SkepticblogSkepticblog logo banner

top navigation:

India Sues Monsanto for…Biopiracy?

by Brian Dunning, Dec 29 2011

In September and October of 2011, anti-GMO blogs began trumpeting the news that India was suing Monsanto for “biopiracy” (an example). The term biopiracy is something of a weasel word; all it means is the practice of finding useful chemical compounds in plants or animals located in other countries for research purposes, usually for developing new drug therapies based on native plants. Nearly all pharmaceutical companies do this, no matter what country they’re located in. When some group wishes to portray this negatively, it’s called biopiracy.

As you may know, I am a huge proponent of the technology of genetic engineering of crops (full disclaimer). Compared to old-school, trial-and-error cross pollination, GMO is like using a word processor instead of a manual typewriter. It’s the difference between a plant that’s naturally resistant to pests and naturally able to thrive in the native conditions, versus a plant that must be doused with expensive pesticides and fertilizers. So I wanted to know the true story behind these headlines.

It goes all the way back to 1964, when the Maharashta Hybrid Company (Mahyco) was founded with the same Rockefeller money that created the International Rice Research Institute in Asia, whose products now feed most of the world. Located in Mumbai, Mahyco developed a successful Pusa Sawani Okra, still a staple product, and has been a principal developer of crops specialized for India ever since.

In 1998, Monsanto acquired a 26% stake in Mahyco, which they still own today.

In 2003, India passed the Biological Diversity Act of 2002 which, among other things, established regulations governing the sources of genes used in biotech research. In reality, the BDA was a thinly-veiled line drawn in the sand to discourage foreign companies from doing research on Indian varieties without paying major licensing fees.

But Mahyco is not, and never was, a foreign company. They’re big on eggplant, which has long been a major crop throughout India. There it’s called brinjal, where crops suffer terribly from butterflies and moths, requiring expensive pesticides that Indian farmers can’t always afford. Mahyco inserted a gene from a soil bacterium into brinjal, creating what they called Bt brinjal. Bt brinjal proved highly resistant to the pests, and was formally approved by India’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in October 2009. It was India’s very first genetically modified crop.

Then, in 2010, GMO opponents in India pressured the government to delay its release. The environment minister announced a moratorium on its release, pending further study of possible environmental effects, even though such studies had already been completed. And so the pest resistant Bt brinjal has sat on Mahyco’s shelves, and Indian farmers have had to continue spraying pesticides.

The other shoe dropped in October 2011, when India’s National Biodiversity Authority decided to sue Mahyco and its much better known (and deeper pocketed) minority stakeholder Monsanto. The allegation is that Mahyco violated the BDA by not obtaining proper authorization for collecting the bacterium from which the crucial gene in Bt brinjal was drawn. In fact Mahyco did not collect this gene; it was provided by the University of Agricultural Sciences at Dharwad, royalty free. So although the lawsuit is not likely to succeed, it is likely to be lengthy and expensive, and has refocused attention on the biotech industry in one of the world’s hungriest countries.

GMO opponents in India like Gangula Ramanjaneyulu, director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, express enthusiasm over the lawsuit:

This is a victory for India’s food sovereignty, preserving the control of seeds and food in the hands of our farmers and consumers instead of a few multinational corporations like Monsanto.

But Indian scientists are less thrilled. Govindarajan Padmanabhan from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore:

Our national labs have all the genes for rice improvement, we do not need Monsanto. The moratorium will actually affect the indigenous effort [to create GM crops that could feed India's rapidly growing population].

Shanthu Shantharam, a biotechnology consultant in the United States:

I am simply appalled that NBA’s lawyers have given such a poor advice for it to prosecute the developers of Bt brinjal. By this reckoning, all genetic improvements done so far to develop all these local varieties and hybrids would also constitute a violation of the biodiversity act, which is absurd.

Ananda Kumar, project director for plant biotechnology at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in New Delhi:

We have no less than ten GM products to get into the regulatory system for trials — including brinjal, chickpea, sorghum, sugar cane, castor [oil plant], rice and potato — that took 15 years to develop and a lot of money. All scientists associated with these projects are disillusioned.

So that’s what actually happened, if you’re wondering what’s behind the “Monsanto Biopirated India” headlines. Somehow I don’t foresee these same activists charging their favorite superfruit and nutraceutical importers with biopiracy, but that’s another subject for another time.

Main sources:

81 Responses to “India Sues Monsanto for…Biopiracy?”

  1. Max says:

    “The allegation is that Mahyco violated the BDA by not obtaining proper authorization for collecting the bacterium from which the crucial gene in Bt brinjal was drawn.”

