(NaturalNews) Within weeks after India's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) negated an effort to conduct field trials for 15 genetically modified crops, a group of lawmakers from the party, as well as other Indian politicians, made plans to travel to the United States for a week-long junket sponsored by none other than GMO giant Monsanto.
According to Business Standard, the MPs -- ministers of parliament -- first were to attend a "Farm Progress Show" in Iowa before visiting Monsanto's St. Louis-based headquarters.
"In line with industry practice, we have extended invitations to farmers, industry experts, media and members of Parliament across the political spectrum to visit the show and experience for themselves the advances in agriculture all over the world," a Monsanto spokesperson, who was not named in the report, told Business Standard. "Parliamentarians with interest in agriculture and seeking to advance their knowledge of agricultural technology, across party lines, responded to the invitation."
No relation to the GMO seed trial cancellation
In a statement to NDTV.com, Monsanto said, "A committed partner to Indian agriculture for the past five decades, Monsanto has invited a delegation comprising media, farmers, industry representatives and Parliamentarians from across political parties and states to visit the Farm Progress Show (FPS) event in the United States.
"In engaging with stakeholders, Monsanto follows all the prescribed local rules and regulations, as well as internationally mandated norms. We also expect, in good faith, that our invited guests, on their part, have got necessary approvals from relevant authorities," the statement added.
In late July, Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar shot down recommendations by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, or the GEAC, to move ahead with field trials of the GMO crops, to include strains of brinjal and rice, following protests from anti-GMO groups.
However, according to the Monsanto spokesperson, the junket supposedly had no relation to the ruling party's decision to halt the GMO crop trials, Business Standard reported. The Farm Progress Show is a regularly scheduled annual three-day event that has been held in Iowa since 1953.
Some Indian lawmakers defended the trip.
"The visit [was] from August 24 to 30. Monsanto has arranged this visit. We will visit their plant to see the latest technology related to the agriculture sector," Prataprao Ganapatrao Jadhav, the Shiv Sena MP from Buldhana, Maharashtra, told Business Standard.
Monsanto has a history of political manipulation
Not all, however, planned to attend. The Monsanto spokesperson would not say how many Indian parliamentarians planned to attend, but said that invitations had been sent to "18 to 20 people," adding that parliamentarians were asked to attend on the basis of their interest in agricultural technology.
In the end, four MPs opted out. As reported by NDTV.com:
Sources said the BJP members of Parliament opted out after they were told by the party that they could not be part of the tour, following media reports.
At the time of the report, NDTV said it was not clear whether parliamentarians of BJP allies in the government, such as the Shiv Sena, attended the Monsanto junket.
Monsanto has a long history of using its corporate power and global reach to overtly influence political systems to its advantage, and much of that influence is attributable to two things: a great public relations machine and donations to political campaigns.