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[genet-news] POLICY & REGULATION: GM corn trials in Kolhapur (India) stopped after farmer protest

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SOURCE: Indian Express, India



DATE:   03.04.2009

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The Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV) said it has decided to stop genetically modified (GM) crop trials for corn at its fields in Kolhapur. The trails began in December 2008 and MPKV land in Kolhapur was one of the three plots for GM corn, selected by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and sponsored by the US-based Monsanto. The other two locations are Samasvati (Bihar) and Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) and field trials are continuing in these locations.

The decision to stop the trials followed protests by farmers questioning the safety and sanctity of the open-air transgenic trials. In a decision taken on Thursday in Pune, the university also said transgenic trials will no longer be conducted on its land.

When contacted, Rajaram Deshmukh, vice-chancellor of MPKV, said the GM corn trails for this year were already over and the data had been sent. ?As is the procedure, we will burn the trial plot. However, we will not allow the trails next year,? he said.

On March 23, farmers led by former state minister N D Patil, leader of Peasants and Workers Party, staged a dharna at MPKV?s Kolhapur farm, where the trails were being conducted.

?Agriculture is a state subject. The MPKV told us that the decision to go ahead with the trails was a decision taken at the behest of the ICAR. But it should have been cleared at the state level. This has not happened because there is no state biotechnology coordination committee or a district-level committee,? Patil told the media here on Thursday.

Following protests, an inquiry committee led by Patil was set up. The members included Rajesh Krishnan (Greenpeace India), Kavita Kurunganti (Kheti Virasat Mission) and Dilip Deshmukh (Maharashtra Organic Farming Federation), among others.

?We raised questions on what kind of assessment was done with regard to GM corn; whether bio-safety issues, health hazards or environmental implications were taken into consideration, whether Environment Protection Act rules were followed, what process of decision making was followed by the Government before allowing these trails to take place. The MPKV is accountable for farmers here ? did they consider their needs before accepting this trial,? Patil said.

The inquiry committee members have also raised the contamination caused by BT Rice trials in Jharkhand in February despite claims of protocols laid down by authorities.

A public interest litigation is pending in the Supreme Court, which asks for a moratorium of a few years on the sale of genetically-modified seeds and the approval of GM crops.

?Following the filing of the PIL, the SC posted molecular biologist Pushpa Bhargava as a member at the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee and he has written recently to the Prime Minister calling attention to the dangers of virtually unchecked approval of GM crops in the country, that is serving the interest of multinational companies such as Monsanto. He has called for the setting up of a Government laboratory to carry out the necessary tests and to verify the results of the companies,? Patil said.

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, India

AUTHOR: Press Release


DATE:   02.04.2009

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Pune: Dr Rajaram Deshmukh, Vice Chancellor of Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV, a State Agriculture University) promised an Inquiry Committee set up to look into a GM (Genetically Modified) corn trial of Monsanto in Kolhapur, that the University takes cognizance of the various concerns and queries being raised and would not undertake any more transgenic trials.

He assured the Inquiry Committee that the open air trial will be stopped soon and all material from the trial plot would be destroyed completely. The Inquiry Committee was set up after a protest rally and sit-in on Shaheed Diwas (March 23rd) by hundreds of farmers and consumers under the leadership of veteran farmers? leaders like N D Patil and Vijay Jawandhia, at the MPKV?s Kolhapur ?B Farm?, against American MNC Monsanto?s GM Corn trial being conducted there.

The Inquiry Committee pointed out that a majority of countries around the world do not allow GM crops/foods based due to sound scientific reasoning and agriculture scientists in India need to develop a healthy sense of questioning and skepticism about this technology rather than accept research trial orders from authorities in Delhi or some such place. The Committee also shared with the University authorities information on contamination from the Bt Rice trial plot in Jharkhand recently.

?It is misleading to call this a confined trial when it is an open air trial of an untested new product posing a grave threat of contamination. There has already been a recent report confirming contamination from a similar GM crop open air trial in the form of a Bt Rice trial in Jharkhand despite Indian Supreme Court?s orders to the contrary. It is also clear there is no functional State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) or a District Level Committee (DLC) as laid down by the Environment Protection Act? stated the Inquiry Committee members.

Earlier in the day, the Inquiry Committee held a meeting at the College of Horticulture (College of Agriculture campus), Pune with the Vice Chancellor and other senior officials of the MPKV including the Director of Research, Dr Mehetre. The members went into questions like: Is this GM corn required in India and whether a need assessment has been taken up in addition to an impact assessment especially on employment for poor rural women with the advent of such technologies; on the health and environmental implications of GM corn as well as herbicide use; on research partnerships by public sector bodies like MPKV running with tax-payers? funds, with corporations like Monsanto which are known for their anti-farmer and illegal activities elsewhere; on the increasing unsustainability and non-viability of Indian farming due to increased use of irrigation, chemical fertilizers and other agri-chemicals with technologies like GM; on the decision-making processes adopted before underta
 king the trial; on whether EPA rules have been followed including having a functional SBCC/DLC to oversee the trial etc.

The Vice Chancellor told the Committee that he personally feels that herbicide tolerance technology might be suitable for large commercial farms in developed countries but not for small farmers in India. MPKV has become the first University in the state to announce that it will focus on other breeding technologies like Marker Assisted Selection rather than transgenics and to take a decision that they will not do any more transgenic trials.

For more information, contact:

N D Patil, Ex-Minister, Govt of Maharashtra & noted farmers? leader: 98-220-55410

Diliprao Deshmukh, Vice-Chair, Maharashtra Organic Farming Federation: 98-814-97092

Satish Bhansode, Programme Coordinator, CYDA: 98-609-12169

Rajesh Krishnan, Greenpeace India: 098-456-50032

Kavitha Kuruganti, Kheti Virasat Mission: 093-930-01550



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