Bhushan wondered.

He said that latest scientific evidence on GM crops from world-over is pointing to environmental and health risks indeed being a reality with GMOs. A recent scientific review pointed out that favorable findings on GM crops from scientific papers were usually from studies of GM crop developers themselves while independent studies are still sorely missing. As far as the views of state governments and their opposition to Bt brinjal is concerned, nothing has changed since the time the moratorium was imposed, he added.

~~GM Free Bihar Movement/Tara Foundation, Bihar




Call for a Nation-wide DAY OF ACTION on Aug. 9, 2011 (Quit India Day) &
KISAN SWARAJ WEEK, Aug. 9TH to Aug. 15TH 2011

Have you heard of this agri-business company called Monsanto? Monsanto is an American company, which has become the world’s largest seed company by employing many devious strategies and tactics. Its annual gross profit is around 22,500 crores of rupees - which is more than the GDP of at least 48 countries! You can imagine the power of this corporation. Monsanto is notorious across the world for a variety of misdeeds and crimes – polluting natural resources, killing and maiming humans with its products, bribing officials for approvals, falsifying safety reports to show the most dangerous chemicals like dioxin as safe, colluding with regulators through revolving doors between the company and government, false advertising etc.

What Indian farmers should know is that Monsanto is also a company which has sued and jailed farmers for the “crime” of saving and using seeds that have been purchased by the farmers from the company, to protect its patents. Can you imagine farmers not being allowed the right to save seed from their own crop, when it is farmers who have bred thousands of crop varieties over the centuries?

‘No food shall be grown that we don’t own’ – that is Monsanto’s reported objective. This diabolical ambition comes from realizing that growing food is obviously a perpetual business as long as humankind exists. Monsanto seeks to own that food through patents and IPRs, using hybrids and Genetically Modified seeds, to prevent competition and force farmers return to the company perpetually for seeds. Even on its most friendly turf USA, Monsanto is now facing an anti-trust investigation.

Monsanto’s Misdeeds and Growing Threat in India

A few indications about the dangers of Monsanto and the extent of its control:

· Mahyco-Monsanto used its Bt cotton seed monopoly to set exorbitant prices. The A.P. government had to use the MRTP Commission, Essential Commodities Act and then a special Act to finally push its price from Rs.1800 per packet to Rs.750.

· Monsanto actually sued A.P. and Gujarat state governments that they have no right to control seed prices – with Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi as its lawyer! How can individual farmers protect themselves from its legal machine?

· Monsanto entered into licensing agreements with most seed companies so that out of 225 lakh acres of GM cotton, 210 lakh acres is planted with its Bollgaard. During 2002-2006, Monsanto earned Rs.1600 crores just in the form of royalties.

· Monsanto is on the Board of US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture, under which bio-safety regime for GM crops was sought to be weakened; repeating its US strategy where its lawyers practically wrote the policies on GM seeds and patents.

· Monsanto entered into hushed-up agreements with several states (Rajasthan, Orissa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, J&K) under which the states spend hundreds of crores of public funds every year to purchase Hybrid Maize seeds from Monsanto and distributing them free of cost to farmers, creating a ready market.

· Monsanto is pushing the sales of its herbicide glyphosate which is known to cause reproductive problems. Approval for its herbicide-tolerant GM crops would skyrocket the use of this hazardous chemical in our fields.

· Recently, gross violations were exposed in its GM maize field trials in Karnataka.

Oppose Corporate Control of our Food & Agriculture

We have all seen corruption and crony capitalism being exposed in various sectors from telecom to Commonwealth games. Similar scams are being unearthed in the way agriculture and food regulations are being manipulated – from the hushed-up PPP contracts with Monsanto to the formation of “expert panels” on GM crop approval with scientists who are being funded by industry projects. In the Seeds Bill, despite strong demands from farmer unions & state governments, and recommendations from Parliamentary Standing Committee, the Union Agri. Minister refused to include control of seed prices or royalties – clearly obeying the seed industry.

Indian agriculture is seen as a prime multi-billion dollar market by multinational and national agri-business corporations. It is outrageous but not surprising that MNCs are included as Board members in the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture between the Indian and US governments. Those MNCs are Monsanto, Archer-Daniels Midland and Walmart – covering the whole chain from seed to food production and processing to marketing, reflecting the corporate strategy of controlling the entire value chain.

We don’t need to guess where this drive towards corporatization will take us – we only need to look at American agriculture. Small and medium farmers in the US were pushed out decades ago and only 1% of the people in the US are engaged in agriculture. The objective shifted from supporting the interests of farming households to the “Food Industry”. The company lawyers became policy-makers and passed laws prohibiting farmers from saving seeds, and citizens from criticizing the food industry. Big supermarket chains purchase only from large factory farms of thousands of acres; even a 50-acre farmer cannot sell his produce to the supermarket.

“Learning” from the “American model”, the Indian policymakers are already talking about reducing the farming population in India from 60% to 10%. Where will the rest go? What will happen to our rural and urban economies? Meanwhile, large tracts of land are being amassed by a few companies. It is not just the farmers who should worry; as consumers, our access to safe, diverse, nutritious food is at risk.


If we as a nation want to protect our food sovereignty, if we want to retain control on what we grow and what we eat, this is the time for us to act decisively. Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) is calling all like-minded organizations, alliances and individuals to come together in these joint actions:

· Nation-wide Day of Action on Aug. 9th with the slogan “Monsanto Quit India!”

· Kisan Swaraj Week (Aug 9th-15th) demanding secure livelihoods & sustainable agriculture for the farming community, and opposing corporate domination


For more resources: Visit

Nation-wide campaign contacts:

Kavitha Kuruganti: 093930-01550,; Kiran Vissa: 97017-05743,; Rajesh Krishnan:, 098456-50032;

Put out in Public Interest by Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (