Peddling Poisons, Selling Seeds of Suicide
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 27 Nov 2017
Two Decades of Monsanto’s Illegal Actions, Frauds and Crimes in India
24 Nov 2017 – Over the two decades since Monsanto entered India, it has violated laws, deceived Indian farmers by making unscientific and fraudulent claims, extracted super profits through illegal royalty collection by violating India’s Patent and Intellectual Property laws, pushed farmers into debt, and, as a consequence of the debt trap, to suicide.
Monsanto cheated Indian farmers by claiming that its Bt cotton will control the bollworm. The claim of Bt cotton being a pest control technology has been proven false with the emergence of resistant pests and farmers are being forced to use pesticides. Farmers are now dying due to pesticide poisoning.
Another fraud was the claim that GMO Bt crops are safe for biodiversity and the environment, inspite of the scientific knowledge that GMO Bt is not the same as natural Bt. Pollinators have been killed because of high dose supertoxins in Bt crops, which have also led to poisoning of the soil and the killing of soil organisms, threatening the very foundation of agriculture and food security.
In 2017, Monsanto was caught illegally spreading Roundup Ready Bt Cotton in Vidarbha without commercial approval, adding the disaster of Roundup to the Bt cotton disaster. Roundup is a probable carcinogen according to WHO. In the US thousands of cancer victims are suing Monsanto. In Europe there is a strong movement to get Roundup banned. The Monsanto papers have revealed how Monsanto has manipulated science and laws to sell its toxic products harming humans and nature. It is now adding Roundup to the arsenal of its toxic products that has brought devastation to Indian farmers.
Monsanto’s highest crime is robbing Indian farmers of their lives by pushing them to death through a combination of factors including fraudulent claims, and debt resulting from collection of illegal royalties for seeds even though patents on seeds are not allowed in India under Art 3h and Art 3j of India’s Patent Act. Establishing a seed monopoly to make super profits through high prices of seed, and fraudulent claims of Bt Cotton being a pest control technology have pushed farmers into debt and suicides, Monsanto’s illegal and unethical behaviour is responsible for farmers suicide and pesticide deaths in the cotton areas.
When the collection of illegal royalties and “trait fees” was finally stopped by government through a Seed Price Control order in 2015, Monsanto tried to challenge it, further violating farmers rights, and thinking it is above democracy and laws. We intervened in the case to have their challenge dismissed, so the Seed Price Control order stands, and seed price can be regulated.
Monsanto has established a monopoly on cotton seeds, and through the monopoly enslaved farmers in debt and distress. Monsanto has violated the Anti Trust laws of India and the orders of the Monopoly and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission. It has tried to block the investigation by the Competition Commission of India of its 99% monopoly on the cotton seed market.
Not only has Monsanto violated Indian laws for Biosafety, for Intellectual Property and Patents, and Access to Essential Commodities, including seed, it has threatened sovereign institutions and government with legal actions to subvert and undermine laws.
Monsanto’s crime is not just violating laws, but challenging laws and institutions that try to regulate Monsanto and stop its violations. These laws and institutions are pillars of Indian democracy and have been created to implement the Indian Constitution and protect people’s rights and the environment. The Company has challenged government when it tried to control seed prices, it has tried to challenge the Competition Commission when it tried to examine the cotton seed monopoly, and it is now challenging Art 3j of the Indian Patent Act which excludes seeds, plants, and animals from patentability.
In other words, Monsanto wants absolute rights to operate illegally, demanding the freedom and right to rob farmers of their lives, through selling lies and failed technologies, and illegally collecting royalties . This is violative of Art 21 of the Indian Constitution.
On grounds listed above, Monsanto has not just violated laws, it has created conditions for farmers deaths.
When Monsanto’s Bt Cotton failed to control pests, and farmers were forced to use more pesticide, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra stated he would initiate a case of culpable homicide against the pesticide industry. Pesticides are being used in Bt cotton areas because Bt has failed as a pest control technology. So the final responsibility of the pesticide deaths lies with Monsanto which sold Bt cotton on false and fraudulent claims.
Culpable homicide is a categorisation of certain offences in various countries which involves the illegal killing of a person either with or without an intention to kill depending upon how a particular jurisdiction has defined the offence.
Acts which result in a person’s death come under the definition of culpable homicide under Section 299 of India’s penal code which defines culpable homicide as the act of causing death; (i) with the intention of causing death or (ii) with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death or (iii) with the knowledge that such act is likely to cause death.
Farmers deaths in Vidarbha have resulted from Monsanto collecting illegal royalty and trapping farmers in debt, pushing them to suicide, establishing monopoly, selling Bt Cotton with the false claim that it will control pests.
Monsanto knew that its actions were likely to cause farmers deaths. When the epidemic of farmers suicides started in the cotton belt where Monsanto had established its monopoly, Monsanto continued to extract illegal royalties and even initiate legal actions against the Agriculture Ministry and the Competition Commission when they tried to bring relief to farmers through their decisions. It thus deliberately aggravated the conditions leading to farmers deaths.
Nearly 85% of the more than 300,000 farmers suicides are in the cotton areas where Monsanto established a 99% monopoly.
The government needs to take steps to make Monsanto pay for these deaths.
All farmers’ debts in Vidarbha should be cancelled because they are illegitimate debts. Farmers should be paid back the illegal royalties collected by government collecting it from Monsanto.
Monsanto needs to be penalised for violation of laws and for damages.
