According to the news outlet France24, the Indian government had recently accused Monsanto, a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation based in the U.S., of “biopiracy”. Officials claimed that Monsanto was stealing plants indigenous to India and re-engineering them to create modified versions. The products are then patented and sold under the Monsanto brand.
One of the plants that were specifically chosen to undergo bio-engineering treatment is a type of eggplant called brinjal, which is native to Indian soil and has about 2,500 different varieties. According to the report by France24, millions of Indian farmers grow this type of crop and that a modified version in competition with the original will threaten the livelihood of locals that depend on it. Monsanto has repeatedly tried to market its own version of brinjal under the name Bt brinjal. This, along with other questionable practices by Monsanto, motivated farmers and activists in the country to put pressure on the government to file a lawsuit against the company. The government agreed to do so. The case is pending at the moment.
Monsanto is not new to controversy. Monsanto’s bad track record in business ethics can be traced back to the 1960s when it paid contractors to dump toxic waste in the U.K., according to a Guardian report. A government agency stated that they found lingering effects of these toxic wastes even decades after they were discarded. In another report, a Monsanto subsidiary had been accused of using child labor in the cotton fields of Andhra Pradesh, India. In 2005, Monsanto was fined $1.5 million for bribing officials in Indonesia. These are just a few examples from a pile of documented legal complaints against the company.
I contacted the office of a PR representative for Monsanto, but the secretary on the phone said that my request for an interview had been declined.