Bill introduced despite trenchant opposition within and outside the Parliament
New Delhi, 23rd April 2013: The Coalition for a GM-Free India expressed deep disappointment at the Government’s action of sneaking in the controversial Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill 2013, in Parliament today (22nd April, 2013) despite strong opposition from parliamentarians, scientists, civil society groups and other analysts to this controversial and unacceptable Bill. This Bill, dubbed as a “wrong bill by the wrong people for wrong reasons” in its various versions has been extremely controversial due to provisions facilitating the biotechnology industry at the expense of public good. Further, the Bill’s flawed approach to regulation in trying to create a single window clearing house for products of modern biotechnology, instead of an express mandate to protect and uphold biosafety given the acknowledged risks of modern biotechnology, has been opposed time and again.
“As we have reiterated on numerous occasions, the Bill is steeped in conflict of interest as the Ministry promoting biotechnology is about to house the regulator; it undermines the federal polity of our nation by overriding the authority of state governments, even though Agriculture is a State Subject as per the Indian Constitution. It also attempts to circumvent the right to information and transparency laws and is focussed on creating a three member technocratic, undemocratic and centralised decision making body. As the Bt brinjal moratorium decision shows us, even a more broad-based regulatory body had gone wrong with its decision-making – why can’t the government learn lessons from the past and aspire for a progressive legislation in the interest of Indian citizens and environment, rather than promote corporate interests?” said Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convener of the Coalition.
The problems with this technology particularly in our food and farming systems, where the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are released into the environment are widely known and documented. “The Bill overlooks the ever-increasing evidence on the impacts of GMOs on human health, biodiversity and socioeconomic aspects and lacks any scientific independent, long term assessment to look at the safety as well as the very need of GMOs before their open release. This bill is anti-farmer and anti-consumer; if passed, it will only result in people losing control over food choices and seed sovereignty. The bill should be withdrawn”, asserted Pankaj Bhushan the Co-Convener of the Coalition.
The introduction of this Bill at this juncture is all the more shocking and unacceptable, given the following recommendation from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture which studied the subject in detail and presented its report to the Parliament in August 2012:
The Government have been for some years now toying with the idea of a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority. The Committee feel that regulating biotechnology is too small a focus in the vast canvas of biodiversity, environment, human and livestock health, etc. and a multitude of other such related issues. They have, therefore, already recommended in a previous Chapter setting up of an all encompassing Bio-safety Authority through an Act of Parliament, which is extensively discussed and debated amongst all stakeholders, before acquiring shape of the law. Unless and until such an authority is in place, any further movement in regard to transgenics in agriculture crops will obviously be fraught with unknown consequences. (Section 8.120)
Analysing the lacunae of the existing regulation and studying the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India, the Standing Committee said the following: “In such a situation what the Country needs is not a biotechnology regulatory legislation but an all encompassing umbrella legislation on biosafety which is focused on ensuring the biosafety, biodiversity, human and livestock health, environmental protection and which specifically describes the extent to which biotechnology, including modern biotechnology, fits in the scheme of things without compromising with the safety of any of the elements mentioned above”.
The Coalition for a GM-Free India strongly urges that Parliamentarians cutting across the political spectrum should respond to this retrograde and anti-people bill and prevent the control over our food and seed by a few biotechnology majors. Discussing the Bill in a limited context of a Standing Committee on Science & Technology would not suffice, given the large potential impact of the issue at hand.
We demand that the government show its sensitivity to the broad based opposition by withdrawing the bill. We urge Parliamentarians to ask forcirculation to elicit response and understand the importance and need to set up a Joint Committee in this current instance (ideally headed by the Chairperson of the Agriculture Standing Committee, given its deep links to farmers’ livelihoods, an issue pertaining to the largest number of Indians).
www.indiagminfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/BRAI-critique-coalition-for-gm-free-india.pdf has a detailed critique of the Govt’s BRAI Bill.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Sridhar Radhakrishnan: 9995358205
Pankaj Bhushan : 9472999999