    The allegation is that they “pirated” the local brinjal, not the bacterium.
    “The extraordinary decision by NBA is based on a complaint filed last year by the Bangalore-based Environment Support Group (ESG), alleging that the developers violated India’s Biological Diversity Act of 2002 by using local brinjal varieties in developing Bt Brinjal without prior approval from NBA.”

  2. Max says:

    “In fact Mahyco did not collect this gene; it was provided by the University of Agricultural Sciences at Dharwad, royalty free.”

    That’s what Mahyco claims, and I can’t tell who provided what royalty free.
    “While Monsanto has not responeded to the charge, the Maharashtra Hybrid Company (Mahyco) in Mumbai, in which Monsanto has a 26% stake, has denied the charge saying it merely incorporated the Bt gene in the varieties provided by the University of Agricultural Sciences at Dharwad in Karnataka state and provided the technology ‘royalty free’. For its part, the university says the question of violating the law did not arise because it is a public institution and has no commercial mandate.”

    I can’t tell if Mahyco provided the GM technology royalty free or if the university provided the local varieties royalty free, but it sounds like someone didn’t obtain some approval.

    • Miles says:

      I can’t tell if Mahyco provided the GM technology royalty free or if the university provided the local varieties royalty free, but it sounds like someone didn’t obtain some approval.

      Max, are you just trying to be throughout, or are you concerned that such approval from the bureaucracy is of vital importance and should halt the cultivation of this seemingly vital food supply until such trivialities can be sorted out?

      • Miles says:

        *Thorough. Sure wish I could edit my posts. :(

      • Max says:

        Trying to be thorough. I thought it might be relevant to the case if, say, approval is not required when the technology is provided royalty free, but it looks more like a red herring. Wesley’s assessment below confirmed that they didn’t obtain the right approval.

      • Max says:

        It’s up to the Indian government, not Mahyco, to decide whether the cultivation is so vital that it shouldn’t be halted.

      • RenegadeSaint says:

        Not if you’re a libertarian…

      • Wrong says:

        @ RenegadeSaint And here comes the trolls. Honestly, what the hell? Are you a dedicated communist or something, having to bring up something that was never mentioned, anywhere?

        If it’s useful, and ethical, and provides a potential benefit to others, then the stopping of the technology by anyone is amoral. It shouldn’t be up to uneducated laypersons, like those against genetic modification, or governments concerned with popularity, to determine that the right thing for those who are starving is to have no food.

  3. Wesley Goodford says:

    A question before I start: is that the original text? I spotted typos.

    The bit they’re getting sued over is Chapter II, paragraph 3:
    (1) No person referred to in sub-section (2) shall, without previous approval of the National Biodiversity Authority, obtain any biological resource occurring in India or knowledge associated thereto for research or for commercial utilization or for bio-survey and bio-utilisation.
    (2) The persons who shall be required to take the approval of the National Biodiversity Authority under sub-section (1) are the following, namely :-
    (a) a person who is not a citizen of India;
    (b) a citizen of India; who is a non-resident as defined in clause (30) of section 243 of 1961of the Income-tax Act, 1961;
    (c) a body corporate, association or organization –
    (i) not incorporated or registered in India; or
    (ii) incorporated or registered in India under any law for the time being in force which has any non-Indian participation in its share capital or management.
    Mahyco licensed a gene from Monsanto (and also used some supporting genes, but all these genes are a red herring) and put it in local Indian eggplant. This happened around 2006 or so; at the time Monsanto had a minority stake in Mahyco. Because of this Mahyco fell under (c)(ii) and since they obtained brinjal and brinjal occurs in India, Mahyco needed approval from the NBA. Mahyco obtained approval from the GEAC but not from the NBA and that is why they’re in court now.

    I personally think the word piracy should be reserved for the kind of thing that goes on Somalian waters, but the law is pretty clear and Mahyco transgressed it. I don’t understand what you mean by ‘thinly-veiled line’ since the law isn’t veiled at all in its intent: India’s flora and fauna are (per the treaty of Rio de Janeiro) considered a heritage of the Indian people and the Indian government has decided that foreigners will need a licence. It says so right on the cover. While I agree that the lawsuit will be lengthy and expensive, my prognosis for the eventual outcome is quite different.

    Incidentally, when reading the law and doing background research I was sickened by the fact that that the Indian government has a Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy. Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds and they have a representative on the NBA.

  4. Trimegistus says:

    Much shorter summary: someone is making money and the government of India wants a cut.

