MUMBAI, India, October 1, 2004 (ENS):
Six Greenpeace activists chained themselves to the Mumbai
headquarters of Bayer Crop Science Thursday, displaying
banners with the words "Bayer poisons our food."
The activists were demonstrating to draw attention to
genetically engineered crop trials conducted by the
company on popular food crops including cabbage and
"The Department of Biotechnology has disclosed
that Pro Agro, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bayer, has
conducted field trials of cabbage and cauliflower genetically
modified with the controversial Cry9C gene," said
Divya Raghunandan, genetic engineering campaigner for
"Considering the high risks to human health associated
with this particular gene, Greenpeace is concerned about
the implications for consumers, including the farmers
that will grow these crops, and we are demanding that
the company stop all research using the Cry9C gene and
makes all information related to these field trials
open to public scrutiny."
After 11 hours in chains, the activists unchained themselves
after securing a written statement of the company’s
stand, an appointment with company officials for October
6, and an assurance that their questions would be answered.
The official response from Bayer first states that
it "has never done trials involving Cry9C”
and then states, “These trials were conducted
in a contained environment and were harvested well before
Although the activists ended their protest, they did
so only after unfurling another banner stating "Bayer
is a Liar," in response to the company's statement.
“The apathy and indifference of this company
is unbelievable!” said Raghunandan. “They
took 11 hours to eventually respond with half-truths
and a logically inconsistent statement. This statement
only vindicates our stand that we are dealing with an
irresponsible corporation with many skeletons to hide.”
The Cry9C gene protein is a suspected human allergen.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged
this risk and refused to certify a version of corn genetically
modified with this gene as fit for human consumption.
Cry9C modified corn, owned by a subsidiary of Bayer
Crop Science, Aventis, was marketed in the United States
under the brand name StarLink for animal feed and industrial
purposes. In September 2000, StarLink was found in corn
taco shells and other human foods, and some 300 corn
products had to be withdrawn from the market.
Greenpeace India is demanding that Bayer answers critical
questions on their genetic field trials. The activists
want to know why Bayer is using the same gene implicated
in the Starlink to feed people in India.
They want Bayer to state what bio-safety and health
safety assessments, if any, have been conducted and
what were the results.
And the activists want Bayer to tell them what the
company did with the genetically modified plants, seeds
and produce from these field trials. "How can they
assure us that these have not already entered the food
chain?" the Greenpeacers ask.
Greenpeace says it became alarmed about Cry9C in March
2003, when a food aid shipment from two U.S. based aid
agencies - CARE and Catholic Relief Services - was suspected
of being contaminated with StarLink corn.
Responding to the warnings issued by the Indian Council
of Medical Research, and an alert sounded by concerned
organizations, India's Genetic Engineering Approval
Committee took a stand against the shipment, and demanded
that the United States and the aid agencies provide
certification for each consignment of corn-soya blend
stating that it did not contain StarLink.
Since none of the agencies were willing to certify
this, the entire shipment was rejected.
Cry9C is one of a family of crystalline (Cry) endotoxin
proteins produced by Bacillusthuringiensis (Bt), a naturally
occurring soil bacterium. The Cry endotoxin disrupts
the digestive systems of pests attacking genetically
modified crops and kills them. Unlike other Cry proteins,
Cry9C is heat-stable and also resistant to degradation
in gastric juices.
Bayer is one of the leading agro-chemical companies
of the world, holding 22 percent of the market share
in the Indian pesticides industry with 52 products.
"Bayer is the undisputed leader in the crop protection
business in India," the company says. The company
has biotech laboratories in Gurgaon and Hyderabad where
genetic markers, DNA finger printers and other tested
techniques are used to provide support to the company’s
plant breeding efforts.
Proagro has established seed production centers in four
states and plans to develop production centers in other
states as well, the company says.
Bayer prides itself on its reputation as a sustainable
company. "At Bayer, sustainability is an integral
part of corporate policy, with economy, ecology and
social responsibility being accorded equal importance
in all of the company’s activities worldwide,"
the company stated on September 20, to mark its selection
to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the sixth
Greenpeace is not impressed. “Bayer is a repeat
offender as far as poisoning our food goes,” said
Doreen Stabinsky, a scientific advisor with Greenpeace
“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," said Stabinsky. "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 U.S. for human consumption."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All