September/October 2001 Living Now
Big Setback For Monsanto -
India Refuses GM Cotton
New Delhi/London - Greenpeace today congratulated India, one of
the world's leading cotton growing countries, 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 for commercial production potentially to 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"Monsanto/Mahyco intended to introduce to India an outdated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,"
For more Information contact: Michelle Chawla, Genetic Engineering
Campaigner for Greenpeace India Tel: + 91 9820182304 (mob) or +9111
6962932; Greenpeace International Press Office, Teresa Merilainen,
Tel: +3120 5236637.
 21% of the world's acreage in cotton is planted
 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.
 Cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera).