The District Magistrate,
Ahmednagar District,

Dear Sir,

Sub: Seeking your urgent action to stop the open air field trials of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in Rahuri

Namaste! This is to seek you attention and urgent action on open field trial of Genetically Modified (GM) crops, in particular, the GM maize of Monsanto, the US multinational, at MPKV, Rahuri. GM crops are one of the most controversial technology in agriculture given the growing scientific evidence on its adverse impacts on human health, biodiversity, farm livelihoods etc. A glimpse of the early warnings from scientific studies, related to adverse impacts of GMOs on our health and environment, are available in this compilation: www.indiagminfo.org/?p=657.

The technology involves the transfer of genes from one organisms to the other, a process which is still imprecise at best and its consequences unpredictable. Added to this is also the corporate control of the seeds, the most important input in agriculture, through this technology. All this along with the fact that it is a living technology the prodicts of which (GMOs) once out in the environment uncontrollable and irreversible has made it a risky technology opposed across the world and shunned by majority of countries.

Field trials and contamination of our food and seed supply chain

Field trials constitute a deliberate environmental release of unknown, untested and presumably unsafe organisms that are new in Nature. GMOs released into the environment in the garb of field trials pose various risks including contamination, undetected entry into the food chain and jeopardizing trade security. In India, time and again, it has also been established that field trials have happened and are happening in violation of the meagre biosafety norms laid down. Institutional apathy and incapability of the regulatory system compounds the risks.

We oppose such risky open air trials of GMOs, whether it is being conducted by MNCs or public sector agencies – a poison is a poison, whoever serves it to us. Moreover, it is completely unacceptable for public sector organisations, funded by public money, to take up such trials on behalf of corporations like Monsanto. Our NARS (National Agricultural Research System)’s universities and their research stations are repositories of India’s germplasm wealth. This is a generous gift from our farmers to other farmers and the nation. All of this is being jeopardized through irresponsible open-air trials of GMOs.

Reports on GM contamiantion scandals, including the Ministry of Agriculture’s Sopory Committee one, has shown that such contamination could happen inside a university either accidentally or intentionally, either biologically or through admixtures.

Credible bodies like a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture and Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee of independent scientists have strongly recommended an immediate suspension of all open air field trials of GMOs in the country as they have a potential to contaminate our seed and food supply chains.

GM Field trials at Rahuri need to be stopped

The GMO being tested in Rahuri is Monsanto’s herbicide tolerant, insect-resistant maize, which has multiple genes inserted in it to produce a pesticide inside the plant and tolerate sprays of a patented glyphosate herbicide of monsanto. Both have been shown to be seriously detrimental to our health and environment.

Media reports about have already indicated that the trial violates laws and guidelines laid down one of the most important one being the absence of a functional District Level Committe (DLC) which is the main monitoring authority at the district level. It has also been found that another maize crop was growing in less than 200 meter distance from the trial which could lead to contamination. http://www.thestatesman.net/news/79166-guidelines-in-gm-crop-trial-violated.html. Senior scientists from within the establishment have also conceded that the situation of monitoring is unsatisfactory.

On March 23rd 2009, on Shaheed Diwas, hundreds of farmers and consumers confronted the Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Rahuri, led by eminent farmer leaders like N D Patil and Vijay Jawandhia along with members of the Coalition for a GM-Free India. On April 2nd 2009, after instituting an Inquiry Committee and holding deliberations, the University promised the citizens that it will not take up transgenic trials henceforth (University bans field trials, Down To Earth, 2/4/09: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/node/3433; http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/gm-corn-trials-in-kolhapur-stopped/442350/).This was also informed to the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the apex regulation body, by Monsanto and recorded in the minutes of the meetings 98 and 100. (http://www.envfor.nic.in/divisions/csurv/geac/decision-dec-98.pdf & http://www.envfor.nic.in/divisions/csurv/geac/decision-may-100.pdf)

Given that there is no fresh evidence that the University has to show that these GMOs are needed and safe while evidence on the contrary is piling up, one sees no reason for MPKV to go against its own promise to conduct such trials, while most emerging evidence shows greater risk.

Under the 1989 “Rules for the manufacture, use/import/export and storage of hazardous microorganisms / genetically engineered organisms or cells” notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the District Level Committee under the chairmanship of the District Collector/District Magistrate is vested with the responsibility and authority to terminate the trials and secure the trial site and its surroundings in case of violations as with this trial.

Given the serious threat that the field trial of Monsanto’s GM Maize is posing we urge you to take urgent action and stop the trials at the earliest and secure the site.

Sincerely yours,

Tanmay Joshi,                                           Rajesh Krishnan,
Coalition for a GM Free Maharashtra.        Coalition for a GM Free India.
Mob: 8087502186                                    Mob: 09845650032

Copy to:

1. Shri Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Environment and Forests, Government of India.
2. Chairperson, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), MoEF, Government of India
3. Chief Secretary & Chairperson, SBCC, Government of Maharashtra
4. Vice Chancellor, Mahatma Phule Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Rahuri.