Monsanto’s Roundup should be banned since it has been identified as a probable carcinogen by WHO and has been banned in Sri Lanka because of kidney disease and kidney failure.
After all claims are settled, Monsanto must Quit India.This is what we said in 1998 when we found out that Monsanto had brought its Bt Cotton seeds illegally into India. And we will continue work to stop the stealing of farmers lives and robbing India of her wealth and wellbeing.
Finally we need to work collectively towards creating an Organic Vidarbha that is free of poisons and toxics and pesticide deaths, of debt and farmers suicides.
Towards Organic (Jaivik) Vidarbha 2047
Vidarbha is Gandhi’s Karmabhoomi and Dharmabhoomi from where he spun khadi as a Fibre of Freedom and of Life, and from where he evolved living examples of Gram Swaraj.
Creating an Organic (Jaivik) Vidarbha, on Gandhi’s vision and example, is necessary to stop farmers deaths, through both pesticide poisoning and suicides due to debt.
Farmers of Vidarbha have a Right to Live, like all citizens of India, all members of the human family, all members of the Earth Family.
We started the forum of Organic Farmers, Samvardhan, to promote Organic Farming from Gandhi’s Ashram in Sewagram in the 1980’s. I started Seed banks in Vidarbha after the epidemic of suicides started.
For the past two decades we have worked to create alternatives to chemical farming and GMO seeds. Not only is organic possible, it has become necessary.
It is an ecological necessity because of draught and climate change. It is a nutritional necessity because hunger and malnutrition are growing in India. India is 100th in the global hunger index. Biodiverse Organic Farming produces more nutrition per acre and is the answer to hunger and malnutrition. Biodiverse Organic Farming, free of purchase of costly toxics and poisons, including toxic seeds, is the only way farmers can escape from the debt trap. It is only through ecological poison free agriculture and building local economies in Gandhi’s vision that farmers can double their incomes. Organic chemical free, poison free, GMO free farming is a human imperative to end farmers suicides and pesticides deaths.
The transition to an Organic Vidarbha needs the following steps:
- Promotion of draught tolerance, climate resilience through organic farming
- Promotion of drought tolerant, climate resilient crops that are suited to the semi arid climate of Vidarbha
- Promotion of nutrition sensitive agriculture based on nutrition right crops such as jowar, chana, traditional wheat, tur, til, alsi instead of Bt Cotton
- Creation of community Seed Banks to make seeds of desi, non Bt Cotton and nutritious food crops available
- Promotion of participatory and evolutionary breeding and partnerships between scientists and farmers, agriculture university, krishi leaders and farmers communities
- Research and training on Organic Farming for farmers and scientists
- Value addition at the village level to double farm incomes, increased availability of nutritious food and increased opportunities for work and employment
- Farmers markets for Organic produce from village to towns
- Revival of desi cotton and khadi as a fibre of freedom.
Peddling Poisons and Lies, Stealing Lives
Illegal Entry: Violating India’s Biosafety Laws, Pushing a Failed Technology on India
Monsanto introduced Bt cotton in India illegally in 1995.
GMOs are regulated in India by Indian Biosafety Law Rules for the Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms, Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells, 1989 — framed under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
On 10thMarch 1995, MAHYCO, a collaborator with Monsanto, imported 100 grams of the Bt Cotton seed after obtaining permission from Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) under the Department of Biotechnology, and not from the GEAC, which, under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, is the only body that can grant permission for importing genetically engineered substances (seeds in the present case). Monsanto MahyCo did not have the approval and that is why the import of 100gms of Bt Cotton seed in 1995 was illegal.
Rule 7(1) forbids imports without approval of GEAC.
(1) No person shall import, export, transport, manufacture, process, use or sell any hazardous microorganisms of genetically engineered organisms/substances or cells except with the approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee.
In 1998 Monsanto- MAHYCO illegally began the large scale, multicentric, open field trials in 40 acres at 40 locations spread over nine states. These field trials were also started without the permission from GEAC even though it is the sole agency to grant permission for large-scale open field trials of GMO’s under the 1989 Rules.
According to Rule 4, only the GEAC has the power to grant approval for GMO imports and deliberate release into the environment for field trials and commercial release.
(4) Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC)
This committee shall function as a body under the Department of Environment, Forests and Wildlife for approval of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle. The Committee shall also be responsible for approval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment including experiment field trials.
Rule 9 clearly forbids deliberate release without GEAC approval:
(1) Deliberate or unintentional release of genetically engineered organisms/hazardous microorganisms or cells, including deliberate release for the purpose of experiment shall not be allowed.
Note: Deliberate release shall mean any intentional transfer of genetically engineered organisms/hazardous microorganisms or cells into the environment or nature, irrespective of the way in which it is done.
Monsanto MAHYCO did not have the approval from GEAC for the field trials, therefore the trials of 1998 were illegal.
That is why I challenged Monsanto in the Supreme Court of India through my writ petition WPI 71 in 1999.
Even in its submission in the Gujarat HC case of illegal Bt Cotton the GEAC has admitted that Bt Cotton poses major risks. It says:
(i) The crop, which is standing, may pass to the soil that modified genes which it contains. The effect on soil microorganisms cannot be estimated and may cause an irreversible change in the environment structure of the soil. It is a standard practice to uproot crops which pose such a threat. The destruction by burning is to ensure safety to environment and human health and to obviate any possibility of cross-pollination.
