transgenic plants: India & Brazil


Jan Slakov

Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998 18:02:37 -0100 (GMT)
From: "Kathleen Hiltsley" <•••@••.•••> (by way of Wim A. de Bruyn)
Subject: Transgenic Plants and Foods - Help for Brazil

To Colleagues all Over the World Concerned with Transgenic Plants and Foods:

Help defend our victory against deregulating transgenic foods in Brazil!

IDEC- the Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense is struggling to
guarantee food safety and adequate labelling of transgenic products in
Brazil. We have had an important victory in the courts, where we obtained a
temporary restraining order prohibiting the government from authorizing the
planting and marketing of Monsanto's transgenic Roundup Ready soybeans.
Nevertheless. Monsanto, a powerful multinational, may manage to get this
decision struck down. In September, the Brazilian government was about to
authorize the first request for large-scale cultivation when this decision
was obtained. It was based on the fact that the related issues of food
safety, labelling and marketing of these transgenic plants and derived food
products has not yet been adequately regulated, and that other legislation
demands both studies of environmental impact and information for consumers.

This judicial decision had a great deal of impact nationally. Farmers,
independent scientists and consumers approved the decision. Some sectors of
business, such as the large Carrefour supermarket chain demonstrated their
concern about the marketing of genetically manipulated products without
labelling and "segregation" of normal soy from genetically manipulated soy
products in the distribution process. Nevertheless, as expected, Monsanto
has dedicated an enormous effort to convince the Federal Government that
Roundup Ready soy is identical to natural soy and therefore does not need
to be labelled. They also allege that biotech plants are the solution to
world hunger, and finally that they are accepted in developed countries.

We need to step up the pressure to keep Monsanto from reversing this
important victory. The support of organizations and individuals from around
the world is essential. It would be most helpful if you can 1) Spread this
information rapidly throughout the mass media 2) Send letters and faxes to
the Brazilian Federal government demonstrating concern about the
government's position against labelling of genetically modified foodstuffs
-- letting them know that your country doesn't want to eat them -- this is
especially important since Brazil is the world's second largest producer of
soybeans and is a major exporter of soybeans as well as other agricultural
products -- and suggesting strict rules requiring labelling and related
rules on food safety.

The following is a short summary which can be used as a press release and a
list of Brazilian government agencies which should receive letters and faxes.

For additional information contact Andrea Lazzarini at IDEC- São Paulo.
Telephone 55-11-3872-8790, Fax: 55-11-3862-9844 or e-mail •••@••.•••

Press release:

A new chapter in the fight to regulate genetically manipulated foods was
opened by a ground-breaking judicial decision in Brazil, the world's second
largest producer of soybeans, which temoporarily prohibits the government
from authorizing the planting and marketing of Monsanto's genetically
manipulated Roundup Ready soybeans. This decision was obtained by the
Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense after Monsanto petitioned the
government to deregulate its product, whose only purpose in life is to make
soy more resistent to the herbicide glyphosate, also marketed by Monsanto
and thereby greatly increase profits. IDEC's main argument's were related
to the lack of regulations of food safety, labelling and marketing for
these genetically manipulated products, as well as the need for studies of
environmental impact required by law.

Monsanto claims that its product will help solve word hunger, that OGMs are
acceptable in developed countries and that IDEC's position is ignorant.
This in spite of the fact that the vast increase in pesticide use over the
years has clearly not solved the hunger problem and the growing opposition
in Europe and other countries to consuming genetically modified products.

Many organizations in Brazil, such as Greenpeace and movements of
housewives and other community organizations are taking up this discussion
in order to guarantee the consumer's right to information and choice, and
to prevent harm to health and the environment from those genetically
manipulated products which bring no benefit to humanity.

Addresses for letters and faxes to be sent:

We are inviting our world colleagues
to send messages to the Brazilian Federal Authorities in order to let them
know the human and environmental effects of genetically modified food and
plants, the position of other organizations from all over, and whatever
else you might find important. Monsanto and others'companies pressure is
strongly based on the fact that developed countries approve transgenic
food. We believe it is about time to show the other side of the
international arguments and discussion!

