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Monsanto in trouble over advertising claims in India

EXTRACT: Monsanto was earlier fined 15000 Euros in France in January 2007 after being found guilty of false advertising... In May 2010, the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa found the claims made by Monsanto... in a magazine to be unsubstantiated and asked for the advertisement to be withdrawn immediately.

"This goes to show that this is a repeated feature in the claims made on its products by Monsanto and its associates...," said Rachna.

NOTE: Bollgard is the brand name for Monsanto's Bt GM cotton, which it sells in India through Mahyco Monsanto Biotech – Monsanto's joint venture with Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Co (Mahyco).
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Advertising Standards Council of India concludes Mahyco Monsanto Biotech's claims on Bollgard are unsubstantiated
Public Awareness on Genetically Modified Foods, January 12 2012

New Delhi: A prominent advertisement by Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech Ltd titled "Bollgard boosts the Indian cotton farmers' income by over Rs. 31,500 crores" that appeared in Hindustan Times on August 30th 2011, was found to be not substantiated in its claims by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).

ASCI found that the claims made in the advertisement were not substantiated under the self reulgation code I.1. of ASCI which has been laid down 'To ensure the truthfulness and honesty of representations and claims made by advertisements and to safeguard against misleading advertisements'.

This advertisement was a part of the massive publicity campaign initiated by MMB when numerous prominent advertisements appeared in various national dailies in August 2011.

"This is a vindication of what we have been saying so far that claims on Bt cotton are hyped up and not based on facts. We are glad that the Advertising Standards Council of India's Consumer Complaints Council deliberated on the issues raised by a complaint on the matter at length and arrived at this conclusion. I urge all those who are being misled by such advertisements to re-look at all facts available and arrive at rational and scientific conclusions on products like Bt cotton", said Rachna Arora of Public Awareness on Genetically Modified Food, a group working to create informed debates on this matter.

Rachna Arora, in her complaint to ASCI dated the same date as the date of the appearance of the advertisement (Aug 30th 2011), challenged the claims made with regard to Bollgard technology by the advertisers, on Reduced Insecticide Usage, on Increased Yields, on Increased Farmer Incomes, on Inbuilt Plant Protection and on Increase of Income of Farmers by Rs. 31500 crores and pointed out that these claims are either false or unsubstantiated.

ASCI had forwarded the complaint to the advertiser for their comments. ASCI's Consumer Complaints Council then discussed the complaint in a meeting held on November 22nd 2011 and the observations of the CCC were also reviewed with the advertiser subsequently. After completing this process also, the CCC upheld the complaint of Rachna Arora and concluded that the claims made in the advertisement and cited in the complaint, were not substantiated.

The CCC of the ASCI upheld the complaint made by Rachna Arora "as the advertisement contravened Chapter I. 1. of the ASCI code" which states the following: "Advertisements must be truthful. All descriptions, claims and comparisons which relate to matters of objectively ascertainable fact should be capable of substantiation. Advertisers and advertising agencies are required to produce such substantiation as and when called upon to do so by the Advertising Standards Council of India."

Monsanto was earlier fined 15000 Euros in France in January 2007 after being found guilty of false advertising with regard to its herbicide. In May 2010, the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa found the claims made by Monsanto through an advertisement called, "Is Your Food Safe? Biotechnology: The True Facts" in a magazine to be unsubstantiated and asked for the advertisement to be withdrawn immediately.

"This goes to show that this is a repeated feature in the claims made on its products by Monsanto and its associates and companies like Monsanto are having to resort to spending their resources on such advertisements even as the general public is awakening to the dangers of transgenic and other toxic products", said Rachna.

For more information, contact:
Rachna Arora : +91 9811746647