Tag Archives: Field Trials

Coalition for GM Free India Urges the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to halt the permissions for open field trials of GM crops in the state

In the wake of media reports about the Maharashtra Govt granting No Objection Certificates (NOCs) for the open air field trials of GM crops in the state, the Coalition for a GM Free India along with the Coalition for a GM Free Maharashtra has sent a letter ( Fwded below) to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra urging him not to overlook the growing scientific evidence on the adverse impacts of GM crops as well as the public opposition to it.

The fact that the announcement regarding approvals of field trials was made on the sidelines of an event arranged by the International biotechnology industry lobby group, ISAAA shows in a way the influence International biotech giants like Monsanto as well as their Indian promoters have in every government. Besides this there seems to be no basis on which these open trials could be permitted at a time every other credible agency be it the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture or the Supreme Court appointed Technical Expert Committee or the TSR Subraminiam committee appointed by the Union Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to look into environmental laws in the country have cautioned against any open release of GMOs at this juncture.

One hopes that the Chief Minister, whose governing values is to put ‘People first’, would put science and society before profits of seed companies and reverse the NOCs which were granted.

To:

Shri Devendra Fadnavis,
Hon’ble Chief Minister,
Government of Maharashtra.

Dear Sir,

Re: Serious concerns around approval for open air field trials of five GM crops in Maharashtra – reg.

It has been reported in the media that the Government of Maharashtra has granted No Objection Certificates(NOCs) for allowing open air field trials of five Genetically Modified (GM) crops in the state. These crops include three major food crops of India.

It is shocking that the State has gone ahead with the NOCs at a juncture where all other states have said NO to field trials of GM crops due to the inherent problems with the technology and associated issues experienced with field trials in India and other countries.

As you may be kindly aware, the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee(2013), the Parliamentary Standing Committee on GM crops (2012), the recent Subramanian Committee (2014) have all strongly recommended that open air field trials of GM crops not be granted. In addition, it has been specifically pointed out by these committees that crops where India is the Centre of Origin/Diversity should not be under any circumstance allowed to be genetically modified and tested in open air. This would jeopardize the gene pool in the place of origin. Rice, brinjal and chickpeas have India as their Centre of Origin/diversity. In addition, with regard to Bt brinjal, since the moratorium was imposed in 2010, no new evidence has emerged attesting to its need or its safety. On the contrary, further problems with health and environmental impacts have been revealed in new reports. You would also be kindly aware of the fact that the Sopory Committee report, commissioned by the Union Agriculture Ministry, has confirmed that contamination during field trials has indeed happened in the case of a GMO that was tested in the country.

All states including other BJP-ruled state governments like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh as well as non-BJP state governments like West Bengal, Odisha, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bihar etc., have refused NOCs and continue to say no to open air field trials in their states . Therefore it is perplexing on what basis Maharashtra has taken this decision. The question arises as to what additional information the State of Maharastra has, to allow field trials. In fact, given the severe agrarian crisis that the state has become infamous for, it would call for greater caution and prudence from the government.

Further, the process of NOCs is also questionable. The announcement regarding approvals of field trials was made on the sidelines of an event arranged by the biotechnology industry lobby group ISAAA . One of the members of the Maharashtra State Committee (responsible for granting NOCs) was releasing the lobby group report ( on GM crops) and also revealed that the field trial approvals have been granted by the state. This member had in the past resigned from the apex regulatory body GEAC due to a controversy related to his industry association and conflict of interest. This points to undue access and influence the biotech industry lobby may have on the Committee members and throws doubt on the impartiality, neutrality and objectivity of the process of granting NOCs. The state government panel being headed by a nuclear scientist is also ironical, given that biosafety expertise is specialised and missing in the panel or its Chair.

It was mentioned in the news report that all field trials would be conducted within University campuses, even though previous experience has amply demonstrated that University campuses are on one side ill-equipped to deal with the complex biosafety mechanisms needed, including basic conditions like the necessary isolation distance, while on the other, these campuses are large repositories of our germplasm wealth. GM crops trials in close proximity to these will jeopardize the germplasm as contamination possibilities are high. Therefore, this is no way a safe guard.

As explicated by the various Committees and from evidence from past field trials it is amply evident that we have no biosafety norms in place to deal with this inherently dangerous, irreversible and unpredictable technology, which is quickly becoming undesirable and obsolete in many countries.

By approving these open air trials of unknown new organisms in Nature, the state government is making a statement that it abides by the industry pressure rather than uphold citizens’ right to biosafety – safe environment and safe food.

We urge you to urgently examine these approvals and immediately reverse the decision in the interests of biosafety, livelihood security, environment and public health. We also hope you will grant us a meeting so that we can discuss our concerns in person, present our scientific evidence as well as share viable alternatives that the state can pursue.

Sincerely Yours,

Rajesh Krishnan, Shamika Mone,
Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India Coalition for a GM Free Maharashtra
Mob:07559915032, 9845650032 Mob: 8888862293
rajeshecologist@gmail.com

Gujarat Govt joins other states, says will not permit Field trials of GM food crops in the state. Coalition for a GM Free India urges Mr. Prakash Javadekar, the Minister for Environment, Forests & Climate Change to stop open air GM trials in the country.

New Delhi: October 9, 2014: In the latest development on the raging debate around open trials of the controversial Genetically Modified (GM) crops in India, the Gujarat state govt communicated formally that No Objection Certificate (NOC), will not be given for any GM food crops in the state. The NOC is a statutory requirement from the state govts for conducting open air trials. Gujarat thus joins other states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana etc who had denied permissions for field trials of GM crops. The communication from the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Govt of Gujarat, was in response to a letter by Mr. Kapil Shah of Jatan, an organisation working for the promotion of ecological farming in the state, raising concerns on the open air experiments of risky GM crops.[1] Talking about field trials the letter said that “after due consideration based on the various presentations received by this office, it is decided that NOCs will not be given to food crops.”
Welcoming the decision by the state government and terming it a very responsible one Kapil Shah stated, “It is a great relief for farmers and consumers of the state given that there is growing evidence on the adverse impacts of GM crops on human health, environment as well as farm livelihoods. Any open trials could become a potential source of contamination of our food and seed supply”. Mr Shah, a plant breeder and geneticist by training and a member of the newly constituted committee by the state govt. to draft the organic farming policy, also added, “It is a victory of people’s movements in Gujarat including farmers unions, scientists, consumer and environmental groups who had been fighting to stop open releases of GM crops in the state in the garb of field trials.”
The decision by Gujarat has once again highlighted the widespread opposition to open air trials of GM crops. Particularly disturbing is the recent flurry of field trial approvals by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF& CC), the nodal agency for any environmental release of GMOs in the country. GEAC had granted approvals for 47 such trials involving GM varieties of rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, cotton, brinjal, mustard, potato, sugarcane and chickpea across the country.
The Coalition for a GM Free India congratulated the Gujarat state govt for being responsive to the demands of its people and responsible to science. “It is heartening that a leading agricultural state like Gujarat has recognised that field trials of GMOs are the first environmental release of untested, unknown new organisms in nature and has decided to take a precautionary approach towards it” said Rajesh Krishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India. He further stated that this decision is also in line with the recommendations by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture as well as the Supreme Court appointed Technical Expert Committee. Both had strongly advised against any open release of GMOs due to the scientific evidence on its adverse impacts as well as the inadequacy of the existing regulatory system.
“There is no dearth of scientific evidence to show that GM crops pose a serious threat to human health and biodiversity” said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture ( ASHA), lead author of the compilation titled “ADVERSE IMPACTS OF TRANSGENIC CROPS/FOODS – A COMPILATION OF SCIENTIFIC REFERENCES WITH ABSTRACTS”. The second edition of the compilation had more than 450 peer reviewed papers about the deleterious effects of GM crops [2].
The latest study pointing to problems with GM crops comes from Monsanto scientists. The study published by Brazilian scientists along with scientists from Monsanto, the US seed giant and the leader in biotech seeds, as co-authors has acknowledged that transgene insertions in GM crops can have unintended effects. The study shows how GM (HT Bt) soybean produced by Monsanto, resistant to herbicides containing glyphosate and capable of producing a Bt insecticide, helps the growth of certain non-target pest insect, causing considerable damage to the soybean crop [3]. Citing the growing scientific evidence as well as public opposition Ms Kuruganti further stated, “GEAC’s mindless approval of GM crops is blatantly unscientific and undemocratic.”
With Gujarat also saying no to field trials of GM crops Maharashtra remains the only state where field trials are undergoing.The Coalition had earlier written to Prakash Javadekar pointing to the rampant violations at these GM trials of Monsanto in his home state as reported by media and demanded him to immediately stop all GM trials.[4]
In the light of the new scientific evidence on adverse impacts of GM crops, the experiences with Bt cotton along with the increasing opposition from state governments the Coalition for a GM Free India urged Mr Javadekar, the Minister for Environment, Forests & Climate Change, to heed to voice of people as well as recommendations from credible agencies like the Parliamentary Standing Committee and the Supreme Court-appointed TEC and immediately stop all open field trials. The Coalition also demanded a comprehensive analysis of the Bt cotton, the only commercially cultivated GM crop in India, experience before promoting it further.

Notes to the Editor:
1. The official response ( in Gujarati) from Gujarat Govt http://indiagminfo.org/?p=771
2. http://indiagminfo.org/?p=657
3. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9360220&fileId=S0007485314000546
4. http://www.thestatesman.net/news/79166-guidelines-in-gm-crop-trial-violated.html
For More information:
1. Kapil Shah, Jatan, Mob: 9427054132, email: jatantrust@gmail.com
2. Rajesh Krishnan, Coalition for a GM Free India, 9845650032, rajeshecologist@gmail.com

letter from eminent Indian scientists to the Prime Minister advising caution against GM crops

New Delhi,
1/08/2014.

To
Shri Narendra Modi,
The Prime Minister
Govt of India
Dear Sir,

Sub: Bringing to your notice the science based concerns on the environmental release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and urging your action to stop them. Reg:

We are writing this to bring to your attention the serious concerns of the Indian scientific community on the recent decision by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), under the ministry of Environment and Forest, to approve numerous experiments on GM crops, including many GM food crops.

It is shocking that GEAC took this decision in their first meeting after your government took charge. It is unfortunate that the committee continues to follow the unscientific approach towards environmental release of GMOs when there is growing scientific evidence for the adverse impact of GMOs on human health and environment which has been repeatedly brought to their notice. Equally important are the experiences from across the world on the potential of this technology to facilitate monopolisation of seeds by a select few multinational seed companies. One has seen that with Bt cotton, the only GM crop approved for commercial cultivation in our country. Within a decade of its approval, Monsanto, the largest Biotech seed company in the world, has taken total control of our cotton seed market through its proprietory Bt cotton.

