The Times of India reported that multinational biotechnology giant Monsanto attempted to covertly plant its genetically-modified (GM) corn with no government approval. Nitish Kumar, chief minister of Bihar, alerted India's environment minister who just a few days earlier had denied Monsanto permission to plant the crops at all.
Outraged when he discovered that Monsanto had secretly plotted with India's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) and the Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR) to plant genetically-modified corn without official approval, Kumar had already written a letter to India's environment minister reinforcing his opposition to the GM corn. Shortly thereafter India's environment minister asked the GEAC to reverse its December approval and block Monsanto's GM corn plantings.
Ignoring the mounting opposition and lack of government approval, Monsanto continued to plant its GM corn at several locations in Bihar and several other Indian states.
"This is absolutely shocking, coming as it does under the shadow of the review of Bt brinjal, the first (GM) food crop to be introduced in India. It is deceitful," said Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign, a grassroots organization working to protect local control over genetic resources and food sovereignty. "Permission has been given surreptitiously. This is not right. We strongly oppose it. The permission should be withdrawn for all States, not just Bihar."
Monsanto also violated the "isolation distance" requirements that restrict GM plantings within a certain distance from non-GM plantings to prevent further contamination. Previous incidents have revealed that GMOs can very easily contaminate non-GMOs and ruin the integrity of entire crop fields.
When a German court ordered Monsanto to make public a controversial 90-day rat study on June 20, 2005, the data upheld claims by prominent scientists who said that animals fed the genetically modified (GM) corn developed extensive health problems in their blood, kidneys and liver and that humans eating the corn may also be at risk.
The 1,139 page research paper also revealed that European regulators accepted the company's assurances that their corn is safe, in spite of the unscientific and contradictory rationale that was used to dismiss significant problems. In addition, the Monsanto generated study is so full of flaws and omissions, critics say it wouldn't qualify for publication in most journals and yet it was used as the primary document to evaluate the health impacts.
This is not the end of the story. Investigations of Monsanto's influence in India will continue and I will do my best to you informed.