Ban GM food, GEAC member tells PM
Indian Express, 21 Dec 2008
BANGALORE: After the recent announcement by Anbumani Ramadoss, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, that he would not let GM foods enter India, Pushpa Bhargava, member of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) and leading molecular biologist, has in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urged a ban on all GM foods being imported into the country, until proper safurged a ban on all GM foods being imported into the country, until proper safety research was done on them.
Bhargava, who was appointed by the Supreme Court to observe the functioning of India’s apex GM regulatory committee - GEAC, has urged the PM to take notice of the dangers of the virtually unchecked approval given to genetically modified (GM) crops in the country that is largely serving the interest of multinational companies such as Monsanto.
The approval is being granted by a committee of the department of bio-technology, followed by the GEAC of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
In his letter, Bhargava has cited a public interest petition pending in the Supreme Court (filed by Aruna Rodrigues), asking for a moratorium of a few years on the sale of GM seeds and approval of GM crops. In pursuance of this case, the Supreme Court had nominated him to attend the meetings of the GEAC, which according to him had made him acutely aware of the shortcomings in that area.
H e has also mentioned in his letter that he has brought to the notice of GEAC, a list of tests that must be done before a GM crop is approved. However, he said, only less than 10 per cent of these tests were actually being done, before approving a GM crop. “Not only that, in the absence of a national facility to do these tests or verify the results of tests done by others, the seed companies are either doing the tests themselves or getting them done by laboratories in the country on samples provided by them.
These laboratories do not have a facility to determine whether a seed was normal or GM, he lamented.
Further, he feared that India, primarily being an agricultural country, would cease to be a free country if its agriculture was brought under the control of foreign multinational companies (MNCs), through control of seed and agrochemical production.
He said, “The marketing of GM seeds by MNCs is a step in this direction.” Bhargava cautioned the PM saying that as much as 30 per cent of the country’s seed production was directly or indirectly in the hands of MNCs.
When Express asked Bhargava what prompted him to take this action, he said, “As a concerned scientist, it is my moral responsibility to inform the world about the harmful effects of GM food.” He said, “We are on the verge of permitting GM foods and if they are released in the market it will be a disaster, since no proper tests have been done on them.” He has also faxed a copy of the letter to the Union Health Minister and is awaiting a response.