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Activists say authority protecting Mahyco-Monsanto which used indigenous brinjal varieties to develop India's first genetically modified crop
The Karnataka Biodiversity Board (KBB) has washed its hands of the Bt brinjal biopiracy controversy, saying the matter comes under the purview of the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA). Bt brinjal made headlines when it was found that Mahyco, partner of US biotech giant Monsanto, had developed Bt brinjal using 12 indigenous varieties of the vegetable, accessed from various states, including Karnataka. These indigenous brinjal varieties were used without approval, which is a violation of the Biodiversity Act of 2002.
In its meeting held on January 20, KBB said the national authority will take necessary action against institutions/companies regarding alleged violations of provisions of the Biodiversity Act. A KBB member said the decision was left to NBA for two reasons: “First, the permission for the project had come from Government of India; second, it involves institutes in different states like Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. So NBA is the right authority to decide the matter. It will be premature to comment what KBB will do. We will decide our next action after NBA’s directions,” he said on condition of anonymity.
The Bt brinjal biopiracy was brought to the notice of government authorities by Bengaluru-based non-profit Environment Support Group (ESG). It said that Mahyco along with its collaborators, University of Agricultural Sciences in Dharwad, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore, Indian Institute of Vegetable Research in Lucknow and others had willfully violated the provisions of the Act.
In its report to NBA dated May 28, 2011, KBB had said that six local varieties for development of Bt Brinjal have been accessed from Karnataka by Mahyco and their collaborators “without prior approval from state biodiversity board”.
ESG coordinator Leo F Saldanha says, “the resolution passed by KBB is illegal. It aims at sheltering Monsanto/Mahyco from charges of biopiracy and is tantamount to absolute abandonment of the obligatory function to prosecute violators of the Biodiversity Act.” He demanded that the resolution must immediately be reversed.