NOTE: This Application challenging the Notification on GM foods by India's MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) was filed yesterday and may well come up for a 'hearing' tomorrow (Friday 1 November).
COMMENT from Aruna Rodrigues: 'The implications of this 'Notification' are extraordinary. The Regulator thereby admits that in its own view, it is not responsible and accountable for the health impacts of GM Foods on the citizens of this nation. Yet, the enactment of the EPA (Environmental Protection Act) of 1986 clearly sees that the health of the people is an integral part of the 'Environment' of India and is therefore part and parcel of the purpose of the Act.
Thus the Regulator has effectively dumped its responsibility for overseeing the health impacts of GM foods into a vacuum. It is hard to ignore the relentless and determined moves by the GEAC [India's key GM regulator] and DBT [the Dept of Biotechnology]to contrive gaps in regulatory procedures, and to tailor national laws to facilitate the spread of GM crops and foods in India.
This 'notification' demonstrates so very clearly that the GEAC has never been serious about protecting this nation's health from the well documented and proven hazards of GM foods and animal feed.'
EXTRACTS: 'The capacity of various A-B toxin-lectins, including Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cry1Ac protoxin to stimulate and modulate both the systemic and mucosal immune systems is now firmly established' - Dr Arpad Pusztai, the world's leading specialist in the science of lectins (and Cry genes are lectins)
'The reason for the concern about the ability of GE plants to produce toxins, carcinogens, and compounds that cause birth defects (teratogens) is the result of the uncontrolled events that occur in the steps required to make a GE plant. ...I believe that the potential negative impact on nutritional content and the increase in dangerous metabolites (chemicals) are the major hazards associated with highly mutagenic plant GM techniques.' - Dr Dave Schubert of the Salk Institute
MOEF NOTIFICATION REMOVING RESTRICTIONS ON GM IMPORTS OF PROCESSED FOOD & THE CONTRIVED GAP IN LABELLING LAWS: APPLICATION FOR INJUNCTION/QUASHING FILED BY PETITIONERS
”ž« The GEAC abrogates its responsibility for the critical mandate of examining the health impacts of GM foods to ensure their safety for the Indian Nation, through freeing imports of GM processed food & countenancing the absence of a coherent labelling Policy. The MoEF Notification contravenes the clear provisions of the EPA of 1986, and the 'Rules' governing 'hazardous' GMOs of 1989.
”ž« It is a truism that the goal of health safety-assessment is that a 'food should not cause harm when prepared, used or eaten according to its intended use' (Codex Alimentarious guideline 2003). Or, to expand the logic, if a product causes cancer in animals, it should not be put in food. If GMOs cause cancer in rats, as has been demonstrated along with other significant health risks, they cannot be in our food or animal feed.
Through this 'Notification' the Regulator, the GEAC demonstrates very clearly that:
i. It has acted to provide legal cover for the thoroughly illegal trade in imports of GM processed foods including processed and crude soy oil that has been going on for several years. The evidence of the health hazards of GM crops (and therefore processed foods derived from them) is overwhelming and can no longer be denied even less ignored, except by a Regulator that is intent on an 'approval' process for GM crops, to promote the commercial objectives of the GE biotech industry
ii. It is also backtracking on the implementation of labelling laws, on the grounds that they are too complicated to implement. In the absence of any labelling mechanisms in place, the GEAC, under the guise of legality, is acting to deliberately allow the contamination of India's food chain and is denying and circumventing the right of the citizens of this country to make reasoned, free and informed food choices for nourishment and health
iii. This move of the Regulator is particularly telling in that it shows an unwanted confidence to act despite the pendency of the PIL in the Supreme Court
iv. The Regulator has also consistently adopted the thoroughly lax US approach to the regulation of GM crops. It is now openly co-operating to promote US trade interests through a further liberalisation of GM imports, progressing from soy oil earlier this year, (when restrictions were removed) to now, other processed GM foods.
v. Allowing unrestricted imports of GM processed foods without a stringent and impartial testing regimen in place, essentially means that the Indian Government accepts the exporting country¡¦s bio-safety including health safety regulations concerning GM crops (food/feed), as a matter of principle. This is of course dangerous for national health and a real and serious problem and clearly in error. For example, the US FDA regulation of GMO is weak and it does not approve any GM crop as safe for human consumption. ON THAT BASIS, NEITHER DOES THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT. It is therefore, ipso facto subjecting our people to the notoriously weak and lax US GM regulation, including that of other countries like Argentina, Brazil and Canada, all of which are GM producing nations WITH NO LABELLING LAWS. For example, Bt corn varieties that would be imported under the notification have been proven toxic AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN CLEARED by lax regulatory processes in the EU by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority). In the US such clearances are routine. Two examples of such lax approval are Mons 863 & 810. Both were found toxic after approval, when Monsanto's own rat-feeding studies were subjected to thorough and rigorous analyses by independent scientists. There is now a de facto ban on Mons 810 because the Federal Ministry of Agriculture (Germany) states that new information 'gives reasons to suppose that the cultivation of Mon 810 poses a danger to the environment' and last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy banned Mon810 in France in a general ban on GM pesticide crops.