We would like to highlight the fact that opposition to open releases of GMOs originated in the scientific circles and continues to be fuelled by ever-growing scientific evidences of its adverse impacts. This is precisely the reason that majority of the countries in the world have decided to take a precautionary approach towards this controversial technology. Even in our country the first and only Agri biotechnology taskforce appointed by the government of India and headed by Dr M. S Swaminathan in its report submitted in 2004 had recommended that transgenics should be resorted to only when other viable options have been exhausted. The task force also reccomended that a robust regulatory system should be put in place.

This is the approach that has been further reflected in the reports by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture as well as the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC). Given the scientificaly valid conerns on open releases of GMOs as well as the serious inadequacies in the existing regulatory system in our country both these committees had strongly reccomended against any open release of GMOs, including their field trials, untill a robust regulatory system in in place. Unfortunately the previous UPA government consistently rejected these prudent advices.

We hope that your government would rectify this mistake and ensure that safeguarding of biosafety and livelihoods of farmers as well as ensuring seed sovereignity and food security of the nation will be the primary concern when assessing the need and the safety of GMOs.We would also like to point out that this precautionary approach towards GM crops is consistent with the promise given by your party, Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP), in its election manifesto.

We hereby enclose the letter that we had written to the previous Prime Minister of our country urging him to keep science, society and the interest of the nation in mind and accept the reccomendations of the TEC(1). This letter was endorsed by more than 250 Indian scientists of eminence including Padma Awardees, Vice Chancellors of universities, etc.

Looking forward to your urgent action in stopping the field trial approvals and giving our country a new policy direction in the regulation of such technologies which will put science, society and national interest before profit motives of a few.

Sincerely yours
Sd/-
1. Padmabhushan Dr. P.M Bhargava
Former member, National Knowledge commission, Founder Director Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.
2. Dr. Minoo Parabia,
Retd. Professor and Head, Dept. of Bio Sciences,
Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat, Gujarat.

3. Dr. V.S Vijayan,
Former Chairman, Kerala State Biodiversity Board, Former Director,
Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Coimbatore .
4. Prof. Dinesh Abrol, Institute of Studies in Industrial Development,Visiting Professor, Centre for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
5. Dr. Tushar Chakraborty,
Sr Scientist, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, Kolkata, Member, State Biotechnology Council, Govt of West Bengal.

(1) http://indiagminfo.org/?p=649

Copy to:
1. Shri. Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Govt of India
2. Shri. Radha Mohan Singh, Union Minister for Agriculture, Govt of India.
3. Dr. Jitendra Singh, Union Minister for Science and Technology, Govt of India.

GM Free India Coalition urges Environmental Minister to stop approval of GM crops field trials

New Delhi,
17/07/2014.
To
Shri Prakash Javadekar,                                                                                                     The Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change,                                                  Govt of India.
Dear Sir,
Sub: Seeking your urgent intervention in stopping approval for Field trials of GM Crops Reg:
We are writing this with utmost concern as numerous media reports in the last two days have indicated that the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), under your ministry is proposing to approve numerous field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops including of many new crops during its next meeting slated for the 18th of July, 2014. We are afraid that this meeting being the first after you took charge of the ministry is going to set a wrong precendent.This is a totally undesirable development considering the numerous problems associated with GMOs.

We would like to bring to your attention that this is happening at a time when the Supreme Court appointed Technical Expert Committee in its final report submitted last year had strongly recommended against any open release of GMOs, including for field trials, until the regulatory system is made robust. More than 250 Indian scientists, including Vice Chancellors of Universities and Padma awardees, had written to the then Prime Minister endorsing the reccomendations of TEC.1 It is highly inappropriate that permissions for environmental release of GM crops are being given with an undue haste by GEAC despite these advices and before a final view on the matter is being taken by the court.
A similar reccomendation was also given by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, comprising of 32 M.Ps from across party lines including 7 from Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) in their report submitted in the Parliament on August, 2012.
During the two previous meetings of the GEAC, numerous approvals were granted for extension of field trial period of GMOs, indiscriminately, and the details of these extensions have not been shared in the minutes by the previous Ministry. So, in addition to hasty approvals the attempt has also been to go against the transparency norms laid down as part of good governance.

In addition to both these reports the Sopory Committee Report2 , commissioned by the Indian Council for Agricultural research (ICAR), to look into the egregious failure of the first Indian public sector Bt cotton, pointed to serious problems with the apex regulator of biotechnology and deep rooted problems with GM research in the country.

As you are aware, the approval field trials of GM crops had been a contentious issue even during the tenure of the previous government. It is widely suspected that Smt Jayanti Natarajan who wanted to go by the recommendations of the TEC as well as the Parliamentary Standing committee was shunted out and Mr Veerappa Moily brought in at the fag end of the UPA govt to give these approvals. There was wide spread opposition to the way in which approvals for numerous field trials were given during the last 3 months of the previous govt. Farmers Unions including the Bharatiya Kisan Morcha, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, All India Kisan Sabha and political parties including your own had condemned this3.
We are shocked that under the watch of the newly formed BJP government the GEAC is continuing its ill-conceived plans of approval of GM crops disregarding valid concerns regarding GMOs.
Sir, we urge you to look into this urgently so that this wrong practice instituted under the UPA regime is not continued by the new government in place. Considering the numerous problems with GM crops, including adverse impacts on human and animal health and the environment, the pendency of the Supreme Court hearing and the fact that there is no over- riding need to allow field trials of unapproved GMOs, we hope you will urgently intervene in this matter and prevent any more approvals of GMOs.

Thanking You

Rajesh Krishnan,                                                                                                          Convener , Coalition for a GM-Free India,                                                             Mob:09845650032 , email: rajeshecologist@gmail.com

Supreme Court hearing on the PIL on GM crops now on 1st of April – Coalition for a GM Free India demands UPA government to stop misinforming the Court and not stand in the way of delivery of Justice

New Delhi, 30th March 2014: In the latest development related to the public debate and controversy around Genetically Modified (GM) crops in India, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India preponed its hearing on the PIL on GM crops from 15th April to 1st of April 2014 (1). This comes after the hasty, unethical and questionable decision by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to approve open air field trials of GM crops, when a code of conduct for General Elections is in place, and on the eve of the crucial hearing by the Court. This ‘revalidation of approvals’ by the regulators, supported by the Minister for Environment and Forests, Veerappa Moily (who later did a u-turn on his role in giving a go-ahead when confronted by farm unions), had faced widespread opposition from across the country. Even Congress-ruled state governments like Kerala responded by saying that they will not allow such trials. While biotech companies’ stocks have been seeing significant rise in the stock markets with this decision by the Government, several complaints have been shot off to the Election Commission against this move by the government at this point of time.

Meanwhile, in another development, earlier this week, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in their 59th report submitted to the Speaker had reiterated their earlier recommendation on stopping all kinds of environmental releases of GM crops including for field trials (2). The Committee noted that they “are not satisfied with the replies furnished by the government” with regard to regulatory mechanism for transgenics and containment of trials. The Committee desired that ‘further research and development on transgenics in agricultural crops should be done only in strict containment and field trials should not be undertaken till the Government puts in place all regulatory, monitoring, oversight, surveillance and other structures. The Committee note from press reports that the Minister for Environment and Forests has decided to allow field trials of transgenics which is contrary to the recommendations of the Committee in the 37th Report. The Committee strongly deprecate this”.

The Standing Committee report specifically states that “the Committee are of the strong view that unless and until a comprehensive, transparent, effective and professional regulatory system is in place, there exists no scope for field trials of transgenics”. Expressing strong views on Bt cotton, the Committee records that “the first hand experience gained by the Committee is ample proof to show that the miseries of farmers have compounded since the time they started cultivating Bt cotton. The Committee would like the Government to appreciate the ground reality and not to thrust commercial cultivation of Bt cotton on farmers”. This is coming at a time when Karnataka government is ordering crores of rupees of compensation to be paid to loss-incurring Bt cotton farmers and also blacklisting Mahyco in the state (3).

It is worth noting that the approach of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, through its unanimous reports on the subject, is very similar to the majority report of the independent experts of the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court on the matter of open air field trials. While the Government/regulators are trying to mislead the nation and the Supreme Court by alluding to open air trials as “confined”, the Parliamentary Standing Committee has correctly understood that confinement is not possible in open air trials, and therefore asked clearly for R&D to take place only in containment. Numerous examples of risks emerging from open air trials exist from the world over, and even in India, there is much documented evidence on various violations in open air field trials in addition to the hard reality that open air releases of GMOs including for field trials cannot be “confined”.

“The similarities in the recommendations of the majority report of the independent experts of the Supreme Court TEC and this Parliamentary Panel are very large and this is no coincidence. Both these bodies have taken the time to study the regulatory regime in great detail and have picked up Bt cotton and Bt brinjal as illustrative case studies of how the regulators have been performing, without capabilities and even accountability, in the country; both have also specified that decision-making has to first rid itself of any conflict of interest creeping in”, said Kavitha Kuruganti, Convener, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).

Another point worth noting is that Ms Jayanti Natarajan, the former MoEF was keen on her Ministry taking an independent view on the matter of GMOs and field trials and had requested the Prime Minister to allow her Ministry to respond separately in the Court, but was shunted out to be replaced by Veerappa Moily. In her long letter to the Prime Minister, she effectively countered the many arguments raised by the Government of India’s affidavit, put in by the Agriculture Ministry against the TEC’s unanimous interim report (4). “It is a great mystery as to what pressure is acting on some Ministries and Offices of the Government of India that they simply ignore enormous scientific evidence against GMOs in our food, farming and environment to the point that they replace a Minister who expresses her reservations on GMOs”, added Ms Kuruganti.

It needs to be mentioned here that the one member in the 6-member TEC who is toeing the Government of India’s line is not a bio-safety expert (while the debate at hand is that of biosafety assessment in India) and carries an objectionable conflict of interest into a Supreme Court technical committee probably for the first time in environmental jurisprudence in the country. Dr R S Paroda who has been brought into the Committee after the unanimous interim report of the TEC was submitted to the Supreme Court in October 2012 heads an organization which receives funding from biotech majors like Mahyco (Monsanto’s Indian associate).

The Coalition for a GM-Free India believes that these unscientific and anti-people forces in the Government are now standing in the way of justice being delivered in this case. “We want to remind the Government of India that people of this country will not forgive it for its irresponsible efforts to contaminate our food, farms and environment with GM crops”, said Rajesh Krishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India. “We hope that the Supreme Court will see through this anti-people, anti-science position of the government and disallows all open air trials of GMOs”, he added.

