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KEYCODE BAYER #166

15 November 2004

Bayer pulls out of Genetic Engineering Research in India

Admits to Greenpeace the Future is in 'Conventional' Breeding.

In an admission of immense significance to the entire genetic engineering (GE) industry, Bayer Crop Science has conceded to Greenpeace India that all its projects on genetically engineered (GE) crops have been 'discontinued.' This admission is a direct result of a protracted direct action by Greenpeace at the Bayer headquarters in Mumbai on 30th September 2004. In a letter sent to Greenpeace last week, Aloke V. Pradhan, head of Corporate Communications states Bayer's future plans for India, "Overall, Bayer Crop Science India will continue to focus in the coming years on its conventional plant breeding research programme."

"We don't need genetically engineered crops to feed India," said Divya Raghunandan, genetic engineering campaigner for Greenpeace India. "Around the world, in fact, the promises made by the genetic engineering industry have been unfulfilled, whether of increasing crop yields or reducing pesticide use." (see footnote 1) She continued, "It doesn't surprise us that Bayer is giving up GE experiments in India. They saw the writing on the wall - the Indian public was not going to accept their manipulated cabbages and cauliflowers - and they cut their losses. It's time for the rest of the industry to give up on this misguided and inappropriate technology."

The significance of this pull-out for Bayer, and indeed the entire genetic engineering industry, cannot be overestimated. In the second largest country in the world, with 80% of the population involved in agriculture, the Indian market for agro-chemical and seed companies is enormous. This retreat follows two decisions that set Bayer back earlier this year. In March 2004, the company announced they would be pulling out of GE crop research in the UK. A few months later, in June, Bayer announced they would not pursue commercialization of GE canola in Australia. Bayer's letter to Greenpeace India concedes that research into engineered cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, tomato and mustard seed has all been halted.

Bayer's withdrawal from GE research around the world is part of a larger pattern of retreat in the global biotechnology industry. For example, in a high profile turn-around, Monsanto globally abandoned genetically engineered wheat research earlier this year. The company also shelved its Australian work on genetically engineered canola one month prior to a similar decision by Bayer.

"It is clear that popular resistance to genetic engineering is not diminishing as the industry had hoped it would," said Doreen Stabinsky, GE campaigner for Greenpeace International. "No matter what country we're talking about, consumers are on the same page. They don't want to eat genetically engineered food. That's good news for farmers and good news for the environment."

November 15, 2004, Greenpeace India

Giving up on GE: Greenpeace exposes truth about Bayer's 'Crop Science'

Bangalore, India — In an admission of immense significance to the entire genetic engineering (GE) industry, Bayer Crop Science has conceded to Greenpeace India that all its projects on genetically engineered (GE) crops have been ‘discontinued.’ This admission is a direct result of a protracted direct action by Greenpeace at the Bayer headquarters in Mumbai on 30th September 2004.

In a letter sent to Greenpeace last week, Aloke V. Pradhan, head of Corporate Communications states Bayer’s future plans for India, “Overall, Bayer Crop Science India will continue to focus in the coming years on its conventional plant breeding research programme.” The significance of this pull-out for Bayer, and indeed the entire genetic engineering industry, cannot be overestimated. In the second largest country in the world, with 80% of the population involved in agriculture, the Indian market for agro-chemical and seed companies is enormous. This retreat follows two decisions that set Bayer back earlier this year.

In March 2004, the company announced they would be pulling out of GE crop research in the UK. A few months later, in June, Bayer announced they would not pursue commercialization of GE canola in Australia. Bayer’s letter to Greenpeace India concedes that research into engineered cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, tomato and mustard seed has all been halted.

