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USA: Monsanto must pay 2.5 million dollars in damages

(10 July 2010) The US-American agro-biotech company Monsanto must pay a fine of 2.5 million dollars. The business marketed genetically modified (GM) cotton in the USA without indicating cultivation restrictions that apply in particular regions. Monsanto has accepted the decision.

GM crops that produce Bt proteins as agents to combat pests are regarded legally as ‘pesticides’ in the USA. They are approved – exactly as is the case with plant protection products that function in a similar manner – by the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

For Bt crops, the EPA frequently orders specific measures that are applicable to cultivation. These measures are aimed at preventing the appearance and spread of resistant pests. Mostly, farmers are obliged to plant a refuge area with conventional crops. This weakens the selection pressure on the respective pest population towards the development of resistance.

For the approval of the two Bt cotton lines known as Bollgard and Bollgard II, the EPA had ordered further restrictions for ten Texan counties. Nonetheless, Monsanto sold and marketed seed in these counties between 2002 and 2007 without advising buyers of these restrictions.

For this reason, the EPA has now ordered Monsanto to pay a fine of 2.5 million US dollars. This decision represents the highest fees ever set for the violation of pesticide regulations.

According to a speaker for the EPA, "People who manufacture and distribute pesticide products must follow the federal registration requirements. These requirements are critical to preventing the development and spread of insect resistance." "Whoever produces and markets pesticide products must obey the federal laws applicable to them. The legally prescribed measures are necessary to avoid the development and spread of resistant insect pests."

In 2007, Monsanto itself informed the EPA that it had distributed misbranded seed. Consequently, the EPA determined 1700 cases nationwide in which Bollgard and Bollgard II seed was sold without the planting restrictions in its grower guides. In the meanwhile, Monsanto has corrected these guides.

In 2008, the EPA lifted the planting restrictions applicable to Bollgard II seed in the ten Texan counties.

To date in the USA, Bt-resistant cotton pests have only appeared in a few, regionally restricted cases. In contrast, resistant pests have been more commonly detected in India, where resistance-management measures are conducted only in an inadequate manner.


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