    • Wesley Goodford says:

      The Indian government doesn’t just want a cut, according to international and Indian law they have a right to demand a cut (or even stop Mahyco altogether).
      Whether the treaty of Rio the Janeiro is a good thing is debatable, but it isn’t so different from a country having the right to make money from its oil.

      • Miles says:

        Wesley, it sounds like you are saying “if it’s written in the law, there is nothing to complain about, move on”. Is that accurate?

      • Max says:

        You can complain about the law.
        Do you think that corporations should be free to flout the law to make money as long as they say it’s for your own good?

      • Markx says:

        This is a very good point.

        Often, when doing business in a foreign country, you have to stop and remind yourself that if that is what the law states/requires, that is how it must be done. We are not usually in a position where we can debate or modify another country’s laws.

      • Miles says:

        You can complain about the law.
        Do you think that corporations should be free to flout the law to make money as long as they say it’s for your own good?

        No Max, I do not think that corporations “should be free to flout the law”. However, the result of this situation is that a lot of poor people are not getting access to cheap sources of food because of a small technicality. And it seems like Wesley and yourself are more concerned about the technicality than those people.

        Yes, the law should be respected. But bad laws that restrict developing nations and desperate people from getting access to cheap, abundant food aren’t just “a little bad”, they are tragically bad. They need to be removed, pronto, and they need to step back and let free enterprise do what it does best: raise the standard of living for everyone.

      • Max says:

        All right, then what should they do, allow anyone to use their resources without their approval?

      • Miles says:

        All right, then what should they do, allow anyone to use their resources without their approval?

        Who do you think owns what resources in this scenario Max? When you say “their” resources, do you mean the Indian government?

        The way I understand the situation, is that the gene patent was “owned” by Monsanto, and licensed by Mahyco. The Indian government is upset, because approval forms were not properly filled out, since this transaction between the two companies took place within Indian borders.

        In this scenario, the Indian government doesn’t “own” anything. They are simply getting in the way, and saying if company A wants to trade with company B, they are not allowed to do so unless WE approve it. Whose ownership rights are being violated here?

        In my view, this is analogous to some cases in the United States, where local authorities stop children from selling lemonade on their street corner because they didn’t get the proper “permits”. In this case, the difference is that we aren’t simply talking about lemonade, we are talking about cheap and reliable sources of food for a lot of poor people who need it.

        Yes, you can argue that they are technically breaking the law. But why would you support such a terrible law in the first place? Shouldn’t you want consenting adults to trade with each other freely? Especially when the result of that trade means more cheap food for the poor?

        I just don’t understand why you seem so concerned with defending India’s right to deny business transactions that are obviously good, on the grounds that they didn’t get the proper licenses.

        Further, are you aware of the type of government you are defending? India’s government is notoriously corrupt, to the point where bribery is necessary for Indian citizens to exercise what we in America would hold as our basic freedoms. Bribery has become an every-day practice in India, to the point where it is expected if you want to get anything done.

        In such a political climate, I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable with this statement:

        It’s up to the Indian government, not Mahyco, to decide whether the cultivation is so vital that it shouldn’t be halted.

        Would you?

      • Max says:

        “The way I understand the situation, is that the gene patent was ‘owned’ by Monsanto, and licensed by Mahyco.”

        See, this is why you have to be thorough. The way I understand the situation is that Mahyco, which is partly owned by Monsanto, got a local eggplant variety from a university, and used it for research and commercial purposes without the necessary approval. Hence the talk about pirating local resources. The analogy would be if I stole your blueprints or software code, reverse-engineered it, modified it, and tried to sell it for a higher price.

      • Wesley Goodford says:

        That was not my intention; please read the second paragraph of my post also: I wrote ‘Whether the treaty of Rio the Janeiro is a good thing is debatable’ – hardly an endorsement.
        Since no one worked to put our natural resources on the planet (they were already there) you could easily argue that they, whether it be plant species or oil, don’t and can’t belong do any nation.
        You might then decide that paying money for that oil to ruthless dictators and backward bigots is immoral and just go in there and take it. People will fall over each other to curse you to hell and back (remember how stuffy people were when it was done with an unequivocally good mission?) and you will face fierce opposition in the target country of your choice.
        Now India is actually a democracy (making the first aspect even worse) and a nuclear power (making the second aspect suicidal).

      • Miles says:

        That was not my intention; please read the second paragraph of my post also: I wrote ‘Whether the treaty of Rio the Janeiro is a good thing is debatable’ – hardly an endorsement.

        Wesley, I’m glad I misunderstood you. It looks like maybe Max and yourself see this issue a bit differently. My response might have been a bit hard on Max as well, but I did attempt to get a clarification of his view, so I don’t think I’m being unfair.