The addresses are:
(Presidency of Brazil)
Exmo. Sr. Prof. Dr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso
(address:) Praça dos Três Poderes, Palácio do Planalto 4º andar, Brasília -
Distrito Federal - Brazil - cep: 70.150-900
  Fax: 011-55-61-226-7566
  Email - <•••@••.•••>

(Ministry of Health)
Exmo. Sr. Dr. José Serra
(address:) Esplanada dos Ministérios, Bloco G, 5º andar, Brasília - Distrio
Federal - Brazil - cep: 70.058-900

(Ministry of Agriculture)
Exmo. Sr. Dr. Francisco Sérgio Turra
(address:) Esplanada dos Ministérios, Bloco D, 8º andar, Brasília -
Distrito Federal - Brazil - cep: 70.043-900

(Ministry of Environment)
Exmo. Sr. Dr. Gustavo Krause
(address:) Esplanada dos Ministérios, Bloco B, 5º andar, Brasília -
Distrito Federal - Brazil - cep: 70.068-900

(Ministry of Justice)
Exmo. Sr. Renan Calheiros
(address:) Esplanada dos Ministérios, Bloco T, 4º andar, Brasília -
Distrito Federal - Brazil - cep: 70.064-900

Kristin Dawkins
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
2105 First Avenue South        Minneapolis, MN 55404 USA
Central tel: (612) 870-0453    Direct tel: (612) 870-3410
Fax: (612) 870-4846            •••@••.•••

Kathy Hiltsley
Program Assistant
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
2105 1st Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN  55404
Direct Phone: 612-870-3455
IATP Ph. 612-870-0453  IATP fax. 612-870-4846
Date:   Fri, 4 Dec 1998 12:28:05 -0400 (AST)
From: Antoni Wysocki <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Cremate Monsanto!

Hi folks,

Following in the footsteps of Gandhi's action against Britain's colonial
salt monopoly this is a call for non-violent civil disobedience - first in
India and then, by example, around the world. A quick cautionary note : 
consider before forwarding this message that it enjoins people to commit
criminal (albeit ethical) acts. Consequently legal sanctions could
concievably be brought to bear against individuals seen to be abetting
these efforts (though the likelihood of this is probably remote).


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 1998 18:39:27 +0500
From: "PROF. NANJUNDA SWAMY" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Cremate Monsanto!!

  ** please distribute as widely as possible **

Dear friends,

Monsanto's field trials in Karnataka will be reduced to ashes, starting on
Saturday. Two days ago the Minister of Agriculture of Karnataka gave a
press conference where he was forced by the journalists to disclose the
three sites where field trials with Bt cotton are being conducted (for
background information about the trials, see appendix 2 at the bottom).
KRRS activists have already contacted the owners of these fields, to
explain them which action will be taken, and for what reasons, and to let
them know that the KRRS will cover any loses they will suffer. On Saturday
the 28th of November, at midday, thousands of farmers will occupy and burn
down the three fields in front of the cameras, in an open, announced
action of civil disobedience.

These actions will start a campaign of direct action by farmers against
biotechnology, called Operation 'Cremation Monsanto', which will not stop
until all the corporate killers like Monsanto, Novartis, Pioneer etc leave
the country. Farmers' leaders from the states of Maharastra,  Gujarat and
Madhya Pradesh (states where Monsanto is also conducting field trials)
were yesterday in Bangalore to prepare the campaign.

The campaign will run under the following slogans:

BURY THE WTOBangalore Nov. 25th;

along with a more specific message for all those who have invested on
Monsanto: You should rather take your money out before we reduce it to

We know that stopping biotechnology in India will not be of much help to
us if it continues in other countries, since the threats that it poses do
not stop at the borders. We also think that the kind of actions that will
be going on in India have the potential not only to kick those corporate
killers out of our country: if we play our cards right at global level and
coordinate our work, these actions can also pose a major challenge to the
survival of these corporations in the stock markets. Who wants to invest
in a mountain of ashes, in offices that are constantly being squatted (and
if necessary even destroyed) by activists?

For these reasons, we are making an international call for direct action
against Monsanto and the rest of the biotech gang. This call for action
will hopefully inspire all the people who are already doing a brilliant
work against biotech, and many others who so far have not been very active
on the issue, to join hands in a quick, effective worldwide effort.

This is a very good moment to target Monsanto, since it has run out of
cash in its megalomaniac attempt to monopolise the life industry in record
time. It is going now through a hard time of layoffs and restructuration
in a desperate effort to survive, since it cannot pay its bills. It is
also a good time because several recent scandals (like the pulping of the
Monsanto edition of The Ecologist, the whole Terminator Technology affair,
the illegal introduction of Bt Cotton in Zimbabwe, etc) have contributed
to its profile as corporate killer, which, being the creators of Vietnam
War's Agent Orange and rBGH, was already good enough, anyhow. 

