Today (October 2nd 2012), civil society, particularly from the host country India, urged global leaders at the MOP6 on Biosafety Protocol to follow the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in letter and spirit, to ensure that our biodiversity and with it the access of the local people to their biological heritage is not sacrificed at the altar of risky and irreversible technologies like GE in agriculture. They sought
that GMO/LMOs are not released into the environment. Their appeal came in the backdrop of
growing evidence on the impacts of GE crops on biodiversity and human health.

Speaking at the press conference Sridhar Radhakrishnan, the Convenor, Coalition for GM-Free
India, said that the resistance to GM crops is growing across the world and it is best reflected in
countries like India and China where governments have started heeding the concerns raised on
GM crops by various sections of the society.

During March 2012 China released its draft Grain law which forbids any individual or entity from
doing any genetic modification of the country’s staple crops like rice, wheat and maize 1 .

Similary the Indian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture comprising of Members of Parliament, cutting across party lines, in its report submitted to the Indian Parliament on August 9th, 2012, has asked the government to go slow on GM crops as there seems to be more concerns than benefits for the country from GM crops. The committe observed that GM crops may not be the right way
forward if the country wants to attain food and livelihood security for millions of farmers 2.

Criticizing the abysmal performance of the existing regulatory system and the inadequacies of the
proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India [BRAI] Bill, the Parliamentary Committee
strongly recommended establising “an all encompassing umbrella legislation on bio-safety which
is focused on ensuring the bio-safety, biodiversity, human and livestock health, environmental
protection and which specifically describes the extent to which bio-technology, including modern
bio-technology, fits in the scheme of things, without compromising with the safety of any of the
elements mentioned above”.

2012 marks the 10th year of the controversial introduction of GM crop cultivation in India. Reviews,
both from public sector institutions as well as the civil society, have broken the myth around Bt
cotton, the only GM crop commercially grown in India. Studies have shown that it has not only
failed to increase yields or reduce pesticide usage as claimed by the biotech seed industry but has
increased the cost of cultivation of cotton thereby pushing the cotton farmers into further distress.
The situation is particularly acute in the rainfed regions in the country which comprises 65% of the
area under cotton cultivation 3 .

Highlighting the Bt cotton debacle Sridhar emphatically stated that “It is unfortunate that India
learnt its lesson the hard way from its tryst with Bt cotton and it is our poor farmers who have and
are continuing to pay with their lives. It is time that governments across the world realise that
technofixes like GM crops can neither solve agrarian distress nor provide food security. The
solutions to these lie in ecological farming where the triple bottomlines of social, ecological and
economical sustainability are met”.

While the public debate around Bt Brinjal and its eventual moratorium has resulted in a pause on
the commercialisation of GM crops in India, open air field trials continue. There is growing
controversy around the open air field trials of GM crops, especially GM corn that is taking place in
the country. Though field trials have been stopped in many states due to the intervention of the
state governments who have said no to field trials, the states of Punjab and Haryana have given
go ahead for field trials of GM corn and the trials are taking place this season. “It is a pity that the
Indian government is ignoring the possibility of contamination through GM crops” said Sridhar. He
further stated that “Experiences from our country and others have demonstrated that field trials can
lead to GMOs entering the food supply chain and also endanger our biodiversity”.

Those gathered reminded the Indian government that its committment to protecting biodiversity
should not end with its taking the lead in hosting of the COP-MOP but should be reflected in its
uncompromising stand on upholding the precautionary approach towards risky technologies like
Genetic Engineering(Modification) and it products. As a first step they urged the Minister for
Environment and Forests, Ms Jayanthi Natarajan, whose ministry houses the Genetic Engineering
Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the nodal agency for environmental releases of GMOs, to stop all
open air field trials of GM crops in India.

Meanwhile, in a Supplementary Protocol (SP) to the CBD, agreed to by governments, there is
acknowledgement that LMOs can cause damage. The SP specifically deals with liability and
redress (L+R) for damage. It lays down rules by which an operator of LMOs will be held
accountable if there is damage to biodiversity. To make the SP applicable in their own countries,
governments need to put in place national laws. But the industry, particularly the big TNCs that sell
GE technology, such as Monsanto, BASF, Bayer, Dow, Syngenta, have propped up their own set of
rules on L+R, called the Compact. This document will result in avoidance of liability under the UN’s
SP. It attempts to divert the attention of governments from the SP, by suggesting an industry-
friendly short-cut instead of going for the SP. The Compact will in effect dilute the strict liability that
the SP precribes. It is imperative for countries like India to develop their own legal framework on
liability and redress, till the SP comes into force. Shalini Bhutani, a legal researcher from India
points to paragraph 4.23 of the Parliamentary Standing Committee Report, which also clearly
states that a special legislation is required for India to implement the SP. The international law
contained in the Cartagena Protocol does not need countries to wait until the SP comes into force,
for them to make their national law.

Notes to the Editor




For more information
Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor, Coalition for GM Free India
Mob: 09995358205 email:


Dr Ramanjaneyulu, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Mob : 09000699702 email :

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