        As for your common on property rights:

        Since no one worked to put our natural resources on the planet (they were already there) you could easily argue that they, whether it be plant species or oil, don’t and can’t belong do any nation.

        …my thoughts on this are complicated. I realize that you aren’t necessarily endorsing this view of property rights as your own, but I thought I’d comment anyway.

        Theories on property rights – what they are and how they should be applied – are theories that have obviously interested human thinkers for quite a long time. While there have been many disagreements throughout history, I think there is one statement about property rights that virtually everyone can agree on:

        Property rights are an idea invented by human beings and do not exist in nature.

        If we accept this as an axiom, then the idea that natural resources shouldn’t belong to anyone becomes logically inconsistent, since “ownership” requires a human being to “own” something. Since ownership can only be applied in the context of human beings, it’s perfectly rational to accept that natural resources can in fact be owned by human beings, regardless of whether or not anyone “worked” to put those resources there beforehand.

        After that, whatever constitutes the proper rules for a human being to acquire ownership over something, simply comes down to whatever rules humans rationalize for that purpose. Since those rules do not exist in nature, science has very little to say (if anything) about them. We have left the realm of science and entered the realm of human imagination.

        Whether or not science has anything to say about them, I still believe that property rights are of vital importance to human civilization. I also believe that there are “good” systems of property rights and “bad” systems of property rights. There are also grey areas that difficult for me to define in any kind of satisfying way.

        Whatever your personal beliefs of property rights are, it is clear that such a debate cannot be solved scientifically. But one thing we CAN use science to address, is a growing population of poor human beings who are in need of cheap and abundant supplies of food. Yet it seems to me that some of the contributors to this discussion (SocraticGadfly) are more interested in having an ideological debate that we can’t solve than allowing science to address a more serious problem that we can solve. It’s sad, and in my opinion a bit perverse, even if I do agree with Brian and grant those people their good intentions.

      • Miles says:

        See, this is why you have to be thorough. The way I understand the situation is that Mahyco, which is partly owned by Monsanto, got a local eggplant variety from a university, and used it for research and commercial purposes without the necessary approval. Hence the talk about pirating local resources. The analogy would be if I stole your blueprints or software code, reverse-engineered it, modified it, and tried to sell it for a higher price.

        Max, even if your understanding is more accurate that my own, whoever “gave” the sample to Mahyco is a “red herring”. The distinction of whether or not it was a university or if it was Monsanto is completely irrelevant.

        What is important is that it was given from one party to another. There was no violation of property rights here. This project is not being halted on the grounds that one of the two parties was cheated in anyway. This project is being halted because someone did not fill out enough paperwork to satisfy the Indian government. I think you are getting lost in the details of who gave what to whom. Unless something was stolen or taken by force, there is no ethical reason to halt this project.

      • Max says:

        I know, it doesn’t matter how they obtained the local eggplant, they need approval to obtain it for research and commercialization. Similar to obtaining a software license.

        It was Brian’s misunderstanding that Mahyco was sued for “collecting” local bacteria without approval, and that they’re innocent because the university collected it for them.

      • Wrong says:

        He said that it’s debateable Miles. That means that he does definitely not say that you should just move on. He’s saying that as the law stands, they’re entitled to them. And I think this will be the last time I scroll below the rating section of a post, since this seems to be the most irrational place on the internet. And I’ve been on /v/.

      • Miles says:

        Wrong, that’s why I asked him to clarify his personal opinion on the laws. You conveniently leave out the second sentence of my two-sentence response, which ended with:

        “Is that accurate?”

        I don’t know how else to make it clear that I’m asking for clarification.

  5. steve says:

    You may want to keep tabs on this.

    One of the nation’s most widely planted crops — a genetically engineered corn plant that makes its own insecticide — may be losing its effectiveness because a major pest appears to be developing resistance more quickly than scientists expected.

    Natural, that is organic, pesticides and bugs are the best and original way to control and protect crops. Just like medicine.

    • IreneD says:

      No, “natural” is not necessary healthier or more efficient. Parasites are natural. Microbes are natural. So are a lot of poisons, from arsenic to botulinic toxins. Try googling “natural fallacy” for more on the subject…

      • tomcpp says:

        Tssss … gaia good … anything “artificial” bad.

        Forcing others to live like it’s the middle ages !

        (needless to say, only the rich have these kinds of opinions)

    • Janet Camp says:

      Nonsense. That’s not even a good argument, let alone a scientific one. Is the first paragraph supposed to support the second? There may be too many people to feed, but feed them we must and organic agriculture just won’t do it–not enough land, for one thing. I’m no fan of BigAg in most ways, but that’s not the same as using technology to improve plants and feed the masses.

