FARM ACTIVISTS DEMAND IMMEDIATE DETERRENT ACTION FROM REGULATORS ON SUSPECTED ILLEGAL Bt BRINJAL CULTIVATION DISCOVERED IN HARYANA

“This is a definite bio-hazard and government needs to contain it”

New Delhi, April 25th 2019: Senior representatives of the Coalition for a GM-Free India held a press conference in the national capital today, to present their findings with regard to illegal cultivation of Bt brinjal, a genetically modified food crop, in Haryana. They shared that based on a tip-off, they picked up samples from the field of a Fatehabad farmer, tested it using the lateral flow strip method and that the sample tested positive for Bt Cry1Ac protein. They demanded immediate action from the state and central governments, for further investigation and confirmation about such illegal cultivation of unauthorised Bt brinjal, ascertainment of the extent of Bt brinjal cultivation, deterrent action against the seed/seedling suppliers and destruction of Bt brinjal plots, and warned against repetition of earlier episodes of illegal spread of GM seeds.

“This is clearly a failure of concerned government agencies that illegal Bt brinjal is being cultivated in the country. The regulatory body Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) behaves as a promotional body than a regulator and therein lies a major problem. This is not the first time that this is happening. This is the fourth such instance of illegal GM crop entry into India. Bt cotton was approved in India after large scale illegal cultivation was discovered in Gujarat. The regulators turned a blind eye to illegal herbicide tolerant cotton cultivation thereafter, while it spread to lakhs of hectares. In late 2017, when illegal GM soy cultivation was discovered in Gujarat and a complaint lodged with GEAC, the response was quite slow and dangerously lackadaisical. To this day, we do not know if there is more GM soy cultivation than what the complaint show-cased, and if there has been any action taken on the seed suppliers. We now want punitive action against the event owner because they are ultimately responsible for any leakage of seeds – as far as we know, GM brinjal with Cry1Ac event (a chimeric gene of Cry1Ac and Cry1Ab) was developed only by Mahyco/Monsanto”, said Kapil Shah of Jatan, Gujarat.

“We cannot afford to allow this Bt brinjal cultivation to continue or spread. It is clear that this bio-hazard has to be contained and destroyed, and GEAC cannot allow citizens to be exposed to the health and environmental hazards of Bt brinjal. GEAC should ascertain and confirm that illegal Bt brinjal cultivation is indeed happening, and find out the full extent of such cultivation. We demand the immediate destruction of all such Bt brinjal plots. Further, no penal action should be taken against farmers who have been duped into cultivating these illegal seeds. Farmers must be fully compensated for destruction of their standing crop. However, there should be deterrent penal action against seed suppliers and against the crop developer company whose seeds are being illegally spread”, said Sridhar Radhakrishnan of Thanal, Kerala.

 

It may be recalled that in February 2010, after nationwide consultations and an extensive public debate lasting a couple of months, Government of India had placed an indefinite moratorium on commercial release of Bt brinjal “till such time independent scientific studies establish, to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals the safety of the product from the point of view of its long-term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth existing in brinjal in our country”. The moratorium is still in place and has not been lifted since no evidence of safety has been produced by the crop developers so far.

 

It is important to note that India is the centre of diversity for brinjal, both domesticated and wild, which will be irreversibly contaminated if Bt brinjal is brought in.

 

Dr Rajinder Chaudhary of Kudarti Kheti Abhiyan in Haryana informed that one sample has been sent to a private testing laboratory for further confirmation. A group of representatives of farmers’ and consumers’ organisations as well as scientists from the region (including Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, Bhartiya Kisan Unions, retired SAU scientists etc.) submitted another sample to Director-General of Horticulture and of Agriculture in the Government of Haryana yesterday, apart from sending one sample to the Government of India’s apex regulatory body, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), demanding further investigations and action. “This demonstrates a failure of departments of horticulture and agriculture, to remain vigilant about such hazardous seeds entering our seed supply chains. It is also a failure of the central regulators for not creating extensive awareness about hazards of Bt brinjal and why a moratorium has been placed on the same. If civil society groups can get to know about this, why can’t alert government agencies? We would like all frontline officials to be alert and weed out the problem before it spreads”, he said.

 

“GEAC has been created as the apex regulatory body to protect environment, nature and health from the risks of gene technology. There was a good reason why India opted to impose an indefinite moratorium on Bt brinjal – all the environmental and health hazards acknowledged at that time in 2010, continue to remain in tact. We demand a Biohazard Emergency Service, that will swing into action within 24 hours and not the apathetic approach of our regulators”, said Kapil Shah. “Further, India and other countries are also part of Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, which requires Prior Informed Consent for any transboundary movement. India should put pressure on Bangladesh at the highest level, to ensure that there is compliance, and that their seed producers and others are warned about smuggling into India any transgenic material from Bangladesh. India should also complain to the Cartagena secretariat about the violation”, he said.

 

Kumar Prashant of Gandhi Peace Foundation urged consumers to be alert about the brinjal that they are consuming, and asked them to eat only such brinjal that they know is from reliable sources, rather than risk consuming Bt brinjal.

