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Farmer Unions, Scientists, and Consumers write to Modi urging him to Stop GM Mustard as GM regulators close public feedback time, without putting out data in public domain

chalo-delhi-english-poster1                                Coalition For A GM Free India

                                   Press Release

Farmer Unions, Scientists, and Consumers write to Modi urging him to Stop GM Mustard as GM regulators close public feedback time, without putting out data in public domain

New Delhi, October 5, 2016: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was today inundated with hundreds of faxes from all over India urging him to step in and stop any approval of the controversial Genetically Modified (GM) Mustard. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Central Environment Ministry is close to approving GM Mustard for cultivation in farmers’ fields, which if approved will be India’s first GM food crop. October 5, 2016 was the last day given arbitrarily for a 30 day public feedback time on a pre-concluded note clearing the safety of this GM Mustard which GEAC had put out on its website.

In their fax to the PMO, the Coalition for a GM Free India stated that “Numerous letters, emails, faxes have been sent to the Ministry about the unscientific, rigged, hasty and opaque processes being adopted, making a farce of science and public participation. However, this did not evoke any meaningful response from the regulators whose job is to protect citizens from the risks of modern biotechnology. Without access to the biosafety data and adequate time for a well-analysed and considered feedback, we refuse to participate in a farcical process. We have already seen that their intent is malafide, after our sincere participation in a special meeting called by them where we raised numerous issues which were not considered in the safety assessment at all. Only glaring mistakes and miscalculations which exaggerated yield benefits seemed to have been corrected. GEAC is behaving arrogantly, assuming that it has all the expertise required to take up proper risk assessment, even though it does not, and is actually ridden with conflict of interest. It is also seen that studies have been designed as well as conducted by crop developers in convenient ways. This is what GEAC is hiding from the public”.

The GM Mustard developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation in Crop Plants of the Delhi University called DMH 11 had been under fire from scientists, farmer unions, environmentalists, political parties and state governments on numerous grounds. On October 2nd this year, Gandhi Jayanti saw citizens coming out on the streets in more than hundred locations across 18 states of India, as part of the Sarson Satyagraha Campaign. Protests continue every day. This GM crop, with three bacterial genes, two of which are for pollination control and a third one for providing herbicide tolerance to the plant has been termed as unwanted, unneeded and unsafe by all.

“It is alarming that farm livelihood security, food safety, citizens’ health and sustainability of our environment are not the priority of the government. It is also sad that scientific integrity is being buried in an unexplained push for a risky technology” said Kavitha Kuruganti, convenor of the Coalition for a GM Free India, “If there is respect for Science, Sustainability as well as Social Justice, the current application for GM Mustard which has bacterial genes for male sterility and herbicide tolerance, would have been rejected at the beginning itself. In fact, public funds would not have been wasted on this. Having spent public funds, to hold back data from the public despite repeated orders from CIC reveals the true intent of the government. The fact that GEAC refused to put in the public domain the entire biosafety studies and ran a sham of a public consultation process in a haste shows that they have something to hide on this unwanted unneeded and unsafe GM crop”, she said.

It is noteworthy that the Sub-Committee set up by the GEAC and the AFES document they produced, which have been put up in the public domain, reveals that instead of prescribing various studies that should be done comprehensively, rigorously and for a long period in this appraisal stage, many studies are being suggested for a post-release monitoring stage, effectively making the entire country a big laboratory and all Indians as lab rats.

Farmer Unions have been up in arms against this GM Mustard with all major unions across the country having already written to the GEAC and the Environment minister to stop the GM Mustard. “It has been now established that the claims on the yield increases are fraudulent and is only to lure our farming community into a trap of market controlled seeds and herbicide combination, the beneficiary of which will only be agri-business corporations”, they pointed out. The Farmer Unions have in the past also stated that it is the import tariffs for edible oil which are as low as zero in the country, which have destroyed the market for them, affecting production of indigenous edible oils and that no technology can solve that crisis.

Recent days have also witnessed the honey industry and bee keepers join the opposition to GM Mustard as there are concerns about the impact of commercial cultivation of this GM crop and subsequent use of herbicides on the bee population and honey production. They had written to the central government as well as held a dharna in Delhi to draw attention to the potential adverse impact of the release of this GM crop on the 90000 MT honey production in India. Importantly, more than 5 lakh families are involved in honey collection and bee keeping in the country.

Dr Debal Deb, an eminent ecologist and a member of the delegation who presented various concerns to the GEAC in a meeting organised in July expressed shock at the unscientific and hasty manner in which the regulator is pushing ahead with GM Mustard. “If science is respected and followed rigorously, including through processes of independent scientific review, would GM Mustard get approved? We believe that it would not, and this is the reason why the regulators are hiding the biosafety dossier from public scrutiny”, he said.

Many state governments, including Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh that are the top two mustard cultivating states, have in the past stated their opposition to the release of GM Mustard. Bihar and Delhi have already written to the Centre against GM Mustard and others like Punjab and West Bengal have announced that they will not allow GM mustard. Recently Kerala government had passed a cabinet resolution to oppose GM mustard approval and participated in the Kadugu Sathyagraham observed all over the state on October 2nd.

With the GEAC turning a blind eye to the nation wide opposition to GM Mustard, citizens, scientists and civil society formations have decided to press the case with the Prime Minister. They have urged him to ensure that scientific integrity is not compromised in any way in the name of swadeshi public sector GMO and unfounded benefit claims. They also demanded that decision-making on this GM mustard (and any GM crop) be made scientific and participatory, the essential first steps for which are to make all the data public, seek independent scrutiny providing sufficient time, and hold public consultations with all concerned including farmer organizations, independent experts from all relevant domains, and citizen groups.

For More Information:

Kavitha Kuruganti, Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India, Mob: 8880067772, kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com , www.indiagminfo.org

Rajesh Krishnan, Co-Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India, Mob: 9845650032, rajeshecologist@gmail.com , www.indiagminfo.org

ICAR REPORT ON BNBt Cotton EXPOSES INCOMPETENCE OF GM SCIENTISTS AND REGULATORS TO REGULATE GMOs IN INDIA

Coalition for GM Free India demands withdrawal of Supreme Court affidavit of Ministry of Agriculture that gives clean chit to GM regulators.

Reacting to the Prof.Sopory Committee Report1 that investigated the Bt Bikaneri Narma case, the Coalition for a GM-Free India said that, “We congratulate the Committee for its thorough investigation which exposes one of the worst cases of scientific fraud within the Indian Council for Agriculture (ICAR) institutions. The indictment of the agricultural research establishment and the transgenic regulatory system is a shame to the country and once again points out to the wastage of taxpayers’ funds. We demand stringent action against all people involved in the affair, including senior ICAR people and retired officials, some of who have even been shielded from this enquiry.”

It expressed dismay that the ICAR seems to be protecting its errant officials; apparently the establishment waited for the retirement of a senior official before making the report public. It also observed that another senior technocrat, Dr Bansal, was repeatedly protected by the establishment even though he was the Coordinator of this project; he does not figure either in the enquiry or the report. The long delayed report dated August 2012 is now available on the ICAR website, which means it has been with the Ministry of Agriculture for the last 4 months.

PSC and TEC concerns proven right: The Coalition spokesperson added, “The report underscores and provides evidence that support the serious concerns raised both by the Parliamentary Standing Committee(PSC) report as well as the interim report of the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) of the Supreme Court, during the last few weeks, about the inability, incapability and unpreparedness of the Indian GM research establishment to deal with this risky and irreversible technology and the gross inadequacy and incompetence of the Indian GM regulatory apparatus to regulate this technology and ensure biosafety.”

Failure of GM crop regulation: A notable failure in the whole incident is that the BNBt contamination had happened prior to commercialisation but went undetected/unrecorded by the regulatory system! The committee also pointed to the conflict of interest in the developers of BNBt sitting in GEAC as regulators and approving their own product. This same regulatory mechanism with its inadequacies had cleared the Bt brinjal dossier. There was virtually no oversight, the raw data had not been even read by the GEAC, there was complete ignorance of the data and the event – again which has happened with BNBt. Clearly the GM regulatory mechanism in the country is either incapable of, or deliberately unwilling to deal with the intricacies of biosafety testing in a rigorous manner and function transparently with the highest standards of governance. “How can the country afford to do open air releases of such a risky, irreversible technology when scientists and regulators dealing with it have shown lack of competence and care compounded by absences of ethics and internal checks and balances?”asked the Coalition spokesperson.

MOA commits perjury: “It is a travesty of honest governance and ethics that the Ministry of Agriculture filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court of India (in the GMOs PIL), arguing that open air field trials were absolutely essential and the regulatory system is robust and world class, even as it had this damning report, datelined August 2012 lying with it. This amounts to perjury as the affidavit filed in 8th November, 2012 claims that, “no part of the affidavit is false and nothing material has been concealed”.” It said that the Ministry of Agriculture has completely lost its credibility, and India’s farmer livelihoods, consumers’ food safety and the country’s biodiversity is in grave danger due the unjustified promotion of GM crops at the behest of private corporate interests and some public sector agricultural scientists.

Contamination is inevitable and Supreme Court orders violated: The fact that the whole incident emerged from contamination of BNBt by the Monsanto gene, is incontrovertible evidence that contamination is inevitable and unavoidable. The Supreme Court had in its orders of 2007 clearly directed the GEAC to have zero tolerance for contamination in/through trials. This case has demonstrated that contamination did happen at that time and that no contamination testing ever happens and/or the regulator has no means to even check or detect contamination post the event. In this case contamination finally came to light only when Mahyco complained about the illegal use of Monsanto’s gene.

The Coalition feels that given the high stakes in terms of profits and control of India’s huge seed market by private corporations, the entire episode of BNBt seeds raises serious questions on how and why this blatant and easily discernible contamination occurred. At least, this being a public sector seed, the release of data from the agricultural establishment could be ensured and the failure was subjected to thorough investigation.

The Coalition is extremely concerned at the manner in which the international patent protection laws are used by multinational seed companies to prevent access to their seeds for independent research and testing and the reliance on their testing to provide clearance to GM crops without rigorous independent testing facilities being available in India.

We demand that the Ministry of Environment & Forests immediately take cognisance of this, in addition to the reports from the PSC and TEC and immediately stop all field trials and put all applications for commercialisation of GM crops under abeyance until all these issues are dealt with.

We demand that the affidavit submitted by the MoA to the Supreme Court be withdrawn. We are deeply concerned that the Agriculture Minister has written letters to Chief Ministers to permit open air field trials despite the repeated failures of the GM research and regulatory mechanisms. We demand that MoA support the many safe methodologies that are available instead of going all out to support a technology whose need and safety have been shown by independent scientists across the world to be highly debatable if not downright risky.

For more details contact:

Kavitha Kuruganti, Ph : 09393001550

Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Ph : 09995358205

 

Appendix

Background: The Bt cotton in question is the Bikaneri Narma (BN) Bt (variety) and the Bt NHH-44 (Bt hybrid) touted as the “first indigenous public sector-bred GM crop in India” developed by the Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur (CICR) and University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad (UAS) along with Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI). It was approved by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the apex regulator in 2008. The developers had claimed that the event engineered into BNBt and Bt NHH 44 is a distinct event called BNLA106. After a year of commercialisation and without any explanation BNBt and Bt NHH44 were withdrawn from the market. It was found to have the event (MON531) originally patented by Monsanto, this came to light after Mahyco complained about it. The Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR) was compelled to institute an enquiry to examine the matter, when it came to light that BNBt was contaminated by a gene patented by Monsanto- whether deliberately or otherwise.

The highlights of the report: The Prof.Sopory committee has strongly and unequivocally indicted the agriculture research establishment for failing on scientific, technical, institutional and ethical fronts and has stated that, “All biosafety studies and field trials conducted with BNBt and Bt NHH 44 are invalid” This report clearly states that contamination has happened, maybe through “out-crossing or admixtures” and states that the possibility of it being accidental is remote. It has also cast doubts on other GM research taking place in the establishment using this or similar constructs.

Technical issues: The committee pointed out that the fundamental flaw on the technical front was that the whole BNBt project rested on a single event and there were no other events to carry out an event selection process. It pointed out that, “Event specific primers were not developed for BNBt” and more worryingly rearrangement of DNA was found –which raises critical questions on stability – particularly problematic in a commercialised event. Questions were raised about the characterisation of the so-called purified BNBt.

Research issues: On the research front the committee has laid bare the lack of processes and absence of due diligence within the ICAR establishment in how project proposals are written and tasks delegated and finally the project executed. The report has pointed out how the ICAR lacks capabilities on many fronts but pretends to have them; for example in this case a scientist who admitted to not having a certain capability was allocated that critical task, thereby jeopardising the safety of the product. The committee also pointed out that the project was “poorly planned” and lacked supervision from the project head and the institution heads despite this being considered “a project of national importance”.

Institutional and other issues: Equally egregious were the failings on the institutional and ethical fronts. ICAR blatantly disregarded the Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) signed by its scientists and claimed somebody else’s materials. In addition it compelled its own scientists to remove the name of the original developer of the construct disregarding the MTA. The committee suggested that, “ICAR should think about not taking policy decisions of this nature that would compromise the ability of its scientists to take ethically correct decisions.” While the motives for such action remain murky, there cannot be a clearer indictment of the lack of ethics in the functioning of the ICAR system.

Regulatory issues: On the GM crop regulatory front instances of regulatory failure are piling up. The report has pointed out the clear conflicts of interest. Developers were sitting in the GEAC meeting as regulators and approved their own product! The committee expressly recommended that conflict of interest of this kind should be weeded out from the system. Molecular characterisation is a crucial and primary component of the biosafety testing regime – the scientists here got away undetected with the Monsanto event in their product!