      Same with medicine–roughly

      • jascott says:

        Monoculture = FAIL. GM products must be safe, thats why we use them in the US without labeling the food they are in. Yes lets bring IP concepts into food because its a good bet to have everyone coming to us for seeds and centralization and control of the means of production is good for a vibrant democracy. Feeding the world with GM food? Hunger is caused by GREED not shortage of supply. Cursory google search
        “Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world’s food supply. Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide every human being with 3,500 calories a day”
        Why is it necessary to for Monsanto to save the humans again?

      • Wesley Goodford says:

        Because of several reasons actually.
        1) Not everyone agrees on the numbers. The site you link to provides no reference for the figure and others disagree. I haven’t been able to find any study that looks reliable enough that I can say with confidence that we have enough.
        2) Some people, like the Americans and recently the historically slim Chinese, have a big appetite and more buying power than starving people. This is not an easy problem to fix since in the political interplay between peoples, governments and powerful farmers and agricultural companies everyone’s interests are in conflict and no major advances towards food justice have been made.
        3) Unless population restriction regulations like China’s one-child policy go global, human population tends to expand until people are on average almost starving (and many people will die from hunger). Even if we don’t need the extra food now, we’ll need it soon (or we need to start killing people). Our only real option at the moment is to try our best to increase the food supply until human population growth reaches some other limit. That could be due to more widespread use of contraceptives through increased development, one-child policies, but also large-scale war. (The last option could actually cause more deaths than just not producing enough food, but it isn’t certain such an enormous war will happen.)
        So for the time being the only real way to do something about world hunger is simply to try to increase global crop production to drive prices down, and make food production more regular and reliable to prevent localised famine.
        Ultimately, food justice and population regulation will be desirable and maybe even necessary, but if you think we’re going to make serious headway with that in the coming century you’re kidding yourself.

      • CountryGirl says:

        hunger is typically caused by politics not greed.

        There is indeed enough food grown today to feed the world. You can thank Monsanto and a few other companies who created super rice and other crops and farming techniques that created this abundance.

      • Wesley Goodford says:

        Politics can be motivated by greed.
        And insofar as there is food abundance (not everyone agrees on that and until someone can provide me with a good publicly available reference I am not going to believe it – that’s a matter of skeptical principle) you are right that new crops have helped a great deal, something which the opposing camp tends to forget.
        Also, after doing some more research, I’ve found yet another reason why more food is needed:
        4) People are throwing food away. And I don’t mean restaurant goers accidentally ordering more than their mouthfuls, but farmers who are afraid that not doing so will cause a price drop that will cut into their profits. (This is more of a milk-n-butter thing though, when grain crops are threatened farmers generally do everything they can to save them.) Since convincing politicians and the farmers who vote them into office may not ever work, increasing production elsewhere is the only viable solution for the time being.

      • Max says:

        “Why is it necessary to for Monsanto to save the humans again?”

        It’s not necessary, but it’s in Monsanto’s interest to have more customers.

  6. Chris Howard says:

    These are just the superstitious dietary restrictions of New Age “spirituality.” This all goes way back to the religious idea of “clean” vs. “unclean”, but now the culprit isn’t pork, or shellfish. The 21st. Century incarnation is “chemicals” and “GMO’s”. Large organizations, like Big Government, and Multinational Corporations are the new “Satan” characters, spreading their disease laden foods on the population.
    It’s interesting to see how New Religious Movements co-opt old concepts, and ideas, from those religions that came before in order to lend legitimacy to the new beliefs.

  7. anti skeptic says:

    Ok, Mr. Skeptic,

    What do you think of indoor marijuana plant grow in North America,
    seeds for it were stolen from India in 90s. Do you consider that piracy.
    Should India be getting a cut of all the legalization that is going to happen.
    What about theft of Sugar Cane and Cotton both were exclusive cash crop of India.
    Eli Whitney modified a device that was used in India and got a patent and called it cotton gin.
    Currently US Stores sell California grown rice called basmati which is a copyright of India.
    It was also taken without permission.
    And the list is much longer.

    • Wrong says:

      If you engineered something, then you deserve rights to it, in my view. If you’re talking about a naturally occuring plant, I don’t think anyone deserves to claim the rights to it.

      But if you’d read the article properly, theft isn’t his concern. It’s the halting of progress due to beaurocracy, the interference of anti-GMO interests, and notes at the end, that the moratorium also affects Indian scientists working for the country. That would mean that the Indian government didn’t just take down Monsanto. That would mean they also shot themselves in the foot.