 

In 2009-10, numerous independent scientists from India and abroad pointed to lack of safety of Bt brinjal, based on its own data and reports in the biosafety dossier that Mahyco, the crop developer, had submitted to the regulators.

 

The speakers hoped that the government will not allow history of Bt cotton to repeat itself, wherein Bt cotton was cultivated illegally first subsequent to which the regulators ended up giving post-facto approval. The myth and hype around Bt cotton got busted in the past 15 years of its cultivation in India, showing that pesticide use does not reduce and pest resistance as well as newer pests emerge. Unlike cotton, brinjal is a part of daily diet of humans and governments cannot allow multinationals to play with health of masses. Meanwhile, numerous safe and sustainable farm solutions exist for pest management in Brinjal and other crops which don’t always receive extension service support from the government.

 

The speakers also warned of massive citizens’ resistance from all over the country, if the government does not act responsibly on their complaint. The Coalition is a national platform consisting of farm organisations, environmental and women’s collectives, consumer groups and scientists, resisting entry of GMOs in India and advocating for sustainable and safe solutions in our food and farming systems.

 

For more information, contact:

Rajinder Chaudhary at 9416182061 and Kapil Shah at 7567916751

More on Bt brinjal is available here:

http://indiagminfo.org/bt-brinjal/ , http://indiagminfo.org/bt-brinjal/biosafety-analyses-feedback/

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———- Forwarded message ———
From: Rajinder Chaudhary <rajinderc@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 24 Apr 2019 at 09:53
Subject: Formal complaint about suspected illegal Bt brinjal cultivation in Haryana
To: <asaj.moefcc@gov.in>
Cc: <cm.krishna@gov.in>, <sujata@nic.in>

 

 

To

Sh AK Jain,

Chairperson,

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC),

Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change,Government of India.

Indira Paryavaran Bhawan, Aliganj Road, Jorbagh, New Delhi, Delhi 110003

 

 

 

24-04-2019

Dear Sir,

Sub: Formal complaint about suspected illegal Bt brinjal cultivation in Haryana – urgent investigation and legal action to be initiated by GEAC – reg.

Greetings! This is to alert the GEAC to the urgent matter of suspected illegal Bt brinjal cultivation in Haryana and lodge a formal complaint about the same. Hard copy of this letter along with sample and photographs has been sent to you vide speed post EH745102091IN dated 23rd April 2019.

Based on a tip-off received about the possible illegal cultivation of Bt brinjal in the field of a farmer, sample from the said farm was collected. A preliminary lateral flow strip test was conducted using the kit produced by DesiGen which showed a positive result of the suspected sample being transgenic with Bt Cry1AC (we are attaching the copy of photograph of the samples and the strip test result). While we have sent a sample to a private testing laboratory for further confirmation, one sample is being sent to you along with the hard copy of the letter for necessary action at your end.

We will share the location details of the standing Bt brinjal crop separately once you provide us phone number and/or email id of a responsible officer who you will hold responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of the information. We request you to contact us IMMEDIATELY for location details.

We demand that GEAC immediately investigate this case and take legal action against the source of supply of these seeds in India. In addition to finding out the full extent of cultivation and action against entire seed/seedling supply network of illegal Bt brinjal, we also demand the destruction of all Bt brinjal plots. However, simultaneously we demand that no penal action should be taken against farmers who have been duped into cultivating these illegal seeds. Rather, farmers must be fully compensated for destruction of their standing crop.

We hope that GEAC will immediately take necessary steps to nip in the bud the supply of this illegal seed and ensure that all such Bt brinjal is completely destroyed. We also hope that not only receipt of this letter and sample would be acknowledged; we would also be kept informed of the further action taken in this regard

For any further information, please contact us at: rajinderc@gmail.com or kavitakuruganti@gmail.com

Sincerely,

On behalf of Farmers’ and Consumers’ organizations and Scientists

Inderjeet Singh, Vice-President, All India Kisan Sabha, Haryana

Badrinarayan Chowdhary, Rashtriya Mahamantri, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh

Gurnam Singh, President BKU Haryana

Abhimanyu Kohar, National Spokesperson, Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh

Sukhdev Bhopal, Khetibari Kisan Vikas Front, Punjab

Jagmohan Singh, General Secretary, BKU Ekta Dakunda, Punjab

BS Bhayan, Dr Surender Dalal Keet Saksharta Mission, Haryana

Reeta Kohli, Sr Advocate , Alliance for Safe Food Punjab Chandigarh

Dr Mahaveer Narwal, Retd Professor, CCS HAU, Haryana

Umendra Dutt, Kheti Virasat Mission, Punjab

Rajinder Chaudhary for Kudarti Kheti Abhiyan, Haryana

 

Postal Address: Prof Rajinder Chaudhary # 904, Lane opposite Vaish Public School, Sector 3, Rohtak 124001 (Haryana)

 

Rajinder Chaudhary,
Former Professor, Department of Economics,M. D. University, Rohtak (Haryana) 124001 &

Advisor, Kudarti Kheti Abhiyan, Haryana
Residence:# 904, Lane opposite Vaish Public School, Sector 3, Rohtak 124001 (Haryana)

Ph: 09416182061