Monsanto's violations in GM maize trials ignored: RTI reply

Monsanto's violations in GM maize trials ignored: RTI reply

The environment ministry's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) ignored violation of law by the US-based company Monsanto which conducted trials of herbicide-tolerant, genetically modified (GM) maize across India without permission, an RTI reply revealed Monday. 

The Right to Information (RTI) reply, to a query filed by an activist of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), revealed that GEAC did not take any action even when a scientist pointed out that planting of herbicide-tolerant GM maize was done without permission. GEAC is the apex body constituted by the ministry for approving GM foods in India.

"Monsanto's GM maize trials have been going on for several seasons now in various locations around the country. It took a scientist in one monitoring team to point out the fact that planting of the herbicide-tolerant GM maize took place without permission from competent authorities," said Kavitha Kuruganti, member of Coalition for a GM-Free India.

"What is more damning is that there is no evidence of any discussion or action by the regulators on this finding. This clearly demonstrates that the regulators are unconcerned about biosafety violations or contamination and are protecting and supporting offenders like Monsanto," she said.

According to ASHA, the GEAC has authorised Monsanto to conduct trials of herbicide tolerant and insect-resistant GM maize but the company conducted trials for only herbicide-tolerant GM maize.

This is also the first GM product of Monsanto in India in its own name and not in the name of associate companies like Mahyco.

"This appears to be a repetition of an earlier episode of herbicide tolerant cotton planted by 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," Kuruganti said.

The coalition demanded that the ministry fix accountability on Monsanto and take action against the regulators who repeatedly fail to check the violations of the corporations.