Two internationally eminent scientists Prof Schubert (of the Salk Institute) and Arpad Pusztai have given evidence in statements for the SC:
'There are no mandatory, SAFETY TESTING PROCEDURES IN THE US. THEREFORE THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR CLAIMING THAT BT CROPS ARE 'PROVEN SAFE TO EAT'. --It may take many years before any symptoms of a disease arising from a GM product appear. In the absence of strong epidemiology or clinical trials, any health problem associated with an illness caused by a transgenic food is going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to detect unless it is a disease that is unique or normally very rare. ---It is argued by the GM producers that crops (mostly maize) containing the Bt gene have been eaten for 10 years (true) and therefore proven safe (not true), and that putting the same Bt gene into another crop means that it will also be safe to eat (absolutely not true). --The reason for the concern about the ability of GE plants to produce toxins, carcinogens, and compounds that cause birth defects (teratogens) is the result of the UNCONTROLLED EVENTS that occur in the steps required to make a GE plant. ---I believe that the potential negative impact on nutritional content and the increase in dangerous metabolites (chemicals) are the major hazards associated with highly mutagenic plant GM techniques' ---'A well-documented example of unintended effects is the alteration of lignin in Bt corn hybrids derived from Monsanto's MON810 and Syngenta's Bt11 plants, as well as glyphosate-tolerant soybeans. --- Both groups of plants have elevated levels of lignin, an abundant non-digestible woody component that makes the plants less nutritious for animal feed. ---COMPONENTS OF THIS SAME BIOCHEMICAL PATHWAY ALSO PRODUCE BOTH COMPOUNDS THAT HAVE A HIGH NUTRITIONAL VALUE, AND ROTENONE, A PLANT-PRODUCED INSECTICIDE THAT CAUSES PARKINSON DISEASE IN ANIMALS. BECAUSE OF THE UNIQUE NATURE OF PLANT ENZYMES, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PREDICT THE PRODUCTS MADE OR LOST BY PLANTS DURING THE GM PROCESS' (Dave Schubert).
Dr. Arpad Pusztai, the world's leading specialist in the science of lectins or proteins (and Cry genes are lectins), has in his affidavit put together the significant research findings worldwide on the Bt transgene.
'With the work of Vazquez-Padron and others, it has been demonstrated that Bt toxins bind NOT ONLY to the insect gut but also to the MAMMALIAN GUT, LEADING TO VARIOUS IMMUNITY PROBLEMS. The claimed exclusiveness of the specificity of Bt toxin-binding to the insect gut can no longer be maintained.' '--The capacity of various A-B toxin-lectins, including Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cry1Ac protoxin to stimulate and modulate both the systemic and mucosal immune systems is now firmly established'.
GLYPHOSATE-TOLERANT SOY BEAN OIL IS THE VERY OIL THAT IS IMPORTED INTO INDIA. In principle, refined products like refined GM soy oil can be harmful. There is a precedent for this ¡V and it caused a novel and rare illness in the US which is why it was detected: the case of the amino acid Tryptophane. In the late 1980s, GE bacteria were used to make the amino acid tryptophane. This was also a highly refined product. Hundreds of people were affected and hundreds died in the US because genetic manipulation carried out to increase the yield of tryptophan resulted in a product that caused a novel illness never before seen by doctors in the frequency reported. Showa Denko has paid around US$ 2,000,000,000 to avoid damages trials. The hazards of GM herbicide or glyphosate-resistant soy are well documented. The current GM soy on the market fails the allergenicity tests suggested by the FAO/WHO, (sections of its GM protein are identical to known allergens) though it is accepted that ¡§at present, there is no definitive test that can be relied upon to predict allergic response in humans to a newly expressed protein¡¨.
India¡¦s Labelling Laws Stalled: the Union Health Ministry is reluctant to press ahead with its earlier proposal for mandatory labelling of GM food, both of what is produced within India and imported, processed and unprocessed, this despite the Foreign Trade Policy Notification. India's labelling law for GM content in food and feed cannot exist as an Island unto itself but must be aligned to a stringent, independent and open testing regimen for every GMO that is sought to be released into the Indian environment, as prayed for in the Writ Petition. The move by the Union of India to legitimise GM food imports and do so without labelling is a serious infringement of Constitutional safeguards that (a) protect the food chain from contamination by untested GM on health grounds and the precautionary principle; (b) protect a person¡¦s right to reject GM food per se; (c) provide information for individual nutritional and health choices as well as ethical considerations; (d) protect India¡¦s export trade and farmer livelihoods by providing confidence to a majority of overseas customers in various countries that reject GM foods.
The conflict of interest at the level of the State of India which has percolated through the system and the ensuing plan to deliver India over to GM crops is not merely astonishing, but frightening. These in combination, are cause for the greatest concern. Therefore, action must be forthcoming at this juncture, to address the conflict of interest which is at the heart of FAULTY APPROVALS of GMOs and remove persons like Dr. CD Mayee who clearly demonstrate such a conflict. We now stand at a cross roads. Beyond this point, the damage of a truly huge magnitude will be irreversible.
The Petitioners have Prayed:
”žX For the Notification to be quashed/injuncted
”žX For a ban on the import of any biological organism, food or animal feed unless they have been certified and labelled to be GM-free by the exporting country”žX That it shall be compulsory for any dealer or grower selling GM content in food or feed to label them as such (without thresholds)
Aruna Rodrigues with co-petitioners: PV Satheesh, Devinder Sharma, Rajeev Baruah
Dated: 31st October, 2007