Notes to the editor:

1. The Supreme court listings for the 1st of April can be seen at http://causelists.nic.in/scnew/otues/cl.html
2. The 59th report of the parliamentary standing committee on Agriculture can be accessed at

The Parliamentary standing commitee on Agriculture reiterates its reccommendation against open field trials of GM crops


3. The order by the Karnataka state govt to blacklist Mahyco and ban the sales of Bt Cotton of the company can be accessed here http://indiagminfo.org/?p=704
4. The letter by former Union Minister for Environment and Forest to the Prime Minister received through RTI act can be accessed at http://indiagminfo.org/?attachment_id=680

For more Information:

Rajesh Krishnan, Convener, Coalition for a GM Free India,
Mob: 9845650032, email:rajesheologist@gmail.com

Kavitha Kuruganti, Convener, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA),
Mob: 9393001550, email: kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com

Activists slam Veerappa Moily for putting corporate profits before nation’s interests

New Delhi, March 4th, 2014: Activists from Greenpeace India along with members of Coalition for a GM Free India today registered a strong protest against the way the Union Minister of Environment and Forest, Veerappa Moily has taken the side of multinational seed companies to permit hundreds of field trials of GM crops across the country. As a reflection of the growing anger across all sections of the society in the country, the activists unfurled a banner at the MoEF building highlighting the message “Moily Selling the Nation” and further urged other political leaders to come forward and save our food, farming and environment from the mindless promotion of GM crops by Moily and the Union govt.

“The environment minister has gone ahead and approved around 200 GM Field Trials including GM varieties of rice, maize and other food crops which have a huge potential to contaminate our seed and food supply. We want all the political parties to come forward and demand the reversal of this irresponsible decision.” said Neha Saigal, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace, India. She further added that “Mr. Moily”s clearance for field trials just before the country is going for Lok Sabha elections smacks of impropriety, to say the least. Clearly corporate interests have won over the people of this country.”

“It’s now amply clear that Veerappa Moily was brought in during the last innings of the UPA 2 to give express approvals for these risky experiments of GM crops and with this one act the govt has once again proved that they do not care about science or society when it comes to GM crops” said Rajesh Krishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India. The coalition had recently released a compilation of more than 400 scientific papers on the adverse impacts of GM crops (1). He further stated that “This is a last ditch effort by the central govt to bring GM crops into our food and farms through the backdoor after having failed to pass the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill to ease their approval process”.

BRAI Bill, 2013, an alleged legislative effort by the UPA-2 government to create a single window easy approval system for environmental releases of GM crops had lapsed after repeated efforts of the govt to get it passed, failed in the parliament.

The decision to permit field trials has been getting flak from various quarters. Various farmer unions as well as political parties like AAP, JD (U) and PMK have condemned this action. The Kerala state Agriculture Minister in a public statement after learning about the field trial permission declared that Kerala will not permit any field trials of GM crops. State governments of online casino Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Tamilnadu had earlier denied permissions for GM field trials in their respective states.

“Experience with the only GM crop, Bt cotton, has shown that GM crops benefit multinational seed companies and no one else. Veerappa Moily, by permitting field trials seems to be doing a great favour to these companies who are out there to take control of our seeds and thereby our farming,” said Umendra Dutt of Kheti Virasat Mission from Punjab. Pointing to the doubling of share prices of Monsanto, the American multinational seed giant, who is also the global leader in GM seeds, within a span of 2 months of Moily taking over as the Union Environment Minister, he further stated that this collusion of seed companies and policy makers is putting our seed, food and national sovereignty at risk.”

Joining the protest, Rachana Arora, of India for Safe Food Campaign stated that “GM crops are one of the greatest threats to our food safety and consumer choice and we reject all those who stand for GM crops.”

The activists urged all the political parties to stand by the welfare of the citizens and nation and oppose the disastrous decision taken by Veerappa Moily.

Notes:

Link to compilation of scientific references on Adverse Impact of Transgenic Crops- http://indiagminfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Sci-ref-complete-book-2nd-edition.pdf

Contact details:

Neha Saigal, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India, 91 7760 968772, neha.saigal@greenpeace.org

Rajesh Krishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India, 91 98456 50032, rajeshecologist@gmail.com

Umendra Dutt, Executive Director, Kheti Virasat Mission, Punjab, 91 9872682161, umendradutt@gmail.com

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“Accept majority TEC final report”: More than 250 scientists write to PM

To: November 8th 2013

The Hon’ble Prime Minister,
Government of India.

Respected Sir,

Sub: Request to accept the Final Report submitted by the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) on modern-biotechnology regulation

Greetings.

Never in the history of agriculture has a technology been so controversial as Genetic Engineering (GE)/Genetic Modification (GM) of crops. The unpredictability and irreversibility of Genetic Modification (GM) as a technology and the uncontrollability of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in the environment, coupled with scientific studies pointing at the potential risk to human health and environment, has resulted in a controversy across the world around the safety as well as the very need for introducing such potentially risky organisms into food and farming systems. These concerns, incidentally, have been raised first and foremost by scientists who are free of vested interests, on scientific grounds.

As scientists and experts in our respective subjects we endorse and share concerns related to the irreversible impacts of science and technology of GMOs in our food, farming and environment. There are, in addition, socio economic and other concerns to which, as scientists, we should not be oblivious. The concentration of control of the most important input in agriculture, namely seeds, through a technology implemented with rigidly enforced Intellectual Property Rights is a matter of concern in view of the ease with which tinkering at the level of genes allows exclusive monopolistic rights to accrue to commercial entities. Since most such IPRs on important components and processes of GM are already in the hands of a handful of MNCs, this will inevitably lead to their monopolistic power over Indian agriculture over time. In the Indian context, there are also concerns on massive displacement of farm labour if Herbicide Tolerant (HT) GM crops are introduced. Given that the world is heavily tilted against the introduction of this controversial technology at this point of time, with a majority of nations not opting for it, this also raises serious issues of impact on India’s agricultural exports. The Honourable Supreme Court in a Public Interest Litigation on concerns related to environmental releases of GMOs, has set up a Technical Expert Committee to look into relevant issues for India pertaining to biosafety and other aspects/impacts of GMOs.

We welcome the fact that many relevant issues pertaining to GMOs have been appropriately taken on board in the Final Report of the Technical Expert Committee appointed by the Court. This Final Report has been submitted as a unanimous report to the Supreme Court by 5 independent experts of the TEC who have expertise on “safety science” related to GMOs and have been looking into the matter from May 2012. We are of the view that the separate report submitted by the sixth member, appointed into the TEC in November 2012, an agricultural scientist who unfortunately has an objectionable conflict of interest notable of which is the fact that the organisation he heads is funded by the Biotech seed companies like Monsanto, Mahyco, etc, lacks the soundness of content of the Final Report. It is ironical that even this SC appointed committee has had to face such conflict of interest situation, given that this has been the case with almost all GM-related issues in India so far.

The sixth member’s approach of equating ‘environmental release’ of GMOs only as commercial cultivation is not tenable, as every use of GMOs outside any containment, such as in field trials, constitutes a deliberate environmental release. The sixth member is echoing the same arguments as the Agriculture Ministry on food security whereas it has been shown quite convincingly that food security, even in its narrow interpretation, could actually get jeopardised with transgenicsl, as experience from elsewhere shows. Many of us have in the past written to the Minister for Environment and Forests on this subject.

From the separate report submitted by the sixth member, it appears that he believes that the current regulatory system with its various guidance procedures is mostly satisfactory, whereas the 5 independent members of the TEC have most convincingly shown with their painstaking work on biosafety analysis that even the most basic capabilities related to biosafety assessment are missing in India, and that the regulatory processes are grossly inadequate.

We write this letter to endorse the Final report of the TEC for the reasons given below:

1. The Final Report rightly recognizes that bringing out GMOs into any open air environment constitutes an environmental release, irrespective of the misleading terminology used in Indian regulatory parlance, where the term ‘environmental release’ is used only for commercial cultivation, whereas every open air trial even if it is called a ‘confined field trial’, is actually a deliberate environmental release of GMOs. Moreover when it comes to trials, the GMOs are yet unassessed and their impacts unknown.

2. Further, the Report has clearly understood that not all GMOs are the same in terms of the risks they pose, nor are they needed in the Indian context except when no other options exist. The same approach was adopted by the MS Swaminathan-led Task Force on Agricultural Biotechnology, whose report was accepted by the Government of India in 2004, and which stated inter alia that the transgenic approach should be “resorted to when other options to achieve the desired objectives are either not available or not feasible”.

3. Having considered the available options, risks and benefits, the Final Report has wisely recommended against the deployment of Bt food crops in India until their safety is established, and recommended the avoidance of Herbicide Tolerant GM crops. The Report also recommends a ban on genetic modification of crops for which India is the Centre of Origin/Diversity.These recommendations rightly include any open air field trials.

4. When it comes to sequencing of risk assessment, the Final Report is scientifically sound in recommending that“the sequence of testing should be carried out in order of increasing environmental exposure required to perform the test. Tests should be done under the minimum conditions of exposure required for the test. The testing therefore proceeds in a progressive manner that increases confidence regarding safety, with increasing exposure”.

5. Importantly, from their perusal of the biosafety dossiers for GM applications that the Indian regulators had already cleared as safe, the five independent TEC members have once again confirmed the dismal state of regulatory affairs in India. While the Bt brinjal moratorium decision by the Government of India in 2010 indicated something similar, the TEC’s own painstaking work on this front is a vindication of the Government of India’s decision at that time to stop the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal. It is also in line with the unanimous report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture tabled on 9th August 2012, after three years of indepth study of GM food crops in India. The TEC main report therefore rightly points out that “it is apparent that there are major gaps in the regulatory system. These need to be addressed before issues related to tests can be meaningfully considered. Till such time it would not be advisable to conduct more field trials”. As experts specialising in various fields pertinent to biosafety and sustainable livelihoods, we endorse this important recommendation from the 5 independent members of the TEC.

6. The report makes an important recommendation on maintaining the independence (and therefore, scientific integrity) of regulation: Conflict of interest in terms of the location of the regulatory body needs to be avoided. The suggestion of the TEC that the regulatory bodies be located in the MoEF (environmental safety) and the MoHFW (health safety) is correct. It should always be ensured that all members of the regulatory bodies are also free of conflict of interest.

7. We are also of the view that stakeholder participation, need assessment, socioeconomic considerations, sustainablitiy and societal impact should be some of the dimensions to be incorporated in the risk assessment and this should be done at an early stage in the risk assessment process.

8. Other recommendations of the Final report, including asking for assessment of inter-generational and chronic impacts, or the need for the regulatory regime to be open to new scientific information that may have a bearing on risk assessment even after deregulation of a product, or for India to establish a strong, state-of-the-art biosafety regulatory system are all most welcome and their implementation is, in fact, long-overdue.