1 Full report at this link http://www.icar.org.in/en/node/5511

10 years of Bt Cotton – False Hype and Failed Promises Exposed

The false hype and failed promises of Bt cotton in India were exposed by the Coalition for GM-Free India with a special report released in a press conference here today. As the 10th anniversary of Bt cotton’s regulatory approval in India approaches, the Coalition, using data from government institutions, highlighted that the hype around Bt cotton as revolutionizing the cotton production in India is clearly wrong. Closer examination of the data from the last 10 years negates the two important claims of dramatic yield increase and significant fall in pesticide usage. The report clearly exposes the dark side of the Bt cotton story – stagnant yields, pest resistance, new pest and disease attacks, the need for high levels of expensive farm inputs and the spate of tragic farmer suicides in the cotton belt.

In the face of aggressive PR campaign by the biotechnology industry which is being uncritically accepted by the government and regulators, the Coalition said, “This is a wake-up call for the Government, Parliamentarians, policy-makers, farmer organizations and media to closely examine the crisis in the cotton belt and critically re-assess the 10 years of Bt cotton. The government should stop promoting Bt cotton and pro-actively advise farmers about its unsuitability and risks.”

The cotton farmers are in deep crisis after ten years of Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers. The extensive crop failure has exposed the false hype and advertising, often repeated by policymakers and regulators. In Andhra Pradesh, state government estimates show that out of 47 lakh acres planted with Bt cotton during Kharif 2011 season, the crop failed in 33.73 lakh acres (71% of the area). The state government reported that 20.46 lakh farmers suffered from cotton crop failure and lost Rs.3071.6 cr. In Maharasthra, the cotton crisis forced the government to take the unprecedented step of declaring Rs. 2000 cr. as compensation (the estimated loss is Rs.10,000 cr.). The cotton production estimates had to be downgraded despite the large expansion in cotton cultivation area.

Presenting some of the analysis, Kiran Vissa, co-convener of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) said, “The real yield gains in the past decade (from 278 kg/ha to 470 kg/ha) happened from 2000-01 to 2004-05, i.e. when Bt cotton area reached only 5.6% of the total cotton area. From 2005-06 to 2011-12, when the Bt cotton area grew to exceed 90% of the total cotton area, there is no sustained yield gain – only going from 470 kg/ha to 481 kg/ha. It is the pre-Bt cotton yield gains online casino that have proved to be stable, resulting from various factors including fresh land brought under cotton cultivation, expansion of irrigation and use of high-yielding hybrids.” The report also refers to the statement of Dr. K.R. Kranthi, Director of Central Institute for Cotton Research(CICR), “The main issue that worries stakeholders is the stagnation of productivity at an average of 500 kg lint per ha for the past seven years. The gains have been stagnant and unaffected by the increase in area of Bt cotton from 5.6% in 2004 to 85% in 2010.”

Regarding pest protection, scientific studies and the company statements show that the target pest bollworm has developed tolerance to Bt cotton, whereas secondary pests like mealy bugs and whiteflies which were hitherto unseen are causing major damage. At the farmer level, pesticide spraying quickly went back to pre-Bt levels after the first three years. Data from Directorate of Plant Protection for six major cotton-growing states shows that in Maharashtra with the largest Bt cotton cultivation area, there has been a steep increase in pesticide volume (3198 MT in 2005-06 to 4639 MT in 2009-10) whereas in four other states (Gujarat, M.P., Punjab, Karnataka) there is a marginal increase. The only decline is in A.P., possibly due to the successful campaign against pesticide use by the government’s Non-Pesticidal Management (NPM) program. At the national level, even in the peak expansion years of Bt cotton, the pesticide usage increased by 10%. This is despite the heavy increase in use of more powerful low-volume pesticides during the same period, which should have reduced the total volumes. This shows that Bt technology is a false solution to the pesticide problem – the NPM methods which eliminate pesticide usage completely have been successfully demonstrated in states like A.P. in large-scale government programs while the Bt technology with all its risks, at best reduces pesticide usage temporarily for a given target pest.

Official information shows that Bt cotton requires more inputs in terms of fertilizers and irrigation, and is particularly susceptible to rainfall shortage at peak bolling period. The costs of cultivation have gone up significantly after the introduction of Bt cotton, leading to increased risk and debt for small farmers. The Coalition’s report also criticizes the false and unethical advertising by the companies like Mahyco-Monsanto whose advertisements were pulled up by Advertising Standards Council of India, earlier this year.

Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti which has been campaigning for several years on farmer suicides and agrarian crisis in Vidarbha said, “The fact is that the crisis of cotton farmers in Maharashtra has only become deeper after the adoption of Bt cotton. This year, we estimate that Bt cotton farmers have lost Rs.10,000 crores due to crop failure. Even the government compensation of Rs.2000 crores is quite small considering the loss. It is an irony that the state government is compensating for the failure of private company seeds. Maharashtra tops the nation in farmer suicides, with 3181 in 2010, and the number is likely to be worse in 2011. Though studies have shown that Bt cotton is not suitable for rain-fed regions which form majority of the cotton cultivation area, it is promoted aggressively with farmers through misleading advertising. Even the government institutions do not have non-Bt seed available for the farmers. We exposed the false media campaigns of the companies regarding Bhamraja and other villages, and the ground situation in Yavatmal district was also witnessed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture recently.”

Vijay Pratap of the Kisan Swaraj Sampark Kendra added that said, “We are asking farmers around the country to be aware of the dangers of the technology and the manipulations and monopolistic control of these corporations. Farmers who were frustrated with one unsustainable technology of chemical pesticides were asked to adopt another unsustainable technology promoted by the same companies which sold the pesticides. The Bt cotton story also cautions us about the false hype around other Genetically Modified crops being pushed as inevitable, and the bull-dozing of the technology through legal frameworks such as Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill. We will continue to push for food security and sovereignty, sustainable farmer livelihoods, and democratic decision-making on science & technology”.

Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convener of the Coalition for a GM-Free India demanded, “The government, political parties and scientists should reject the false hype, and perform a comprehensive, independent and participatory review of 10 years of Bt cotton. The Parliament should have a special discussion on cotton farmers’ crisis and 10 years of Bt cotton. Government agencies should stop promoting Bt cotton, and rejuvenate the non-Bt seed production to make it available for farmers. Strict action should be taken against false claims and advertising by the companies. It is shameful that while the Indian farmer is reeling under the crisis and Bt Cotton faced its worst failure, the recent State of Indian Agriculture report talks of Bt Cotton as an unqualified success and promotes GM technology as a magic bullet.”

Coalition for a GM-Free India is a broad national network of organizations, scientists, farmer unions and consumer groups. Website: www.indiagminfo.org,
Contacts:

Sridhar Radhakrishnan (convenor), 09995358205, mail.thanal@gmail.com;

Kavitha Kuruganti, 09393001550, kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com

Mr Prime Minister, Your comments on the opposition to GM crops & Nuclear power plants

Dr Manmohan Singh,
Hon’ble Prime Minister of India,
# 7, Race Course Road,

New Delhi                                                                                                                            March 05, 2012                                                        

 

Your Comments on the Opposition to GM Crops and Nuclear Power Plants

 

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

There has been wide coverage of your interview with the journal ‘Science’, on February 24, 2012 concerning the opposition to nuclear power plants and GM crops in India. You choose to resurrect the old bogeyman of a ‘foreign-hand’, this time pointing to external  funding of NGOs to oppose Indian development, as if they are some sort of a 5th columnist operating to undermine the nation’s interest. This we feel, is a highly inappropriate misrepresentation of facts. The misdemeanours of these NGOs, if any, may well be only minor infringements of the letter of a restrictive law that enables government to harass them as is now being undertaken. In  reality , what we are all fighting against is indeed a foreign-hand operating at the behest of  and  from  within  your government, supported  by  Indian  and  foreign  commercial entities , to corporatise Indian agriculture & farming practices and the energy sector , without in-depth and impartial analyses which prioritise the country’s security and safety. If this is their sin, it is ours too.  Your remarks, in essence, indict every signatory to this letter. Our individual and collective  “unthinking state , an unlikely charge as that is, does not unduly perturb us ; on the other hand, your charge that all those who  voice dissent of your government’s policy on  GM crops and nuclear power do not belong to the “thinking segment” of society is an indictment of a large section of our citizenry . It betrays an inappropriate distinction between “thinkers” and “non-thinkers” solely on the basis of agreement or disagreement with government policy. Surely, this cannot be. Informed dissent and a healthy response to it by our government through trusted dialogue are vital for a functioning democracy. We are not China. The absurdity of this position is therefore, self-evident and it absolutely requires us to make a measured and robust response through addressing the key issues surrounding GM crops and the nuclear power sector.

 

The prominently visible foreign hand of the US, in these two greatly important issues with ramifications for our country far into the future (and with regard to GM crops, irreversibly so), is squarely created and abetted by the UPA government.  One  indication  of such  collusion is the line-up of support your  government  has  sought  or received thus far, from ABLE (the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises) , the Indo-US Knowledge  Initiative on Agriculture, the Indo-US CEOs Forum , the Indo-US  Business  Council , etc. , all of which expose the distinct foreign influence deliberately  brought  into these critical policy areas. Along with your  investigations of the so-called anti-national  misdeeds  of  the  NGOs , why is  your  government  not probing the influence peddled by  these  agencies  and  entities who are  primarily furthering  the  interests of foreign governments and private multinational corporations? Or,  is  it  that  only  those  who  support  your  policies  are  helping  the  nation , while those raising legitimate and  scientifically-based dissent are all branded as traitors working against  the  national  interest ?

 

Furthermore, several important communications on key issues have been submitted to you in writing over the last two to three years, without even the courtesy of an acknowledgement from the PMO.  We must assume from your remarks to the ‘Science’ journal that the evidence, which has hitherto been offered on the significant gaps in safety and liability surrounding both these technologies, by well informed and deeply concerned individuals and groups in the nation’s interest , has not been seen by you, or else  you would surely have taken cognisance of it.

 

In the attached Annexure, we have presented some key issues on both these technologies and their profound implications for our country.  Based on this, we urge the UPA government to initiate a truly inclusive process of deliberations with all stake-holders in civil society to help formulate a rational public policy with regard to both the nuclear power sector and GM crops.

 

With Regards,

Sincerely Yours,

1.

Justice VR Krishna Iyer, former Judge, Supreme Court of India

2.     Dr.A.Gopalakrishnan , Former Chairman , Atomic Energy Regulatory  Board

3.     E.A.S.Sarma,  Former Union Power Secretary, GOI

4.     Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, former Chief of Naval Staff, Mumbai

5.     Dr.Pushpa  Mitra  Bhargava, Former  Vice-Chairman , National  Knowledge  Commission

6.     Praful Bidwai, Writer, Columnist and Researcher

7.     Mr. J.M. Lyngdoh, Former  Chief  Election  Commissioner 

8.     Medha  Patkar, Convenor,  National  Alliance  of  People’s  Movements

9.     Admiral L.Ramdas, Former Chief of Naval Staff and Magsaysay awardee, Alibag

10.  Lalita Ramdas, former Board Chair Greenpeace International, Bhaimala, Alibag

11.  Dr Vandana Shiva, Director, Research Foundation for Science , Technology and Ecology

12.  Admiral  R.H. Tahiliani (Retd.), Former  Chief  of  Naval  Staff & former Chairman Transparency International

13.  Prof. Romila Thapar,  Professor  Emeritus, Jawaharlal  Nehru  University

14.  Aruna Roy, Social activist, MKSS

15.    Dr.V.S.Vijayan, Chairman, Sálim Ali Foundation; former Chairman, Kerala State Biodiversity Board; Thrissur

16.  Aruna Rodrigues, Lead Petitioner GMO PIL in the Supreme Court

17.  Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, Supreme Court (signed)

 

Cc   Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, United Progressive Alliance (UPA)

Cc   J Jayalalithaa, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu

 

 

ANNEXURE

REASONS WHY THERE IS OPPOSITION TO GM CROPS AND NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS

 

 Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops

 

  • Brief background: GE crops were invented by the US; given their raison detre of profit for the Industry by patent laws in that country and their commercialisation promoted at the behest of the White House to “foster the biotech Industry” led by Monsanto, the international market leader holding 90% of crop patents. No GM crop is approved ‘as safe’ by US regulatory agencies in the US when they are put to market (GM cotton, Soy and Cotton, all of which are animal feeds). The Industry has held sway; there is little regulatory oversight.

 

  • The KIA (Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture) and the conflict of interest within government agencies and our public sector agri-institutions:  India is singled out for the commercialisation of GM crops by the US and Monsanto, an objective that is actively facilitated by the Indian regulators. This is well attested to in court documents. This conflict of interest found official expression in the KIA, which the UPA government sought fit to ink with the USA. The ICAR ( the signatory partner for India), along with its affiliates, provided Monsanto with access to India’s genetic resources (Monsanto was elected to its Board, a company that stands formally indicted for fraud, bribes, hounding farmers and some of the worst crimes against humanity). Though this agreement has since lapsed, formal public-private partnership agreements between the biotech Industry and our agri institutions fully supported by the Department of Biotechnology are accelerating this process. The official push for GM in Indian agriculture means that we are the only country extensively testing untested GM crops in open field trials in virtually all our food, ie our staples in grains, our vegetables, oilseeds and fruit with great risk of contamination. In the matter of brinjal, Monsanto stands accused by the NBA (National Biodiversity Authority) of pirating an Indian brinjal gene.

