Monsanto is being accused of allegedly using Indian brinjal varieties for commercial purposes without the permission of the National Biodiversity Authority of India.
A complaint against Monsanto, via it's Indian subsidiary Mahyco and University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, was initially filed by the Environment Support Group in February 2010.
It was alleged that Monsanto took 6 varieties of Indian brinjal, which they then modified to become Bt Brinjal. This modification is similar to Monsanto's other transgenic crops, including the infamous Bt cotton which has destroyed the lives of thousands of Indian farmers.
At a meeting of the NBA on June, 20 2011, the minutes of which were released only on August 11, 2011, the decision of the NBA reads as follows:
“A background note besides legal opinion on Bt brinjal on the alleged violation by the M/s. Mahyco/M/s Monsanto, and their collaborators for accessing and using the local brinjal varieties for development of Bt brinjal with out prior approval of the competent authorities was discussed and it was decided that the NBA may proceed legally against M/s. Mahyco/ M/s Monsanto, and all others concerned to take the issue to its logical conclusion.”
India Today reports that while action was not initially taken, a decision was reached by a vote at a meeting of the National Biodiversity Authority on February 28, 2012, where the majority of the members voted in favour of initiating action against Monsanto for violating India's biodiversity law.
Baskets of many different kind of Brinjal (aka "Eggplant") put out by protesters during the listening tour of India's environment minister relating to the introduction of BT Brinjal. Spring 2010 in Bangalore, India.
It has now been decided to prosecute Monsanto for allegedly using Indian brinjal varieties for commercial purposes, without permission by the NBA. This action is also supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in India.
It was necessary to pass a vote on the matter, as some NBA board members were against holding Monsanto responsible for its actions.
This vote will reverse an earlier judgment, taken by the Karnataka State Biodiversity Board on January 20, 2012, to not pursue the action and it was confirmed that action would be initiated as a collective effort of the National Biodiversity Authority and State Biodiversity Boards.
The NBA states that this decision is bound to send a clear message that any attempts to experiment with India's biological wealth will not go unpunished.
Under Indian law, anyone who wishes to use India-produced biological goods for commercial purposes must seek the permission of the National Bioversity Authority. This is essential even if, as in Monsanto's case, the material had been modified by universities in India.