The sincere implementation of the recommendations of the Final Report submitted by the 5 eminent and independent members of the Supreme Court appointed Technical Expert Committee will go a long way in restoring societal confidence in science-based independent regulation of GMOs in India.

We urge the Government of India to accept the recommendations of the TEC Final report as it is based on sound science, principles of sustainability and intergenerational justice. We sincerely hope that vested interests would not be allowed to prevail and prevent the acceptance of this scientifically sound report. We look forward to the Union of India accepting these recommendations in full in the Supreme Court and thus ensuring the speedy delivery of justice based on the recommendations of these five eminent scientists of unimpeachable credentials.

Sincerely,

Sd/-
1. Padma Bhushan Dr P M Bhargava, Founder Director, CCMB, Hyderabad
2. Prof R N Basu, Former Vice Chancellor, Calcutta University
3. Dr V S Vijayan, Former Chairman, Kerala State Biodiversity Board
4. Dr Tushar Chakraborty, Sr Scientist, IICB, Kolkata
5. Dr Dinesh Abrol, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Endorsed by:

1. Padma Bhushan Dr Daljit Singh, Professor Emeritus, Medical College, Amritsar, Punjab
2. Padma Shri Dr M H Mehta, Former Vice Chancellor, Gujarat Agriculture University, The Science Ashram / Gujarat Life Sciences, Vadodara, Gujarat
3. Dr A Biju Kumar, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, University of Kerala, Kariavattom, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
4. Prof A K Ghosh, Director Centre for Environment and Development, Kolkata (Also, Adjunct Faculty, School of Environmental Studies and School of Oceanography, Jadavpur University & Department of Human Rights, University of Calcutta, Kolkata, West Bengal. Member, National Biodiversity Authority, 2003-2009. Member, Task Force on Environment and Biodiversity, 11th Plan, Planning Commission)
5. Dr A J T Johnsingh, Eminent Biologist, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, Former Joint Director, Wildlife Institute of India, Karnataka
6. Dr A R Vasavi, Social Anthropologist, Senior Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi
7. Dr Abey George, Faculty, Tata Institute of Social Sciences-Kerala Centre, Trivandrum, Kerala
8. Prof Abhee K. Dutt- Majumder, Working Chairman, West Bengal State Council of S&T.
Professor, High Energy Physics, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata, West Bengal
9. Dr Abhra Chakraborty, District Fisheries Officer, Bardhaman, West Bengal
10. Dr Adarsh Pal Vig, Head of Department of Botany and Environmental Studies, GND University, Amritsar, Punjab
11. Dr Ajab Singh, Agriculture Economist, Uttarakhand
12. Prof Allauddin Ahmad, Former Vice Chancellor, Shere- Kashmir Agriculture University, Srinagar. Former Vice Chancellor, Hamdard University, Patna, Bihar
13. Dr Alok Srivastava, Professor, Department of Chemistry, Panjab University, Patiala, Punjab
14. Dr Amar Singh Azad, Director, Environmental Health Action Group, Patiala, Punjab
15. Dr Ambika Varma, Associate Professor (Retd.), College of Forestry, Kerala Agriculture University, Mannuthy, Trichur, Kerala
16. Dr Amit Basole, Economics, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA
17. Dr Amitabha Lahiri, Professor, S.N.Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, Kolkata, West Bengal
18. Dr Amol Patwardhan, Entomology expert, Professor of Zoology, Thane, Maharashtra
19. Dr Amruth M, Scientist, Forestry and Human Dimensions, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Thrissur, Kerala
20. Dr Anant Phadke, Co-Convenor, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Maharashtra
21. Dr Anbazhagan Kolandaswamy, Post Doctoral Researcher (Immunology/Inflammation), Montpellier, France
22. Dr Aneel Kumar Singh, Senior Scientist, Seed, ICAR, Patna, Bihar
23. Dr Anil Pande, Associate Professor, Government D.B. Girls College, Raipur, Chhattisgarh
24. Dr Anish Andheria, President, Wildlife Conservation Trust and Consultant, Sanctuary Asia, Mumbai, Maharashtra
25. Dr Anish Dua, Associate Professor, Department of Zoology, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Punjab
26. Dr Anoop Das, Assistant Professor, M.E.S. Mampad College, Malappuram, Kerala
27. Dr Anup Kumar Bandyopadhyay, Professor (retired), Department of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, West Bengal
28. Dr Anupam Paul, Assistant Director of Agriculture, Biodiversity Conservation Farm, Agricultural Training Centre, Nadia, West Bengal
29. Dr Anurag Goel, Molecular Biologist, WAPRED, Madikeri, Karnataka
30. Dr Arun P R, Environmental Impact Assessment, Principal Scientist, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
31. Dr Arun Mitra, General Secretary, Indian Doctors for Peace and Development, New Delhi
32. Dr Arun Waghela, BB Chitle Mahavidyalaya, Bhilwadi, Sangli, Maharashtra
33. Dr Arundeep Ahluwalia, Scientist Emeritus, Geology, Panjab University, Chandigarh, Punjab
34. Dr Asad Rahmani, Director, Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai, Maharashtra
35. Dr Ashok Kundapur, Environmental Biology and Alternate Energy Expert, Udupi, Karnataka
36. Dr Ashwani Sharma, Registrar, Guru Ravi Dass Ayurved University, Hoshiarpur, Punjab
37. Prof Atul H Choksi, Material Science and Engineering, IISc, Bangalore, Karnataka
38. Dr Atul Mehta, Research Scientist, Rice, Anand Agriculture University, Gujarat
39. Dr Avik Ray, Associate Scientist, ATREE, Bangalore, Karnataka
40. Dr B B Sharma, Prof. of Zoology and Principal of Vaze College, Mumbai, Maharashtra
41. Prof B Narsimha Reddy, Plant Pathology Laboratory, Dept of Botany, Osmania University, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
42. Dr Baburao Kalapala, Retd Deputy Director of IICT (Indian Institute of Chemical Technology), Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
43. Dr Bhalchandra D. Bhawe, Photoelectronic Technolgist, Vijnan Bharati, Mumbai, Maharashtra
44. Dr Bhasundhra Chhetri, Department of Zoology, Tadong, Gangtok, Sikkim
45. Dr Bhoj K Acharya, Assistant Professor, Department of Zoology, Sikkim Government College, Tadong, Gangtok, Sikkim
46. Dr C T S Nair, Former Chief Economist (Forestry Dept), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Former, Exec-Vice President, Kerala State Science Technology and Environment Council, Kerala
47. Dr Chandra Sekhar G, Head, Knowledge Management, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture; Entomologist, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
48. Prof Charudatta Kamlakarrao Deshmukh, Agricultural Engineering, Pune, Maharashtra
49. Dr Christopher, Reader, Department of Environmental Sciences, M G University, Kerala
50. Dr Claude Alvares, Organic Farming Association of India, Goa
51. Dr Datta G.Bhapkar, Retd. Director of Research – Mahatama Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Rahuri, Maharahstra
52. Dr Debal Deb, Ecology and Conservation expert, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Odisha
53. Dr Deepa Rathi, Expert in Textile Technology, Counseling & Healing, Thane Maharashtra
54. Dr Devika, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
55. Dr Dhanya Bhaskar, Assistant Professor (Environmental Science), College of Agriculture, University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur, Karnataka
56. Dr Dileepkumar R, Molecular Biologist, Research Coordinator, Centre for Venom studies, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
57. Dr Dinesan Cheruvat, Deputy Director of Fisheries & Farm Manager, Model Shrimp Farm & Training Centre, Mala, Thrissur, Kerala
58. Dr E Kunhikrishnan, Professor, Dept of Zoology, Kerala University. Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
59. Dr Elizabeth Joseph, Retd. Scientist (Fisheries), Kerala Agriculture University, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
60. Dr Esha Shah, Social Anthropologist of Technology, Fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh
61. Prof F B Mandal, Animal Behaviour Research Unit, Bankura Christian College, West Bengal
62. Dr G K Satpute, Genetics and Plant Breeding, Former Dean, College of Agriculture, Tikamgarh, JNKVV, Madhya Pradesh
63. Dr G Kumaravelu, IFS (Retd), Nature Conservationist, Former Addl Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and former Member of State Planning Commission,Tamilnadu
64. Dr G P I Singh, Vice Chancellor, Adesh University, Bathinda, Punjab
65. Dr G S Kaushal, Soil Scientist, Former Director, Department of Agriculture, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
66. Dr G S Mohan, Assistant Professor, Agricultural Research Station, UAS, Bangalore, Karnataka
67. Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Agriculture Scientist, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad
68. Dr G M Radhamani, Associate professor, Dept of Botany, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
69. Dr Ganapathy Murugan, Executive Director, Public Health Resource Network, New Delhi
70. Dr Gayatri Auti, Veterinary Microbiologist, Anthra, Pune Maharashtra
71. Dr Geeta Arora, PEC University, Chandigarh, Punjab
72. Dr Goldin Quadros, Senior Scientist, Wetland Ecology Division, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu
73. Dr Gunasekaran, University of Delhi, New Delhi
74. Dr Gurbax Singh Chhina, Khalsa College of Agriculture, Amritsar, Punjab
75. Prof Guruprasad Kar, Professor, Physics & Applied Mathematics Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, West Bengal
76. Dr H R Mishra, Former VC, Ranchi Agri University, Patna, Bihar
77. Dr H R Prakash, Retd. Soil Scientist, Department of Agriculture, Bangalore, Karnataka
78. Dr H S Prema, Nutritionist, Varenya Nutrition Concepts, Bangalore, Karnataka
79. Dr Hardayal Singh, Agriculture Scientist, Patti, Amritsar, Punjab
80. Dr Hari Narayanan, Scientist, Professor, Guruvayoorappan College, Trichur, Kerala
81. Prof Harsh Kumar, Department of Biotechnology, Rajendra Agriculture University, Pusa, Bihar
82. Dr Hema M, Agricultural Economics, College of Horticulture, Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur, Kerala
83. Dr Imrana Qadeer, Public Health expert, Visiting Professor, Council for Social Development. Retired Professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, JNU, New Delhi
84. Dr Indira Devi, Professor (Economics), Kerala Agriculture University, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
85. Dr J C Upadhyaya, Retired Professor, Indore, Madhya Pradesh
86. Dr J K Nigam, Plant Breeder, Director, Qualitas Seeds, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
87. Fr. Dr J Prasant Palakkappillil, Principal, Sacred Heart College, Thevara, Kochi, Kerala
88. Dr Jagbir Singh, HoD, Zoology & Environmental Sciences, Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab
89. Dr Jayanta K Das, Associate Professor, Vivekananda Institute of Medical Sciences, Kolkata, West Bengal
90. Prof Jayanta Nayak, Koraput National University, West Bengal
91. Dr Johannes Manjrekar, Molecular Biologist, Microbiology Department and Biotechnology Centre, Maharaja Sayajirao University, Vadodara, Gujarat
92. Dr Jose Kallarackal Emeritus Scientist, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Trichur, Kerala
93. Dr Juliet Vanitharani, Professor & head, Bat Research laboratory, Advance Zoology and Biotechnology Department and, Research Centre, Sarah Tucker College, Tirunelveli. Member, Tamilnadu Biodiversity Board, Tamilnadu
94. Dr Jyothi Krishnan, Faculty, Tata Institute of Social Sciences-Kerala Centre, Trivandrum, Kerala
95. Dr K C Raghu, Food Technologist, Pristine Organics, Bangalore, Karnataka
96. Dr K D Yadav, Professor of Agriculture Extension, Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, Madhya Pradesh
97. Dr K Gunathilagaraj, Retd Professor of Agricultural Entomology, TNAU, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu
98. Prof K K Krishnamurthy, Former Dean, TNAU and President, Indian Society for Certification of Organic Products, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu
99. Dr K S S Nair, Entomologist, Former Director, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Trichur, Kerala
100. Dr K V Sankaran, Former Director, Kerala Forest Research Institue, Peechi, Kerala
101. Dr K Vidyasagaran, Associate Professor & Head, Dept. of Forest Management & Utilization, College of Forestry, KAU, Vellanikkara,Thrissur, Kerala
102. Dr Kalyan Rudra, River Scientist, Member, Ganga Monitoring Committee, Kolkata, West Bengal
103. Dr Lahu K. Gaekwad, Kala Vanijya Vigyan Mahavidyalaya, Pune, Maharashtra
104. Dr Lalitha Vijayan, Sr Scientist, Salim Ali Foundation and formerly, Acting Director and Senior Principal Scientist, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural Studies (SACON), Coimbatore, Thrissur, Kerala
105. Dr Latha Anantha, conservationist, Director, River Research Centre, Thrissur – Kerala
106. Prof M C Varshneya, Former Vice Chancellor, Anand Agriculture University, Gujarat
107. Prof M K Prasad, Former Pro-VC, Calicut University; Ex-Chairman, Information Kerala Mission, Kerala
108. Prof M K Ramesh, Professor of Law and Founding Coordinator of Centre for Environmental Law Education Research and Advocacy (CEERA); Commons Cell, Environmental Law Clinic and MHUPA Chair Professor of Urban Poor and the Law, National Law School of India University, Bangalore, Karnataka
109. Dr M Parameswaran, Retired Professor of Biochemistry, Gujarat Agricultural University, Gujarat
110. Dr M S Chari, Entomologist, NPM Expert and Retd. Director, Central Tobacco Research Institute. Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
111. Dr M S Johal, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, Panjab University, Patiala, Punjab
112. Dr M Zeenath, Associate Professor, Department of Zoology, MES KVM Colege Valanchery, Kerala
113. Dr Mahadev R Pachegaonkar, Veterinary Scientist and Expert in Organic Farming, Organic Farmers Study Group-Khalad, Latur, Maharastra
114. Dr Maitrayee Dasgupta, Head of the Dept (Retd), Biochemistry, Calcutta University, Kolkata, West Bengal
115. Dr Mammen Chundamannil, Scientist, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Thrissur, Kerala
116. Dr Mariamma Cherian, Scientist, UGC, Dept of Botany, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
117. Dr Mathew Koshy, Research Guide, Kerala University, Retd. Principal of Bishop Moore College Mavelikara, Kerala
118. Dr Maya Mahajan, Environmental Science and Sustainability expert, Amrita University, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu
119. Prof Mini N. Vijayan, Deparment of Botany, Carmel College for Women, Nuvem, Goa
120. Dr Minoo Hiraji Parabia, Retired Professor and Head, Department of Biosciences, South Gujarat University, Surat; Member, State Biodiversity Board, Government of Gujarat
