India plans legal action against Monsanto for 'illegally' developing Bt brinjal

The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) will take legal action against US major Monsanto and Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co (Mahyco) for using local varieties of brinjals for developing a genetically-modified version of the eggplant without the necessary approvals.

The NBA had in 2009 given the go-ahead for development of GM brinjals, but months later, following stringent opposition from environmentalists, the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh slapped a moratorium on cultivation of the modified brinjal.

Environment Support Group (ESG), Bangalore-based NGO, last year filed a complaint, accusing Monsanto and Mahyco of violating the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, by using local varieties of brinjal while developing the GM version, without getting the NBA's approval.

Mahyco, in which Monsanto has a 26-per cent stake, claims that it had incorporated the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene in the samples provided by the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, in Karnataka. The technology was also provided 'royalty-free,' to the university, it says.

The university claims that there was no question of violating the law, as it was a public institution and not a commercial venture.

The NBA at a meeting in June took up the complaint of the ESG and decided to initiate legal action against Monsanto and its Indian partner, Mahyco. "It was decided that the NBA may proceed legally against Mahyco / Monsanto, and all others concerned to take the issue to its logical conclusion," the authority declared after the June meeting.