COMMENT from Aruna Rodrigues: Words cannot describe the wilful, deliberate and blatant 'contempt of court' by India's GM Regulators, the GEAC and DBT (Genetic Engineering Approval Committee and the Department of Biotechnology respectively), in allowing large-scale, pre-commercial field trials of Bt brinjal, field trials of rice and other food crops. These approvals are unconscionable. The Bt brinjal large-scale field trials are the litmus test of the Regulator's firm commitment to promote GM crops in India and at a pace which is frightening.
Furthermore, Russia doesn't want GM food crops to be imported from India. She is going to be dangerously misled by the GEAC through what can at best be described as an artful dodge. The Regulator is certainly presumtuous in assuming it has the authority to risk Indo-Russian relationships through an answer that evades the issue of genetic contamination of India's food crops, particularly rice, which Russia imports, and for which she wants a written assurance that it is NON-GM. The GEAC is threatening India's export markets for non-GM food crops and organic produce where she has a competitive advantage. This is proof enough of an anti-farmer policy.
Finally, if transgenic contamination is discovered in any of our food crops, it is sobering that posterity will record that 5 months of judicial delays in the contempt of court proceedings in the Supreme Court of India have exposed the country to the irreversible contamination of her food chain and her biodiversity. India is the centre of origin of rice and a functional centre of origin of brinjal (eggplant).
Rejoinder Affidavit in the Contempt Proccedings in India's Supreme Court on account of large-scale field trials of Bt brinjal and field trials of rice and other food crops.
The basis of these actions lies in a conflict of interest so deep and pervasive that it now fuels an official policy to support the spread of GM crops, particularly GM food crops in India. The KIA (Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture), with Monsanto on its Board, is the agreement which cements the foundation for such action, with CD Mayee, Board Member ISAAA and Co-chair of the GEAC ensuring that 'regulation' is speedily tailored to facilitate the introduction of a full range of GM food crops in India. Critical to this process is the pivotal role of the ICAR, (Indian Council of Agricultural Research, our premier agricultural institution), with its 47 affiliates; all inducted into the GM alliance with the US for GM crops. The only possible conclusion that can be arrived at of such a dangerously misguided public policy that has no basis in science and values, is that the Prime Minister and his cabinet have been completely misled into believing that GM crops will feed the poor, and hungry and a growing third-world population; they are therefore, the magic wand for India's agriculture to raise productivity and farmers' incomes. As a result, we have the Minister of Science and Technology espousing this line of thinking; of the Ministers of Agriculture and MoEF, openly strategising with the ISAAA; of Mangla Rai, Director General of the ICAR, a firm proponent of GE crops, going even further, even to the extreme in his open espousal of GM crops through his astonishing support of GURTS and Terminator technology, which are internationally banned. It is noteworthy that the Terminator Technology patent is now held jointly by Monsanto and the US Department of Agriculture USDA. The full-blown pro-GM agenda even extends to such a critical body as the NBA (the national biodiversity authority), a statutory body meant to oversee the implementation of the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity), in the country. Its Chairman, Dr. S Kannaiyan, says:
'”¦..genetically modified crops were the only answer to increase the production and productivity and to solve malnutrition problem in [India]'.
Now, APEDA, India's (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) has requested a certificate from the GEAC stating that no GM rice, groundnut and sesame seeds have been permitted in India. The request has been made because of a ban imposed by Russia on these crops, fearing GM contamination. It is difficult to believe that the GEAC will attempt a cover-up even here, but they have. The letter to APEDA confirms that 'no GM crops in rice, groundnuts and sesame seeds exist in commercial production in India'. This is a specious reply and dangerous. The straight forward issue for the Russians is that they do not want GM food. Transgenic contamination of the crops in question will be inevitable if the GEAC continue field testing GM food crops. Rice is a pre-eminent crop for India. It also is a cause of particular worry because of the sheer numbers of field trials that have been conducted in the rice-growing regions of India. It is surely inadvisable for a department of Government to be risking Indo-Russian relations through a reply best described as an artful dodge.
In the process, the Country faces an unprecedented crisis: the very real threat of contamination because of these field trials and in particular the large-scale trials of Bt brinjal. These with rice, represent the most serious of the contempt violations and demonstrate unequivocally that the Regulators, given their firm biotech commitment, are unconcerned with India's protective laws governing her bio-safety, whether health, agriculture or the environment. As a result of the delays in proceedings, these large-scale trials of Bt brinjal have long been completed. It is an unwanted presumption by the Regulators that they have conducted large-scale trials of Bt brinjal, field trials of rice and other food crops, running the high risk of irreversibly contaminating India's food chain and biodiversity, with the approbation of the Supreme Court of India. The Indian people are confronted with a rotten state of affairs; the Regulator is peddling a toxic basket of GM crop field trials on the basis of a strategy and national regulatory policy that is dictated by the GE Bio-tech industry.
Aruna Rodrigues with co-petitioners: PV Satheesh, Devinder Sharma, Rajeev Baruah