We are hence making a call to:

* Take direct actions against biotech TNCs, particularly Monsanto (be it
squatting or burning their fields, squatting or destroying their offices,
 * Maintain the local or/and national press informed about all the actions
going on around the world
* Take direct actions at stock exchanges targeting Monsanto, to draw
attention on its state of bankruptcy

We are making this call for action on the line of Peoples' Global Action
(PGA), a worldwide network of peoples' movements, in order to emphasize
the political analysis beyond our opposition to biotechnology. This
analysis does not only take environmental concerns into account, and is
not limited to the defense of food security - it attacks neoliberal
globalisation as a whole, the WTO as its most important tool, and the
global power structures (G8, NATO, etc.) as the root of all these
problems. You will find the complete political analysis on the manifesto
of the PGA, which you will find in the web page <>.

The fact that this call for action takes place on line with PGA also has
other implications:

* We are calling ONLY for non-violent direct actions. Non-violence in this
context means that we should respect all (non-genetically modified)
living beings, including policemen and the people who work for these TNCs
* The campaign will take place in a decentralised manner, and nobody
should speak on behalf of other people involved in the campaign without
their consent (also not on behalf of PGA, of course); however, people are
welcome to report about the actions of others without pretending to
represent them.

If you want to be informed of what is going on around the world on this
matter, please send a message to •••@••.••• with the message
"subscribe pga-ge" (sans quotes) on the text body. This way you will be
informed about what is going on in India and in other countries.

Please, try not to write back to this address, since we will be madly busy
in the next days with the mobilisations. However, if you have good
contacts with international media (CNN, BBC, TV5, etc) and want to help us
to get them here to cover the bonfire at Monsanto please let us know as
soon as possible.

Friendly greetings,

Prof. Nanjundaswamy
President, Karnataka State Farmers Association


Appendix 1: 'Police Protection to all American Companies in Bangalore
City'; article appeared in _Samykta Karnataka_, November 25/98

Police Protection to all American Companies in Bangalore City

Bangalore Nov. 25th

        It has come to light that the American Ambassador in Dehli has
        written to the Government of the State of Karnataka asking to
        provide a strong police protection to all American companies in
        the city.

        Pointing out the previous repeated attacks on American companies
        by 'miscreants', the Ambassador has requested the State Government
        to create an atmosphere without fear and anxiety for them to work.

        He has stressed the need for a special security for companies
        related to science and technology and also the their hundreds of
        foreign companies in the city.

                Tight Security for Monsanto

        Anticipating attack on the offices of Monsanto in Bangalore,
        tight security has been provided from today, top police sources

        Police have said in their note that they are providing security
        for the company owning the Terminator Technology and having the
        right to sell seeds which do not germinate for the second time. In
        a city where most of the TNCs are based, the present developments
        have made them to work with fear and anxiety.

(Translated from Kannada)


Appendix 2: Monsanto under siege in India; message sent on 23rd November

Dear friends,

On Monday the 16th the public was informed by Indian newspapers that
Monsanto (well known in India for the Terminator Technology) has been
conducting 40 field trials with genetically manipulated cotton across five
Indian states for the last three months. Monsanto is testing a hybrid
cotton seed that has been genetically engineered to produce the Bacillus
thuringiensis (Bt) enzyme. The permission granted by the federal
government in Delhi pertains the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andrah
Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. 

Now that peoples' movements are starting to mobilise on this matter, the
same central government that granted the permission is inviting Monsanto
to leave the country. Monsanto has formed a joint venture with Mahyco (a
30 years old seed company) to carry out these field trails. According to
the media, Monsanto now owns 26 percent of Mahyco. 

In the rest of the message I include some excerpts of the newspaper
coverage of this affair. We will keep you informed of the developments in
this part of the world, which will most probably include a number of
nonviolent direct actions to burn down the genetically modified crops and
kick Monsanto physically out of the country. We encourage you to do
similar actions all over the world. Maybe we can make Monsanto's
shareholders feel our pressure reflected on the value of their stocks. 

Friendly greetings,

Prof. Nanjundaswamy
President, Karnataka State Farmers Association


Curiously, though agriculture is a state subject, Karnataka Government
seems unaware of the trials going on in the State. Agriculture Minister C.
Byre Gowda admitted that he had been informed of the ongoing trials but
was unaware of where they were being undertaken in Karnataka or in
(The Indian Express, Bangalore edition, cover page, 16th November)

The trials started three months ago but the Ministry of Science and
Technology has admitted that it does not have the requisite regulatory
regimen to assess the risk of dealing with such transgenic material for
which biosafety guidelines have only now been issued. 
(The Indian Express, Bangalore edition, cover page, 18th November).