While in the Navbharat case in Gujrat, the GEAC described the Bt Cotton as hazardous and ordered its uprooting and destruction of the seeds, a few weeks later in the case of Monsanto Mahyco the same Bt Cotton was approved as safe.
I filed a SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 3762 OF 2004 to challenge the commercialisation of Monsanto Mahyco Bt Cotton, because the illegal planting of Bt Cotton of another company had been viewed as a threat to Biosafety and had been destroyed. It was also already known that GMO Bt Cotton fails to control pests. This case is still in the Supreme Court.
Selling a scientific fraud that Bt cotton is an effective pest control technology: a fraud that is costing farmers lives
Monsanto pushed GMO Bt cotton on India and is now pushing it on Africa with the fraudulent claim that it controls pests and was a success in India.
The primary justification for the genetic engineering of Bt into crops is that this will reduce the use of insecticides. One of the Monsanto brochures had a picture of a few worms and stated, “You will see these in your cotton and that’s O.K. Don’t spray”. However, in Texas, Monsanto faced a law suit filed by 25 farmers over Bt Cotton planted on 18,000 acres which suffered cotton boll worm damage and on which farmers had to use pesticides in spite of corporate propaganda that genetic engineering meant an end to the pesticide era.
In 1996, 2 million acres in the US were planted with Monsanto’s Bt transgenic cotton called Bollgard, which had genes from the bacteria Bacillus thuringensis (Bt). The genetically engineered cotton generates a natural toxin to kill caterpillars such as cotton bollworm, tobacco budworm and pink bollworm.
However, cotton bollworms were found to have infested thousands of acres planted with the new breed of cotton in Texas. Not only did the genetically engineered cotton not survive cotton bollworm attack, there are also fears that the strategy will create super bugs by inducing Bt – resistance in pests. The question is not whether super-pests will be created, but when they will become dominant. The fact that non-engineered crops need to be planted near the engineered crops reflects the reality of the creation of resistant strains of insects.
The Texas failure shows that Monsanto knew that its Bt Cotton does not control pests when it lied to Indian farmers and the Indian government.
In 1998 when Monsanto started its illegal Bt Cotton trial without GEAC approval it was scientifically known that Bt crops will not control pests, and emergence of resistance is inevitable.
Monsanto knew before introducing Bt cotton in India that it would fail to control pests. And, the failure led to farmers distress, and in extreme cases death due to suicides forced through debt or death due to pesticide poisoning.
The engineering of the genes for the Bt toxin into plants implies that high dose toxin is expressed in every cell of every plant all the time. Long term exposure to Bt toxins promotes development of resistance in insect populations. This kind of exposure could lead to selection for resistance in all stages of the insect pest on all parts of the plant for the entire season.
That Bt Cotton has failed has now even been accepted by the Government. The Central Government in 2015-2016, 14 years after the commercialisation of Bt Cotton in 2002, has accepted that Bt cotton has essentially failed. In an Affidavit in the Delhi High Court the Central Government said:
“Pink bollworm, a major pest to the cotton crop, has already developed resistance in the last 2-3 years; farmers are a worried lot having sown Bt cotton seeds purchased at high price.” — It added, “The crop is getting damaged due to pink bollworm incidence. It is a natural phenomenon that over the years, efficacy of the technology goes down, hence the royalty on technology should also be reduced.” The Centre’s affidavit, filed on 23 January, added that Bt “cotton seeds are now unaffordable to farmers due to high royalties charged by MMBL (Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Ltd) which has a near monopoly on Bt cotton seeds and that this has led to a market failure”.
The Bollworm has evolved resistance to the Bt toxin. This emergence of resistance was known in 2002 and there is more scientific evidence about it since then.
In the era of antibiotics, we similarly develop resistance to them, a problem that is being manifested at the present time with particular emphasis in India because of the over-prescription & dosing of antibiotics. The problem with both the Bt and HT GMO technologies is that they exert intense selection pressure on pest populations to evolve resistance, (the bollworm/rootworm for cotton and weeds through HT crops), bringing on resistance much faster than would have otherwise occurred. Both Bt and HT crops are as a result unsustainable GMO technologies in agriculture.
For cotton, the emergence of Bt resistant strains of budworms and bollworms poses a real risk once this historically effective pest control agent loses its effectiveness.
Further, since the Bt toxin in Bt Cotton is released in every cell and every part of the plant it has the impact of making pests resistant to the Bt and hence creating ‘superpests’, which will require more pesticide use instead of reducing pesticide use.
Insects were found to develop resistance rapidly to the transgenic plants with built-in biopesticide, when exposed to the toxin. This has been the problem with the Bt cotton crop at Texas.
The GEAC clearance for commercial planting of Bt cotton in 2002 was given on the ground that it leads to pest control. The Bt technology has failed as a pest control strategy.
Monsanto’s fraud, and government failure to stop the fraud, first trapped farmers in debt and then forced them to suicide.
Now farmers are dying because of pesticide poisoning, because farmers are being forced to use more pesticides.
Indian farmers are paying with their lives for Monsanto’s fraud. They are being forced to spray pesticides because Bt Cotton is failing to control the bollworm, and is leading to the emergence of new pests.
According to Kishor Tiwari, Chair of the Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban Mission, Maharashtra government’s task force on agrarian distress, 9 farmers died due to pesticide poisoning in Vidarbha in Sept 2017. Four others lost their vision and 70 are under treatment in government medical college in Yavatmal after spraying toxic insecticide on Bt Cotton which was not supposed to need pesticides because it was supposed to be a pest control technology which was an alternative to pesticides.
