Ahead of a regulators’ meeting on February 8th 2012, and reacting to the confirmed reports of Monsanto’s illegal planting of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) maize in its GM maize trial, the Coalition for a GM-Free India demanded that Monsanto be blacklisted immediately. The violation was revealed in a response of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee to an RTI application. “This agri-business corporation has been caught violating the law and norms repeatedly. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has also been caught failing in its duties. GEAC, in spite of violations brought to its notice earlier also, has never taken up any deterrent and penal action against this Multi National Company”, said the Coalition in a press statement issued in Delhi and a Press Conference held in Bengaluru. Monsanto’s illegal planting was known to the regulators (as the information was obtained through an RTI response from GEAC), but they chose not to look into the matter pro-actively and the regulators were in effect protecting Monsanto, alleged the Coalition.
“This appears to be a repetition of an earlier episode of herbicide tolerant cotton (Roundup Ready Flex – RRF cotton) planted by Monsanto’s affiliate, Mahyco, without permission. The GEAC, in that instance, found the clarifications submitted by Mahyco highly unsatisfactory and warned that any non-compliance in future would attract punitive actions under EPA 1986, sought a resolution adopted by the Mahyco Board of Directors expressing regret and reaffirmation that such lapses would not be repeated, and that the data generated during the BRL II trials using the unapproved GMO shall not be considered for regulatory purpose. All of these were decisions recorded in the July 2011 meeting of the GEAC”, reminded the Coalition.
What is ironic in the case of the GM maize trials of Monsanto is that further field trials have been approved after this visit of the monitoring team on 5th May 2011 recorded the illegal planting!
Monsanto has also been caught violating several biosafety norms in its GM maize cultivation plot in Bijapur in early 2011, around the same time as this Monitoring Team’s finding of illegal planting inside the University in Dharwad. The Bijapur episode, documented by Greenpeace and a Kannada TV Channel had been brought to the notice of the regulators and no investigation has been completed so far into this complaint. Egregious violations were also found during various other field trials from 2005 onwards.
In the face of such impunity from these seed corporations and irresponsible inaction by the regulators, it is ironic that when civil society groups try to prevent contamination from these untested GMOs by objecting to such trials like in the case of the Bayer GM rice trial in Patancheru or DuPont GM rice trial in Doddaballapur, they are being treated as criminals! The history of GM crop regulation in India is replete with violations and illegal plantings and repeated failure on the part of the regulators in checking these or even taking serious action post facto. Therefore citizens are forced to step in to uphold biosafety.