In that sense, the University of Agriculture Science (UAS) Bangalore
warned that 'The genetic modification involved in geneticlly engineered
hybrid seeds is a concealed one that cannot be ascertained with existing
regulations of the seed act and quarantine.' (ibid.)

B.R. Hedge, Director of Research at UAS, affirmed that "The Indian Council
for Agricultural Research (ICAR) was only now starting to look at ways
which regulatory mechnisms should be put in place to check the clandestine
import of such genetic material. Nevertheless, for the moment we have
nothing ready." 
(The Indian Express, Bangalore edition, page 9, 18th November)

'The KRRS has issued a deadline to the State Government and Monsanto to
disclose the places where the trials are being conducted and the exact
description of the seeds that are being tested. "Monsanto should reveal
immediately where the trials are being conducted"; failing which "direct
action would follow on the company's office in Malleswaram"; he
[Prof. Nanjundaswamy] threatened. "The government can foist 100 cases of
attempt to murder [against us], but we will throw it [Monsanto] out...
first from Karnataka; next from Maharashtra." 

'The former professor of law wondered how the State's Agriculture Minister
could be unaware of the trials. "The Government cannot continue for three
minutes considering its irresponsible behaviour", he said.'
(The Indian Express, Bangalore edition, page 4, 20th November)

'"Monsanto will have to leave the country within a week. Otherwise we will
be forced to throw them out. We have given a day's ultimatum to the
company to furnish details about the seed trials undertaken in the state
and the country."' 
(Prof. Nanjundasway in The Times of India, Bangalore edition, page 5, 20th

Although the field trials are testing BT cotton, the Indian press and
politicians seem to be rather confused and are mixing up this issue with
the Terminator technology, which has been used by opponents of Monsanto as
an example of the destructive potential of this corporation. However, this
confusion is making it easier for Monsanto to reject any accusation by
denying the use of this technology. Here are some statements about this
issue taken from the last days' press.

"Second and Third World markets are the main targets for the Terminator
seed." William Phelps, Spokesman, Department of Agriculture, USA (quoted
in The Indian Express, Bangalore edition, cover page, 18 November)

'It is not merely the economic factors that threaten the poor farmers of
the world, but it is the nature of the Terminator gene itself, since the
pollen from the crops carrying the Terminator will infect the fields of
farmers who either reject, or cannot afford the technology.'
(UAS, quoted in The Indian Express, Bangalore edition, cover page,

"This is a terminator of biodiversity, terminator of food security. It is
a damaging technology because pollination pollution can render all
indigenous varieties sterile. This gene will slowly remove all
characteristics of germination from seeds. This means the harvest seeds
cannot be used for sowing during the next season. It will also force seed
dependency on farmers who cannot afford to buy seeds. Monoculture was
introduced in the country in 1965 with an aim to provide food security. 
When Green Revolution Technology introduced monoculture it was thought the
method would be very effective. Terminatorgene is being dubbed as a second
Green Revolution Technology. This, too, will prove ineffective. 

"Genetically modified seeds are polluting the local species. It will not
solve the food problem, in fact it will terminate food security along with
(Prof. Nanjundaswamy, quoted in The Times of India, Bangalore edition,
page 5, 20th November)

The sincerity of Monsanto can be easily assessed by the usual roguish
reply it gave to the critics: 'Monsanto will only bring to India, products
and technologies which are consistent with what India wants and its laws
aprove.... Monsanto has not, and will not, bring to India any technology
that will adversely affect the environment, current agricuture practices
and force farmers to use any technology it provides.'
(Monsanto statement quoted in Deccan Herald, Bangalore edition, page 9,
21th November)

'Yesterday the Union Minister for Rural Development, Babagouda Patil,
declared that "Monsanto will be asked to leave India". He said that he
received Information that Monsanto is developing and conducting field
trials on the 'Terminator' seeds at a private farm in Ranebennur taluk of
Haveri district. "I have informed the Prime Minister and Union Agriculture
Minister", he said. 

'He said he knew the complications arising out of the issue due to WTO
stipulations. "But the government will not compromise on this issue as
scores of farmers' lives will be in danger. The Terminator gene seed will
pose a serious threat to Indian agriculture". 

'The Union cabinet is expected to deliberate on the issue besides
initiating measures to close Monsanto's buisness operations in the
country... Patil said that the Center would not hesitate to withdraw from
the WTO "if its provisions threaten our very existence".' 
(The Times of India, Bangalore edition, page 5, 23rd November)