The number had increased to 35 in a few days, and the government has charged pesticide companies with culpable homicide.
The Chair of the task force on the Agrarian Crisis has clearly said in the case of pesticide poisoning deaths that Monsanto is liable because it is the failure of its Bt Cotton that led to pesticide use and pesticide deaths.
The Chief Minister Fadnavis assured that a case of culpable homicide will be registered against the pesticide manufacturers for claiming that pesticides would control pests. But it is Monsanto which first claimed that its Bt Cotton will control pests and pesticides are not needed. So the probe for culpable homicide should begin with Monsanto.
The fraud is now being spread in Africa. Genetically engineered Bt crops are now being pushed on Africa as a sustainable pest control strategy and the case of Indian farmers is being sold as a “miracle”. However, the Bt crops are neither ecological nor sustainable. They are not ecological because internalising toxin production in plants is not a toxic free strategy — it merely makes toxics internal to plants rather than applied externally. The ecological impacts of this strategy of internalising toxics have not been looked at, though indications are emerging that genetically engineered Bt is harmful to beneficial insects such as bees and ladybirds.
Selling the scientific fraud that Bt crops are safe and “substantially equivalent” to the natural Bt in soil
The Bt crop strategy is not a sustainable method for pest control because Bt plants release toxins continuously. Constant long-term exposure of pest populations to Bt encourages survival of individual pests that are genetically resistant to the toxin. As Margaret Mellon and Jane Rissler of the Union of Concerned Scientists state in their report Now or Never:
Over many generations, the proportion of resistant individuals in pest populations can increase, reducing the efficacy of the Bt. toxin as pesticide. If resistance evolves, Bt. toxins will cease to be effective both for the users of the new transgenic plants and those who have relied on Bt. sprays for decades. Scientists have estimated that widespread use of Bt. crops could lead to the loss of Bt’s efficacy against certain pest populations in as far as two to five years (Fred and Bruce, 1998).
The widespread use of Bt. containing crops has accelerated the development of insect pest resistance to Bt, which is used for organic pest control. The genetically engineered Bt crops continuously express the Bt. toxin throughout its growing season. Long term exposure to Bt. toxins promotes development of resistance in insect populations. This has happened in India.
It was known in the 1990’s and has been scientifically confirmed now that Bt in plants is different from the naturally occurring Bt in the soil.
New studies are showing that Monsanto took a safe natural pest control agent, Bt , and made it a “Supertoxin” by genetically engineering it into plants.
The scientific fraud begins with the claim that Bt toxin in crops affects only the bollworm species and controls it.
This is doubly false. While natural Bt affects only the caterpillar family, the “high dose toxin” or “super toxin “ in GMO Bt crops affects a wide range of species. Other species are also affected. Further, the bollworm has evolved resistance to Bt as the Indian experience with Bt shows.
As Jonathan R. Latham, Madeleine Love & Angelika Hilbeck (2017), in Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews, 33:1, 62-96, DOI: 10.1080/02648725.2017.1357295. have stipulated:
“Bt toxins are a diverse family of protein toxins produced in nature by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which is a gut pathogen of many species. Naturally occurring toxins (also known as Cry toxins) of B. thuringiensis are believed to all have very limited toxicity ranges. These toxins exist in nature as crystals packaged around DNA. Through a complex sequence of unpacking and protein processing steps these molecules are converted to active toxins and kill their targets by creating holes in the membranes of the gut lining of their victims.
…… The biotech industry claims that its Bt toxins are natural and as safe as those used by organic farmers. GMO regulators around the world share this view. Indeed, they make it the baseline assumption of their risk assessments for food safety and environmental toxicology. As we show in a new peer reviewed publication, however, assumptions of similarity of any GMO Bt with its natural ancestor are very wide off the mark. More than that, we show that the differences between natural and GMO Bt toxins are such as to make the latter much more toxic.”
Source: Have Monsanto and the biotech industry turned natural Bt pesticides into GMO “Super toxins”? Jonathan Latham, PhD
Our research has shown that Bt Cotton is affecting soil organisms and destroying the soil food web.
Since Bt is a toxin which the plant produces in every cell it is affecting biodiversity, soil health and pollinators .
A study published in a peer reviewed journal shows that in the Bt Cotton growing areas of Vidarbha, beneficial soil organisms have declined, undermining soil health and soil fertility. The result revealed a significant decline in actinobacteria (17%), bacterial count (14%) as well as acid phosphatases (27%), phytase (18%), nitrogenase (23%) and dehydrogenase (12%) activities in Bt cotton compared with non-Bt cotton fields.
Source: Applied Biological Research 14 (1): 00-00, 2012 effect of bt-transgenic cotton on soil biological health Jagadish C.Tarafdar*, Indira Rathore and Vandana Shiva Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur, Rajasthan – 342 003 (India) Navadanya, A-60, Hauz Khas, New Delhi 110 016, India – *email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
The study was repeated in 2015, and the soil microorganisms had further declined due to Bt toxin. The decline ranges between 6 and 77% of different parameters, which indicate the severe adverse effect of Bt Cotton on soil biological health. A decrease in bacterial population between 51-77% was noticed under Bt Cotton growing areas as compared to non-Bt cotton soils of different districts.
Pollinators are also impacted by Bt crops
Our studies have shown there are no pollinators on the Bt Cotton in Vidarbha.
Impact on pollinator biodiversity has been found across the world.