 

  •  Bt brinjal and Monsanto’s safety dossier: Bt brinjal was self-attested by Monsanto for safety, clearly an approach that invalidates it. Subsequent appraisals of that dossier by scientists which included globally eminent GM scientists concluded that the dossier was gravely deficient, with many safety issues not addressed at all and which remain unresolved, yet the apex regulator, the GEAC approved it for commercialisation. Shri Jairam Ramesh our erstwhile Minister, MoEF, has himself, very quickly following on from your statement, clarified the basis of the moratorium imposed by him in an open statement, citing the need for independent and long term scientific studies

 

  • The PMO and the UPA are briefed by Industry sources and deeply conflicted Regulators. On the 8th February 2010, two letters were addressed to the Prime Minister by first, 17 international and independent academic scientists and secondly, sent in a sign-on letter to the PM (by civil society spokesmen and prominent persons). Judging from the PM’s comments to the ‘Science’ journal, we doubt whether he has indeed   seen them, and yet, these letters are so important for their implications that we request the PM  to kindly access them. They pertain to a letter written by Shri Prithviraj Chauhan in 2009, when he was MOS in the PMO to Dr A Ramadoss who had expressed his grave reservations on the safety of Bt brinjal. In his reply, Shri Prithviraj Chauhan said “the various issues raised in your letter have been examined carefully and by applying the best scientific evidence available today—”. In short, he went on to fully support the safety testing regulations for GM crops and Bt brinjal in particular, pronouncing Bt brinjal comprehensively safe. However, the source of Shri Chauhan’s letter was the biotech industry; sections of it were excerpted directly from promotional materials from the Industry, in particular ISAAA, (the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications), an organisation that at best can be described as pseudo-scientific, funded primarily by Monsanto and other biotechnology multinational companies and whose admitted purpose is to promote and facilitate the commercial introduction of GM crops in the developing world. Shri Prithviraj Chauhan is not a scientist; but when six National Academies of Sciences similarly encourage the government to vacate the moratorium on GM crops without first addressing safety concerns, through a document that is purportedly scientific, that instead turns out to be similar cut & paste exercise from Industry sources, then it becomes clear that public policy and the basis for it on GM crops is in tatters and our situation is precarious indeed. The information flowing to the Prime Minister is quite simply erroneous. It is pertinent to add that Monsanto and our regulators cannot uphold their extravagant claims of the success of Bt cotton since no attempt has been made by an unconscionable regulator to undertake a post market monitoring of it over the last eight years; but based on official statistics of cotton production, there is reason to believe that current yield is falling to pre-Bt cotton years and the reasons for this have been predicted from empirical evidence of the performance of Bt cotton in other countries, including resistance. We request the PM to kindly take note of this.

 

  • Finally, the evidence against GM crops is overwhelming in that it will not feed the world because it has failed to deliver on yield, traits and sustainability; that evidence is in favour of modern organics and small farmers in the developing world, if only our government will heed and redirect investment into these agro-ecological alternatives. This evidence comes from the UN, the FAO, the World Watch Institute and from the World Bank and UN-led IAASTD (International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development). Twice peer-reviewed, this was a rigorous four-year process in which 400 scientists conducted the most comprehensive assessment of international agricultural technology and the path forward for agriculture for the next 50 years.  India is a signatory to the IAASTD. The ability of agroecology to double food production within 10 years was recently re-affirmed by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

 

Nuclear Power Plants

 

The Prime Minister similarly criticised NGOs for protesting against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project and stalling development in India, placing the blame on NGOs receiving support from abroad. These are serious charges. We hope very much that there will be no misplaced zeal through a witch hunt of NGOs as a result of your statement. On the other hand, there is genuine and increasing public concern over the potential dangers of nuclear technology, particularly because  the  Indian  nuclear  establishment  is  directed  by  the  government to  expand their nuclear  power  activity on  the  basis  of the  import of untested reactors  and  in the absence of an independent & transparent nuclear safety regulator. No nuclear power plant is 100% safe and for the government to make such statements,  as have been made only recently, stretch  credulity and  come across as glib assurances in the backdrop of especially the  Fukushima (2011) accident, which has  been  particularly devastating and is fresh in people’s minds. The accidents at Three Mile Island (1979) & Chernobyl (1986) also involved human error and weak nuclear safety regulation. Japan is a technologically savvy country. Despite this, they have not been able to respond till date to the sheer scale of the Fukushima disaster to contain its impacts.  In  India ,  with our dense population, our lack of management skills, the unilateral  decision-making  at  the  highest  political  levels  on the purchase of very  complex and  hitherto  untested  nuclear  reactors and technology  systems  without involving the national safety  evaluation  process, refusal  to  constitute  a  totally  independent  and  transparent  nuclear  safety  regulatory  system  in  the  country,  and  our  singularly inefficient disaster mitigation abilities, etc. could  altogether  land  us  in  a  major  nuclear  disaster soon, if these deficiencies are not immediately  corrected. Cost estimates of the Fukushima accident are currently placed at more than US$16 billion and it is still rising. It will take decades to clean up Fukushima and  the  significant  stretch  of  surrounding  areas  of radioactive contamination; and the clean up may never be complete, as evident from the Chernobyl experience  where the Russians are setting up a sarcophagus to shield the stricken reactors from  humanity and the environment.

 

  • Conflict of Interest: Despite an assurance given by the Prime Minister’s office on April 26, 2011 that Action taken on previous safety reviews will be put in the public domain”, neither the DAE nor NPCIL have complied till date, thereby reinforcing public concern about the safety of nuclear plants. NPCIL seems to make a mockery of the spirit of Article 19 of the Constitution that entitles every citizen, as a fundamental right, to be informed about the functioning of any public authority, to the extent that its acts of omission and commission affect individual life. AERB, which is required to oversee and regulate the activities of DAE and NPCIL, continues to be subordinate to DAE and the new regulatory authority bill introduced by DAE before Parliament, furthermore, does not ensure the independence of the regulator from the executive that controls it.

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  • EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and secrecy: At  many  of  our  nuclear  sites , including  Kudankulam , no  truthful  and  comprehensive EIAs  have  been  made  and  associated  public  hearings  conducted  as  stipulated  by  law. Where  representatives  of  the  local  population  have  prepared  scientific  reports  to  the  best  of  their  ability , on  their  own, on  pertinent  safety  deficiencies  of  a  nuclear  plant , the  DAE  has  ignored  those  reports  and  not  responded  to  the  concerns expressed. A  typical  example  is  the  recent  PMANE  Expert  Group’s  Report  dated  Feb. 12, 2012, which  the  Kudankulam  protest  groups  prepared  and  submitted  to  the  DAE. This  report  highlights serious  questions  about  the  safety  of  the  Kudankulam  site  based on  geotechnical  and  oceanographic  considerations, backed  by  independent and  scientific  data  and  publications  from  academic  and  research  institutions. Through  all  this , the  AERB  which  must  come  forth  and  defend  the  safety  of  these  plants,  has maintained  a  stony silence , whereas, in  any  civilized  country, it  is  the  regulator’s  duty  to  defend  what  they  have  approved  as  safe. In  India , it  is  because   the  AERB  is  a  captive  regulator  who  seeks  permission  of  the  DAE  before  they  speak  publicly  on  any  issue .

 

  • Safety Issues:  Let us be clear that nuclear power, like most other power technologies, is not 100% safe and can never be. But, given that the downside risk of a nuclear accident can be immeasurable and the empirical evidence from the  past  three core meltdowns the  world  has  witnessed  reinforces such a possibility, how safe it can be will depend on the integrity of our regulators  and  our  leaders  who  on the other hand are  constantly  manipulating  the  system, including  the  safety  regulator. Our  government  has  not  yet  realised  that  there  is  a  strong  positive  correlation  between  the  transparency  of  a  safety  regulator  and  the  degree  of  eventual  safety  obtained. While  the  public  is  kept entirely in  the  dark  on  how  safety  is  assured, the  Prime  Minister   personally continues  to  endorse the  relentless claims  of  the  DAE  and  NPCIL that nuclear power technology is 100% safe. On that basis there is little reason for comfort. The enactment of the current civil liability law by the government betrays the PM’s stance on safety claims. The government has gone out of its  way to bow to the pressures and demands  exerted by the US and western MNCs to ensure that the Civil Nuclear Liability Law shields reactor suppliers from accident liability in excess of the ridiculously low cap of Rs. 1500 crores (equivalent to US$ 300 million). Evidently, foreign reactor suppliers themselves are not as confident as the  PM  seems  to  be  of the safety of their own reactors and want the Indian tax payer to bear what could be an astronomical part  of  the  liability  in  case  of  a  nuclear  accident. The latest estimate of the Fukushima liability has touched US$16 billion, compared to the cap of US$300 million imposed by the civil nuclear liability law that the Indian government has enacted. Furthermore, yielding further to MNCs’ pressures, the government has framed the rules under the liability law, exceeding the limits set by the law itself, imposing limitations on the definition of “consequential” costs and the time span within which the Indian operator can prefer accident claims against reactor suppliers. The easy terms that the Indian   government has agreed to in this matter are truly a national betrayal; a constitutional aberration in letter and spirit.

 

As far as Kudankulam – Units 1 & 2 are  concerned,  the sketchy  EIA report completed  several  years  ago  does not contain a comprehensive risk analysis, estimation  of the probabilities of  core-meltdown  or  major  radioactive  releases , the  factoring  in  of  potential  human  errors, or  a  proper  site  evaluation  from  the  geotechnical  &  oceanography  points  of  view . We  believe  not  even  a  cursory  examination  of  such  issues  was  done  when  the  site  was  finalised,  or  thereafter. Even if NPCIL claims that such an analysis has been carried out, they have not placed it in the public domain. When DAE & NPCIL choose to function in a shroud of secrecy with the implicit approval of the Prime Minister, it hardly seems fair or prudent on the part of the   government to demand that the people who are going to be directly affected should refrain from raising their concerns. Why should this be? If the government has decided to investigate NGOs who have allegedly received foreign funding, it is appropriate and even more necessary to investigate thoroughly, the circumstances under which unusual accommodation with western MNCs has been made by the same government.

 

  • Contracts, procedural flaws: We have reason to believe that established procedures for awarding contracts to MNCs for the supply of reactors and fuel to Jaitapur, Kovvada and other “nuclear parks” are being   flouted under a cloak of secrecy. We understand that the AERB, which is subordinate ultimately  to  the  PMO, through  the  AEC ,  had no say in these  purchase  decisions  and  they  were  never  asked  to  evaluate  the  safety  of  these  reactors . These are serious matters which require to be scrutinised.

 

  • Sources of power for India and the German example: The German government, heeding the lessons of Fukushima and a citizenry that demanded the required response, has already decided to totally exit nuclear power. With a current share of nuclear energy of 26%, Germany will move to a nuclear share of zero in ten years, substituting instead renewables like wind, PV and solar thermal. India’s share of nuclear by contrast is currently 2.5%, and may rise   to a maximum of around 7% or 64,000 MW by 2032. The contrast with Germany between our nature-endowed potential for renewables excluding big hydro, and of course nuclear, is even greater. A further insight into the energy equation demonstrates that we are one of the least efficient producers and users of electricity. On one dimension alone ie T&D losses, if we move to limit these to 10% in the next ten years (which is still higher than South Korea and the developed countries , where  it  is  about   5 % ), we will save over 150,000 MW of power, completely dwarfing the meagre 64,000 MW that nuclear will produce in aggregate. The key question is why has our government not produced a comprehensive White Paper on India’s Energy Policy, including Nuclear Power? The  blame  for  this  rests  entirely  at  the  Prime  Minister’s  doorstep , because  he  is  not  only  the  PM , but  also  the  responsible  Cabinet  Minister  for  Atomic  Energy. But , with  the  serious  collusions  taking  place  in  this  sector  between  the  government, foreign & Indian  corporate  entities, a  handful  of  bought-out  senior  nuclear scientists  &  bureaucrats, and  others,  the  Prime  Minister  finds  it  convenient  NOT  to  have  a  nuclear  power  policy  on  paper , but  run  this  sector  to  suit  everyone’s  whims  and  fancies. By acceding to importing reactors and fuel on such a large scale from France and other countries, has the government not jeopardised India’s national, and  especially  energy, security? Which  NGO  will  the  PM  point  a  finger  at  for  this  unpardonable  lapse?  Would  the  Prime  Minister consider  initiating  a  thorough  investigation  of  the  omissions  and  commissions  of  officials  in  the  PMO, the  Chairmen &  Members  of  the  Atomic  Energy  Commissions and  the  corporate  business  federations  in  India  and  their  foreign  collaborators and others, during  the 2005-2011  period  when  feverish in-camera  proceedings  were  taken  up  by  the  UPA  governments  on  the  Indo-US  Nuclear  Deal  and  its  implementation?

 

 

 

 

PM’s statement a purposive attempt to prevent a healthy debate on GM crops in India

Prime Ministers Statement – Is a purposive attempt to prevent a healthy debate on GM crops in India

It reeks of an inherent disrespect for  science and democracy

27th February 2012: The Coalition for a GM-Free India is outraged by the statement made by the Prime Minister Sri.Manmohan Singh on foreign-funded NGOs as being the reason for the moratorium decision on Bt Brinjal.  It is a clear attempt to undermine and disrespect the  exercise of democratic rights by the citizens of this country regarding critical issues that concern one and all. His specifically pointing to the ongoing democratic struggle in Kudankulam and the Bt brinjal decision process two years back are unacceptable as both these are not just instances of public struggles to assert their wishes, but consequences of global experiences, scientific studies and a need to protect public and environmental health and justice.

Clearly the issue is not of NGOs or foreign funding; that is merely a ruse or excuse that the PM has seized to cover his and his government’s unwillingness to listen to the people of the nation. The more troubling aspect of his statement is that he seems to have made up his mind on pushing agricultural biotechnology, ignoring the genuine scientific concerns, with or without the consent of the people of the nation. In the recent past the same approach has been apparent in the issue of Bt brinjal, the Jaitapur & Kudankulam nuclear plants and FDI in retail. It is to be noted that in all these cases transnational corporations, with enormous clout, stand to make tremendous profits by pushing these projects/policies through. In the case of Bt brinjal, the biotechnology industry’s lobby group ABLE immediately came out lauding the PM’s statement, while in the case of Kudankulam  the Russian envoy , whose country is building the power plant, supported his stand.

The opposition to the government policies which threaten the food sovereignty, public health and farmers’ rights has come from all segments of society ranging from politicians to farmers to scientists to civil society. It has taken many forms, all of them legitimate. The decision for a moratorium for Bt brinjal similarly was a result of opposition from the states, disagreement within the scientific community, objections raised by many segments of society and public concern which saw over 8000 people participate in the process of public consultation. The Bt brinjal moratorium decision was taken by then Minister for Environment & Forests, who clearly detailed the rationale for his decision to the nation – which the Prime Minister would be well-advised to read thoroughly. He is now in the unenviable and unpalatable situation of having to defend his own integrity. Is the PM suggesting that his own Minister was compromised?

