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7-Misc: Biodevastation II conference in India attacked Monsanto

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AGRICULTURE: Death To Monsanto, Say World Scientists
By Ranjit Dev Raj

NEW DELHI, Mar 11 (IPS) - Conscientious genetic engineers and activists 
from across the world Thursday called for a slow but sure death for 
Monsanto, the U.S seed giant they say threatens life on earth with its 
genetically modified crops.
''It must be death by a thousand cuts,'' said Tony Clarke, director of 
the Polaris Institute in Canada which assists social movements to develop 
tools, skills and strategies for fighting economic globalisation and 
corporate power.
Clarke was among participants selected to devise future strategies 
against 'Genetic Engineering and Patents on Life' at the close of the 
two-day 'Biodevastation II' meet here.
Monsanto figured high on the agenda because of stiff resistance put up in 
this country by farmers and activists to field trials in 40 widely 
separate locations of genetically engineered Bt cotton carried out by the 
corporation on doubtful authorisation.
Said Pushpa Bhargava, a distinguished India biotechnologist who has the 
French Legion d'Honneur to his credit, ''clearance for the trials should 
have come from Indian Council of Agricultural research (ICAR) - instead 
clearance came from the Department of Biotechnology and after the trials 
had begun.''
Under pressure from Monsanto, India has also been forced to freely import 
genetically modified crops such as soyabeans and foist it on an 
unsuspecting consuming public without proper labelling.
''The only way to tackle Monsanto which has 300 million dollars to play 
around with and regularly buys out scientists and policy makers is to 
slowly bleed it by burning crops, sueing it in court and occupying its 
offices,'' Clarke advised.
Endorsing the strategy, Claude Alvarez, an Indian activist said ''Gandhi 
taught us to break to break immoral laws and explain later in court.''
Alvarez said the best place to begin the fight against biotechnology 
giants was in India itself where Gandhi perfected civil disobedience and 
where patents are routinely ignored. ''We should teach Monsanto a lesson 
right here,'' he said.
The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Environment which 
hosted Biodevastation II has filed a writ petition in the Indian Supreme 
Court against the government for allowing Monsanto to carry out trials 
In response, participants from Malaysia, Japan, Bangladesh, U.K, Germany, 
Austria, Norway, France, U.S, Sri Lanka and Belgium pledged support for 
the local efforts to stop Bt Cotton trials and the 'Monsanto, Quit India' 
Farhad Mazhar, from the 'UBINIG' group in Bangladesh reminded 
participants that South Asia had one of the last remnants of traditional 
farming carried out by small farmers whose knowledge and seeds can 
''recreate sustainable agriculture from the ashes that will be left 
behind by multinationals.''
Mika Iba, leader of the Seikotsu Club, a 300,000-member consumer 
cooperative from Japan said her organisation would now work to help 
farmers in southern Andhra Pradesh who were ruined through adoption of 
Monsanto's techniques.
Immediately before the meet began Wednesday, Iba and 17 other members of 
the Seikotsu club toured the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh where 
several hundred farmers committed suicide last year after their crops 
''We saw huge differences between farmers in Japan and India but we also 
felt that farmers were everywhere an exploited lot - though at different 
levels,'' said Mitsuko Tachikama, woman farmer.
During the scientific deliberations, like Prof Terje Travik from Norway 
stressed that the first generation of genetically engineered organisms 
were unsafe because the science and technology involved were completely 
''We have to take an ecological view because of the proven possibilities 
of horizontal gene transfer,'' Prof Travik who teaches virology at the 
University of Tromso said.
He was joined by Mae Wan Ho, professor of biology of the Open University 
in the United Kingdom in demanding a five-year moratorium on 
commercialisation so that more research can be done and safety systems 
put in place.
''Corporations are manipulating science and promoting scientific fraud to 
silence and censor the safety debate which they see as an interference in 
their profits,'' said Prof Ho who heads bio-electrodynamics at her 
Scientists talked of how their colleagues were victimised for speaking 
out loud against corporations like Monsanto or given lucrative 
assignments if they unethically supported genetic engineering projects.
They noted that, Linda Bullard of the 'IFOAM' foundation in Belgium was 
denied an Indian visa to attend Biodevastation II apparently after she 
said she would be attending a 'strategy session' against biotechnology 
corporations in New Delhi.
''We stand on the edge of a Biotech century where a runaway technology 
wielded by Monsanto and other transnationals threaten food security and 
biodiversity in both the North and South,'' said Ronnie Cummins, director 
of the U.S-based Campaign for Food Safety.
Cummins said it was important to ensure that the next millennium was not 
a 'Multinationals Millennium' as dictated by the Geneva-based, World 
Trade Organisation (WTO) but one with a citizens' agenda.
''While the WTO is supposed to dismantle protectionism, it is actually 
promoting corporate protectionism,'' said Vandana Shiva of the Research 
Foundation for Science, Technology and Environment.
Shiva said she was glad that India and the EU were now in the same boat 
being threatened by Super 301 a U.S domestic trade law imposed through 
WTO. India has reserved the right to sit in on hearings of a case 
challenging Super 301.
The conference also expressed support for the initiative of countries 
like the Netherlands, Italy and Norway which have challenged the European 
Patents on Life Law.
Of particular concern was the move by the United States, Canada, 
Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Australia to block a global treaty to 
regulate trade in genetically modified products at the Biosafety Protocol 
Talks at Cartagena, Colombia in February.
Said Beth Burrows, director of the Edmonds Institute in Washington, 
''There cannot be a better example of injustice when six nations impose 
their will on the rest of the world.''
The issue widened a growing rift between the EU and U.S over agricultural 
products. The European nations have resisted genetically modified crops 
while the U.S and its allies felt that an agreement could threaten food 
Burrows said what is even more significant than the refusal by the EU to 
go along with U.S transnationals is resistance from countries in the 
South, more particularly from intellectually resourceful countries like 
''Increasingly it is the South which is teaching countries like the U.S 
lessons in ethics and morality and in sustainable development,'' Burrows 

-| Hartmut Meyer
-| Co-ordinator
-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
-| Reinhaeuser Landstr. 51
-| D - 37083 Goettingen
-| Germany
-| phone: #49-551-7700027
-| fax  : #49-551-7701672
-| email:

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