121. Dr Mira Shiva, Public Health Physician, New Delhi
122. Dr Mohamad Kasim, Principal Scientist (Retd.), Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Chennai, Tamilnadu
123. Dr Mohan Rao, MBBS, Ph.D. Professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
124. Dr Mousumi Poddar, Deparment of Botany, Calcutta University, Kolkata, West Bengal
125. Dr N L Shah, Biotechnologist, Pune, Maharahstra
126. Dr N N Panicker, Ocean Engineering, Independent Thinker and Innovator, Kerala
127. Dr N P Balakrishnan, Deputy Director (Retd.), Botanical Survey of India, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu
128. Dr N P Singh, Retd. Director, State Farms Corporation Of India ( PSU), New Delhi, Ex ICAR Scientist, Post Graduate & Doctorate fro BHU, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
129. Dr N Paul Sunder Singh, Karunalaya Social Service Society, Chennai, Tamilnadu
130. Dr Nandini Rajamani, Co-Director, India Biosciences, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, Karnataka
131. Dr Nandita Shah, Sanctuary of Health and Reconnection to Animals and Nature (SHARAN), Auroville, Tamil Nadu
132. Dr Narasimha Reddy Donti, Chetana Society, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
133. Dr Narendra Kumar Sharma, Senior Scientist, Humancytogenitic, Radiation Biology & Health Sciences Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Center, Trombay, Mumbai, Maharashtra
134. Dr Neeta Dharamsey, Nutritionist, Mumbai, Maharashtra
135. Dr Nimisha Shukla, Professor and Head, Department of Rural Economics, Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
136. Dr Nitya Sambamurti Ghotge, Veterinary Scientist, Anthra, Pune, Maharashtra
137. Dr O P Sharma, Agriculture Economist, Patna, Bihar
138. Dr O P Upadhyaye, Vice Chancellor, Guru Ravi Dass Ayurved University, Hoshiarpur, Punjab
139. Prof Om Damani, IIT Bombay, Mumbai
140. Dr Om Parkash Rupela, Soil Scientist and Molecular Biologist, Formerly with ICRISAT and Consultant to FAO, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
141. Dr P A Azeez, Conservation & Environment Scientist, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
142. Dr P Balakrishnan, Rajiv Gandhi Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute, Palode, Trivandrum, Kerala
143. Dr P C Bhattacharjee, Professor and Head (Retd), Guwahati University, Guwahati, Assam
144. Dr P K Prasadan, Professor in Botany, University of Calicut, Kerala
145. Dr P Pramod, Sr. Scientist, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Anaikatty, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu
146. Dr P Sujanapal, Scientist, Department of Silviculture, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Trichur, Kerala
147. Dr P N Jha, Former Vice Chancellor, Rajendra Agriculture University, Pusa, Bihar
148. Dr Parthiba Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Zoology & Director, Centre for Pollination Studies, University of Calcutta, Kolkata, West Bengal
149. Dr Partho Sarothi Ray, Assistant Professor and Wellcome Trust-DBT India Alliance Intermediate Fellow, Department of Biological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, West Bengal
150. Dr Ponnammal Natarajan, Retd. Dean, Anna University, Tamilnadu
151. Dr Prabha Yadav Bhogaonkar, Expert in Angiosperm taxonomy, Ethno botany and Environment, President of Wildlife & Environment Conservation Society (WECS) (Amravati), Retd. Director of Government Vidharbha Institute of Science and Humanities, Amravati, Maharashtra
152. Dr Prabhakar Gadre, Research Officer, Rajwade Sanshodan Mandal, Dhule, Maharashtra
153. Dr Prachinkumar, Assistant Professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
154. Dr Pradeepkumar P.I., Associate Professor of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Maharashtra
155. Dr Priti Joshi, Botanist, Director, National Organisation for Community Welfare, Wardha, Maharashtra
156. Dr R B Thakare, Geneticist, Vice President Bharat Krishak samaj, Maharashtra.
157. Dr R G Panickar, Prof. of Zoology (Retd), M. S. University of Baroda, Baroda, Gujarat
158. Dr R Jayaraj, Scientist, Division of Forest Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Thrissur, Kerala
159. Dr R K Kohli, Vice Chancellor, DAV University, Jalandhar, Punjab
160. Dr R K P Singh, Retd. Professor, Rajendra Agriculture University, Pusa & Presently working at ICRA Patna, Bihar
161. Dr R P Yadav, Head of Department, Entomology, Rajendra Agriculture University, Pusa, Bihar
162. Dr R S Raghu, Agronomist, Former Dean, College of Agriculture, Madhya Pradesh
163. Dr R V Varma, Entomologist, Former Chairman,Kerala State Biodiversy Board and Former Head, Department of Entomology, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Trichur, Kerala
164. Dr Rajasekhar G, Agriculture Scientist, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
165. Dr Rajashree Ray, IISc, Bangalore, Karnataka
166. Dr Rajasri Das, Research Associate, Centre for Ecological Studies, Indian Inst of Science, Bangalore, Karnataka
167. Dr Rajeswari Sarala Raina, Scientist, National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS – CSIR), New Delhi
168. Dr Rajinder Kumar, Dept of Human Biology, Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab
169. Dr Rajneesh Arora, Vice Chancellor, Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar, Punjab
170. Dr Ram C Chaudhary, Chairman, Partcipatory Rural Development Foundation, Gorakhpur, UP and Ex- Rice Breeder, GBPUAT Panthnagar, IRRI Plant Breeder, Rice Specialist, The World Bank
171. Dr Rama V Baru, Professor, Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
172. Dr Ranvir Singh, Public Health Expert and Independent Researcher, New Delhi
173. Dr Rashmi Choubey, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
174. Dr Rekha A Nair M.D (Path), Additional Professor of Pathology, Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
175. Dr Ritu Priya, MBBS, Ph.D. Professor & Chair, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
176. Dr Robert B Grubh, Ornithologist, Director Institution for Restoration of Natural Environment, Former Deputy Director, Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai, Maharashtra
177. Dr Rudraradhya, Retd Senior Plant Breeder, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, Karnataka
178. Dr S C Deshmukh, Agronomist, Former Chief Scientist, JNKVV, Madhya Pradesh
179. Prof S C Santra, Professor & ENVIS Coordinator, Department of Environmental Science, University of Kalyani, Nadia, West Bengal
180. Dr S G Vombatkere, Engineering, Retd. Major General, Indian Army, Mysore, Karnataka
181. Dr S K Gautam , Plant Breeder, CEO, Omni agrisystems & Managements Pvt Ltd, New Delhi
182. Dr S N Prasad, Senior Principal Scientist, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Anaikatty, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu
183. Dr S R Sharma, Agronomist, Former Cane Commissioner ,Govt of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
184. Prof S Chatterjee, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, Karnataka
185. Dr S Jeevananda Reddy, Formerly Chief Technical Advisor – WMO/UN & Expert FAO/UN Fellow, Andhra Pradesh Academy of Sciences, Convenor, Forum for a Sustainable Environment, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
186. Dr S Ramdoss, Associate Professor, Dept of criminology, University of Madras, Chennai, Tamilnadu
187. Dr S Sankar, Programme Coordinator (Forestry and Human dimension), Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Trichur, Kerala
188. Dr S Somasundaram, Research Associate, Green Future Foundation, New Delhi
189. Dr Sagari R Ramdas, Veterinary Scientist and Animal Breeding and Geneticist, Director, Anthra, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
190. Dr Sanjay Kumar, Associate Professor in Physics, St Stephen’s College, University of Delhi, New Delhi
191. Dr Santhi, Ecologist, Trivandrum, Kerala
192. Dr Santosh M. Tungare, Environmental Chemistry Expert, Mumbai, Maharashtra
193. Dr Sarala Panickar, Entomologist (Retd), Kerala Agriculture University, Kerala
194. Dr Sasikumar Menon, Drug Toxicology and Molecular Techniques Expert, Institute for Advanced Research in Interdisciplinary Sciences, Mumbai, Maharashtra
195. Dr Satnam Singh, Agriculture Scientist, Ajnala, Amritsar, Punjab
196. Dr Seema Javed, Environmental Chemistry, New Delhi
197. Dr Seema Purushothaman, Professor (Development Studies) at Azim Premji University, Bangalore, Karnataka
198. Dr Sehajpal, Dept. of Micro Biology, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Punjab
199. Dr Shaila Wagh, Child Health Care Expert, Mumbai, Maharashtra
200. Dr Shaji, Fisheries Expert, Formerly Scientist, Kerala State Biodiversity Board, Kerala
201. Dr Shaju Thomas, Professor and Head, Department of Zoology, Nirmalagiri College, Muvatupuzha; Kerala
202. Dr Shalini Sharma, Environment and Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati, Assam.
203. Dr Shambhu, Potato Research Station, Patna, Bihar
204. Prof Shambu Prasad, Science, Technology and Society Studies expert, Bhubaneswar, Odisha
205. Dr Shantilal Kothari, President of Academy of Nutrition Improvement, Nagpur, Maharashtra
206. Dr Sharad Lele, Bangalore, Karnataka
207. Dr Shashikala Gurpur, Director, Symbiosis Law School, Pune,Dean, Faculty of Law, SIU, Instructor: Masters Course on Biotechnology Law, Pune, Maharashtra
208. Dr Shefali Bharti, Environment Scientist, Podar International School, Mumbai, Maharashtra
209. Dr Shree Ram Padmadeo, HoD, Botany & Coordinator Department of Biotechnology, Patna University, Patna, Bihar
210. Dr Shri Ram Parihar, Principal, Govt. Girls Postgraduate College, Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh
211. Dr Soma Sundar Marla, Principal Scientist (Bio-Informatics) and Member, Task Force DBT, NBPGR, ICAR, New Delhi
212. Dr Srijit P, Asst Professor, Dept of Zoology, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
213. Prof Sudarshan Iyengar, Vice Chancellor, Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
214. Dr Sudha Vasan, Enviornmental Sociology, Associate professor, Dept of Sociology, University of Delhi, New Delhi
215. Dr Suhas Kolhekar, Molecular Biologist, Convenor, National Alliance for People’s Movements, Maharashtra
216. Dr Sujata Goel, Molecular Biologist, WAPRED, Madikeri, Karnataka
217. Dr Sujatha Byravan, Geneticist, Chennai, Tamilnadu
218. Dr Sujay Basu, Former Professor, Jadavpur University, Calcutta. Vice-Chairperson, State Council of Biotechnology, West Bengal
219. Dr Sujoy K. Das Gupta, Professor, Dept. Of Microbiology, Bose Institute, Kolkata, West Bengal.
220. Dr Sukhdev Kundu, Associate Professor, Dept of Environmental Science , DAV University, Jalandhar, Punjab
221. Dr Sultan Ahmed Ismail, Expert in Soil Ecology, Biology and Ecology of Earthworms, Former Head of the Department of Biotechnology of The New College, Chennai. Presently MD Ecoscience Research Foundation, Chennai, Tamilnadu
222. Dr Suman Sahai, Geneticist, Chairperson, Gene Campaign, New Delhi
223. Dr Surendra C. Thakurdesai, Head & Associate Professor, P.G. Department of Rural Development, Jogalekar College, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra
224. Dr Suresh Verma, Retired Principal, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh
225. Prof T K Ghose, Bose Institute, Kolkata, West Bengal
226. Dr T K Maqbool, Professor in Zoology, Calicut University, Kerala
227. Dr T N Vijayakumar, President, Malabar Natural History Society, Calicut, Kerala
228. Prof T Pradeep, IIT Madras (Chemistry, Materials, Nanoscience and Nanotechnology), Chennai
229. Dr T S Channesh, Science journalist and columnist, Bangalore, Karnataka (formerly, Fellow at Karnataka State Council for S & T, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Head of Department of History of Sciences, Kannada University, Hampi. Research Director, MCC Centre for Scientific Research and Advanced Learning, Bangalore. Scientist, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, University of Agricultural Sciences, Chintamani)
230. Dr T V Sajeev, Scientist (Entomologist), Forest Health, Kerala Forest Research Institute, Thrissur, Kerala
231. Dr Tarak Kate, Biologist, Chairman, Dharamitra (an Eco-Technology Resource Centre for Sustainable Development), Wardha, Maharashtra
232. Dr Tenneti Madhu, Principal, Swarnandhra Institute of technology and Engineering, Narsapur, Andhra Pradesh
233. Dr Thara K G, Head, Disaster Management Centre, Institute of Land and Disaster Management, Govt of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
234. Dr Thomas Varghese, Soil Scientist (Retd.), Kerala Agriculture University, Ex-Chairman, Kerala State Agriculture Prices Board, Kerala
235. Dr Uma J Vinod, Scientist (Conservation and Research on Ornithology and Wildlife), Crow Foundation, Palakkad, Kerala
236. Prof Umesh Mishra, Retired Professor of Physics, Sharda Colony, Brahmapuri, Distt. Chandrapur, Maharashtra
237. Dr Usha Balram, Professor and Head (Retd.), Dept of Zoology, All Saints College, Trivandrum, Kerala
238. Dr Utkarsh Ghate, Agri-business expert, Covenant Centre for Development, Durg, Chhattisgarh
239. Dr V N Shroff, Genetics and Plant Breeding, Former Dean, College of Agriculture, JNKVV, Indore, Madhya Pradesh
240. Prof V R Raghunandanan, Associate Professor and Head of the Department, Department of Diary Science, College of Dairy Science and Technology, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Science University, Mannuthy; Trichur, Kerala
241. Dr V T Sundaramurthy, Entomologist & Formerly Project Coordinator, All India Coordinated Cotton Improvement Project (ICAR), Coimbatore, Tamilnadu
242. Dr V V Robin, Fellow, National Centre for biological Sciences, Bangalore, Karnataka
243. Dr Valsaladevi G, Curator, Dept of Botany, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
244. Dr Vanaja Ramprasad, Founding Director of Foundation for Genetic Resource, Energy, Ecology and Nutrition, Former Board member of International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movement, Bangalore, Karnataka
245. Dr Vandana Shiva, Navdanya and Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Environment, New Delhi
246. Dr Venkatesh Krishnamurthy, Dr B.C Roy Awardee, Chairman and Founder of NU Hospitals, Bangalore, Karnataka
247. Dr Vibha Taluja, Chemist , Scientists for Ecology & Safe Food, Chandigarh, Punjab
248. Dr Vijaya Venkat, Health Activist, Nutritionist, pioneer in Natural Living, Founder of The Health Awareness Centre, Mumbai, Maharashtra
249. Dr W R Deshpandey, Former Joint Director, Extension. JNKVV, Indore, Madhya Pradesh
250. Dr Yuvasenthilkumar R, Asst Professor Horticulture, Vanavaryar Institute of Agriculture, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu
251. Dr Zakir Hussain, Agriculture Scientist, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