It is a deep irony that Dr Manmohan Singh is resurrecting the “foreign hand” ruse from the 1970’s and Emergency era – while being at the forefront of inviting foreign investment and control of various parts of Indian economy and allowing the US government and MNCs to push policy changes. It would be instructive to remind ourselves of a few illustrative instances from the recent past:

(1)  In 2006, the Prime Minister, on his U.S. visit, personally signed the US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture whose express purpose is to reorient agricultural research and redesign the agricultural policies of the country. Three US-based corporations were placed on the Board of the K.I.A. – Monsanto, Archers-Daniel Midland and Walmart. Are these the entities that the P.M. believes are “fully appreciative of the development challenges of the country” and can help make the best decisions in the interests of the country?

(2)  In 2008, as part of the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program funded by US-AID, the testing protocols for GM crops in India were further weakened to make it easier to approve GM crops like Bt Brinjal. Does the PM believe that the appropriate standards for approval of GM crops in India should be decided by US-AID, but not influenced by inputs from transparent public hearings across the country organized by his own government’s Ministry of Environment?

(3)  In the past few years, there were many instances of conflict of interest and malpractice in the government institutions and regulatory bodies regarding GM crops. Monsanto, the biggest corporation pushing GM crops in the world and in India, has been caught red-handed and penalized for using corrupt means to influence GM legislation in some countries, and has been credibly accused of doing the same in India. The seed industry has spawned multiple lobbying agencies which are well-funded from MNCs and have been hyper-active in pushing for weakening regulations and pushing GM crops. While the P.M. is apparently not worried by any of these undemocratic means of influencing the government policies on GM crops and agri-business, he is attacking farmers, scientists, NGOs and people’s organizations for using the democratic means of participating in public hearings, engaging with government officials, and producing scientific reports on the risks of GM crops.

With regard to Bt brinjal, it is not biotechnology and its wizardry sold by multinational corporations that should sway us. It should be an unbiased and independent assessment of what would benefit the poorest and the most marginal farmer, what is safe and sustainable in the long term, what will safeguard the food and seed sovereignty of the nation and what food would be acceptable to the mother to safely feed her child? Preventing the commercialization of Bt brinjal is a right decision on all counts!

 

We, the Coalition for a GM-Free India seek that the Prime Minister stop using his respectable and high office to divert and sabotage the important debate on safe food and farming  that has been brought out by GM crops debate.  We also seek that the PM respect democratic dissent in the country and remember that the foundational principle of a democracy is ‘by the people, for the people and of the people’, nothing  supercedes that!

 

For more information:

 

Sridhar Radhakrishnan (Convener) : 09995358205

website : www.indiagminfo.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“GM FIELD TRIALS IN GUJARAT VIOLATIVE OF EPA RULES: RTI RESPONSES”

Sharing with media copies of information obtained through Right To Information Act, activists of Coalition for a GM-Free India pointed out that the open-air field trials of GM maize permitted in Gujarat are violative of EPA norms and demanded their immediate destruction. Apart from Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat is the only state to have allowed any GM food crop trials in the state, after a change in regulatory norms in 2011 allowing state governments to have a greater say in the matter. However, recent RTI responses from the state government’s Agriculture and Environment departments indicate that the EPA’s 1989 Rules are not being adhered to in the state of Gujarat. A State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) is supposed to be the state-level implementation arm of the apex regulatory body GEAC (Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee) as per these Rules. However, when asked about the SBCC in an RTI application, the Forests and Environment Department responded by saying that the Agriculture and Cooperation department is the nodal department in the case of Gujarat vide notification no. EPN-1099-GOI-64-P (Part-II) dated 4th February 2004, while the Agriculture Department responded first by saying that it pertains to the Forest & Environment Department, and later to say that the work of SBCC meeting is not being done by this (Agriculture & Cooperation) department!

Gujarat had issued No Objection Certificates (NOCs) to GM maize trials of Monsanto and Syngenta in addition to GM cotton trials of Dow Agro Sciences and Bayer BioScience. From the time that regulatory norms have been changed to include NOCs from the state governments before open air trials can be conducted, several state governments including BJP-ruled states, have decided to not allow any trials in their states. These include Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Karnataka. West Bengal has suspended trials that have been permitted while Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh have not issued any NOCs on trials approved by the apex regulatory body – Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee or GEAC.

“When a vast majority of states in India recognize that this technology is controversial and unproven for its safety or benefit to Indian farmers, and therefore have not allowed any field trials in those states, Gujarat is now becoming the hub for many such trials being undertaken here. This is unfortunate since Gujarat already has a bad track record of showing that spread of illegal GMOs in the country originates here whether it is Bt casino online cotton or HT (herbicide-tolerant) cotton. Further, even though the state government seems to be vesting its confidence on the regulatory abilities of the Union Government’s GEAC and RCGM mechanisms, these bodies have proven themselves incapable of transparent, fair, unbiased or scientific monitoring time and again. The latest instance has been of illegal planting of HT maize by Monsanto that too inside an agriculture university, recorded by an official monitoring team set up by the GEAC itself, not being acted upon, as reflected by another RTI response. They are in fact protecting violators of the law and these companies are repeating their offences with impunity as many instances of violations have shown. How can the state government trust the Centre in this context?”, asked Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM-Free India.

Activists point out that Monsanto, which is voluntarily withdrawing from Europe due to democratic public resistance, is however trying out unneeded, unproven and unsustainable products here in India. They point out that there is much scientific evidence pointing to emergence of “super weeds” and insect resistance in USA due to usage of herbicide tolerant and insect resistant GMOs. Further, it is unwise for India to be bringing in herbicide-tolerant technology when the poorest in the country find their employment in manual weeding in agriculture even as the government is propping up rural employment by pumping in thousands of crores of rupees through NREGA! Whose benefits are being kept in mind in the promotion of technologies, they want to know.

“The RTI responses received from Gujarat government clearly show that the state government does not really have any mandated monitoring mechanisms in place in the form of State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (required to be put in place under EPA 1986, which is non-existent/dysfunctional in Gujarat, as revealed by the RTI) and is also relying on the RCGM/GEAC and their guidelines as the basis on which NOCs have been issued, which have been proven to be incapable, time and again. Further, the guidelines that the state government pointed to as the scientific basis, is no scientific basis! When open air trials of GMOs happen, one is talking about untested, new organisms being brought out into the open, which did not exist in Nature before. There is no scientific basis, given that these are untested! Further, has the Gujarat government done any need assessment for such a trial? How can the government refer to some guidelines as the scientific basis when the biosafety of these GMOs has not been established?. It is very surprising that Gujarat is moving ahead with such NOCs when many other state governments are treading very cautiously. Should we surmise that Gujarat puts MNC interests before that of public interest or environmental sustainability?”, asked Kavitha Kuruganti, Member, Coalition for a GM-Free India.

In India, following a secret trial planted by Monsanto in Bihar and serious objections raised thereafter by the Bihar Chief Minister, regulatory norms now require No Objection Certificates issued by state governments. As more and more state governments are saying No to such field trials, states like Gujarat are becoming the hotbeds for such open air trials of GMOs. Critics point out that trials in agriculture university campuses pose a great threat of contamination given that these institutes also take up breeder and foundation seed maintenance in the campuses. “Even as the desi Bt cotton fiasco involving IARI, UAS-Dharwad and CICR is being investigated, with the ICAR officials offering an explanation of ‘contamination’ for the presence of Monsanto’s gene in public sector cotton lines, why should agriculture universities in Gujarat be allowing such trials in their campuses? Can AAU show any foolproof mechanims it has for preventing contamination? Has it done contamination testing at the end of trials in the past and if not, what kind of monitoring is in place?”, added Kavitha Kuruganti.

 

Press Release put out by Coalition for a GM-Free India: Ahmedabad/New Delhi, February 17th, 2012

For more information, contact:

Kavitha Kuruganti:09393001550

Feb 9th is National Safe Food Day !!

Coalition for a GM-Free India celebrates Feb 9th as National Safe Food Day

New Delhi: February 9, 2012: On the second anniversary of the decision taken by the then Minister for Environment & Forests to declare a moratorium on Bt brinjal, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has decided to mark and celebrate February 9th as National Safe Food Day!

Two years back, tens of thousands of Indians had spoken loudly and clearly to say that we do not want GM food. More than 8000 people attended the public consultations and the Minister took the moratorium decision saying it was “responsible to science and responsive to society” and we agree!

Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convener of the Coalition said, “On this day we request the Government of India to continue to keep India free of GM food and exhort all Indians to remember that our food safety, food security and food sovereignty are in our hands! We can’t allow our children’s food to be contaminated by GMOs or to be laced with poisonous pesticides or additives. We need to become vigilant stewards of our food and agriculture and every one of us should take ownership!”

The Coalition also considers the moratorium only as a pause, however; there are deeply disturbing developments on the GM crops front in India. GEAC has been regularly granting approvals for field trials and for the next two seasons, 38 GMOs across 13 crops in 16 states have been approved. Every field trial is an open-air release of an untested, new organism in Nature and consequently a threat to biodiversity, given the unproven, imprecise, unpredictable, uncontrollable and irreversible nature of the technology. The threat is compounded by numerous biosafety violations that are regularly taking place during various field trials with impunity and without any liability fixed for such violations by the regulators.1

Further, the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill (BRAI) which is slated to be tabled in Parliament to replace GEAC and the current imperfect regulatory mechanism has fundamental flaws in its design, including due to its inherent conflict of interest. As per the Bill the regulatory authority will be under the Ministry of Science & Technology which through its Department of Biotechnology (DBT) is mandated to promote GM crops. Therefore the promoter and regulator will be the same!2

GM technology in agriculture is being promoted in India, as a way to reduce pesticide use; already reports from the field indicate that within the first decade pesticide usage in Bt cotton fields has gone up and pest resistance build-up has been documented by the NARS scientists. Herbicide Tolerant (HT) crops which are under field trials are pesticide promoting crops as they encourage the blanket use of patented herbicides to control weeds.

More peer-reviewed scientific evidence has emerged in the meantime about more environmental, human health problems of GM crops while reports from the field about increased pest resistance, emergence of super weeds, contamination of water bodies are coming from all over. One of the latest studies has shown that Bt protein consumed through GM food can move from the intestine to the blood stream and from there to the foetus.

The United States which has the maximum area under GM crops is reeling under the “super-weeds” crisis; already 21 weed species have developed resistance to the glyphosate herbicide used along with the HT GM crop and the problem has spread to over 15 million acres of farm land. Pesticide usage (herbicides, weedicides, and insecticides) on GM crops has increased manifold in the decade and a half since the introduction of GM crops. Reports from Latin America detail health problems due to widespread use of glyphosate, the patented herbicide used along with HT crops.

“European countries have almost completely stopped GM crop cultivation within their borders. Transnational biotech companies are exiting from Europe citing that “it does not make business sense” to continue because of sustained opposition from farmers, consumers and policy makers. It is clear from the above statement that these corporations are not in the business of GM seeds to feed the hungry, but to fill their coffers”, said Pankaj Bhushan, Co-Convener of the Coalition. It is time that exited from India too, he said.

Events that have unfolded around the world since the moratorium clearly shows that GM crops are on the way out and India should in no way open the doors for this outdated, unpredictable and unsafe technology. On the other hand, clear evidence is emerging that safe and sufficient food for all can be ensured through sustainable agriculture adopting agro-ecological approaches; once again we exhort the government and people to ensure that all Indians have access to Safe Food, by asking the Prime Minister of India to scrap the faulty BRAI Bill and by urging the Minister for Environment and Forests to ensure that the bar on regulation is not lowered in any way but only improved !

For more details contact :

Sridhar Radhakrishnan : 09995358205

Pankaj Bhushan : 09472999999

Nishank – 0901586930

Monsanto OFFICIALLY caught in illegal planting of GM maize in UAS Dharwad

“BLACKLIST MONSANTO IMMEDIATELY : MNC CAUGHT VIOLATING BIOSAFETY NORMS YET AGAIN IN GM MAIZE TRIAL, THIS TIME OFFICIALLY”

New Delhi/Bengaluru, February 6th 2012: Ahead of a regulators’ meeting on February 8th 2012, and reacting to the confirmed reports of Monsanto’s illegal planting of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) maize in its GM maize trial, the Coalition for a GM-Free India demanded that Monsanto be blacklisted immediately. The violation was revealed in a response of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee to an RTI application. “This agri-business corporation has been caught violating the law and norms repeatedly. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has also been caught failing in its duties. GEAC, in spite of violations brought to its notice earlier also, has never taken up any deterrent and penal action against this MNC”, said the Coalition in a press statement issued in Delhi and a Press Conference held in Bengaluru. Monsanto’s illegal planting was known to the regulators (as the information was obtained through an RTI response from GEAC), but they chose not to look into the matter pro-actively and the regulators were in effect protecting Monsanto, alleged the Coalition.

The approval for the biosafety research level II trial (BRL-II , the penultimate stage before consideration for commercial cultivation) for Monsanto’s herbicide tolerant, insect resistant GM maize with stacked traits (two Bt genes and one herbicide tolerance gene) was granted during the GEAC meetings held on 15th November 2010 and 8th December 2010. This is also the first GM product of Monsanto in India in its own name and not in the name of associate companies like Mahyco. Monsanto and the biotech industry have been claiming that the herbicide tolerant, insect resistant GM maize with stacked traits would be approved soon.

“Monsanto’s GM maize trials have been going on for several seasons now in various locations around the country. It took a rare scientist in one monitoring team to point out the fact that planting of the herbicide-tolerant GM maize took place without permission from competent authorities! What is more damning is that there is no evidence of any discussion or action by the regulators on this finding. This clearly demonstrates that the regulators are unconcerned about biosafety violations or contamination and are protecting and supporting offenders like Monsanto”, said Kavitha Kuruganti, Member, Coalition for a GM-Free India.

