India: BKU stops contamination from GM rice plot

Press Release

Bt Rice plot in Uttar Pradesh secretive too – Concerned authorities kept in the dark; Police lodge complaint & seize material from trial plot

Rudrapur village, Gorakhpur dist. [UP], November 5, 2006: Bhartiya Kissan Union [BKU] and the President of the Panchayat of Rudrapur village lodged a police complaint against M/s Mahyco, Department of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, for various violations found in a GM Rice plot in Rudrapur village of Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh. Acting on the complaint which pointed out violations of the Environment Protection Act and the conditional clearance given to Mahyco for the trial, authorities seized material lying in a house from the trial plot.  Contending that the manner in which the trial was conducted jeopardizes the interests of farmers and consumers, the BKU demanded that the state government intervene in the matter immediately, inquire into the matter and initiate action against the company.

The Bt Rice trial in Rudrapur village shows that Mahyco’s violation of GM trial conditions continues while regulatory authorities fail to monitor or fix liability on such violations.

On November 4th, BKU activists investigated the Bt Rice trial of M/s Mahyco in this village, in the land of a farmer called Alok Pandey. The farmer is an absentee landlord living in Hyderabad and had leased out his land to the company for their trial.

The following findings emerged from this investigation:
* The Panchayat has not been informed about the trial in the village, as per the President of the Panchayat
* The district authorities [Joint Director-Agriculture, Gorakhpur] have no information on the trial, as the JDA admitted to the investigating team
* When the team visited the plot, harvesting was completed. However, grain was allowed to lie around with the plot unattended and with volunteer plants emerging on the plot. Anyone could have picked up the grain and re-sown it, knowingly or unknowingly. It was only hours after the team’s visit that the plot was ploughed up by someone
* No official team visited the plot for monitoring, as per the Field Assistant employed by Mahyco
* While the Temporary Field Assistant employed by Mahyco informed the members of the team that all grain harvested from the trial plot has been taken to the company headquarters, it was learnt from other villagers including the landlord of a room rented in the village by the company that the grain from the trial plot has been stored there.

Fearing an impending sale from the trial plot, as has been known to happen from earlier trials investigated by civil society, BKU activists called in the police and local authorities. The BKU activists demanded an inquiry to check whether all biosafety and other conditions related to the trial were met by the company and to fix liability for violations.

“In Karnal, we discovered that the farmer and the Panchayat President have not been given full details of the trial by the company. We also found that the plot was sown on July 1 st while the official clearance from the DBT was dated July 11th. Similar violations are seen in the Gorakhpur plot too, where the Joint Director Agriculture and the Panchayat President were not informed about the trial. Earlier, an investigation by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture of a Bt Bhindi plot in Gulbarga in Karnataka revealed a similar thing. This is completely unacceptable. More objectionable is the stand by regulators like the DBT who question why the farmers need to be informed in the first instance, on the grounds that they will not understand! We demand that the GEAC investigate all the scores of trials that they have permitted this year immediately to check the compliance to biosafety and other norms rather than create a disaster like the American exporters are facing today with untested GM rice entering the supply chain and leading to large scale rejection by importing countries”, said Sri Rakesh Tikait, Spokesperson of Bhartiya Kissan Union.

Dharmendra Malik

Bhartiya Kissan Union