Shri Narendra Modi,
The Prime Minister
Govt of India
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.
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. 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.