The RTI response revealed that a team led by Dr Pradyumn Kumar of the Directorate of Maize Research (DMR is supposed to be supervising all the GM maize BRL II field trials), noted the following in its visit report (5th May 2011): “Before planting NK603 event treatment in future, the permission from competent authority may be obtained”. This clearly demonstrates that this field trial consisted of an unapproved, illegal GM herbicide tolerant maize while the trial is supposed to be for the hybrid of Bt genes’ line (MON89034) and herbicide tolerant line (NK603) (HT/Bt maize). A point to be noted is that trial protocols were prescribed by DMR along with GEAC and it was a DMR scientist who recorded the illegal planting of the HT maize line.

“This appears to be a repetition of an earlier episode of herbicide tolerant cotton (Roundup Ready Flex – RRF cotton) planted by Monsanto’s affiliate, Mahyco, without permission. The GEAC, in that instance, found the clarifications submitted by Mahyco highly unsatisfactory and warned that any non-compliance in future would attract punitive actions under EPA 1986, sought a resolution adopted by the Mahyco Board of Directors expressing regret and reaffirmation that such lapses would not be repeated, and that the data generated during the BRL II trials using the unapproved GMO shall not be considered for regulatory purpose. All of these were decisions recorded in the July 2011 meeting of the GEAC”, reminded the Coalition.

What is ironic in the case of the GM maize trials of Monsanto is that further field trials have been approved after this visit of the monitoring team on 5th May 2011 recorded the illegal planting!

Monsanto has also been caught violating several biosafety norms in its GM maize cultivation plot in Bijapur in early 2011, around the same time as this Monitoring Team’s finding of illegal planting inside the University in Dharwad. The Bijapur episode, documented by Greenpeace and a Kannada TV Channel had been brought to the notice of the regulators and no investigation has been completed so far into this complaint. Egregious violations were also found during various other field trials from 2005 onwards.

“In the face of such impunity from these seed corporations and irresponsible inaction by the regulators, it is ironic that when civil society groups try to prevent contamination from these untested GMOs by objecting to such trials like in the case of the Bayer GM rice trial in Patancheru or DuPont GM rice trial in Doddaballapur, they are being treated as criminals! The history of GM crop regulation in India is replete with violations and illegal plantings and repeated failure on the part of the regulators in checking these or even taking serious action post facto. Therefore citizens are forced to step in to uphold biosafety.

“The Coalition demands that the Minister for Environment & Forests fix accountability on Monsanto and its Indian associates for violating Indian law. It also demands that MoEF take action against the regulators who repeatedly fail to check the violations of the corporations, and call on state governments of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to drop all charges against activists involved in biosafety protection”, added the Coalition.

For more information, contact:

Kavitha Kuruganti – 9393001550

Sridhar Radhakrishnan – 9995358205

ps: Page 10 to 14 in the scanned document downloadable here do not pertain to the GM maize in question but got inadvertently included in the scanned document. Page 15 to 20 is the relevant monitoring report in this instance.

India’s ‘public sector indigenous Bt cotton’ a scientific fraud!

Coalition for a GM-Free India demands immediate stopping of all public sector transgenic research and an independent enquiry and action against fraudulent scientists.

2011 ends with a big blot to the Indian scientific community, as was the case in 2010 too. The much-hyped public sector Bt cotton lines (Bikaneri Narma Bt variety and NHH-44 Bt hybrid) touted as the “first indigenous public sector-bred GM crop in India” developed by Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur (CICR) and University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad (UAS) along with Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) is actually found to have a Bt gene originally patented by Monsanto. The ICAR had to withdraw the production of these ‘indigenous’ GM cotton seeds, based on this development. In effect the Indian biotechnologists, supported with enormous amounts of taxpayers’ money doing research on developing indigenous “biotechnology products” have misled the nation by passing off the Monsanto technology as their own, the Coalition for a GM-Free India stated. The Coalition demanded that the Government stop all transgenic research in the public sector immediately, setup a high-level independent inquiry into the current case as well as all other research projects. It also demanded that this issue be seen as an act of corruption and fraud and severe deterrent action be taken against all the institutions and scientists involved.

In India, the majority of transgenic products in the R&D pipeline are from public sector institutions. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s “network project on transgenics” had a budgetary provision of Rs 100 crores in the XI Plan.

The Bt cotton in question is the Bikaneri Narma (BN) Bt (variety) and the NHH-44 Bt (hybrid) expressing Bt Cry 1Ac protein. The developers CICR & UAS claimed that BN Bt carries the cry1Ac (Truncated and codon-modified) gene which ‘is very similar to the Cry 1Ac toxin expressed by MON 531 event developed by M/s Monsanto as well as event 1 of IIT, Kharagpur’, both of which are already under commercial cultivation. A CICR newsletter (Vol.24, No.2, Apr-June 2008) soon after the GEAC approval for transgenic BN Bt claimed that the development of this Bt cotton was initiated under the World-Bank-funded NATP from 2000 onwards. The Bt cry1AC gene in this instance was supposed to have been developed by the NRCPB of the IARI along with CICR and the transfer into popular cultivars is supposed to be taken up by UAS-Dharwad.

During deliberations in the GEAC about this, the members first gave approval for large-scale field trials (LSTs) during the GEAC meeting on April 2, 2008 and then in the next meeting on 2nd May 2008 reviewed the decision and gave approval for commercialization of BN Bt without conducting LSTs. The rationale was that since the seeds of BN Bt could be saved by farmers, a large scale field trial is tantamount to commercial release! However one year after its much publicized release BN Bt was withdrawn from the market without any explanation and no reports were made available about its performance till then. The same Bt construct was used to develop hybrid Bt cotton, namely NHH 44. YUVA and Hamara Beej Abhiyan, two constituents of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, brought out a report in 2010, on “Performance of CICR’s Bt Cotton in 2009 – a survey report” (available at http://indiagminfo.org/?page_id=238) which showed that BN Bt had failed to perform in farmers’ fields and the claims were belied. The worse thing was that there was no accountability fixed on anyone for this failure. In this report released in October 2010 itself, the Coalition demanded that ‘CICR come out in the open to state exactly what the problem is which made BN Bt seed supply vanish from the market exactly one season after its entry’ (pp.11).

Now it has come to light through an RTI that there is nothing indigenous about this Bt construct used by CICR & UAS and it has Monsanto’s cry1Ac gene. As per news media stories, the NARS appears to be defending this episode by explaining it away as “contamination”. It is interesting to note that scientists who have rubbished “contamination” concerns expressed by civil society groups and others both for their environmental and IPR implications, are resorting to this phenomenon as their explanation now!

This raises a few pertinent questions:
· How is it that the regulators who “rigorously” evaluated the product could not correctly identify the gene construct used? It puts to question the capabilities of the regulators.
·
· Here it must also be highlighted that the then Director of CICR, Dr.Khadi was also a member of GEAC, a clear case of conflict of interest.
·
· If it is indeed a case of contamination and the seed production had to be stopped given that Monsanto has proprietary rights over the genes and technology, what lies in store for all the other GM crops in the pipeline since contamination is inevitable?
·
· Is it contamination or is it a scientific fraud related to incapability with regard to indigenous technology?
·
· Who owns BN Bt cotton and NHH 44 Bt cotton now? Have the Indian biotechnologists gratuitously gifted these to Monsanto through this action?
·
· Is this all the country gets after big ticket investments on GM technology ignoring viable and safer mechanisms to deal with pests, diseases and climate threat?

This episode also highlights that the IPR issues related to transgenic technologies and the assumption by the Indian scientific community that they can use technologies patented by Monsanto and its ilk needs a serious re-think.

The Indian regulators, public sector scientists and NARS institutions are intent on promoting GM technologies to the exclusion of any other options despite serious evidence on the biosafety hazards connected with transgenics. In the light of this fiasco, claims about enormous indigenous capabilities (in this field) sound hollow. Such scientific frauds raise the question about how far the biotechnology scientists and regulators will go to force GM technologies into our agriculture and what motivates them. Why should the public be trusting these scientists who do not hestitate to resort to fraudulent practices?

Unfortunately this is not the first case of scientific fraud that the nation is witnessing. Last year witnessed the six premier Science Academies using plagiarized material to recommend and promote the release of Bt brinjal. Despite the report being dismissed by the then Minister for Environment & Forests as lacking scientific rigour, the Academies merely revised the section on Bt brinjal a little and put it back in the public domain claiming that they stand by their conclusions. There was no enquiry into the incident, no explanation about how it happened and no action taken against any entity. A clear demonstration of the contempt in which the scientific community holds the nation and the public, says the Coalition for a GM-Free India. It is interesting to note that Dr P Ananda Kumar of NRCPB is one of the lead ‘protagonists’ in these two scientific scandals. Further, Dr K C Bansal who coordinated the ICAR network project on transgenics till recently is now heading the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (custodian of plant genetic resources of the country!).

“The current UAS-D/CICR/IARI (NRCPB) fiasco proves once again that the Indian scientific community is not averse to scientific frauds and misleading the nation and the people. We do not need this technology force-fed to our farmers and consumers, we have sufficient workable and viable solutions for the agrarian crisis and demand that the government and public sector institutions work on these solutions rather than fraudulently promote GM technology”, said the Coalition.

It should also be remembered by certain political parties advocating public sector GM seeds that an inherently unsafe product does not become safer just because it comes from the public sector. In fact, accountability issues are murkier here, as has been seen in the case of the failure of CICR’s Bt cotton in the field, where large scale field trials have been waived off in favour of public sector GM research!

“All of this is ultimately experimentation happening at the expense of hapless Indian farmers and this is unconscionable. Severe deterrent action at the highest level is called for, in this case. We demand that a white paper be published on the investments made on this front so far by the government. Further, until all questions are answered including the actual technologies being used in the public sector transgenic R&D, IPR issues, future contamination possibilities etc., all funding to public sector transgenic projects should be immediately stopped. These scarce and valuable resources should be utilised for taking proven, safe, farmer-controlled technologies to the farmers”, demanded the Coalition.

For more information, contact:
Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu: 09000699702; ramoo.csa@gmail.com
Kavitha Kuruganti: 09393001550; kavitha.kuruganti@gmail.com

 

INDIA’S “PUBLIC SECTOR INDIGENOUS GM COTTON” A SCIENTIFIC FRAUD:

Coalition for a GM-Free India demands immediate stopping of all public sector transgenic research and an independent enquiry and action against fraudulent scientists.

New Delhi, December 30, 2011: 2011 ends with a big blot to the Indian scientific community, as was the case in 2010 too. The much-hyped public sector Bt cotton lines (Bikaneri Narma Bt variety and NHH-44 Bt hybrid) touted as the “first indigenous public sector-bred GM crop in India” developed by Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur (CICR) and University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad (UAS) along with Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) is actually found to have a Bt gene originally patented by Monsanto. The ICAR had to withdraw the production of these ‘indigenous’ GM cotton seeds, based on this development. In effect the Indian biotechnologists, supported with enormous amounts of taxpayers’ money doing research on developing indigenous “biotechnology products” have misled the nation by passing off the Monsanto technology as their own, the Coalition for a GM-Free India stated. The Coalition demanded that the Government stop all transgenic research in the public sector immediately, setup a high-level independent inquiry into the current case as well as all other research projects. It also demanded that this issue be seen as an act of corruption and fraud and severe deterrent action be taken against all the institutions and scientists involved.

In India, the majority of transgenic products in the R&D pipeline are from public sector institutions. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s “network project on transgenics” had a budgetary provision of Rs 100 crores in the XI Plan.

The Bt cotton in question is the Bikaneri Narma (BN) Bt (variety) and the NHH-44 Bt (hybrid) expressing Bt Cry 1Ac protein. The developers CICR & UAS claimed that BN Bt carries the cry1Ac (Truncated and codon-modified) gene which ‘is very similar to the Cry 1Ac toxin expressed by MON 531 event developed by M/s Monsanto as well as event 1 of IIT, Kharagpur’, both of which are already under commercial cultivation. A CICR newsletter (Vol.24, No.2, Apr-June 2008) soon after the GEAC approval for transgenic BN Bt claimed that the development of this Bt cotton was initiated under the World-Bank-funded NATP from 2000 onwards. The Bt cry1AC gene in this instance was supposed to have been developed by the NRCPB of the IARI along with CICR and the transfer into popular cultivars is supposed to be taken up by UAS-Dharwad.

During deliberations in the GEAC about this, the members first gave approval for large-scale field trials (LSTs) during the GEAC meeting on April 2, 2008 and then in the next meeting on 2nd May 2008 reviewed the decision and gave approval for commercialization of BN Bt without conducting LSTs. The rationale was that since the seeds of BN Bt could be saved by farmers, a large scale field trial is tantamount to commercial release! However one year after its much publicized release BN Bt was withdrawn from the market without any explanation and no reports were made available about its performance till then. The same Bt construct was used to develop hybrid Bt cotton, namely NHH 44. YUVA and Hamara Beej Abhiyan, two constituents of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, brought out a report in 2010, on “Performance of CICR’s Bt Cotton in 2009 – a survey report” (available at http://indiagminfo.org/?page_id=238) which showed that BN Bt had failed to perform in farmers’ fields and the claims were belied. The worse thing was that there was no accountability fixed on anyone for this failure. In this report released in October 2010 itself, the Coalition demanded that ‘CICR come out in the open to state exactly what the problem is which made BN Bt seed supply vanish from the market exactly one season after its entry’ (pp.11).

Now it has come to light through an RTI that there is nothing indigenous about this Bt construct used by CICR & UAS and it has Monsanto’s cry1Ac gene. As per news media stories, the NARS appears to be defending this episode by explaining it away as “contamination”.  It is interesting to note that scientists who have rubbished “contamination” concerns expressed by civil society groups and others both for their environmental and IPR implications, are resorting to this phenomenon as their explanation now!

