3/10/2011 (UNI) Agricultural, environment and social activists and farmers’ union and consumer groups have strongly opposed the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill in an open letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying its provisions were completely sidestepping the precautionary approach and not addressing all the serious shortcomings of the existing regulatory regime.
They have urged him to create instead a statutory mechanism to protect the sustainability and safety of food and farming in India, a spokesperson of one of the protesting NGOs Greenpeace said here today.
Apart from members of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) and Coalition for a GM-free India, signatories to the letter, sent on March 8, include eminent citizens like veteran journalist and former Rajya Sabha member, Kuldip Nayyar, danseuse and social activist Mallika Sarabhai, eminent pet and Bollywood lyricist Gulzar, leading Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, noted social activist Medha Patkar, and RTI activist and Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal.
The activists and various groups have alleged that the government was trying to circumvent the widespread opposition to Genetically Modified(GM) crops in various ways, including the BRAI Bill as last seen in the public domain.
’The nationwide debate on Bt brinjal, the first GM food crop to have been considered for commercial cultivation in the country, highlighted the objections and concerns of all sections of the society, including scientists, on GM foods in general and Bt brinjal in particular which resulted in a moratorium being declared on it last year,’ said Sridhar Radhakrishnan, the convenor of Coalition for a GM-Free India.
This draft Bill clearly intended to circumvent opposition to GM and to facilitate more agri-business opportunities through modern Biotechnology, he said.
The letter said, ‘The existing regime is riddled with several problems with regard to unscientific, biased, opaque, undemocratic and narrow assessment of GMOs in our food and farming. It also lacks a labelling and liability regime. The BRAI proposals are worse – in fact, the mandate of protecting India’s environment and health from the risks of modern Biotechnology as the primary mandate (which the current weak regime des have!) is importantly missing in the proposed BRAI.’ The letter said that given the fact that there was enough scientific evidence to question the safety of GM crops and given the massive public mistrust on the technology and its products, what the government should have formulated is a Biosafety Protection statute, instead of these BRAI proposals, to instil confidence in all citizens about the intent of the government.
’In light of all this, we the undersigned urge you and your Cabinet not to approve any proposal on a regulatory framework for modern Biotechnology and its applications/products that overlooks Biosafety for our citizens, our environment and threatens our socio-economic and cultural fabric; we urge your government to table a legislation to protect and enhance Biosafety and to ensure democratic processes are adhered to when dealing with issues as important as food and farming in our country,’ the letter said. UNI