Research by Cornell scientists showed that the Monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus was killed by ingesting milkweed leaves dusted with pollen from Bt cotton (Losey et al., 1999).
A study by the National Pollen Research Unit in Scotland shows that the wind can carry viable pollen hundreds of kilometers in 24 hours. The study found that GM oilseed rape pollen had been carried three miles by bees and nearly 500 mts by air in 24 hours. The environment minister of UK, Mr. Micheal Meacher, has admitted that the bees which may fly upto 9 kms in search of nectar can’t be expected to observe a ‘no fly zone’, they even do not obey the 200 meters ‘no fly zone’ as currently required in UK regulations. Current trial plots where GM crops are grown have a buffer zone of 200 meters which is considered inadequate. As reported by Reuters World Report, BBC’s News night programme, on Wednesday, 29th September 1999 stated, that modified genes were found in pollen samples collected upto 4.5 kms from a field of GM oilseed rape in the Central England County of Oxfordshire. This was at least 20 times over a limit set by the Labour Government of just 200 meters. Therefore, in the context of this evidence, the Monsanto MAHYCO calculations on gene flow are clearly totally inadequate.
As we have stated earlier, wide spread use of Bt containing crops could accelerate the development of insect pest resistance to Bt, which is used for organic pest control. Already eight species of insects have developed resistance to Bt toxins including diamond black moth, Indian meal moth, tobacco budworm, Colorado potato beetle and two species of mosquitoes (Altieri, 1998).
According to the industry the promise of transgenic crops inserted with Bt genes is the replacement of synthetic insecticides used to control the insect pests. Since most crops have a diversity of insect pests, insecticides will still have to be applied to control pests other than Lepidoptera not susceptible to the endotoxin expressed by the crop. As said earlier, on the other hand several Lepidopteran species have been reported to develop resistance to Bt toxin in both field and lab tests, suggesting that major resistance problems are likely to develop in Bt crops which through the continuous expression of the toxin create a strong selection pressure (Tabashnik, 1994).
In addition to emergence of resistance in the pink bollworm, Bt Cotton has contributed to emergence of non target pests such as aphids, jassids, army bug, mealy bug, white fly. As a result farmers are using more pesticides, bearing more expenses and facing more frequent crop failure. The high costs and the risks are leading to increasing debt and suicides. Governments are now even asking farmers to spray pesticides on Bt cotton.
Monsanto cannot break its habit of violating laws: illegal spread of Roundup Ready Bt Cotton
Monsanto is now illegally spreading Roundup Ready Bt Cotton without approval.
In 2017 after reports of contamination, farmers of Vidarbha collected samples from different areas and sent them to the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR). As per the test results, bolls collected from six fields tested positive for Roundup Ready flex. The RR Bt Cotton was packaged as Bollgard -2 and is illegal. The CCIR confirmed the presence of Roundup Ready (RR) Bt Cotton (report attached), which is not only illegal but a major hazard for the health of the Indian people as it has become a hazard in countries where Roundup and Roundup Ready crops are widely used.
This is the second time since ’95 Monsanto has illegally introduced GMO cotton in India. And it is the second time it is selling failed GMO technologies. Earlier it falsely claimed that Bt Cotton is a pest control technology and farmers will not need to use pesticides. Now it is promoting its illegal and failed Roundup Ready Bt Cotton as a weed control technology.
The Government of AP ordered its officers to monitor the illegal spread of Roundup Ready Cotton. The Orders were suddenly withdrawn.
There are effective agroecological methods to control weeds.
Roundup Ready GMOs are not approved in India
India and Indian agriculture are based on biodiversity. We harvest and use every bit of biodiversity whether it be from the grass on the boundaries of our farms to feed our cows, or eating the seasonal green leafy vegetables like vit A and iron rich Bathua and Amaranth as saag. Roundup not only will give cancer to the farmers and the consumer, but it will exterminate all biodiversity and rob India of food and nutritional security, aggravating the hunger and malnutrition problem. The food culture of millions of rural Indians will be destroyed if Roundup or Roundup Ready crops are allowed to spread illegally in India.
The Technical Expert Committee (TEC) of the Supreme Court had also concluded that Herbicide tolerant crops should not be allowed in India because they kill all plants, and in a land of rich biodiversity ,they can destroy the food security and livelihood of small farmers . Herbicide resistant traits can also contaminate the crops of which India is a Centre of Diversity .
We have called on the government to follow the advise of TEC, to ban all Herbicide Tolerant crops and have a moratorium for all GM crops for ten years until a robust, independent biosafety assessment is institutionalised.
In countries where Roundup Ready crops have spread widely on the false claim that it is a weed control technology, superweeds have emerged and are uncontrollable inspite of use new weedicides like dicamba. The amaranth has become a superweed in the US, and there are proposals to exterminate amaranth as a species, using gene drives.
Both Bt and HT are failed technologies that have created superpests and superweeds, instead of controlling pests and weeds. There are more sophisticated scientific agroecological approaches to control pests and weeds. We don’t need Monsanto Bt Cotton or Roundup.
My recommendation would be that glyphosate and Roundup, which is a more dangerous cocktail sold by Monsanto, should be banned in India for use as weedicide and as a desiccant.
Monsanto was caught illegally spreading Roundup Ready Bt Cotton in Vidarbha and Andhra Pradesh without commercial approval. It has written the letter (attached in the annex) via Mahyco to the regulatory agency deferring its application for approval.
