Eggplant

For the first time in history, a country is accusing a company of stealing indigenous plants in order to attempt to create a genetically modified version. While no formal charges have been filed yet, India is claiming that a pending lawsuit decision would prove that ‘biopiracy’ has been committed by the world’s largest seed company, Monsanto.

The 5th richest country in the world’s biodiversity, India is home to more than 2,500 varieties of eggplant (brinjal), a staple food for the largely vegetarian nation. And the controversial manufacturer of genetically modified seeds and companion glyphosate pesticide, Monsanto, wants part of the action, says a report by the news channel, France 24.

The biotech manufacturer had attempted to create a commercial market for a Bt brinjal in 2010, but public resistance led to an official government ban. But Monsanto’s still at it, cites the report, stealing native crops, which violates the country’s Biological Diversity Act in place for nearly a decade.

Two-thirds of India’s population is employed in the agriculture sector, and many have already been exposed to Monsanto. The Vice President of a regional farmers association said Monsanto’s behavior was a “preposterous commercial exploitation,” delivering one more shattering blow to a nation already devastated by the biotech giant.

According to several experts, between 2002 and 2006, more than 17,500 Indian farmers per year committed suicide largely due to debt and crop failure, many of whom were planting Monsanto’s Bt cotton. The under-performing crops and resulting lack of funds to pay Monsanto for its seeds led to a government denial over the significant number of deaths as a result, and ignited the nation to become one of the world’s most vocal opponents of genetically modified crops.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: albastrica mititica