Now Pawar denies visas to GM critics
NOTE: The conference they were going to address had the appropriate title: "Food Dictatorship Vs. Food Democracy". Sharad Pawar and his supporters seem intent on stamping out even the pretence of democracy. For more about the conference: http://is.gd/91PMF
Sharad Pawar has lobbied constantly for GM crops, even during the public consultation and even in his power base of Maharashtra where so many Bt cotton farmers have committed suicide. Pawar's nephew is said to own a Bt cotton seed company: http://bit.ly/9ALtIt
Gag on anti-GM voice
Dinesh C. Sharma
India Today, February 24 2010
New Delhi - The new proposal to jail anyone questioning the safety of genetically modified (GM) crops has yet to become a law. But the government appears to have already started muzzling anti-GM voices, environmental activists have alleged.
A regional government official and a professor of genetics from Italy - both important members of the GM-free movement - have been allegedly denied visa by the Indian government.
The two were supposed to speak at an international conference on "genetically modified organism-free movement" organised by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in Delhi on Tuesday.
Maria Grazia Mammucini is the director of the regional government of Tuscany's agency for agriculture, while Marcello Buiatti is a professor of genetics at the University of Florence and a member of the European Network of Independent Scientists.
They have played a key role in getting regions in Europe declared GM-free and were supposed to share their experience at the meeting.
The agriculture agency of the Region of Tuscany headed by Mammucini was listed as one of the co-hosts of the event. Tuscany is one of the 49 regions in Europe that have officially declared themselves GM-free. In India, 13 states have so far said no to Bt brinjal and only Kerala has declared itself GM-free.
Vandana Shiva, who heads the organisation hosting the meeting, alleged: "The visa has been denied at the behest of the agriculture ministry which is headed by pro-GM politician Sharad Pawar. Both Mammucini and Buiatti have valid papers, including an invitation from us. There was no reason they should have been denied entry into India." "When I contacted the Indian embassy, the official there told me that he needed permission from the agriculture ministry for issuing the visas," Shiva added.
"This arbitrary action has denied the Indian public a chance to hear Prof. Buiatti who has shown how genetic engineering is unreliable and risky."Shiva criticised Pawar for his alleged move to get the recent moratorium on Bt brinjal lifted.
"It seems the PM (Manmohan Singh) has said (environment minister) Jairam Ramesh can't have the last word on Bt brinjal. The fact is that the people have had the last word on this subject and politicians can't be allowed to undo that,"she said.
Shiva said the proposal to set up the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India was aimed at deregulating the biotech industry and not at safeguarding biosafety. The existing biosafety framework, she said, was good enough. It only needed transparent implementation.
Benedikt Haerlin, a former member of the European parliament, said that while cultivation of GM crops was legal in many regions of Europe, it was the public pressure that was keeping the regions free of GM foods.
Debi Barker of the Center for Food Safety in Washington said it was a myth that GM crops in the US had brought down pesticide use or increased yields.