This raises a few pertinent questions:
·       How is it that the regulators who “rigorously” evaluated the product could not correctly identify the gene construct used? It puts to question the capabilities of the regulators.
·
·       Here it must also be highlighted that the then Director of CICR, Dr.Khadi was also a member of GEAC, a clear case of conflict of interest.
·
·       If it is indeed a case of contamination and the seed production had to be stopped given that Monsanto has proprietary rights over the genes and technology, what lies in store for all the other GM crops in the pipeline since contamination is inevitable?
·
·       Is it contamination or is it a scientific fraud related to incapability with regard to indigenous technology?
·
·       Who owns BN Bt cotton and NHH 44 Bt cotton now?  Have the Indian biotechnologists gratuitously gifted these to Monsanto through this action?
·
·       Is this all the country gets after big ticket investments on GM technology ignoring viable and safer mechanisms to deal with pests, diseases and climate threat?

This episode also highlights that the IPR issues related to transgenic technologies and the assumption by the Indian scientific community that they can use technologies patented by Monsanto and its ilk needs a serious re-think.

The Indian regulators, public sector scientists and NARS institutions are intent on promoting GM technologies to the exclusion of any other options despite serious evidence on the biosafety hazards connected with transgenics. In the light of this fiasco, claims about enormous indigenous capabilities (in this field) sound hollow. Such scientific frauds raise the question about how far the biotechnology scientists and regulators will go to force GM technologies into our agriculture and what motivates them. Why should the public be trusting these scientists who do not hestitate to resort to fraudulent practices?

Unfortunately this is not the first case of scientific fraud that the nation is witnessing. Last year witnessed the six premier Science Academies using plagiarized material to recommend and promote the release of Bt brinjal. Despite the report being dismissed by the then Minister for Environment & Forests as lacking scientific rigour, the Academies merely revised the section on Bt brinjal a little and put it back in the public domain claiming that they stand by their conclusions. There was no enquiry into the incident, no explanation about how it happened and no action taken against any entity. A clear demonstration of the contempt in which the scientific community holds the nation and the public, says the Coalition for a GM-Free India. It is interesting to note that Dr P Ananda Kumar of NRCPB is one of the lead ‘protagonists’ in these two scientific scandals. Further, Dr K C Bansal who coordinated the ICAR network project on transgenics till recently is now heading the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (custodian of plant genetic resources of the country!).

“The current UAS-D/CICR/IARI (NRCPB) fiasco proves once again that the Indian scientific community is not averse to scientific frauds and misleading the nation and the people. We do not need this technology force-fed to our farmers and consumers, we have sufficient workable and viable solutions for the agrarian crisis and demand that the government and public sector institutions work on these solutions rather than fraudulently promote GM technology”, said the Coalition.

It should also be remembered by certain political parties advocating public sector GM seeds that an inherently unsafe product does not become safer just because it comes from the public sector. In fact, accountability issues are murkier here, as has been seen in the case of the failure of CICR’s Bt cotton in the field, where large scale field trials have been waived off in favour of public sector GM research!

“All of this is ultimately experimentation happening at the expense of hapless Indian farmers and this is unconscionable. Severe deterrent action at the highest level is called for, in this case. We demand that a white paper be published on the investments made on this front so far by the government. Further, until all questions are answered including the actual technologies being used in the public sector transgenic R&D, IPR issues, future contamination possibilities etc., all funding to public sector transgenic projects should be immediately stopped. These scarce and valuable resources should be utilised for taking proven, safe, farmer-controlled technologies to the farmers”, demanded the Coalition.

For more information, contact:
Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu: 09000699702; ramoo.csa@gmail.com
Kavitha Kuruganti: 09393001550; kavitha.kuruganti@gmail.com

Press Release put out by the Coalition with a New Delhi dateline on 30th January 2011.

BRAI Bill tabling tomorrow: Opposition from all quarters

The text of the Statement of Concern signed by ten former Supreme Court Judges is available here

Appeal to Scrap Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill 2011

Jointly signed by various organisations and concerned citizens across the country

Date : 21 November 2011

To,

Dr. Manmohan Singh,

The Hon’ble Prime Minister,
Government of India.

Dear Dr. Manmohan Singh,

Sub: Appeal to Scrap Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill 2011.

This is to draw your kind attention to the BRAI bill which is proposed to be tabled in the upcoming winter session of the Parliament. Given that the Bill proposes to create a single window clearance system and drastically lowers the bar for safety assessments and transparent decision making for dangerous GM crops, we clearly see this as a threat to our right to safe food and sustainable livelihoods of our rural households, especially of our vast number of small holding-cultivators.

As you know, across the world there is valid resistance against GM crops and most countries have adopted a precautionary approach towards them. This is what India should also follow.

Genetic Modification (GM) is an imprecise, unpredictable and highly risky technology whose safety is not yet established and whose spread cannot be controlled once released into the environment given that it is a living technology. The recent past has seen more and more scientific evidence emerging both from the laboratory and the field, about the adverse health and environmental impacts of GM crops. Experience of Bt Cotton, the only GM crop commercially cultivated in the country, clearly shows that GM crops are a threat to our seed sovereignty and farm livelihoods.

Last year the nation witnessed a wide and intense debate on Bt Brinjal, the first GM food crop proposed for commercialisation. The then Minister of Environment and Forest after nationwide consultations decided to adopt a precautionary approach and impose a moratorium on Bt Brinjal until all the concerns raised by all sections of the public are satisfactorily addressed. Instead of following this responsible and democratic approach, your government is proposing to table a dangerous and regressive bill like BRAI to lower the bar on approval of GM foods.

While there are many issues with the BRAI bill, a few major ones are listed below;

· The bill was drafted in a secretive fashion with no opportunity for the general public to comment on a legislation which deals with something as important as the safety of our food and sustainability of farming in the country.

· There is a serious inherent conflict of interest as the BRAI is proposed to be under the Ministry of Science and Technology, which already has a mandate to promote GM crops, a product of modern biotechnolgy which BRAI is supposed to regulate.

· There is no intention or mention of independent, long-term and rigorous biosafety assessment of GM crops.

· Centralised and narrow decision-making with no mechanism for consultation with the public or involvement of multiple stakeholders in decision-making is present in the bill, which is against the spirit of democracy and against the Cartagena Protocol, to which India is a signatory.

· No mechanism for transparency- Worse yet, the Bill bypasses the citizen’s right to information by overriding the Right to Information Act, 2005, for commercial interests.

· The Bill overrides the state governments’ authority over health and agriculture and thereby challenging the federal polity of the country.

· It is also objectionable and problematic that this Act will have an over-riding effect over other laws in force, since this Bill is indeed inconsistent with legislations like the Biological Diversity Act.

· The Bill has very weak penal clauses and lacks deterrent liability mechanisms to ensure prevention of mishaps and irresponsible actions by GM crop developers and promoters. It also lacks any redressal mechanisms where by stakeholders [farmers, consumers etc] can be compensated for damages [deliberate or otherwise] caused and remediation ensured.

· Very importantly, the Bill fails to talk about any needs evaluation, socio-economic assessment and assessment of alternatives, which was also stressed by the Government in its Bt brinjal moratorium decision – and assumes that all biotechnology and GM crops are a fait accompli.

In addition to the above there are numerous other problems with the Bill. How can the Government table a Bill that is virtually designed to enable and further large scale collusion and corruption in areas as critical as food safety & security, farmer livelihoods and ecological safety? The country and the government cannot afford to jeopardise these.

We are also concerned about the intent behind the Bill when several states have opposed the introduction of GM crops, rejected field trials of genetically modified seeds and are moving towards non-transgenic options including a variety of sustainable methods.

At a time when the nation bows its head in shame and grief in front of the unabated farmer suicides triggered by the agrarian crisis, a result of wrong and misguided agriculture policies of the last few decades, the last thing the nation needs is the hasty approval of a single window clearance system for GM crops which would further imperil agrarian livelihoods and farmers’ lives.

That this could happen at a time when the Parliament, the government and people are grappling with the issue of a strong anti-corruption legislation, aware as they are of the scale of collusion and corruption including in “regulatory” spaces, is difficult to believe.

It is also a travesty of transparency that your government holds high, that the draft of the bill was never opened up for public debate even as it is being readied for introduction into the Parliament.

Given the fact that there is enough scientific evidence to question the safety of Genetically Modified crops and given the massive public mistrust about the technology and its products, and given that the damages and impacts of the technology are irreversible, what the government should have formulated is a Biosafety Protection statute, instead of the proposed BRAI Bill, to instill confidence in all citizens about the intent of the government. Such a statute should have as its cornerstones ‘the safety of the environment, the well being of farming families, the ecological and economic sustainability of farming systems, the health and nutrition security of consumers, safeguarding of home and external trade and the biosecurity of the nation’.
We urge you to scrap the BRAI 2011 Bill immediately as it completely overlooks biosafety, imperils our environment and threatens our socio-economic and cultural fabric. We also urge the government to table a legislation to protect and enhance biosafety and to ensure democratic processes are adhered to when dealing with issues as important as food and farming in our country.

Yours sincerely,

1. A. N. Anjeneya, Sharana Muddanna Savayava Krushikara Sangha, Davanagere, Karnataka

2. A. S. Chinnusamy, State president, Thamilaga vivasayegal Sangam, Dharmapuri, Tamilnadu

3. Abdul Rahman C. P., Farmer, Jaiva Karshaka Samithi, Calicut, Kerala

4. Abdul Rasheed C. R. P, Farmer, Trivandrum, Kerala

5. Abhay Chavan, Gammon India Ltd., Mumbai, Maharashtra

6. Abhilash, Software Engineer, Trivandrum, Kerala

7. Adv. Pradeepkumar, Chairman, Haritha Sena Farmers Organisation, Kerala.

8. Adwait Pednekar, Kokan Bachav Samiti, Mumbai, Maharashtra

9. Afsar Jafri, Senior Research Associate, Focus on the Global South, India, New Delhi

10. Ajay Dolke, Srujan, Yavatmal, Maharashtra

11. Ajay Jha, Pairvi, New Delhi

12. Ajay Mahajan, Beej Bachao Andolan, New Delhi

13. Ajayan R., Plachimada Support Group, Trivandrum, Kerala

14. Ajit Patil, Engineer, Mumbai, Maharashtra

15. Ajith, Secretary, Wyanad Organic Consortium, Wayanad, Kerala

16. Allauddin Ahmed, State Coordinator, Save our Rice Campaign, West Bengal

17. Ambrose, The Lumiere, Organic Hotel, Kochi, Kerala

18. Anand Patwardhan, Film maker, Mumbai, Maharashtra

19. Anand Shah, Independent Citizen, Mumbai, Maharashtra

20. Anand, SPRED, Raichur, Karnataka

21. Anantha Sayanan, Re-store, Coordinator, Safe Food Alliance, Chennai

22. Anil Akkara, Standing Committee Chairman, Trichur Jilla Panchayath (Young Leader Award 2011 – CNN-IBN), Thrissur, Kerala

23. Anil Kunte, Here On Project Environment (HOPE), Thane, Maharashtra

24. Anish Kapadia, Concerned Citizen, Mumbai, Maharashtra

25. Anjani Mehta, Veena Nursery, Mumbai, Maharashtra

26. Anju Venkat, The Health Awareness Centre, Mumbai, Maharashtra

27. Annapoorni, Concerned citizen, Chennai

28. Anoop Chandran, Cine Actor, Alappuzha, Kerala

29. Anshuman Das, Development Research Communication Service Centre (DRCSC), Kolkata, West Bengal

30. Antony Stephen, Director, Rainbow Foundation, Chennai

31. Aperna, Adhi Naturals, Bangalore, Karnataka

32. Appavu Palandar, President, Katch Sarbattra Vivasaya Membattu Sangam, Pudukkottai, Tamilnadu

33. Arun Tyagi, Dalit Adivasi Maha Panchyat, MadhyaPradesh

34. Arun, President, Dharmapuri District Organic Farmers Association, Dharmapuri, Tamilnadu

35. Aruna Rodrigues, Sunray Harvesters, Mhow, MadhyaPradesh

36. Arunima, Concerned citizen, Orissa

37. Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh, Pune, Maharashtra

38. Ashok Kumar, Teacher & Farmer, Secretary, Nalla Bakshana Prasthanam, Malappuram, Kerala

39. Ashok Pradhan, Concerned citizen, Orissa

40. Avil Borkar, Gramin Yuva Pragatik Mandal, Bhandara, Maharashtra

41. B. R. Ravindra, Arambha, Mysore, Karnataka

42. Badushah N., Chairman, Wyanad Environmental Protection Committee, Wyanad, Kerala

43. Balkrishna Namdeo, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, Aishbag, Bhopal, MP

44. Bhabani Das, Concerned citizen, Orissa

45. Bhakthi, Environment Support Group, Bangalore, Karnataka

46. Bharat Bhushan Thakur, Jan Kalyan Sansthan, Orissa

47. Bharat Dogra, Social Change papers, New Delhi

48. Bharat Mansata, Founder-member, Vanvadi Agro-ecological Regeneration Association -VARA, Mumbai, Maharashtra

49. Bhau Katdare, Secretary, Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra

50. Biju, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, Kochi, Kerala

51. Bimal Prasad Pandia, Regional Centre for Development Cooperation, Bhubaneswar, Orissa

52. Binayak Swain, BATNET, Orissa

53. Binoy Viswom, Ex-Minister for Forests and Housing, Kerala,

54. Biswa Ranjan, Concerned citizen, Orissa

55. Biswajit Mohanty, RTI Activist, Orissa

56. Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary Asia, Mumbai, Maharashtra

57. Brig. Oommen John, Concerned citizen, Trivandrum, Kerala

58. C. R. Neelakantan, Writer and Environmentalist, Kerala

59. Catherine Lee, Social Activist, Statue, Trivandrum, Kerala

60. Chandrasekharan Nair, Kerala Farmers Internet Forum, Trivandrum, Kerala

61. Channabasppa Kambli, Naisargika Sampalmoona Samste, Haveri, Karnataka

62. Cheran, President, Cauvery Delta Farmers Associations’ Federation, Tamilnadu

63. Chinmay Futane, Organic Farmer, Amravati, Maharashtra

64. Chinnusamy, President, Amaravathi Pasana Vivasayegal Sangam, Tamilnadu

65. Choudhary Ramkaran, 360 Village Panchayat, New Delhi

66. Christopher, President, Nanchillatha Vivasayegal Sangam, Kanyakumari, Tamilnadu

67. Daniel Mazgaonkar, Mumbai, Maharashtra

68. Daniel, Action Aid, Orissa

69. Debjeet Sarangi, Living Farms, Bhubaneswar, Orissa

70. Deepa V. S., Lecturer, College of Engineering, Karunagappalli, Kerala

71. Devarajan, President, Coimbatore District Tree Growers and Mooligai Farmers Association, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu

