Shri Prakash Javadekar, The Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Govt of India.
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.
Rajesh Krishnan, Convener , Coalition for a GM-Free India, Mob:09845650032 , email: email@example.com