Biotech Bill against the spirit of Gandhi: Swaminathan

Biotech bill against the spirit of Gandhi: M S Swaminathan

CHENNAI: On the 142nd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, noted agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan told The Times of India that the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (Brai) bill is against the spirit of Gandhi and decentralised governance. “The bill has a single-window clearance for the release of genetically modified crops. Unlike the National Biodiversity Act, the Brai bill does not consult with people at the panchayat level,” said Swaminathan who proposed in 2003 the idea of an autonomous and professionally led body for assessing the safety of genetically modified crops.

“There is also a case of conflict of interest. The regulator of genetically modified food cannot be under Brai. For example, the atomic energy regulatory board cannot function under the department of atomic energy,” he added. The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India bill that is to be tabled at the winter session of the Parliament this year will approve research and commercial release of genetically modified crops.

The body will be a regulatory regime for modern technology in the field of agriculture, environment and pharmaceuticals. Though based originally on M S Swaminathan’s idea, the bill was reworked in 2008. Speaking at a meeting organised by the National Biodiversity Authority in Chennai on Sunday, Swaminathan said Gandhi is unexpectedly gaining relevance in today’s society “Gandhi believed that ‘poorna swaraj’ can be achieved only with ‘gram swaraj,'” he said.

“We have 1.5 lakh varieties of rice and this is because of the knowledge that our farmers, tribals and adivasis have. We need to protect them. We should see ourselves as trustees of nature, the wealth we are born with,” he said.

And this, according to Balakrishnan Pisupati, the chairman of National Biodiversity Authority, is the essence of the Biological Diversity Act. “The act is about managing resources at the panchayat level making it sustainable and also securing rural lives,” he said. Pisupati said that preparations for next year’s Conference of Parties to the Convention on Bio Diversity in Hyderabad is in full swing. Following the conference in Nagoya, Japan last year, 193 countries, representatives from various UN agencies, NGOs and environmentalists will attend the conference to be held between October 1 and 19, 2012.

Karthikeyan Hemalatha, TNN | Oct 3, 2011, 04.47AM IST

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