      It’s almost as if your understanding of the article came from reading only the comments…

  8. Jon says:

    Basic science would say it is not typewriter vs computer. Confusing natural selection and trait selection for transgenitic alteration is a common mistake. Being skeptical of changing the evolutionary process is probably a more reasoned position or starting place and has nothing to do with the religious or superstitious.

    • tomcpp says:

      “Being skeptical of changing the evolutionary proces” …

      So you’re against healthcare then ?

      If you know anything about genetic algorithms you know how evolution works :
      1. start with a population
      2. modify the genes in local sections of the population in any way that you can conceive of
      3. kill off the weak
      4. goto 1

      Anyone knows that interfering with step 2 is actually beneficial. It increases the adaptability of the species.

      Interfering with step 3 kills adaptability in short order. It allows for the spread of disastrously bad genes, sometimes through the entire population.

      GM modifies step 2. Healthcare modifies step 3. Healthcare is a disaster for everything from healthcare itself to the genetic diversity of whatever species enjoys healthcare.

      So your comment doesn’t quite make sense. At all. You’re just moronically parroting what some political pamphlet/site told you.

      • Max says:

        We’re talking about evolving plants for the benefit of humans. There’s no healthcare for plants.

      • tmac57 says:

        Oh yeah! What about Miracle-Gro?

      • Max says:

        There’s a case to be made for breeding hardy plants instead of using a lot of fertilizers and pesticides to keep unfit species alive.

      • SocraticGadfly says:

        First, evolution, contra Dennett and others has never been proven to be algorithmic.

        Second, evolution, per the likes of Gould, probably isn’t algorithmic.

        Third, epigenetic discoveries are continuing to show us just how little we truly yet know about subcellular heredity, including epigenetic relations to transgenic modifications.

        Ergo, the rest of your response to Jon doesn’t really respond to Jon.

  9. Michael Caton says:

    I used to think that the anti-GMO hysteria was a product of well-meaning but clueless well-fed, upper middle class types in the West who didn’t understand the importance of food engineering to people in the developing world. Unfortunately it’s spread, although I wonder to what portion of the population. I’d love to hear what the Indian person in the street has to say about the case.

    • Wrong says:

      Indeed. I think it’s despicable for people who are well off to determine due to their scruples that people worse off should have less. I always though: If you want to force them to eat what you eat, then eat what you eat on their budget.

  10. Curtis says:

    Your bias is quite sick. I read through the first few paragraphs and thought to myself that you’re just trying to justify your beliefs. Somehow I made it to the end of the article. What a waste of time.

    PS. using GMO crops leads to more pesticide use. FYI.

    • Wesley Goodford says:

      You cannot say that in general. A lot of GMO crops are more hardy – requiring less pesticide use. The issue of resistance is problematic though, but we have been seeing the same problem with non GMO crops and pesticides.

    • Markx says:

      Curtis, simply put, I have no doubt it is GM technology which will save the world as the population doubles at about its peak in 2050.

      This is almost miraculous technology, and hugely hastens the pace of developing more productive, more drought tolerant, more heat tolerant, more pest tolerant, more economic, more nutritious plants and animals.

      Sure, we need to regulate the process so no one commercially release something that (for example) creates huge amounts of some noxious chemical, but even a cursory examination of most projects indicates most are completely and obviously benign.

    • Brian Dunning says:

      Curtis, if that were true, how do you account for the massive demand from farmers for these products?

    • Wrong says:

      Accuses of bias> Doesn’t cite sources to prove him wrong, or biased.

      So, he’s got an unsubstantiated argument, where he calls his opponent biased (Ad Hominem), and ends with a sanctimonious generalisation, with no interpretation of the consequences.

      If you really believe that an increase in GMO is directly linked to an increase in pesticide use, casually, and is always going to be the case (Hint, just thinking logically, seeing as GMO can be all manner of alteration, some for hardiness etc, it clearly isn’t), then I’d suggest you go and read up on the subject. Or, better yet, stop “just trying to justify your beliefs.”

      I wrote better paragraphs in High School than that.

      • Max says:

        Do you see the bias though? The NBA’s claim is “the allegation” while Mahyco’s counterclaim is “in fact.” Even if it is a fact, it’s probably a red herring.

      • Miles says:

        First, let me be clear that I do not agree with any part of Curtis’ statement.


