US biotech firm Monsanto had put a variety of genetically modified maize on trial without permission and India's biotech regulatory panel overlooked the violation, according to facts accessed under RTI, a leading anti-GM body has said.
Such violations could queer the pitch for the biotech giant and sharpen criticism that it pays scant regards to rules, even though Indian farmers have widely taken to its variety of BT cotton, which has helped raise yields by 31%.
An RTI query revealed that Monsanto planted herbicide-tolerant maize, called "NK603", illegally inside the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, even though approval was granted only for HT/Bt maize, which is a hybrid of two Bt genes, "MON89034" and herbicide tolerant line "NK603".
Monsanto did not respond to queries from the HT.
The violation was detected during routine monitoring by the Directorate of Maize Research, tasked with supervising level-II trials of GM maize in the country, the Coalition for a GM-Free India said.
In his field report of May 5, 2011, the designated supervisor noted: "Before planting NK603 event treatment in future, permission from competent authority may be obtained."
"Monsanto's illegal planting was known to the regulator, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) as the information was obtained through RTI from it, but it chose not to look into the matter pro-actively," alleged Kavitha Kuruganti, a member of the anti-GM coalition.