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 cauliflower.
"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 Greenpeace India.
"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 flowering.”
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some 300 corn products had to be withdrawn from the market.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
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
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
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 straight year.
Greenpeace is not impressed. “Bayer is a repeat offender
as far as poisoning our food goes,” said Doreen Stabinsky,
a scientific advisor with 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," 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 Rights Reserved.