72. Dhanaraj Keezhara, Painter and Artist, Bangalore, Karnataka

73. Dharmendra Kumar, India FDI Watch, New Delhi

74. Dhirendra Panda, Focus Orissa

75. Dilip Subudhi, Regional Centre for Development Cooperation, Bhubaneswar, Orissa

76. Dinesh K Mishra, Bahr Mukti Abhiyan, New Delhi

77. Divan Singh, Natural Heritage First, New Delhi

78. Dr. Arun D. K., Indore Biotech Input, Indore, MP

79. Dr. Asha Gopinathan, Scientist, SCTIMST, Trivandrum, Kerala

80. Dr. Ashok Kundapur, Solar Cooker Expert, Udupi, Karnataka

81. Dr. Biji Abraham, Lecturer in Economics, Christian College, Chengannur, Kerala

82. Dr. Bijukumar, Reader, Kerala University, Trivandrum, Kerala

83. Dr. Deepa P. Gopinath, Lecturer, College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

84. Dr. G. G. Parikh, Freedom Fighter & President -Yusuf Meherally Centre, Tara, Maharashtra

85. Dr. G. K. Menan, Agriculture Scientist, Indore, MP

86. Dr. G. P. I. Singh, Convener, Environmental Health Action Group, Bathinda, Punjab

87. Dr. G. S. Koushal, Former Agriculture Director, M. P. Government, Bhopal, MP

88. Dr. H. Ramachandran, Associate Professor, Dept. of Life sciences, Sophia College, Mumbai, Maharashtra

89. Dr. Jacob Vadakkencherry, Nature Life Hospital, Kerala

90. Dr. Jeevandham, President, Tamil Nadu Green Movement, Tamilnadu

91. Dr. Johannes Manjrekar, Microbiology Department & Biotechnology Centre, M. S. University of Baroda, Gujarat

92. Dr. Maqbool, Professor in Zoology, MES College, Ponnani. Kerala

93. Dr. Nalini Naik, Gen. Secy, Self Employed Womens Association (SEWA), Trivandrum, Kerala

94. Dr. Priti Joshi, Director, National Organization for Community Welfare, Wardha, Maharashtra

95. Dr. Ravi Kelkar, Famous Organic Farmer, Indore, MP

96. Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy, Forum for a Sustainable Environment, Hyderabad, AP

97. Dr. S. Santhi Sharma, Scientist, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

98. Dr. Sadhuram Sharma, Former Sugarcane Commissioner, MadhyaPradesh

99. Dr. Sarada Money, Social Scientist, Trivandrum, Kerala

100. Dr. Saravana Babu, President, Flora(Forum of Biologists), Tamilnadu

101. Dr. Satpude, Former Dean Khanda Agriculture College, MadhyaPradesh

102. Dr. Shaila Wagh, Mumbai, Maharashtra

103. Dr. Shrap, Agriculture Scientist, Indore, MP

104. Dr. Sivasamy, State President, Thamizhka Vivasayegal Sangam, Tamilnadu

105. Dr. Sreekumar, Kottayam Nature Society, Kottayam, Kerala

106. Dr. Sunita Rajadhyaksha, Medical Director, OncoRX India Pvt Limited, Mumbai, Maharashtra

107. Dr. Thomas Varghese, Soil Scientist, Ex-Chairman, Kerala State Agricultural Prices Board, Kerala

108. Dr. Ujjwala Pendse, Dr. M. L. Dhawale Memorial Trust, Mumbai, Maharashtra

109. Dr. Usha Balaram, Professor (Retd.) in Zoology, Trivandrum, Kerala

110. Dr. V. S. Vijayan, Salim Ali Foundation and Ex-Chairman, Kerala State Biodiversity Board, Thrissur, Kerala

111. Dr. V. T. Sundarmurthy, Entomologist, Formerly Project Coordinator & Head, AICCIP (Cotton-ICAR), Central Institute for Cotton Research, Regional Station, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu

112. Dr. Vinod, Ayurveda Doctor and Scientist, TBGRI, Trivandrum, Kerala

113. Dr. Vivek Bhide, Ratnagiri Jilha Jagruk Manch, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra

114. Duraimanikkam, State Secretary, Thamizh Nadu Vivasayegal Sangam, Tamilnadu

115. Durgesh Kasbekar, Independent Research Analyst, Vancouver

116. Duskar Barik, Kirdti, Orissa

117. E. S. Jayachandran, Asst Professor, Model Engineering College, Kochi, Kerala

118. Eldo Pachilakkadan, Architect, BIRDS, Trivandrum, Kerala

119. Eshvar Makode, Prerna Yuva Parivar, Amravati, Maharashtra

120. Fatima Bernard, Director, Tamilnadu Women Forum, Tamilnadu

121. G. M. Hosamani, Dharwad Organic Growers Association, Dharwad, Karnataka

122. G. S. Rao, Chetna Organics, Orissa

123. Gajanan Padiyar, Nisarg Bachav Samiti, Dapoli, Maharashtra

124. Gautam Chaudhury, Concerned citizen, Kolkata, WestBengal

125. Geeta Jhamb, Mumbai Institute of Ecology & Environment, Mumbai, Maharashtra

126. Geo Jose, National Alliance for People’s Movement, Kochi, Kerala

127. Ghasiram Panda, Regional Centre for Development Cooperation, Bhubaneswar, Orissa

128. Giri Kumar, Organic farming, Chennai

129. Gomathi Nayagam, President, Vivasaya Seva Sangam,Puliangudi,Thirunelveli Dist, Tirunelveli, Tamilnadu

130. Guddi, National Coordinator -Yusuf Meherally Yuva Biradari, Mumbai, Maharashtra

131. Guruprasad, Nesara organic Service Society, Mysore, Karnataka

132. Guruswamy, Hulikadu savayva Krushikara koota, Kollegal, Karnataka

133. Guruvayurappan, Wildlife Preservation Society of India, Palakkad, Kerala

134. Hansa Mazgaonkar, Mumbai, Maharashtra

135. Hariharan, Farmer, Secretary, Kissan Jyothi Farmers Club, Kerala

136. Harikumar, Sound Engineer, National Award Winner-2010, Kerala

137. Harish Vasudevan, RTI activist, Kasargode, Kerala

138. Harshal Deshmukh, Bio-medical Engineer, Mumbai, Maharashtra

139. Hemant Moharir, Nagpur, Maharashtra

140. Hemendra Joshi, Vidarbha Convener- Rashtriya Swabhiman Aandolan, Amravati, Maharashtra

141. Hendry, President, Uzhavar Perumandram, Kanyakumari, Tamilnadu

142. Hoysal Appaji, Vasundare Jaivika Samsathe, Hasan, Karnataka

143. Illias, Secretary, One Earth One Life, Palakkad, Kerala

144. Iswarchandra Tripathi, Indian Farmers’ Union, MadhyaPradesh

145. J. Prasant Palakkappillil CMI Ph. D, Principal, Sacred Heart College, Thevara, Kerala

146. Jacob Lazer, PUCL, Kochi, Kerala

147. Jacob Nellithanam, Richharia Campaign, Centre for Indigenous Farming Systems, Chattisgarh

148. Jagannath Chatterjee, Regional Centre for Development Cooperation, Bhubaneswar, Orissa

149. Jasbir Chadda, URJA, New Delhi

150. Jayachandran, President, Chengelpet Dist.Natural Farmers Association, Tamilnadu

151. Jayakumar C, Director, Thanal, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

152. Jayant Varma, Hamara Bij Abhiyan, MadhyaPradesh

153. Jayaprakash, Prakrithi Padana Kendram, Nilambur, Kerala

154. Jishnu, Kumarakom Nature Club, Kottayam, Kerala

155. Jose M. J., Secretary, Kerala Social Service Forum, Kerala

156. Julius Rego, Nature Lover, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra

157. K. Sajaya, Caring Citizens Collective, Hyderabad, AP

158. K. V. Dayal, Chairman, Jaiva Karshaka Samithi, Kerala,

159. Kabir Arora, Indian Youth Climate Network, Delhi

160. Kalaivani, President, Erode District Organic Farmers Federation, Erode, Tamilnadu

161. Kalicharan Marandi, Dulaal, Orissa

162. Kalidass, President, OSAI, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu

163. Kanchi Kohli, Kalpavriksh, New Delhi

164. Kandasamy, Vellakoil Farmers Association, Tamilnadu

165. Kanwarjit Singh, Concerned citizen, Mumbai, Maharashtra

166. Kapil Shah, Director, Jatan Trust, Baroda, Gujarat

167. Karan Sadarangani, Concerned citizen, Mumbai, Maharashtra

168. Karuna Futane, Gram Seva Mandal, Gopuri, Wardha, Maharashtra

169. Kashmira Vaidya, Service, Mumbai, Maharashtra

170. Kavitha Kuruganti, Alliance for Holistic & Sustainable Agriculture (ASHA), Bangalore, Karnataka

171. Kedar Mishra, Anupam Bharat, Orissa

172. Kiran Vissa, Association for India’s Development, Hyderabad, AP

173. Kisan Mehta, Save Bombay Committee, Freedom Fighter, Mumbai, Maharashtra

174. Kishen Das, California, USA

175. Kodihalli Chandrashekar, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangah, Bangalore, Karnataka

176. Kongu Kolandaisamy, President, Erode Dist.Horti. Association, Erode, Tamilnadu

177. Kranti Prakash, Jaivik Kheti Abhiyan, New Delhi

178. Krishna Prasad, Director, Sahaja Samruddha, Bangalore, Karnataka

179. Kuppusamy, President, Kollathur Region Organic Farmers Association, Kollathur, Tamilnadu

180. Kusum Pal, Concerned citizen, Mumbai, Maharashtra

181. Lajpat Dhingra, Software Consultant, Thane, Maharashtra

182. Laxman, Mattu gulla Growers Association, Udupi, Karnataka

183. Laxmansingh Muniya, Lok Jagrati Manch, Jhabua, MP

184. Leo Saldana, Environment Support Group (ESG), Bangalore, Karnataka

185. Lingaraj Pradhan, Western Orissa Farmers’ Union, Orissa

186. M N Khadse, Technical Advisor, DharaMitra, Wardha, Maharashtra

187. M. A. Rahman, Professor in English and Film Maker, Kasargode, Kerala

188. Madhukar Dhas, Dilasa, Yavatmal, Maharashtra

189. Mallikarjun Hosapalya, Dhanya, Tumkur, Karnataka

190. Mallikarjun, Jeevasude Organic Products, Shivamoga, Karnataka

191. Manas Mishra, Concerned citizen, Orissa

192. Manish Rajankar, Bhandara Nisarg va Sanskriti Abhyas Mandal, Gondia, Maharashtra

193. Manjunath H., Samvadha, Bangalore, Karnataka

194. Mavis D’Souza, Urban Organic Farmer, Mumbai, Maharashtra

195. Meenatchsundaram, Secretary, Thiruvanamalai District Organic Farmers Association, Tamilnadu

196. Meeta Jhunjhunwala, Director- Ultimate Destinations & Events, Mumbai, Maharashtra

197. Meghna Patel, Concerned Mother, Mumbai, Maharashtra

198. Meher Engineer, Vice President, Teachers and Scientists against Maldevelopment, Kolkata, West Bengal

199. Mercy Alexander, Director, SAKHI Womens Resource Centre, Trivandrum, Kerala

200. Mercy, Director, BLOSSOM, Tamilnadu

201. Monisha Narkhe, RURecycling, Mumbai, Maharashtra

202. Mukta Shrivastav, National Alliance for People’s Movement, Mumbai, Maharashtra

203. N. Paul Sunder Singh, Advocate. Karunalaya Social Service, Chennai

204. N. R. Shetty, Sahaja Samrudha, Bangalore, Karnataka

205. N. S. Palanisamy, State president, Katchi Sarbattra Thamilaga vivasayegal Sangam,Tiruppur, Tamilnadu

206. Nagappa Nimbegondi, Siridanya Samrakshkara Balaga, Haveri, Karnataka

207. Nallgoundar, Secretary, Uhavar Uzhaipallar Kattchi, Tamilnadu

208. Nallusamy, President, Tamil nadu Kal Iyyakkam, Erode, Tamilnadu

209. Nandita Shah, SHARAN, Mumbai, Maharashtra

210. Narayanan, Farmer, Secretary, Jaiva Karshaka Samithi-Palakkad, Kerala

211. Natabara Khuntia, Columnist, Orissa

212. Nawab Khan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Gondipura, Bhopal, MP

213. Neeraj Kumar, Trihut Kisan Morcha, New Delhi

214. Neesha Noronha, Mumbai Organic Farmers and Consumers Association (MOFCA), Mumbai, Maharashtra

215. Nilesh Desai, Beej Swaraj Abhiyan, Jhabua, MP

216. Nirali Shah, SHVAS, Ahmedabad, Gujarat

217. Niranjana Maru, HOD, Agriculture & NRM, Alternative Agriculture Resource Centre, Chetana-Vikas, Wardha, Maharashtra

218. Nishikanta Mohapatra, Concerned citizen, Orissa

219. O. V. Usha, Poet and Writer, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

220. P. A. Pouran, General Secretary, PUCL,Kerala State Committee, Manjery, Kerala

221. Pandiode Prabhakaran, National Farmers Protection Forum, Palakkad, Kerala

222. Panduranga Hegde, Chipko-Appiko Movement, Karnataka

223. Pankaj Bhushan, GM Free Movement-Bihar, Patna, Bihar

224. Partha Sarthi Jena, Centre for labour Studies, New Delhi

225. Pervin Jehangir, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Mumbai, Maharashtra

226. Philomina, AIKYA, Bangalore, Karnataka

227. Podaran, Founder& Director, Thamilaga Valvurimai Iyakkam, Kangeyam, Tamilnadu

228. Pooaniyan, General Secretary, TN Tharsarbu Vivasayegal Sangam, Tamilnadu

229. Prabhat Mishra, Regional Centre for Development Cooperation, Bhubaneswar, Orissa

230. Prafulla Das, Concerned citizen, Orissa

231. Prafulla Samantray, Convener, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Orissa

232. Prafulla Savala, Pryavaran Mitramandal, Bharat Krushak Samaj, Amravati, Maharashtra

233. Prakhar Dixit, L.L.B., Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, New Delhi

234. Pramod, Kachra Kamghar Union, New Delhi

235. Pramodini Pradhan, PUCL, Orissa

236. Prasanth Mohanty, Concerned Citizen, Bhubaneswar, Orissa

237. Pravin Gavankar, Janhit Seva Samiti, Madban, Jaitapur, Maharashtra

238. Priti Turakhia, Concerned citizen, Mumbai, Maharashtra

239. Priya Ranjan Sahoo, Concerned citizen, Orissa

240. Priya Salvi, Prakruti, Mumbai, Maharashtra

241. Prof Anil Sadgopal, Member, Presidium All India Forum for Right to Education & Former Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Delhi, New Delhi

