Big Setback For Monsanto
India Refuses GM Cotton

NEW DELHI/LONDON - Greenpeace today congratulated India, one of the world's leading cotton growing countries (1), for its decision to not allow the commercial growing of genetically engineered (GE) cotton but maintain the country's GE free status.

The decision, taken earlier this week by the Indian Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), is a significant set back for Monsanto, whose local partner, the seed company Mahyco had hoped to introduce the so called Bt Bollgard cotton (2) for commercial production across up to potentially 8.5 million hectares. Monsanto's Bt cotton would have been the first GE crop to be commercialised in India. The Indian authority ordered an additional year of field trials for the GE cotton to be conducted under an independent supervision of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. The authorities concluded that the data provided by the companies Monsanto/Mahyco was not sufficient as their field trials were not conducted during a normal cotton season, and therefore, no valid information on the crops performance could be determined.

"At a time when the issue of GE crops is highly controversial, increasing scientific evidence emerges about potentially harmful effects of GE crops to the environment. No country should blindly rush into taking a decision on commercial planting," said Michelle Chawla, Genetic Engineering Campaigner for Greenpeace India. "The fact that Monsanto/Mahyco was hastening the process on the basis of inadequate data is deplorable."

The companies Monsanto/Mahyco did not inform the Indian authorities of the emerging problem with their GE cotton in China, where the pest, cotton bollworm, has already developed some resistance to the Bt crops and the farmers have to use pesticides in addition. They also failed to provide any comprehensive scientific data on the effects of GE Bt cotton on natural enemies of the cotton bollworm, such as the lacewing, which is used as a biological pest control as an alternative to chemical pesticides.

"Monsanto/Mahyco intended to introduce to India an outdated GE product that has failed to get market approval in Europe because of environmental and health concerns. This crop also contains an antibiotic resistance gene, which may render diseases immune to an important antibiotic used in India against tuberculosis, Streptomycin," Chawla added.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: For more Information contact: Michelle Chawla, Genetic Engineering Campaigner for Greenpeace India Tel: + 91 9820182304 (mob) or +9111 6962932; Isabelle Meister, Greenpeace International, Tel: +41 1 4474195; Greenpeace International Press Office, Teresa Merilainen, Tel: +3120 5236637.

(1) 21% of the world's acreage in cotton is planted in India

(2) Bt stands for an insecticide usually produced by the soil bacteria Bacillus thuringensis. The Bt Bollgard also contains two antibiotic resistance marker genes that provide resistance against the antibiotics Kanamycin and Streptomycin, used in human medicine.

(3) Cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera)

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