The letter says Bt Cotton has transformed the lives of Indian farmers.
It has driven them to suicide. It has caused death due to poisoning.
This is a toxic transformation.
The letter also attacks India’s Essential Commodities Act, the Seed Price Control Order, the exclusions from patenting and royalty collections built into Art 3j, all of which are aimed at protecting farmers rights to reliable and affordable seeds. It is attacking our sovereign laws, our constitution, and our farmers.
The letter is an admission by Monsanto Mahyco that they can only exist in India if they have full freedom to commit fraud, steal lives .
The illegal cultivation of Roundup Ready Bt Cotton needs the same response that the illegal cultivation of Bt Cotton in Gujrat had in 2001.
In 2001, the illegal cultivation of Bt Cotton by Navbharat was found in Gujrat; in the Navbharat 151 case the GEAC in its submission to the HC had stated: “The destruction of the cotton produce as well as seeds harvested from this plant is also equally necessary. The cotton which has been produced is genetically modified cotton, the effect of which, i.e. allergenicity and other factors on mammals are not tested. The precautionary principles would require that no product, the effect of which is unknown be put into the market stream. This cotton which in appearance is no different from any other cotton will intermingle with ordinary cotton and it will become impossible to contain its adverse affect. The only remedy is to destroy the cotton as well as the seeds produced and harvested in this manner.
Since the farmers are being put to a loss, the further process to determine the compensation payable to farmers, who have unwittingly used this product has to be determined and undertaken.
I would respectfully submit that every day of delay in this matter poses a threat to the environment.”
(Extract from the GEAC Order)
The spread of Roundup has also led to the spread of disease, specially cancer and kidney failure.
There are increasing demands in Europe and US to ban Roundup.
45% soils of Europe have been found to be contaminated with Roundup.
That is why Monsanto is sneaking its Roundup Ready Cotton, and with it Roundup to India.
Inspite of research by UN agencies, by independent scientists that establish certain chemicals to be carcinogenic, the industry that promotes chemicals in farming, and has its roots in war, attacks the institutions and creates a false debate. For example, the WHO identified Roundup (which contains glyphosate) as a probable carcinogen. Monsanto launched a massive attack on WHO as it had done on other scientists whose research had shown that Roundup and Roundup Ready GMOs are contributing to cancer.
As per the Lancet journal, exposure to glyphosate has been shown to cause tumours of the mammary glands in rats. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has linked glyphosate exposure to cancer. Roundup is many many times more toxic than glyphosate alone.
Thousands of victims of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, have sued Monsanto. More than 100 of those lawsuits have been consolidated in multidistrict litigation in federal court in San Francisco, while other similar lawsuits are pending in state courts in Missouri, Delaware, Arizona and elsewhere.
The “Monsanto Papers” are papers released in Roundup case showing how Monsanto knew Roundup is carcinogenic, how it attacked scientists who had done the research on links between Roundup and cancer, how it paid scientists and journalists.
Discovery from that case showed that Monsanto knew its products cause cancer and had an entire internal programme entitled “Let Nothing Go” employing an army of internet trolls, and paid scientists and journalists. It has now been revealed how Monsanto attempted to smear the research of Gilles-Éric Séralini, the French scientist who published a groundbreaking study showing an increase in tumors among rats fed genetically modified corn and Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.
A “draft” of an article written by Monsanto for Forbes “journalist” Henry Miller in 2015 that was identical to the article that appeared under his name in Forbes was found. Forbes has been forced to pull down the piece and end Miller’s employment.
Brent Wisner a lawyer of Baum Hedlund, the firm representing the cancer victims, said of the Monsanto papers, “This is a look behind the curtain. These show that Monsanto has deliberately been stopping studies that look bad for them, ghostwriting literature and engaging in a whole host of corporate malfeasance. They (Monsanto) have been telling everybody that these products are safe because regulators have said they are safe, but it turns out that Monsanto has been in bed with U.S. regulators while misleading European regulators.”
Monsanto’s influence on scientists and regulators has become a global problem.
Monsanto and Bayer have now merged. They contribute to cancer with their chemicals. They also sell patented medicine for cancer treatment.
On the island of Sri Lanka, 20,000 people have died due to kidney failure attributed to glyphosate exposure. Sri Lanka had banned glyphosate after 40,000 reported deaths directly linked to kidney failure due to the use of this herbicide.
Argentina has seen a rise in birth defects, cancers, kidney failures, infertility and various other diseases in an otherwise healthy people due to unchecked use of Roundup.
Roundup damages DNA
Minimal exposure by inhalation of glyphosate – even at 450 times less concentration than that used for spraying- damages DNA in the cells.
Seeds of Suicide: Monopolies and IPR Fraud are Monsanto’s only way of Capturing Markets, making Super Profits
Violating India’s patent laws, collecting illegal royalties, trapping farmers in debt and suicide
Monsanto has pushed GMOs fraudulently with one and only one aim -to collect royalties from every farmer in every season.
When we were forced to change our patent laws because of a WTO case, we ensured that India’s patent laws do not allow patents on seeds.
Article 3(j) of the Patent Act excludes from patentability “plants and animals in whole or in any part thereof other than microorganisms; but including seeds, varieties, and species, and essentially biological processes for production or propagation of plants and animals”.
Art 3 j of India’s Patent Law recognizes that plants and animals are not human inventions, thus avoiding the hubris of patents on life which claim that life forms, including seeds are “machines”, invented by corporations.
