Shishir Arya| TNN | Oct 25, 2017, 03:13 IST

Nagpur: Anti-genetic engineering activist Vandana Shiva, who has also moved the court against Monsanto in different cases, has blamed the American seed maker for deaths due to pesticide inhalation. Shiva visited Yavatmal on Tuesday, where she met victims at the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH).

Talking to TOI from Yavatmal, Shiva said even though the chief minister has said pesticide companies are guilty of culpable homicide, it is Monsanto which is to be blamed ultimately.

“The Bt cotton seeds, which the company claims to be resistant to bollworm, have failed against the pest. There has been a major attack of pink bollworm on cotton crop. The attack has led to higher spraying of pesticides, causing deaths due to the hazardous substances,” said Shiva.

Shiva had filed a plea against Monsanto in 1998 on the grounds that the trials it was conducting for Bt cotton did not have approvals. She is also an intervener in a case challenging Monsanto’s patent on the seeds, saying that nature, which includes plants, cannot be patented. She is also part of an UN appointed expert group to create the biosafety framework to implement Article 19.3 of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD).

“High infestation of bollworm was seen in the crop and it led to the higher spraying. The deaths should be taken as a wake up call,” said Shiva.

She also alleged that the herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton variety seen in the fields is being pushed into the market by Monsanto “who are operating behind the curtains”.

“It is in the company’s interest that the seed spreads through illegal channels,” she said, “as it will pave the way for Monsanto to eventually bring it legally into the Indian market.”

According to Shiva, the market for the HT variety is shrinking in Brazil, US and Europe. “So, India is being eyed as a market to compensate,” she said.

Reacting to Shiva’s statements, Monsanto has called the allegations motivated, and illogical. “Bollgard II technology continues to substantially fulfil its intended function of controlling a majority of lepidopteran pests, including the American Bollworm, which is the primary pest in cotton. Resistance management in pests is the joint responsibility of all the stakeholders. These include farmers, seed companies, technology providers, trade, end user industry, regulatory bodies, state agricultural universities, and government departments. Coordinated efforts on helping farmers accelerate adoption of recommended best management practices will help manage infestation of pink bollworm and other pests,” reads the statement

On the HT cotton variety, the company said some seed companies are attempting to illegally incorporate HT technologies into their seeds. Monsanto does not stand to gain anything in this.

In September 2008, Monsanto had informed the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) about seeds being illegally produced and sold to farmers. “Lately, in August 2017, we have sought regulators’ intervention on the gross misuse of patented technologies, which may pose numerous other challenges to India’s cotton ecosystem,” the statement says.

“Even while the necessary applications seeking permissions for environmental release of Roundup Ready Flex (RRF) HT cotton were being reviewed by the GEAC, this request was withdrawn by the company in May 2016 due to the prevailing uncertainty in the operating environment,” said Monsanto.

‘These allegations are motivated, illogical and completely unfounded. said Monsanto’

Bollgard II technology continues to substantially fulfil its intended function of controlling a majority of lepidopteran pests including the American Bollworm, which is the primary pest, thereby providing farmers with great benefits. Resistance management in insects and pests is the joint responsibility of all the stakeholders involved with cotton crop — farmers, seed companies, technology providers, trade, end user industry, regulatory bodies, state agricultural universities, and government departments. A coordinated effort by all these stakeholders focused on helping the farmers accelerate adoption of recommended best management practices will help manage infestation of Pink Bollworms and other pests associated with the cotton crop.

We have learnt about illegal Roundup Ready Flex (RRF) herbicide tolerant cotton being planted by farmers in key cotton growing states across India. It is a matter of grave concern that some seed companies, while suppressing their real intent of profiteering, are attempting to illegally incorporate unauthorized and unapproved herbicide tolerant technologies into their seeds.

Monsanto does not stand to gain anything from the sale of illegal seeds, the only persons to make any financial gains are the illegal sellers of these unapproved technologies.

As early as September 2008, Monsanto had informed the country’s regulatory body — Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) about seeds being illegally produced and sold by spurious and dubious seed producers to farmers without any approvals from Central or State regulatory agencies, in complete violation of applicable laws. Over the years, we have kept the regulators and key stakeholders apprised of the illegal usage of unapproved technology. Even as late as August 2017, we have sought their intervention on the gross misuse of patented and regulated technologies which may pose numerous other challenges to India’s cotton ecosystem.

Even while the necessary applications seeking permissions for environmental release of Roundup Ready Flex (RRF) herbicide tolerant cotton were being reviewed by the GEAC, this request was withdrawn in May 2016 due to the prevailing uncertainty in the operating environment.

As a law-abiding organization, we follow all the laws of the land while conducting our businesses. All research and regulatory trials are conducted strictly in accordance with guidelines laid down under Indian laws and under the supervision of the regulatory authorities. Illegal use of these technologies is not only a gross violation of rules and regulations defined under EPA Rules 1989 and Seed Act 1968 but it also severely impacts the country’s farmers.”

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/activist-shiva-blames-monsanto-for-pesticide-deaths/articleshow/61209773.cms

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