TECHNICAL EXPERT COMMITTEE REPORT SCIENTIFIC AND SENSIBLE: FARMER UNIONS AND COALITION HOPE THAT SUPREME COURT WILL ACCEPT THE INTERIM REPORT IN TOTO

On the eve of the Supreme Court Hearing in the PIL related to GMOs (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 260 of 2005, by Aruna Rodrigues and ors) which is to look into the interim report of the Technical Expert Committee appointed by the Court, the Coalition for a GM-Free India condemned the attempts by the industry, media and a couple of MNC-supportedfarmers’ outfits to lobby heavily against the TEC report. The Coalition urged the learned Bench to accept the TEC report and urgently pass appropriate orders to ensure that this risky technology is not deployed unscientifically in our country.

The Coalition said that the Court has rightly appointed a committee consisting of experts nominated by both the petitioners and the respondents and that the TEC did an in-depth inquiry into one of the terms of reference that it picked up before giving its interim report. “We welcome the recommendations and more importantly, they reflect the findings and reiterate the recommendations made by other committees/task force reports as well. The TEC has aptly justified each of its recommendations after studying the challenges posed by this living technology as well as the pathetic state of regulatory affairs in the country, which reeks of apathy, incompetence in biosafety assessment, inability to monitor GM crops trials, conflict of interest, lack of rationale while processing applications, and most importantly, allowing unnecessary experimentation when other solutions exist”, said Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor of the Coalition for a GM-Free India.

Rakesh Tikait, leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union, stated, “We welcome the report of the Technical Expert Committee of the Supreme Court recommending moratorium on field trials of GM crops. We believe that the recommendations are in the interests of the Indian farmer, who is suffering from the onslaught of anti-farmer policies and technologies. We have full confidence that the Supreme Court will take the correct decision accepting the committee’s report.”

“The claim made by some vested groups that this technology has been successful in the USA is ridiculous and unfounded.. The reality is that in the USA, despite and probably because of such technologies, the government is forced to subsidizing its farmers heavily and prop up agriculture to make it viable. If GM technology was so effective why do American farmers require unprecedented levels of governmental support to make agriculture viable? . Further, there is no scientific evidence to claim that there are no GM-related health problems in the US – in fact, there have been increased food-related health problems in the US during the same period when GM foods have become part of their diet. It should also be kept in mind that a vast majority of GM produce in the US goes into livestock feed, industrial use and bio-fuel production. The environmental (and related health) problems with increased use of chemicals like herbicides, linked to GM crop cultivation, in the USA and South American nations is well-documented – superweeds and superpests have become serious threats and there is much scientific literature on the same. We do not need such hazardous technologies in our farming here”, said Kannaiyan Subramanian, Convenor of South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements. He added that there has been strong opposition from farmer organizations to the introduction of GM food crops, as extensively expressed during the public hearings on Bt Brinjal, and as stated publicly by many key farmer unions – both non-party and party-affiliated. He condemned the attempts by certain MNC-backed farmer outfits to claim that Indian farmers require GM crops.