242. Prof Vikram Soni, Jamia Milia Islamia University, New Delhi

243. Prof. G Arunima, Associate Professor, JNU, New Delhi

244. Prof. Ritu Priya, Nobody should sleep hungry, New Delhi

245. Prof.Shambu Prasad, Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar, Orissa

246. Purushan Eloor, Chairman, Periyar Malineekarana Virudha Samithi, Kochi, Kerala

247. Pushpanjali Satpathy, Basundhara, Orissa

248. R Jayaraman, Training Director, FEDCOT, Thiruthiraipoondi, Tamilnadu

249. R Ponnambalam, Managing Trustee, CREATE, Nagercoil, Tamilnadu

250. Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action, Bhopal, MP

251. Rady Ananda, USA

252. Raj Kishor Mishra, Right To Food Campaign, Orissa

253. Raj Krishna Mukherjee, Developement Research Communication Service Centre (DRCSC), Kolkata, WestBengal

254. Raja Chidambaram, State President, Thamilaga vivasayegal Sangam, Perambalur, Tamilnadu

255. Rajendra Bhagel, Former MLA and known Organic Farmer, Sonkachh, MP

256. Rajendra Chandak, Bharat Bachao Aandolan Samiti, Amravati, Maharashtra

257. Rajesh Krishnan, Greenpeace, Bangalore, Karnataka

258. Rajeswari Purohit, CWS, Orissa

259. Rajini Thakur, Prakriti, New Delhi

260. Rajkumar Bardiya, Pashudhan Bachao Samiti, Paratvada, Amravati, Maharashtra

261. Raka Sinha Bal, Angaja Foundation, New Delhi

262. Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, United Forum for RTI Campaign-AndhraPradesh,

263. Rakesh Tikait, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Muzzafarnagar, UP

264. Ram Mohan, District president, HMKP, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu

265. Rama Subramaniam, Chief Consultant, Samanvaya, Chennai

266. Rama.Nambi.Narayanan, State Organizer, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, Chennai

267. Ramaswamy Selvam, State Coordinator, Tamilnadu Organic Farmers Federation, Erode, Tamilnadu

268. Ramesh Choudhary, Madhyanchal Forum, MadhyaPradesh

269. Rangadhar Behera, Regional Centre for Development Cooperation, Bhubaneswar, Orissa

270. Ranjeet Thakur, Green Features, New Delhi

271. Rashida Bi, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Hamidia Road Bhopal, MP

272. Robin, Editor, Keraleeyam Fortnightly, Thrissur, Kerala

273. Rony Joseph, INFACT, Pala, Kerala

274. Ruth Sequeira, Sahayak Trust, Mumbai, Maharashtra

275. S. Jeevan Kumar, Human Rights Forum, Hyderabad, AP

276. S. Poongodi, Managing Trustee, Vithu Trust-Arachalur, Erode, Tamilnadu

277. S. Varadarajan, Managing Trustee, Waves Foundation, Thiruvaroor, Tamilnadu

278. S. Vijayakumaran Nair, Secretary, Trivandrum Consumers Protection Forum, Trivandrum, Kerala

279. Sachin Jain, Right to Food Movement, MadhyaPradesh

280. Sadagopan, State president, Thamizhkh Uzhvar Periyyakkam, Tamilnadu

281. Safreen Khan, Children Against Dow Carbide, Bhopal, MP

282. Samir Mehta, Dharohar Dharti Trust, Mumbai, Maharashtra

283. Samprati Gada, Mumbai, Maharashtra

284. Sandeep Vaidya, Pashudhan Bachao Samiti, Amravati, Maharashtra

285. Sandhya Edlabadkar, Jagrut Mahila Samaj, Chandrapur, Maharashtra

286. Sangita Sharma, Annadana Seed Savers Network, Bangalore, Karnataka

287. Sanjay Patil, BAIF, Pune, Maharashtra

288. Sanjeev Reddy, Social Activist, Orissa

289. Saraswati Kavula, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Hyderabad, AP

290. Saroj Mohanty, Western Orissa Farmers’ Union, Orissa

291. Satinath Sarangi, Bhopal Group for Information and Action, Bhopal, MP

292. Satish Gogulvar, Amhi Amchya Arogyasathi, Gadchiroli, Maharashtra

293. Satyajit Chavan, Kokan Vinashkari Prakalpa Virodhi Samiti, Mumbai, Maharashtra

294. Sebastian K. Jose, Bodhi, Pala, Kerala

295. Selina Shah, Professor, Mithibai College, Mumbai, Maharashtra

296. Shalini Bhutani, Lawyer and Independent Researcher, New Delhi

297. Sheelu Francis, Director,Women Collective, Tamilnadu

298. Shibu K. Nair, Director, Zero Waste Centre, Kovalam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

299. Shishir Parija, Agriculture Specialist, Orissa

300. Shivaprasad, Kadamab Samudaya Beejakendra, Banavasi, Karnataka

301. Shivayogi Makari, Sanjeeveni Savayava Krushi Balaga, Hirekerur, Karnataka

302. Shjudeen, President, Green Youths Coimbatore, Tamilnadu

303. Shweta Wagh, Associate Professor, Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture and Environmental Studies, Mumbai, Maharashtra

304. Shyamala Sanyal, Nagpur, Maharashtra

305. Simanchal Nahak, Rusikalya Royot Mahasabha, Orissa

306. Smita Mitra, Outlook India, Mumbai, Maharashtra

307. Somesh, Sahaja Organics, Bangalore, Karnataka

308. Sreedevi Lakshmi Kutty, Urban Leaves, Den Haag, NL

309. Sreedharana Nair, Director – Initiative for Social & Economic Transformation (InSET), New Delhi

310. Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convener,Coalition for GM Free India, Trivandrum, Kerala

311. Subhash Kamdi, Organic Farmers Group, Madani, Sewagram, Wardha, Maharashtra

312. Subi Thalapathy, President, Thadappali and A.Kootai Pasana Vivasayegal Sangam, Gobi, Tamilnadu

313. Sudarshan Chhotray, Concerned citizen, Orissa

314. Sudhir Gandotra, Humanist Party, New Delhi

315. Sudhir Pattanaik, Samadrushti, Orissa

316. Sugathakumari, Padmasri Awardee, Poet and Environmentalist, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

317. Sujata Jagtap, Muktiyan Sanskritik Sanghatan, Mumbai, Maharashtra

318. Suma Josson, Film maker, Mumbai, Maharashtra

319. Sumeet Sharma, Advocate, Delhi

320. Suniel Chaurasiya, Filmmaker, Mumbai, Maharashtra

321. Suresh Panigrahi, AIKS, Orissa

322. Suresh Tripathy, Western Orissa Farmers’ Union, Orissa

323. Sushila Satyal, Bharat Swabhiman & Patanjali Yog Samiti, Mumbai, Maharashtra

324. T. P. Padmanabhan, Society for Environmental Education in Kerala (SEEK), Payyannur, Kerala

325. T. Sakthivel, Secretary, Sathyamangalam Environment and Wildlife Association, Tamilnadu

326. Tejal V., Nurturing Grounds, Mumbai, Maharashtra

327. Thirugana Samthamurthy, President, Uppar Pasana Vivasayegal, Tamilnadu

328. Uday Acharya, Urban Leaves, Mumbai, Maharashtra

329. Uday Kanitkar, Photographer, Thane, Maharashtra

330. Ugranarasimma, Nisarga, Natural food Production Centre, Mysore, Karnataka

331. Uma Shankari, Rashtriya Raitu Seva Samiti, Chittoor Dist., AndhraPradesh

332. Umendra Dutt, Executive Director, Kheti Virasat Mission, Jaitu, Punjab

333. Usha Soolapani, National Coordinator, Save Our Rice Campaign, India, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

334. V. Arun, Managing Trystee, The Forest Way, Thiruvannamalai, Tamilnadu

335. Vaiyuapuri, State President, Iyykiya Vivasayegal Sangam, Tamilnadu

336. Vasant Futane, SAMVAD, Organic Farmer, Amravati, Maharashtra

337. Velayudham, President, Kalingarayan Pasanan Vivasayegal Sangam, Pasur, Erode, Tamilnadu

338. Vellaiyan, President, Federation of Traders /Associations, Tamilnadu

339. Vettavalam Manikandan, President, Indhiya Uhavar Uzhaipallar Kattchi, Tamilnadu

340. Victor, HOPE, Pondicherry

341. Vijay Edlabadkar, Janvidyan Kendra,Chandrapur, Maharashtra

342. Vijay Patil, “KASTAKAR” voluntary group working for rural upliftment, Yavatmal, Maharashtra

343. Vijay Pratap, South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy, New Delhi

344. Vijay Ubale, Dalit Haqq Abhiyan Jilla Sanghatak, Nasik, Maharashtra

345. Vijay Wilankar, Human resources Consultant, Mumbai, Maharashtra

346. Vinay Futane, Organic farmer, Amravati, Maharashtra

347. Vinita Mansata, Earthcare Books, Kolkata, WestBengal

348. Vinod Saighal, ECO Monitors Society, New Delhi,

349. Vipul Sanghavi, Urban Organic Farmer, Mumbai, Maharashtra,

350. Vishweshwar Madhav, Chemical Engineer, Mumbai, Maharashtra,

351. Yudhvir Singh, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), New Delhi

COALITION FOR A GM-FREE INDIA URGES ANDHRA PRADESH TO DISALLOW GM CROP TRIALS; WARNS GEAC AGAINST REVOKING THE REQUIREMENT FOR NO OBJECTION FROM STATES

PRESS RELEASE: COALITION FOR A GM-FREE INDIA URGES ANDHRA PRADESH TO DISALLOW GM CROP TRIALS; WARNS GEAC AGAINST REVOKING THE REQUIREMENT FOR NO OBJECTION FROM STATES

Hyderabad, July 30th 2011: While many states like Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Chhattisgarh have stopped all field trials of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in their states, it is alarming that several GM crops are being allowed for field trials and seed production in Andhra Pradesh. The nationwide Coalition for GM-Free India, following their national meet in Hyderabad, urged the government of Andhra Pradesh to disallow all GM crop trials in the state. Cautioning against any move to revoke the requirement of state government’s NOC for any GM crop field trials, the Coalition for a GM-Free India reminded the GEAC that Agriculture is a state subject as per the Constitution and that the Indian regulatory system should uphold this authority. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee in the MoEF had recently formalized the processes for its field trial authorisation procedures, that now requires GM crop developers to obtain an NOC from state governments before permission is given by the GEAC. However, the industry is pressurizing the GEAC to revoke this clause.

“There is absolutely no basis on which the industry bodies like ABLE should be resisting this new norm in the Indian GM regulatory regime. Agriculture is a State subject as per the Constitution of India. What’s more, many state governments have been asking actively right from 1998 for a say in GM crop related decision-making in the country. The former Environment Minister has been right in conceding this. In fact, as per the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, public consultations should be a part of decision-making and India is a signatory to this international agreement. Moreover, Panchayats should have their right, constitutional say in the matter too. We warn GEAC against any denial or violation of any any democratic, constitutional mechanisms related to GM decision-making in India”, said Kavitha Kuruganti from the nationwide Coalition for a GM-Free India.

Speaking on the occasion, Kiran Vissa co-convenor of the national Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), said: “Andhra Pradesh government should take a policy decision on GM field trials like other states such as Bihar, MP and Kerala; instead they have just announced a 5-member committee making it a bureaucratic process. The government should realize that field trials actually mean environmental release of a GMO which is largely untested and whose biosafety is unknown. There are many instances in India and other countries about how field trials pose contamination and other risks. The Govt. of AP had to fight a tough battle against Monsanto’s monopoly practices to protect the farmers, including a High Court case. It knows how companies like Monsanto pose danger to farmers’ interests and now it should not surrender to the power of these companies. The Coalition demands that the Government of AP outright reject field trials of GMOs in the state.”

Leaders of the campaign who addressed the media included Pankaj Bhushan of GM-Free Bihar, Saroj Mohanty of Paschim Orissa Krushak Sanghatan, Krishna Prasad of GM-Free Karnataka, Dr.Ramanjaneyulu from Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) and K.Sajaya from Caring Citizens Collective which works on the issue of farmers’ suicides in Andhra Pradesh.

Monsanto was recently caught violating numerous biosafety norms in such a field trial in Karnataka and the government is investigating the case right now. Meanwhile, AP has several field trials and seed production trials approved by GEAC, in Medak, Rangareddy, Warangal, Mahbubnagar, Kurnool districts. Civil society groups point out that the GM maize which is being tried in AP is known to cause numerous health and environmental risks, apart from causing potential adverse socio-economic impacts.
For more information, contact:
Kavitha Kuruganti, Coalition for a GM-Free India, 09393001550,
Kiran Vissa, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), 09701705743;