Monsanto has worked illegally in India not only in terms of violating the Biosafety Laws, but also the IPR laws. It has tried to write its own laws through imposing patents on seeds illegally through licensing agreements.
As recorded in the proceedings of the competition commission:
Monsanto Holding Private Limited (MHPL) is a 100% subsidiary of Monsanto Inc USA (MIU) in India and it is engaged in marketing of Bt Cotton hybrid seeds (trade name–Paras) and other field crop seeds. MAHYCO is also an Indian company, engaged in research and development, production, processing and marketing of hybrid seeds and open pollinated seeds in India. MHPL holds 26% stake in MAHYCO. Monsanto Mahyco Biotech Ltd (MMBL) is a 50:50 joint venture formed between MHPL and MAHYCO and is engaged in sub- licensing of Bt Cotton technology of MIU in India In 1998, MIU licensed its Bt Cotton technology to MMBL for further sub- licensing by it to seed manufacturers in India, to incorporate this technology in the existing cotton seeds/ hybrids manufactured by Indian seed manufacturing companies. As per the facts made available, first sub-licensing took place in 1999 and it was subsequently renewed as per the terms of various agreements between MMBL and Indian seed companies. The resultant modified seeds were claimed to possess insect resistant traits termed as Bt Cotton seeds. In India, substances and products which contain genetically engineered organisms can be produced, sold, imported or used only with the approval of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC). It is stated that BG-I was approved for commercialisation by GEAC in 2002 whereas, BG-II was approved for commercialisation in 2006.
First Monsanto cooked up patents on seed, falsely claiming that by changing a gene, they were creating the seed and all its future generations, and tried to introduce this illusion in the TRIPS agreement. We were successful in excluding life forms from patentability in India’s law.
Inspite of not having patent, Monsanto started to collect royalties on its illegally introduced Bt cotton. It collected an upfront, one time nonrefundable fee of Rs 50 lakh from each licensee and a recurring fee. Since it did not have a patent, it cooked up a category called “Technology Trait” to collect a “Trait Fee”, just another name for royalty. This royalty is finally extracted from poor farmers.
Since the trait is failing and since the “Trait Value” or royalty was illegally collected, Monsanto owes it to Indian farmers to return the illegally collected money, and compensate for distress and death.
India’s peasants are too small and too many to do contracts for a non existant IPR. So Monsanto locked in 28 Indian seed companies to collect royalties on Monsanto’s behalf –very much like the British arbitrarily appointed Zamindars to collect taxes and revenues from peasants in colonial times, ruining a rich and prosperous land and leaving us in poverty and destitution.
Such agreements are illegal because when Monsanto locked Indian companies into these agreements to extract royalties and trait fees, it had no approval for commercial planting. And it did not, and cannot have patents on seed.
Monsanto falsely claims in the agreements with Indian seed companies:
“Monsanto Patent Rights” shall mean all patents relevant to Hybrid Cotton Planting Seed containing the Monsanto technology and any patent application or issued patent in the US or any other country or jurisdiction …”
The agreements are fraudulent, and Indian farmers, Indian seed companies, and India have been cheated by extraction of “royalties” on the basis of a non existent right:
- In 1999 Monsanto did not have commercial approval for Bt Cotton. By signing agreements for licensing before approval, Monsanto was engaging in illegal action
- Patent laws are sovereign laws. Patents issued in the US do not apply in India. Monsanto violated Indian laws by claiming patent rights in India falsely
- Art 3h and 3j of the Indian Patent law.
The licensing agreements allowed Monsanto to illegally collect super profits from farmers, trapping them in debt , pushing thousands to suicide.
As recorded in the Competition Commission proceedings, “The ‘Trait Value’ is the estimated value for the trait of insect resistance conferred by the Bt gene technology. It forms a significant portion of the Bt Cotton seed prices. It is stated that the trait value is determined by MMBL on the basis of Maximum Retail Price (MRP) of 450 gm seed packet (hereinafter per packet), in advance for each crop season. It is also stated that out of this trait value, some amount is disbursed as royalty to MIU.
It transpires from the facts placed before the Commission that the fixation of trait value has been a matter of dispute/litigation since 2005. It is alleged that in the year 2005, the trait value fixed by MMBL was Rs.1250/- per packet for BG- I which led to high value of Bt Cotton seeds manufactured using the said technology i.e. Rs.1700/- – Rs.1800/- per packet. This was allegedly very high in comparison to the price of non-Bt cotton seeds which were available for Rs.300/- per packet.”
(Ref. Case No. 02/2015 & Case No 107/2015 Page 4 of 26)
The open pollinated seeds were available for Rs 5-10 before Monsanto established its monopoly. If the farmers had their own seed, it was zero cost.
Monsanto’s exploitation has ruined farmers, trapped them in debt, driven them to suicide. After all, the hefty royalty is collected from small farmers, even if it is rooted through an Indian licensee, just as the peasant paid the Lagaan, even when routed through Collectors and Zamindars .
Royalties collected by Monsanto from Indian farmers are therefore illegal. The extraction of royalties is criminal because it has taken farmers lives. Through the licensing agreements Monsanto established a monopoly in the cotton seed market. Monsanto controls 95% of the cotton seed supply through Bt Cotton. 85% of the more than 300,000 farmers suicides due to debt are concentrated in the cotton belt.
Seed is the basis of agriculture. The means of production and the basis of livelihood for farmers.