The Coalition condemned the attempts by some groups to paint the TEC as unscientific and for claiming that this is the end of scientific research in India. It pointed out that this is misleading since the TEC was not talking about all of biotechnology but only transgenics, that too in crops, which is a minor part of “biotechnology” . However this tool has gained undue interest essentially because it allows for easier IPR controls for the industry/MNCs and thereby, market monopolies.

The Coalition pointed out that pest control without the use of pesticides (the ostensible reason for which Bt crops are promoted, incidentally by the same companies which have given us pesticides, claiming them to be safe) is indeed possible without resorting to Bt technology and the TEC is right in stressing that field trials should be need-based. It is also true that Bt crops have showed up their true colors where they have been deployed –negative animal and human health problems have gone uninvestigated despite ground level reports, the resistance in target pests, the lack of reduction in the volumes or cost of chemical pesticides consumed in the country even after 10 years of Bt cotton, adverse changes in pest and disease ecology etc., are all well-documented.

The Coalition pointed out to the Court that what the TEC is recommending is not something new; the recommendation by a Task Force headed by Dr Swaminathan in 2003 ( accepted by the government of India) had clearly stated that the transgenic option is to be used only when alternatives are unavailable or not feasible. The Task Force also recommended the same for to the introduction of Herbicide Tolerant Crops and crops for which we are the Centre of Origin/Diversity. These have been cautioned against by others inquiring into the matter of GMOs in India too.

Further, what the Committee pointed out as serious biosafety issues with Bt cotton and Bt brinjal are issues that have been raised by respected independent scientists from the world over who studied the biosafety dossiers of these GMOs. The TEC has rightly pointed out to the same problems as the other experts have.

The fact that India has indiscriminately allowed field trials without any rationale for locations, without any ability for proper ‘containment’ to prevent contamination (on which the SC has already passed on order expressly asking for no contamination from field trials), without any biosafety review, without a system for monitoring field trials, without a scientific, rigorous, independent and sequential process for risk assessment etc., were all appropriately pointed out by the TEC. The TEC was also correct in pointing us all to India’s international commitments including the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol.

The Coalition hoped that the Supreme Court will now accept the interim report and ensure that no risk emerges from field trials of untested, new organisms especially in all those cases where such research is unneeded in the first instance.

For clarifications

Sridhar Radhakrishnan – 09995358205

Kavitha Kuruganthi – 09393001550

Kannaiyyan Subramanian – 09444989543

Coalition condemns Biotech industry attempts to hijack and dilute the CBD MOP6 discussions

MOP exposes real safety concerns of GM crops;
Coalition demands that India should not allow any open-air field trials or release of GM crops.
A comprehensive Biosafety Law be enacted with strict liability and redress provisions.

The CBD MOP6, has for once, exposed the Global Biotech industry’s attempts to sabotage the Supplementary Protocol by attempting to discourage and dissuade parties from ratifying it and instead lobbying nations to adopt the industry sponsored voluntary compensation mechanism under the Compact. This follows years of attempts by the Global (and Indian) industry led by Monsanto to assert the supposed safety of genetically modified (GM) crops. The Coalition also deplores the attempts of many members of the agricultural research establishment, both national and international, for toeing the industry line and trying hard to dismiss the real concerns raised by civil society and independent scientists across the world. The CBD-MOP6 discussions and the various side events exposed these lies in the full glare of public attention. The dangers of GM crops to health, environment and biodiversity occupied centre-stage – as policy-makers, scientists and activists from 193 countries spent 5 days discussing how to ensure bio-safety while dealing with this highly risky technology. The false propaganda of the industry regarding Bt cotton was also exposed in front of the international media during an industry-sponsored field trip. The Bt cotton farmers spoke about bollworm attack and other pest attacks, increased use of pesticides and low yields.

The Coalition urges the Government of India to take decisions on this technology, assigning the highest priority to biosafety and to applying the Precautionary Principle, instead of being led by false propaganda from the industry. It reminds the government of the Bt Brinjal moratorium and the events that led to it, the continuing disaster afflicting farmers’ lives by Bt Cotton, and the violations of biosafety happening across the country during various field trials of GM crops. The Indian government has announced that it will ratify the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress, and urged all countries to do the same. So far, 51 countries have signed this protocol, and the ratifications have just begun. This stand from the Indian government should be welcomed. However ratifying is only the first step – the crux is in implementation.

“The CBD MOP6 may have concluded, but the real work now has to begin at home.” said Shalini Bhutani, a lawyer working on law and policy issues around agriculture. “Decisions taken at the global level need to be followed through at the national level. This is particularly true with respect to designing a liability and redress (L+R) law for LMOs. The Supplementary Protocol on L+R requires countries to provide for L+R with respect to LMOs in their domestic laws.” She warned against letting the TNC-designed ‘Compact’ from pre-empting any legislative measures by countries on this critical subject.

“We are disappointed with the reluctance of the government to adopt a Biosafety Protection Law. Besides spending hundreds of crores in organizing the CBD COP & MOP, India is taking over the presiding role in the Convention on Biological Diversity for the next two years. It must therefore show real commitment to biodiversity conservation. It should fulfill its minimum responsibility to enact a National Biosafety Act which ensures practical implementation of all the commitments under the various Protocols that it is ratifying. It should immediately ban all field trials of GM crops, as strongly recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture” said Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convener, Coalition for GM Free India.

Amongst the 18 decisions adopted at the MOP6, the decision to establish an ad-hoc technical expert group (AHTEG) on socio-economic considerations is of particular interest to India. “We welcome the fact that socio-economic considerations have been given recognition by forming a Technical Group of 40 representatives to thoroughly examine the socio-economic implications of GM crops.” added Kiran Kumar Vissa, Convener, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA). “As we have always argued, GM crops should be looked at not only through the lens of technology but its socio-economic consequences should be seriously examined – including issues of impact on small farmers, their control and access to seed, impact on the costs and risks of cultivation, corporate control of seed sector, implications of proprietary rights over life forms, etc.” he said. This process should be truly participatory with proper representation of farmers’ organizations and civil society groups. Countries like the US have stayed resistant to this as they approach LMOs merely as a trade issue. “In a country like India the lives and livelihoods of several thousand people, especially tribal and local communities and small-marginal farmers, have to be considered when taking decisions about any application of potentially hazardous technologies. Infact, the safer alternatives that have now been clearly demonstrated through organic farming, non-pesticidal management etc, have to be considered before opting for this unnecessary risk of GM crops” said Dr Ramanjaneyelu, Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

Another substantive issue which arose from the Programme of Work of the COP-MOP and previous decisions is regarding developing guidance for parties on risk assessment. India’s claim to have established a mechanism for conducting risk assessments prior to taking decisions regarding LMOs is unacceptable, as the real experience on the ground and submissions in the ongoing PIL in the Supreme Court have pointed to the egregious gaps in the regulatory regime in India, which will need to be addressed.

It is deplorable that some European nations also showed great resistance to the requirement of “Identification” where any package containing Living Modified Organism(LMO) will be clearly identified for handling and transport. This shows the hypocrisy and manipulation by these governments backed by the biotech industry; having acknowledged the risks of Living Modified Organisms and evolving an entire Protocol for biosafety, identification and labeling of LMOs should be the very first step.

The MOP6 also saw the continuing influence of big biotech industry lobby spending millions of dollars to be present in the Convention simply to weaken the protocols, the continuing influence from strong non-parties like the US and the resistance from some European countries in strengthening the implementation of the protocol, the delay in most countries in ratifying the protocols, the lack of sufficient budget for capacity-building and ensuring the implementation of the protocols in the member countries after ratification. The Coalition calls for all countries to ratify the Supplementary Protocol and, implement strict biosafey laws. The Coalition also raised serious concerns about the apathy among global leader nations to contribute towards ensuring adequate financial resources for the implementation of the world’s biosafety protocols and decisions related to them.

What Indian national and state governments should do

We demand that the Indian national and state governments should treat the CBD conference and the MOP6 as the beginning of a new phase where Bio-safety will be given highest priority while dealing with GM crops.

Specific demands:
(1) Indian government should enact a comprehensive National Biosafety Protection Law to address the risks posed by Genetic Engineering technology. Any future consideration of release of GM crops should be only after such a biosafety regime based on precautionary principles, complete consideration of socio-economic realities and strict liability and redress is implemented. The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India(BRAI) bill should be discarded completely, as it violates the key commitments being made by India under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and its Supplementary Protocol.
(2) All open-air field trials of GM crops constitute an “environmental release”, and should be stopped forthwith, as recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture.
(3) No GM research and development should be allowed on crops in their centre of diversity, especially for important food crops. This applies to rice, brinjal, jowar, red gram, brinjal and so on. Indian diploid (desi) cotton varieties should be protected from GM, and non-GM development should be taken up.
(4) Comprehensive process to assess the socio-economic implications of GM crops should be initiated in India, in light of the formation of the Technical Expert Group in MOP6.
(5) The Department of Biotechnology and its association with Biotechnology Consortium India Limited (BCIL) should immediately stop funding and facilitating the development of this risky technology of GM crops and focus more on capacity-building about the risks of the technology.

Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convener, Coalition for GM Free India: 09995358205, mail.thanal@gmail.com
Dr. G.V. Ramanjaneyulu, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture: 09000699702, ramoo.csa@gmail.com
Kirankumar Vissa, co-convenor, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA): 09701705743, kiranvissa@gmail.com

PRESS RELEASE PUT OUT BY THE COALITION FOR A GM-FREE INDIA, ON OCTOBER 6TH 2012

(Rajasthan) Government bans GM trials, to burn standing crop

The Rajasthan government has put on hold all trials of genetically modified (GM) crops in the state.

In an order dated 13 March, the Principal Secretary, Agriculture, government of Rajasthan stated “..no trials of GM crops should be conducted in the State until final decision in this matter is taken.”

“The issue (of permitting trials of transgenic crops) indeed being fraught with concerns as no unanimity has arrived at, either in their favour or against them. The government, after considering different aspects of it, has taken a view to wait until a national consensus is evolved. It has also been decided that discussions should be held with all stakeholders and to form a view in this regard keeping in mind the guidelines issued by GEAC and GoI,” the order said.