        Writing an opinion is different than making a logical argument. It is clear that Curtis is not making a logical argument but stating an opinion instead. Even though I find his remarks insulting and unfounded, Curtis did not make an “Ad Hominem” attack, since he did not offer his insult as an argument to explain anything. If that were the case, then your comment about writing better paragraphs in High School would also qualify as an Ad Hominem.

  11. Somite says:

    I don’t think this has anything to do with GMO technology. It is all corporation management bullshytt.

    • Wesley Goodford says:

      Actually, no. It’s about Mahyco not applying for a licence from the Indian government, even though the law says they should have. Read my post above.

      • Janet Camp says:

        I read your well-reasoned post with pleasure. Sadly, like so much evidence, it falls on ears that are already committed to a certain view and evidence often does little to shed light on such dark minds. It seems to be a human trait that luckily can be overcome with enough knowledge and effort.

      • Somite says:

        There might be a legitimate legal or corporate issue going on but it is unrelated to GMO technology.

      • Wesley Goodford says:

        So you’re going to update the article then to fix the problems we found?

      • MadScientist says:

        So laws in India can be applied retrospectively? If that’s true it may be legal but it’s frighteningly stupid.

      • MadScientist says:

        Ooops – sorry, I missed the part that the work was done ~2006. So it all looks legitimate although the term ‘biopiracy’ has me rotflmao.

  12. MadScientist says:

    As usual anti-GMO = pro-death and suffering. Those ideologues want to see generations die of hunger; it’s criminal.

    • Max says:

      No they don’t.

      • tomcpp says:

        They just consider that a plus then ?

        Or do they deny the obvious science. GM = more food, less poison (in the form of fertilizer and pesticides)

      • Brian Dunning says:

        Stop, you’re both right.
        People who oppose the creation of optimized crops do so out of well-intentioned ignorance. Yes, their influence does result in more starvation and suffering, but in my extensive experience with such people, their rose-colored glasses see the reduction of biotech as a preservation of some kind of natural utopia.

      • Max says:

        Yeah, the word “want” is vague. They want X, and I think X leads to Y, therefore they want Y. However, they don’t think X leads to Y and they don’t want Y.

      • tmac57 says:

        Good point Max.It’s like saying that a poorly informed well intentioned person has the same motivations as someone like Hitler or Pol Pot.

      • Miles says:


        I don’t disagree with you here. But I’m sure you have heard the proverb “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

        I’m sure that even those most notoriously “evil” figures in human history had their own personal rationalizations for why their actions were “good”.

        tmac, if you traveled back in time and asked Hitler why he wanted to exterminate the Jews, and he responded that he was just trying to good for the human race, would you feel any differently about his actions?

        I know that this is an extreme case, and is a poor analogy to what we are talking about with GMO’s, but if a logical idea applied to an extreme case seems absurd, it’s a good indicator that the idea is incomplete at best.

        What I’m getting at is that holding other people accountable according to their “intentions”, rather than their actions, probably isn’t a good idea.

        I’m sure that Brian is an all-around kind and gentle person since he tends to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. But sometimes I think it is appropriate for well-intentioned people to feel some of the pain that their actions have caused. I’m not talking about an “eye for an eye”, or anything that archaic. But I certainly don’t think that the appropriate response to Greenpeace supporting DDT bans is “They mean well, so let’s be gentle with them.”

        I’m not accusing anyone here of having this attitude. I’m just bringing up the point for further discussion. When do you guys think it is time to draw a line in the sand and start holding people accountable for the result of their ideology as opposed to the intentions of their ideology?

      • Max says:

        Hitler wanted to exterminate Jews, but the anti-GMO people don’t want anyone to die.
        Greenpeace would say that DDT pushers want to poison people and destroy ecosystems.

  13. RenegadeSaint says:

    The problem with GMO isn’t the science, it’s the fact that it’s usually done by corporations like Monstanto who have one motivation and that leads to them doing things like producing seeds that don’t reproduce, so already poor farmers in places like Indian have to buy seeds year after year.

    • RenegadeSaint – this is already the case with most seeds, regardless of their origin, and always has been. Almost all crops in commercial production are hybrids which reproduce very poorly, and even seeds for your pure, natural soybeans and maize have to be purchased each year from producers.

      Moreover, an equal part of the reasoning for terminator genes is to accommodate the anti-GMO activists who are worried about these crops “contaminating” other fields or “entering the wild.”

      • Dave Willoughby says:

        Except, in the case of most seeds, one isn’t blackballed and forbidden to EVER purchase seeds again if they choose not to “play ball”. This has happened numerous times with Monsanto.

