Largest Genetically Modified Food Producer, To Be Charged With Biopiracy In India (VIDEO)
Daniel Tencer - The Huffington
Add a new word to
your lexicon: Biopiracy.
That’s what U.S.-based agribusiness giant Monsanto has been
accused of in India,
where the government is planning to charge the company with violating the
country’s biodiversity laws over a genetically modified version of eggplant.
In doing so, India
has placed itself at the focal point of the movement to challenge genetically
modified crops, which opponents say are destroying traditional crops and
threatening farmers’ livelihoods.
"This can send a … message to the big companies [that]
they are violating the laws of the nation," K.S. Sugara
of the Karnataka Biodiversity Board told France 24 (see video below).
"It is not acceptable … that the farmers in our communities are robbed of
the advantage they should get from the indigenous varieties."
announced last month it is pursuing charges against Monsanto for
"stealing" an indigenous crop -- eggplant -- and using it to create a
modified version without permission, a violation of India’s decade-old Biological
Diversity Act. It’s the first prosecution of a company for the act of "biopiracy" in the country, and possibly the world.
At the heart of the issue is the phenomenon of the
commercialization of indigenous knowledge. Indian farmers argue that they
developed the strains of eggplant grown in India over generations, and
Monsanto has no right to come in and build a product out of their own
Monsanto took locally-grown eggplant “without any
conformance with the biological diversity act, and therefore it is biopiracy,” said Leo Saldanha,
director of the Environmental Support Group, an Indian NGO. Saldanha
filed the initial complaint that prompted India to pursue charges.
It is not actually illegal to develop GM foods from
indigenous crops in India,
but the the government placed a moratorium on
eggplant development last year after an outcry from farmers. It's this
moratorium that Monsanto is accused of breaking.
However, in the month since the government announced it
intends to file charges, no actual charges have been
laid. France24 correspondent Vikram Singh said India may be
coming under pressure from Monsanto and other multinationals not to pursue the
But Singh said government officials insist they are simply
taking their time to build a water-tight case.
Farmers’ opposition to Monsanto and genetically modified
crops in India
goes back to before the eggplant controversy, and traces its roots at least partly
to an earlier controversy about genetically modified cotton.
After successfully introducing GM cotton to India, Monsanto
was besieged by bad publicity when a failed crop allegedly caused farmers to
commit suicide. Crop failures are common in India, but when the GM cotton crop
failed, the farmers growing it were saddled with enormous debt.
By some counts, the suicide toll related to GM crop failure
is in the hundreds of thousands, though some observers have challenged that
The company has also been accused of using child labour in its cotton seed production operations.
Monsanto has largely refused to comment...
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