Significantly, the order comes close on heels of the government’s withdrawal of the controversial no-objection certificate (NoC) recently issued by it to the Delhi University for conduct of GM mustard trials in three locations in Rajasthan. The trials had started in Bharatpur, Alwar and Sriganganagar and were nearing harvest. Responding to media reports and questions raised in the assembly, the government had ordered that the NoC be withdrawn. “On March 9th, the NoC was withdrawn and the crop ordered to be destroyed,” confirmed Anil Gupta, deputy secretary, department of agriculture.

So far, international seed majors Monsanto, Dow Agro Sciences and Pioneer have applied for and got permission from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the centre to conduct trials of Ht/Bt Corn in Rajasthan this year, but this was subject to a mandatory no-objection certificate from the state government. With the state’s recent decision not to permit GM trials for now, the trials planned by these companies in the coming season hangs fire.

The order, for the first time, sends a strong signal that Rajasthan is not up to indiscriminately permitting trials of transgenic crops having questionable environmental consequences, without an informed debate. So far, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Kerala, Odisha and Karnataka have said an outright ‘ no’ to GM crop trials in their respective states, while Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra have not yet issued NoCs.

Earlier, GM crop experiments were approved directly by the GEAC under the central govenrment. However, state NoCs became mandatory since July 2011 after Nitish Kumar objected to GM trials taking in Bihar without the state government’s consent, as agriculture is a state subject.

Story by Sowmya Sivakumar, Jaipur edition, DNA dated 20th March 2012

http://epaper.dnaindia.com/epapermain.aspx?pgNo=2&edcode=1310016&eddate=2012-3-20

 

 

Coalition’s Letter to GEAC about Gujarat Field Trials

February 28, 2012

To:

Shri M F Farooqui,

Chairperson,

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee,

Ministry of Environment & Forests,

Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex,

Lodhi Road, New Delhi 3.

 

Dear Shri Farooqui,

Sub: Field Trials of GM Crops in Gujarat violative of EPA 1989 rules

It has come to light through responses to RTI queries that the GM crop field trials that are taking place in the state of Gujarat are violative of the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act , Rules (1989 ). As you are aware, as per the 1989 Rules the State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) is supposed to be the state-level implementation arm of the GEAC .

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 amended that the work of SBCC meeting is not being done by this (Agriculture & Cooperation) department.

This clearly violates the provisions of the 1989 Rules and thereby the GM crop field trials taking place in Gujarat are illegal. This is dangerous and particularly so in a situation where violations by companies during GM crop field trials have become rampant in different states. In the recent past two instances of violations were notified to GEAC. Field trials taking place without adequate biosafety oversight is a serious threat to biodiversity and could lead to contamination and other problems. The possibility of contamination has been most recently experienced in India,  with the ICAR/UAS Bt cotton Bikaneri Narma incident, where this Bt cotton was found to be contaminated by a Monsanto Bt gene.

Violation during field trials is not the only problem, particularly with respect to Gujarat. The state has the unfortunate distinction of being the origin of illegal GM cotton planting incidents. Both times, with Bt cotton and recently with BT/HT cotton, illegal plantings have been reported to have originated from Gujarat. In this context it is doubly unsafe to allow GM crop field trials in the state without proper oversight as envisaged in the EPA 1989 rules.

In view of this we seek that all GM crop field trials in Gujarat be stopped with immediate effect.

Expecting your response and necessary action

Thanking You

Yours truly,

Sridhar Radhakrishnan

Convener, Coalition for a GM-Free India,

H-3, Jawahar Nagar, Kawdiar,

Trivandrum-695003, Kerala.

 

 

 

CC : Smt.Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister for Environment & Forests

 

Attachment: RTI responses from Gujarat. ( http://indiagminfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Guj-GM-field-trials-RTI-info-illegal.pdf )

 

 

 

 

Sharad Pawar reiterates State Govts authority….

In a letter to the Chattisgarh Agriculture Minister Mr Chandrasekhar Sahu, Sharad Pawar, Union Agriculture Minister reiterates that if the state government does not agree for conduct of any GM crop field trials in the State, no approvals would be accorded by GEAC for such trials (However, this is not quite the case now since GM maize and GM mustard trials were approved for Madhya Pradesh even after the state government wrote to the Centre against such trials, for example).

This information was obtained under Right To Information Act. A copy of the letter is available here.

Madhya Pradesh opposes Biotech Regulatory Bill

You can download Dr Ramakrishna Kusmariya’s letter to Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh here.

Madhya Pradesh opposes Biotech Regulatory Bill

Madhya Pradesh has decided to officially oppose the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, to be tabled in the Parliament on Tuesday.

State Agriculture Minister Ramkrishna Kusmaria has written to Union Science and Technology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, stating Madhya Pradesh’s opposition to some key provisions of Bill.

“States have a Constitutional right to decide on the subjects of health and agriculture. The BRAI Bill, regarding which I have drawn the Centre’s attention earlier, violates this right thereby compromising the States’ autonomy,” Dr. Kusmaria has said in his letter to Mr. Deshmukh.

Dr. Kusmaria has also pointed out that genetic modification of crops was a dangerous technology, the safety of which had yet to be established.

“Indian farmers will get dependent on GM seeds and eventually the entire indigenous agriculture will fall under the control of a few international corporations,” the Minister has written.

It is for these reasons, Dr. Kusmaria has written, that the Madhya Pradesh government registers its strong protest against the BRAI Bill and the proposed field trials of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the State.

The BRAI Bill reportedly has certain controversial provisions against which several States, including Kerala and Orissa, have registered their protests.

Eleven former Supreme Court judges, including former Chief Justice of India Justice M.H. Kania, have also issued a “statement of concern” on the BRAI Bill.

Farm & Food Activists Demand Scrapping of BRAI Bill 2011

FARM & FOOD ACTIVISTS DEMAND SCRAPPING OF BRAI BILL 2011: Ask State Govt to raise its voice against the Bill and protect farmers’ interests – Seek disallowing of GM crop field trials in the state

Chennai, November 11, 2011: Farmers’ leaders from all over Tamil Nadu, cutting across various affiliations, demanded that the Union Government should scrap the BRAI (Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India) Bill 2011, stating that it was a deeply flawed Bill. They asked the state government of Tamil Nadu to assert its constitutional authority over Agriculture, which this Bill seeks to violate. Farm activists wanted the state government and all TN Members of Parliament to raise objections against the BRAI Bill’s introduction in the winter session. They also urged the state government to ensure that no open-air field trials of GM crops are allowed in Tamil Nadu.

“The BRAI Bill is clearly against the interests of farmers and consumers and seeks to create a single-window fast-track clearance system for profit-hungry corporations. This is a Bill that is unconstitutional and undemocratic. It seeks to bypass the Right To Information Act in its intent to uphold the commercial interests of seed companies. The state government will not be allowed to have any say in the matter and this is clearly a violation of the federal polity enshrined in the Indian Constitution, wherein Agriculture is a State Subject”, said Sridhar Radhakrishnan of the Coalition for a GM-Free India.

Speaking at the end of a Round Table on BRAI Bill, Vettavalam Manikandan of Tamizhaga Vyavasayigal Sangam said, “The state government in recent months has taken the progressive steps of repealing the TNSAC Act and withdrawing a budgetary provision to promote Bt cotton in the state. The CM has also reminded in the National Development Council meeting that Agriculture is after all a State subject. In the same spirit, we hope the CM will write to the Centre to stop this draconian Bill”, he said.

Vellaiyan of Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangam said that the BRAI Bill is against the bottomline for regulatory regime recommended by a Task Force on Agricultural Biotechnology which had mooted the idea of an independent regulator in the first instance! The bottomline was stated to be “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 need a biosafety protection statute and not BRAI”, he asserted.

“We would like the government to make the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University accountable to it and the farming communities in the state; very often, the TNAU is seen to be acting in the interests of profiteering corporations in the way they promote GM technology and take up numerous trials, despite enormous scientific evidence proving the dangers of transgenic technology. We know that in the case of the ABSP II project for the development of Bt brinjal varieties, several legal provisions have been violated and the National Biodiversity Authority has decided to proceed against the violators; an investigation is needed into TNAU’s partnerships with various corporations too”, said Sheelu Francis of Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective.

Dr V Suresh, National Secretary of PUCL said that the BRAI Bill is against our Constitution. It is a part of the twenty first century global effort to colonise Indian agriculture by making food as a primary weapon and hand over our agriculture and food systems to profiteering corporations, thereby affecting our food sovereignty and food self sufficiency carefully built over sixty years of independent India.

“Tamil Nadu’s farmers have pioneered organic farming in the entire country; however, this organic farming movement in the state is being jeopardized now, because the state government is yet to take a firm stand against GMOs in general and BRAI Bill in particular, and given that GM technology is diametrically opposite in its approach and results, to organic farming! We urge the state government to come up with an organic farming policy for the state and stop the onslaught of GM on our farmers here, since we have safer and sustainable technologies to offer. We urge the government to not give any permission for open air field trials in the state, given that the GM technology is a living, imprecise, irreversible and unpredictable technology”, said Selvam Ramaswamy of Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers Federation. He cited the example of several other states that have said NO to field trials.

Sharing the findings of a report she compiled on “A Decade of Bt cotton in Tamil Nadu” on the occasion, Kavitha Kuruganti of ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture” pointed out that official records point out that yields of cotton have been fluctuating in the state despite major expansion of Bt cotton in the cotton cultivation in Tamil Nadu, that insecticide usage has not come down as predicted, that cost on pesticides was quite low to begin with, bringing to question the very rationale for the introduction of Bt technology in the state, that cost of cultivation has no declining trends to exhibit etc. “While this is not based on any primary study, the report is based on official figures; this data hopefully will guide the state government in not being misled by the massive publicity that the biotech industry generates by spending its resources and hopefully, the Chief Minister will see the real picture for what it is”, she said.

The Round Table brought out a declaration rejecting the BRAI Bill 2011 in toto. Further, a Joint Action Forum was created consisting of eight prominent people’s leaders. Many other prominent persons like Duraimanickam of CPI-affiliated farmers’ union, Ananthoo of Safe Food Alliance, Thooran Nambi, Ramasubramanian of Samanvaya, Jayaraman of FEDCOT, Dr Tirunarayanan from Centre from Traditional Medicine & Research, Padam Narayanan, Sundar of SJM, KM Ramasamy, non-political Tamizhaga Vyavasayigal Sangam, Eswaran of MDMK, N K Palaniswamy, ex-MLA, Kannaiyan S of SICCFM etc. joined the Round Table here in Chennai.

For more information, contact:

Ananthoo, Safe Food Alliance: 09444166779, ananthoo@gmail.com

Selvam, TN Organic Farmers’ Federation: 09443663562, organicerode@gmail.com

Bt Cotton report released on the occasion