In less than two decades, cotton seed has been snatched from the hands of Indian farmers by Monsanto through displacing local varieties, introducing GMO Bt Cotton seeds and collecting royalties.
Since the legalisation of Bt Cotton in 2002, Monsanto has looted Rs 7000 crore from the poor Indian cotton farmers and is directly responsible for pushing Indian farmers into debt and suicide. Since ’95, over 3,10,000 have committed suicide most of whom are from the cotton belt of India.
Violating and Challenging the Seed Price Control Order Regulating Seed Prices
The issue of Seed Price therefore impinges directly on farmers rights. And since the high prices with the high royalty component have driven farmers to suicide, State Governments have acted to bring down the seed prices.
The Centre has issued ‘Cotton Seed Price Control Order’ (CSPCO) to control prices of cotton seeds by fixing a uniform Maximum Retail Price (MRP) from March 2016.
The aim is to ensure cotton seeds are available at “fair, reasonable and affordable prices” and there is a uniform rate. The decision follows several representations by NGOs, farmers, and the NSAI for regulating sale price of Bt Cotton in the country (PTI, 2015).
The government has steeply reduced the royalty component from Rs. 183.46 that Monsanto and Mahyco Monsanto charge the farmers through seed companies to Rs 49. Trait value paid to Monsanto comes down by 73%.
Monsanto immediately tried to challenge the Seed Price Control Order. We intervened in the Karnataka High Court and the case was dismissed.
(writ petition 15173 and 15174 of 2016 in Karnataka High Court )
Monsanto tried every trick in the courts, saying Bt Cotton seed is not seed, it is “technology”. They tried to argue that the Essential Commodity Act under which the Seed Price Control Order was introduced cannot be applied to Bt Cotton because Bt Cotton is not Cotton Seed, it is a technology .
In 2016 Monsanto tried to undermine India’s Patent Law by getting an interim ruling through a single judge that it has patents on Bt Cotton in India .
(Order of the Learned Single Judge dated 28.3.2017 in CS (COMM) 132 of2016.)
Indian Companies falsely accused of “infringing” a non existent patent appealed in the Appellate Court.
I have intervened in the case in the Appellate Court through which Monsanto is challenging Art 3j of India’s Patent Act.
Every action of Monsanto is based on fraud and illegality and has created the conditions of farmers distress and deaths in India.
Every action of Monsanto shows that it cannot work within a country’s laws aimed at protecting the environment, farmers rights and security of citizens’ lives.
It acts above democracy and governments. It thinks it can destroy regulations as it pleases and manipulate science for its profits. This is why they have been banned from the European Parliament. It is time to ban them and their toxic products from India and the planet.
Violating Competition Laws, Creating Seed Monopoly, threatening Institutions of Democracy and Governance
Monsanto through Monsanto Mahyco has ensured that Bt Cotton controlled by them is used in more than 99% of the total cotton cultivation area in India.
High seed prices and the creation of a seed monopoly have been subject of cases since 2005. On August 30th 2005 the farmers association, Ryotu Sangham, Andhra Pradesh, had made a representation before the erstwhile Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC). The Government of Andhra Pradesh joined the case, and we also intervened. The MRTP observed that MMBL was in a position to charge arbitrarily for the Bt Cotton technology and could not offer any rational explanation for arriving at the trait value of Rs.1250/- per packet. In the meanwhile, MRTPC vide its interim order dated 11th May, 2006, observed that “There is a basic difference between royalty and trait value …and (these) are not synonymous… In any case the lump sum payment of Rs.50 lakhs may be considered as royalty for the same, but the future payments on sale cannot be termed as royalty” and held that “… by temporary injunction the MMBL is directed during the pendency of this case not to charge trait value of Rs.900/- for a packet of 450 gm of Bt Cotton seeds and to fix a reasonable trait value.”
The MRTP was later replaced by the Competition Commission of India. In 2015 the Government of India initiated a case in the CCI on Monsanto’s monopoly in the cotton seed sector.
( Case No. 02/2015 & Case No 107/2015)
The CCI observed that there was prima facie evidence of Monsanto’s monopoly and started an investigation. Monsanto was imposing: excessive trait fee, unfair clauses in the sub-licensee agreements leading to a monopoly.
Monsanto immediately challenged the CCI in the High Court of Delhi (case WP (C) 1776 0f 2016.) It challenged price regulation. It challenged Art 3j of the Indian patent act. The case against Competition Commission, like the challenge to price regulation is another example of the violator challenging the regulator, the criminal challenging the judge.
Now Monsanto is threatening the Competition Commission of India which is investigating the Cotton monopoly of Monsanto. It is challenging the Seed Price control order. And it is challenging Art 3j of the patent act.
It is even using the withdrawal of its application for Roundup Ready Bt Cotton after it was caught illegally spreading the GMO to put pressure on Indian government on its seed regulation.
For two decades, farmers of India have paid a very high price on account of Monsanto’s fraud, whether it be the debt, resulting from illegal royalty collection, in extreme case leading to farmers suicides, or pesticide poisoning deaths, because the Bt cotton did not control pests contrary to Monsanto’s claim. India’s constitution, India’s laws and Human Rights have been continuously flouted by Monsanto for its profits and monopolies as documented above. It is time we stop this series of crimes and violations. It is time to get unshackled from the Seeds of Suicide and pesticides and pesticide deaths. Through Seeds of freedom and Seeds of Hope we can go forward to GMO free Agroecology which protects the farmers, our biodiversity and our seed and food sovereignty.
TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust.
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