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Open Air Field Trial of Monsanto's GM corn by the University
March 11 2009

To: The Vice Chancellor
Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyalaya
Rahuri, Maharashtra.:

Dear Sir

Sub: Open Air Field Trial of Monsanto's GM corn by the University

Based on a permission letter issued by the Department of Biotechnology’s RCGM on 8th December 2008, an open air trial of Monsanto’s transgenic corn hybrids (HiShell and 900 M Gold containing MON 89034 event and NK603 event), your University had gone ahead with the planting of this GM corn trial in Kolhapur.

We have several serious concerns with regard to this trial in terms of its need, biosafety issues and the fact that tax-payers’ funds for a public sector body are being utilized to further the commercial interests of a private company which is the world’s largest seed company. We request you to respond to each of our concerns immediately.

1. What is the need assessment with regard to this GM Corn? – Has the MPKV taken up a need analysis and impact assessment of this GM corn before undertaking the trial? Are there no other alternatives to this GM corn available in the agricultural research system? Have the impacts of the herbicide use by such crops been assessed including on the employment potential for the poorest farming households in the country?

2. Has the University questioned the application by Monsanto or the decision by the DBT to undertake the trial in the University? By what legislation can the Union Government impose its decision on a State Agriculture University which is under the state government, and when agriculture is a state subject by the Constitution of India? Has the state government expressly taken any decision to allow this trial in the state – when, where and how?

3. Is the University aware of the fact that several recent studies have actually pointed out to problems with the NK603 GM corn event? One such important and independent study is one that was undertaken by the Austrian government, for which the report came out in November 2008; this was a 20-month-long, multi-generational study conducted by the health department of the government of Austria. Prof. Dr. Jürgen Zentek, Professor for Veterinary Medicine at the University of Vienna and lead author of the study, summarized the findings as: ‘Mice fed with GE maize had less offspring in the third and fourth generations and these differences were statistically significant. Mice fed with non-GE maize reproduced more efficiently. This effect could be attributed to the difference in the food source”. (Annexure: “Biological effects of transgenic maize in long term reproduction studies in mice”). Whether it is aware or not aware, should it be jeopardizing the environment by undertaking an
air trial of this GM maize?

4. As corn is a completely cross pollinated crop and evidences exist of pollen transfer up to a kilometer has the university alerted the farmers in a radius of a kilometer about the trial at its farm and ensured that no cross contamination happens.

5. Glyphosate, the popular herbicide that accompanies this GM corn of Monsanto, has been implicated in findings of adverse health effects in a recent study. French researchers recently sought to examine the toxicity of four popular G-based herbicide formulations on human placental cells, kidney cells, embryonic cells and neonate umbilical cord cells and surprisingly found total cell death of each of these cells within 24 hours. Why then is the University keen on promoting a herbicide-tolerant GM crop for a big MNC despite all these issues?

6. Does the University know that Monsanto is known to have criminalized farmers in America for saving their own seeds? This company is known to have bribed officials to get regulatory clearances elsewhere and is known to have suppressed biosafety information from public scrutiny. For more information on the antecedents of this giant corporation seeking more and more profits, please watch the attached film called “The World According To Monsanto”. Why then are public-funded bodies like yours eager on helping this profit-hungry corporation, which is reported to have announced “No food shall be grown that we don’t own”?

7. Has the University adhered to the Environment Protection Act’s 1989 Rules? Does a DLC exist in Kolhapur and when was the last time that a meeting was convened of this DLC? Does the SBCC function in Maharashtra and were they appraised of this trial and did they take a decision to permit the trial and decide ways on ensuring scientific and transparent trials without any biosafety violations?

As aware and concerned farmers and consumers, we demand immediate responses from you on all the above points before the University proceeds with the trial. Thank you.

Col. Vikram Bokey/Diliprao Deshmukh,
Maharashtra Organic Farmers’ Federation