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Monsanto refutes Greenpeace on GM corn safety

Posted on Jan 31, 07:54PM | IBNS

New Delhi, Jan 31 : Reacting to a Greenpeace report on flaws in Genetically Modified corn biosafety assessment process in India, US biotech giant Monsanto on Thursday said the company has been conducting biosafety research trials with regulatory approvals and would submit all safety data to the Indian regulators at the time of seeking approval for its release in the country.

"We have been conducting biosafety research trials with Regulatory approvals and will be submitting safety data generated in India at the time of applying for approval of our corn seeds with in-the-seed insect protection and herbicide-tolerance for weed management for farmers' access and choice, as part of the Regulatory process," the India spokesperson of Monsanto told IBNS.

"The safety studies submitted over the years are in accordance with requirements of the Indian Regulatory process developed by RCGM and Min. of Environment and Forests. Several safety studies conducted in parallel to the field studies will be submitted to the Regulator," the spokesperson said.

Greenpeace has said that an independent scientific analysis released by them in India has exposed major flaws in the Genetically Modified (GM) corn biosafety assessment process by the regulatory bodies in India.

Greenpeace India also asked Testbiotech, an independent research agency, to assess data presented by Monsanto, to the Indian authorities 'for biosafety tests prior to commercial approval' of its GM corn variety.

Monsanto said "in reality it has not only rigorously followed established biosafety norms as laid down by various regulatory authorities, it has also complied with all the requests for information made by the Department of Biotechnology and the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee."

Monsanto said "the safety of our corn seeds with in-the-seed insect protection and herbicide-tolerance for weed management for farmers has been evaluated and approved for farmer cultivation in Canada, Brazil, Philippines, South Africa, United States and Uruguay; and import approvals in Japan, Korea, Mexico and Taiwan. "

"Additionally, standalone our corn seeds with in-the-seed insect protection are approved for farmer planting in Argentina, Brazil, USA, Canada and Japan; while Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the European Union (EU), Japan, Korea, Philippines and Taiwan have approved it for food and feed consumption.

"And our standalone corn seeds with in-the-seed herbicide-tolerance for weed management for farmers are approved for farmer planting in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Philippines, South Africa and United States, while Australia, China, Colombia, El Salvador, European Union, Korea, Mexico, Philippines and Taiwan have approved it for food and feed consumption, said the spokesperson.

Greenpeace earlier said the stacked gene GM corn (MON89034xNK603 ) with bacterial genes for pest resistance and herbicide tolerance leads the GM crop approval pipeline and has been released into fields several times in the past 4 years in the name of field trials .

The biosafety and field trials data of the said GM corn data was accessed by Greenpeace through RTI procedures from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which is the nodal agency for all environmental releases of GMOs in India.

The RTI exercise also saw the CPIO of DBT being reprimanded by the Appellate Authority for providing wrong information to the applicant.

"On one hand the GM regulatory system in our country tries to hide crucial public information like the biosafety data of GM crops and on the other hand allows open field trials of them, which can lead to contamination of our food and seed supply chain. These field trials have been permitted for the last 4 years without biosafety studies being completed," said Shivani Shah, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace India.

Greenpeace said according to the response received from DBT, these trials were permitted based on biosafety data generated by Monsanto itself in its labs in USA.

Greenpeace India demanded Union Environment and Forests Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, under whom sits the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), to stop all open releases of GM crops, including those for field trials.