Shri Prakash Javadekar,
Union Minister for Environment, Forests & Climate Change,
Government of India.
Sub: Evidence of regulatory apparatus in shambles emerges once again – Seeking immediate intervention to stop field trials of GM crops happening in the country – Reg.
Namaste! Just as a crucial Supreme Court hearing is in the offing (slated for September 16th 2014) in the GMOs PIL, and after you indicated that the Government is awaiting this Hearing in a recent Press Conference, it has come out clearly that the regulatory apparatus is in shambles in India, even as field trials are indeed underway in the country. Media reports as well as our own enquiries have confirmed that field trials have started in Rahuri, in your own home state of Maharashtra, in addition to Gujarat, from where the Prime Minister hails. And it is also clear that EPA Rules are being flouted1. For years now, we have been showcasing how field trials are allowed without any monitoring capabilities, institutional oversight mechanisms in place, with the regulators flouting Supreme Court orders around contamination testing as well as transparency and so on.
So far, the Government of India has been claiming that a robust regulatory regime exists in the country, in its court affidavits and Parliament replies, even though the Technical Expert Committee set up by the Supreme Court in its final report has recommended against any open air release of GMOs until the regulatory system is improved. The SC TEC through its rigorous scientific analyses of the biosafety dossiers that regulators have cleared as safe, has shown that even Bt cotton, the only approved GM crop in India, cannot be concluded to be safe. This TEC has also clearly made a case for why India should not allow certain kinds of GMOs at all. Meanwhile, in China, the government there has cancelled research permits issued for GM Rice and GM Maize understanding the risks involved. China has never opted for GM soybean, appreciating the case that it is the Centre of Origin/Diversity for soybean, even though the requirement for this product is huge in the country. India, however, is refusing to show such a sensible and responsible approach towards its citizens, unfortunately.
It has been proven time and again as well as highlighted by various credible agencies like the TEC and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture that our regulatory system on GMOs is in total shambles. Given that there is a growing body of scientific evidence on the adverse impact of GM crops/food on human health, biodiversity and farm livelioods and the potential of GM field trials to contaminate our food and seed supply chain, both the TEC and the Standing Committee had strongly reccomended against any open release of GM crops for the time being. This has also been endorsed by hundreds of Indian scientists in a letter written to the Prime Minister and your self regarding this2.
The fact that field trials of Monsanto are happening when monitoring bodies like the State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) as well as the District level Committee (DLC) mandated to do the monitoring of field trials as per the rules under the EPA 1986, are non-existent or non functional, and the fact that senior scientists are pointing out to lacunae in monitoring is good enough reason to stop the trials immediately and take action against those involved in undertaking such trials without required systems in place.
As the Minister in charge of safeguarding biosafety and regulation of environmental releases of GMOs, and as someone who is in the Chair of the Cartagena Protocol at this point of time, we urge you to take immediate action to stop all field trials happening in the country and to also accept the reccomendations by the TEC as well as the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, including in the Supreme Court.
Convenor, Coalition for a GM Free India.
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