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The Ecologist, 13th July, 2009

Bayer clamps down on GM rice protest in India

Campaigners in India are facing charges including trespassing and criminal intimidation following a protest last month against genetically modified rice being trialled by Bayer BioScience

Pharmaceuticals giant Bayer BioScience is pressing charges against protesters in India following an anti-GM demonstration last month.

Thirty-five individuals were arrested on 22 June after five Greenpeace volunteers cordoned off a field of GM rice in the village of Chinna Kanjarla, Hyderabad, planting scarecrows and ‘biohazard’ signs.

The charges include trespassing, causing damage and 'criminal intimidation'. Some of those arrested included members of the public and press. Greenpeace claims the field trial is a violation of an assurance it received from Bayer in 2004 that GM research in India had been halted.

‘The charges are clearly a move to silence any opposition to the unrestrained release of risky GM crops into our food chain,’ said Jai Krishna, sustainable agriculture campaigner with Greenpeace India.

‘Citizens have the right to protest against unhealthy and hazardous GM food trials. If disobeying the law can stop GM rice from contaminating our rich rice biodiversity then so be it, we will do it again. The rights of farmers to save their seeds and the rights of consumers to have safe food is more important than a company’s profits.’

With its lax laws on genetic modification, biotech corporations see India as an ideal testing ground for their products.

The Indian government has confirmed plans to release 170 GM varieties in 41 different crops, among them more than 25 varieties of GM rice. Scientists at the University of Caen, France, have already said the release of Bt brinjal (aubergine) should be forbidden, as it ‘presents a serious risk for human and animal health’.

Farmers and food campaigners also point to the deaths of hundreds of sheep and goats in Warangal district, thought to have died as a result of eating stalks and leaves from GM cotton.

A further protest outside Patancheru police station today was designed to highlight the issue of GM trials in India.

Actor and activist Amala Akkineni said it was 'an honour to be part of a just battle'.

‘The father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi led by example and showed that some citizen rights are not to be negotiated,' she said. 'The right to safe food is one of them. We must demand from our government to be responsible and be on the side of citizens. I don’t think anyone in Hyderabad wants GM biriyani.'

Greenpeace Press release

Volunteers, Amla join Greenpeace to court arrest

Call on Jairam Ramesh to protect rice from Bayer contamination

Hyderabad, 10 July 2009: 3 weeks after the direct action taken by volunteers on the hazardous GM rice field trials in Chinna Kanjarla village of Patancheru, Greenpeace activists along with noted actor and social rights activist Amala Akkineni, courted arrest at the Patancheru Police station today. “What would Gandhi have done?” asked Jai krisha announcing the launch of a campaign against Bayer’s GM rice field trials.
Among those volunteering to court arrest Amala said ‘The Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi led by example and showed that some citizen rights are not to be negotiated. The right to safe food is one of them. We must demand from our government to be responsible and be on the side of citizens. It is an honour to be a part of a just battle. I don’t think anyone in Hyderabad wants GM briyani’
On July 22, five Greenpeace volunteers cordoned off a genetically modified (GM) rice field trial of Bayer Bio Science and planted scare crows and painted the words ‘Bio Hazard” on it. Greenpeace was officially informed a week later that Bayer has indeed pressed unwarranted charges over 35 individuals, including the general public and media who were present in the vicinity. The charges against the activists are trespassing, causing damage and even criminal intimidation (under Sec. 427, 447, 506 read along with 34 of the Indian Penal Code).
“This is clearly a move to silence any opposition to the unrestrained release of risky GM crops into our food chain. Citizens have the right to protest against unhealthy and hazardous GM food trials. If disobeying the law can stop GM rice from contaminating our rich rice biodiversity then so be it, we will do it again. The rights of farmers to save their seeds and the rights of consumers to have safe food is more important than a company’s profits” said Jai Krishna.
Safety tests were done on Bt brinjal and assessed recently, about which Dr. Gilles Eric Seralini, from the University Of Caen, France said “that Bt brinjal present a serious risk for human and animal health and the release should be forbidden”. The reports of death of hundreds of sheep and goats in Warangal district was also linked to the consumption of Bt cotton stalks and leaves. There has been no clear scientific evidence so far disproving the observations of the farmers and shepherds.
Official information from the government has confirmed that there are plans to release about 170 GM varieties of GM food grains in 41 different crops. Rice is the most researched crops and more than 25 varities of GM rice are being experimented.

June 22, 2009

Greenpeace alerts nation that Indian Rice is in danger

Hyderabad, India - Greenpeace activists today raided a genetically modified (GM) rice field trial of Bayer Crop Science in a company-owned research farm in the village of Chinnakanjarla, about 45 kilometers from Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. 10 activists planted 5 scare crows and painted the words 'Bio Hazard" and held the message "Bayer, Hands off our Rice" in English. They also painted the universal warning symbol for bio-hazard on the field.
The 1440 sq meter Chinnakanjarla field is growing herbicide tolerant rice, which requires farmers to buy Bayer's herbicide Glufosinate, a chemical that has been banned and is to be phased out in Europe due to its hazardous nature. Glufosinate (trade name Basta in India and Liberty in the EU and USA) is classified in the EU as toxic for reproduction, category 2 (R2) it is teratogenic meaning it can also causes birth defects.

In 2004, Bayer had written to Greenpeace stating that they had discontinued GM research in India. "The current field trial is a clear violation of the statement made to us", said Jai krishna, Greenpeace Sustainable Agriculture campaigner. "It is a scandal that there is no data available on the rice's bio-safety even after repeated requests by Greenpeace to the authorities under the 'Right to Information' Act,'' he added.

"The union minister for environment, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, has gone on record that his ministry would not encourage GM food crops (1). We have pointed out the hazard and it is now his responsibility to curb the herbicide and keep our fields safe" said Jai Krishna.

In 2007, India declared a ban on GM rice field trials in 3 states of the Basmati-rice export zone. This came after European Union and other countries rejected imports of rice contaminated with unauthorized GM strains of Bayer (2).

"India has the most to lose when untested GM rice such as the one experimented by Bayer will lead to serious contamination of other non GM rice, (3). To protect the Indian farmer our minister must protect our fields from such GM trials and save the robust export market"(4).

Volunteers installed a warning sign declaring the area contaminated and a bio hazard zone and gave away information brochures to the locals on the dangerous experiments the company is conducting in the midst of their farm lands.

more information on Bayer GM Rice:
=> Reject Bayer's application to import genetically modified rice into the EU
=> Bishop warns v. consumption of genetically enhanced rice
=> BAYER URGED TO QUIT GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD