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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Ban on GM crops' field trials in Karnataka demanded | Calcutta News.Net

Ban on GM crops' field trials in Karnataka demanded | Calcutta News.Net

Civil society organisations and farmers' union Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha Monday sought a ban on field trials of genetically modified (GM) corn by Monsanto and action against the US-based multinational seed major for violating bio-safety rules.

'Monsanto had taken up seed production for two transgenic corn hybrids in the field of a farmer, Amrit Gowda, at Banihatti village in Bijapur district of North Karnataka. We found the company flouting every procedure to ensure bio-safety from such GM products in experimental and research stages,' international non-governmental environmental organisation Greenpeace India said in a statement here Monday.

Seeking a ban on all open field experiments of GM crops in the country, Greenpeace campaigner Shivani Shah said the bio-safety assessment of GM corn was not completed during open cultivation, leading to seed and transgenic leakage.

'GM corn cobs with viable seeds were lying in the field, which was harvested June 1, leading to concerns about seeds from the plot spreading to nearby areas and volunteer plants coming up in the upcoming season. As a result, the rule to destroy residues after harvesting the GM crop was violated,' Shah told reporters here.

Though the 2008 guidelines for field experiments of GM crops in confined conditions stipulates that all crops have to be destroyed post the harvest, the farmer was allowed to keep the refuge, which could have been contaminated with the transgenes from the GM corn, Shah said.

'The violation of bio-safety norms raises serious concerns about the health of the farmer and his family who may have consumed the corn and the possibility of these contaminated seeds spreading. In fact, the refuge was left over by the company for the farmer to use as feed for his cattle,' Shah recalled.

When Greenpeace volunteers inspected the field, residues of GM corn were found lying there over a month and cattle were found grazing in the trial plot.

'There was neither fence around the field during the trials nor a signboard, indicating that the field had a unregulated, untested GM corn in an experimental stage,' Shah pointed out.

Noting that the farmer was not given information on what precautionary measures need to be taken before or after the trial, Shah said Monsanto was permitted to take up trials in rabi season 2010-2011 or kharif season 2011 but the particular field was neither a rabi nor kharif crop but was sown as a summer crop.

'Monsanto executed a seasonal agreement with the farmer's relative in contravention to the guidelines set by GEAC (Genetic Engineering Approval Committee) for the usage of farmers' fields, according to which the applicant has to have at least a three-year lease agreement with a farmer whose field is being used for GM trials,' Shah added.

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