Earlier this year, after persistent campaigning by Greenpeace, the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) was forced to share information on what genetically modified crops were being experimented with in the country. This information revealed, much to our amazement, that ProAgro (a subsidiary of Bayer Crop Science) was granted permission to conduct field trials of cauliflower and cabbage genetically modified (GM) with the controversial Cry9C gene.
The Cry9C gene is considered to be high-risk because of its potential to provoke allergic reactions. Possible physiological reactions to the gene include swelling, rashes and respiratory distress. In acknowledgement of this risk to human health, the United States certified that the genetically engineered 'Starlink' corn, which contained the Cry9C gene, was unfit for human consumption and restricted its use to animal feed.
Bayer – No Stranger to Cry9C Woes 'Starlink' corn was developed and sold by Aventis, a subsidiary of Bayer Crop Science. In 2000, traces of the Cry9C gene were found in several food products made from corn – clearly indicating that Starlink corn had contaminated, and got mixed up with, corn intended for human consumption. In a massive disaster-management exercise that cost Aventis a whopping $100 million in product recalls and lawsuits, more than 300 corn products had to be taken off supermarket shelves.

In the wake of this disaster, several countries refused to accept corn originating in the United States – including the government of India rejecting a food aid shipment because of the high risk of it being contaminated by Starlink.
Considering the history of the Cry9C gene, Greenpeace confronted Bayer with some fairly basic questions about their experiments:
1. When Cry9C has been certified as unfit for human consumption, why did Bayer want to bring it into Indian food crops like cabbage and cauliflower?
2. Did Bayer conduct the field trial experiments that it had sought and received approval for? If yes, where were these experiments conducted? And if not, why did it abandon its plans after seeking permission?
3. What bio-safety and health safety assessments, if any, were conducted and what were the results of the same?
4. What did Bayer do with the hazardous genetic material – plants, seeds and produce – from these field trials? Can they prove that these have not already entered the food chain?

Bayer responds; contradicts itself even as it spins further untruths.
On 30th September, eleven hours after the Greenpeace protest began, Bayer issued an official statement that first proclaims that Bayer "has never done trials involving Cry9C" but then reassures us that, "These trials were conducted in a contained environment and were harvested well before flowering." As Divya Raghunandan, Greenpeace India’s GM campaigner pointed out, "This logically inconsistent statement with its half truths only vindicates our stand that we are dealing with an irresponsible corporation with many skeletons to hide."

One Week Later, Bayer continues Stonewalling 'What do You Have to Hide?' Asks Greenpeace
Five days later, at a meeting organized at their request, Bayer officials once again said they were unable to provide the basic information we had asked for. They shrugged off the evidence from the DBT (on their Cry9C experiments) saying it was based on ‘historical’ data, but refused to respond to any further questions. When we persisted with questions on the other GM crops they are associated with (including a GM Mustard, for which Bayer had sought approval for commercialization in 2002 – a request that was denied), they asked us to ‘send them’ our questions yet again and asked for more time to respond.
"Bayer is a repeat offender as far as poisoning our food goes," says Doreen Stabinsky, Scientific Advisor, Greenpeace International. "Greenpeace has already exposed their double standards with relation to the production and sale of Class I pesticides that they have discontinued in their home country; Bayer is again trying to poison Indians, by using a gene that's been shown to be unsafe in the rest of the world and banned in the US for human consumption." Determinedly Seeking Answers While both Bayer and the DBT evade Greenpeace questions on GM crops and experiments in our country, we will continue to campaign for concrete answers.
As Divya Raghunandan says, “It is unacceptable that multinational companies, in reckless pursuit of profits can play havoc with the people and environment of our country, while regulatory bodies like the DBT profess ignorance.” “We don’t need genetically engineered crops to feed India,” said Divya Raghunandan, “Around the world, in fact, the promises made by the genetic engineering industry have been unfulfilled, whether of increasing crop yields or reducing pesticide use. It doesn’t surprise us that Bayer is giving up GE experiments in India. They saw the writing on the wall – the Indian public was not going to accept their manipulated cabbages and cauliflowers – and they cut their losses. It’s time for the rest of the industry to give up on this misguided and inappropriate technology.”
“It is clear that popular resistance to genetic engineering is not diminishing as the industry had hoped it would,” said Doreen Stabinsky, “No matter what country we’re talking about, consumers are on the same page. They don’t want to eat genetically engineered food. That’s good news for farmers and good news for the environment.”