        I’m all for adaptive tech, but holding whole lines of food production hostage through the use of ‘terminator genes’ and then suing anyone else whose crops inadvertently then turn up with ‘patented’ genes IS a form of Bio-Piracy! All of this and worse has and IS happening with Monsanto.

        It would be a different thing if these companies developed a seed strain and merely sold it on the open market. As you have mentioned, hybrids are pretty self-limiting and sterile for the most part. What Monsanto has been doing is to close of production of all BUT their seeds, driving everyone else out of the market through some pretty underhanded tactics. (Like planting bio-crops next to large crops of NON-bio-crops and then taking ALL the crops/land in court.)

        THAT is what many object to in GMO foods/seeds. I have NO problem with a better adapted or even modified gene, but holding whole countries hostage is just wrong.

      • That’s not an objection to biotechnology; that’s an objection to one company’s business practices.

    • Wrong says:

      I’d also point out the fallacious logic in Saint’s post. Unless they’re all completely incompetent, the farmers are going to use the most efficient and profitable option.

      Which means for Monsanto to stay in business, their products are competitive. Which means that they aren’t selling the farmers short, since the farmers have made the choice. Unless they’ve managed to delude and misinform or blackmail everyone into following standard aggricultural practice, I think we can trust that people will do what’s best for people here, and it seems everyone wins.

  14. Janet Camp says:

    I’d like to state that being pro-GMO does not mean that I support the policies of Monsanto. I often find these two positions to be assumed to be (wrongly, in my view) one and the same thing. How a technology is used (i.e., atomic bomb) is not the fault of the technology itself and does not diminish its potential for good.

    • Brian Dunning says:

      Agreed. One of my most common responses to my pro-GMO stance is that I support evil corporate greed and corruption, or whatever their Monsanto-crime-du-jour is.

      It’s also worth pointing out that companies who produce modern optimized crops (of which Monsanto is only one) have massive demand for their products worldwide. These is not because they are corruptly manipulating farmers or governments (though if you believe this, then it’s a perfectly valid discussion to have somewhere else). It’s because farmers desperately want better yields and reduced dependence on expensive chemicals.

  15. Trimegistus says:

    Politicians and bureaucrats gain power and wealth by inserting themselves between people (or corporations) and their goals.

    • tmac57 says:

      Sometimes,the corporations insert the politicians between the voters,and their goals. That’s what corporate lobbying is all about.

      • Markx says:

        I like that, tmac! A VERY true and concise summary of what modern democracy has become! (I might have to steal that one).

  16. Chris Howard says:

    I’ve never understood all the fuss. We’ve been “genetically modifying” food, knowingly, or unknowingly, since the beginning of agriculture. Original corn plants resemble grain, the native Americans bred them into the plant that we would recognize as corn. I guess the difference is the +5 Lab Coat of Eeville? Anytime a person puts one one they are turned into an evil, zombie making scientist bent upon world domination.

    It’s interesting to note that the most heated debates in the Philosophy dept., here at Texas State, are Ethics of Food.
    The debates on religion, and politics are more civil. It is a regular occurance to see people so upset that they leave the discussion. I guess that when you consider all the psychologically important events that take place with, or because of meals, it’s not that surprising.

  17. d brown says:

    India did not own anything. Not just because they said they did. Something that was ignored was picked, made better and sold. I am a old time farm-labor liberal. This is not only dumb it gives the R/W something to yell about. And its the kind of thing “Poor India” loves to do. Just because they are not white makes them right? I am anything but in love with Monsanto. my farmer’s mag. said they were suing a guy because the pollen was blown into his land. Monsanto said that must have improved his crop and they wanted there’s.

  18. Gail Smith says:

    I am not a proponent of genetically-engineered food. Here is a quote I picked up from the internet; I’m sure there are many of your readers who have more time to debunk its authenticity than I have:

    “Doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found the corn’s Bt-toxin in the blood of pregnant women and their babies, as well as in non-pregnant women.i (Specifically, the toxin was identified in 93% of 30 pregnant women, 80% of umbilical blood in their babies, and 67% of 39 non-pregnant women.) The study has been accepted for publication in the peer reviewed journal Reproductive Toxicology.

    According to the UK Daily Mail, this study, which “appears to blow a hole in” safety claims, “has triggered calls for a ban on imports and a total overhaul of the safety regime for genetically modified (GM) crops and food.” Organizations from England to New Zealand are now calling for investigations and for GM crops to be halted due to the serious implications of this finding.”

    Now we are back to my commentary. I find enough studies that link soy and corn engineered with the Bt toxin to low fertility rates, morbidity, and other not-so-desired side effects. My question is: can we not solve for world hunger in any other way?