Withdraw "rigged" Bt brinjal report
PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY COALITION FOR A GM-FREE INDIA
*EXPERT COMMITTEE CHAIRPERSON UNDER PRESSURE:
WITHDRAW RIGGED-UP BT BRINJAL EXPERT COMMITTEE REPORT
New Delhi, November 30th 2009: In the light of new information emerging on the Bt Brinjal Expert Committee being compromised, casting a bigger shadow of doubt on fair and scientific inquiry into the safety and other issues related to Bt Brinjal, the Coalition for a GM-Free India demanded the immediate withdrawal of the report which recommended Bt Brinjal for India. News emerged yesterday on the Chairperson of the Expert Committee admitting to coming under pressure to approve Bt Brinjal. Further, fresh information on other members of the Expert Committee shows that this Committee was rigged up, said the Coalition.
The following are the new facts emerging on the Expert Committee which recommended Bt Brinjal for clearance (EC2 or Expert Committee II):
The Chairperson, Prof Arjula Reddy, confesses to coming under pressure from "Agriculture Minister, GEAC and the industry" to approve Bt Brinjal (Attached report has Dr Pushpa Bhargava's statement on a telephone conversation that Prof Reddy had to this effect with Dr Bhargava, the Supreme Court observer to GEAC, the apex regulatory body in India)
The Member-Secretary, Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM in the DBT), Dr K K Tripathi has a Central Vigilance Commission complaint pending against him for exercising undue discretionary powers to promote interests of companies of his choice (Mahyco, in this instance) and harm others. He sat in the Expert Committee which was considering Mahyco's application, while the CVC complaint was still being examined!
At least two Bt Brinjal developers in the Expert Committee bring in conflicting interests. One of them is part of the Consortium project that is developing Bt Brinjal in India with American aid!
At least two members sat in the Expert Committee, reviewing their institutions' own findings on Bt Brinjal biosafety!
At least two members who were expressly representing the Union Health Ministry sat as observers in the Expert Committee without providing any inputs into the EC2 process.
Further, the GEAC deviated from the agreed mandate for the Expert Committee, as minuted in its January meeting minutes, to set up a new mandate that allowed the EC2 to recommend Bt Brinjal for cultivation.
The Expert Committee was also privy to some data that was never put out in the public domain for independent scrutiny and analysis but which was used for decision-making.
"The new information on the Chairperson of the Expert Committee confessing to coming under pressure and actually showing that he has succumbed under pressure given the final contents of the EC2 report and the objectionable presence of several members who were carrying conflicting interests puts a huge question mark on the scientificity and objectivity of this Expert Committee in assessing Bt Brinjal and its safety. The Government of India asking us to respond to this rigged-up report is an irony, given that the outcomes are being pre-decided in this fashion. We demand that the EC2's report be immediately withdrawn", said the Coalition.
For more information, contact:
Kavitha Kuruganti, Kheti Virasat Mission: (0) 93-930-01550
Bhaskar Goswami, Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security: (0) 98-111-91335