Plan for GM regulatory authority may spark a turf war
2.Plan for GM regulatory authority may spark a turf war - Times of India
1.COMMENT from Aruna Rodrigues (the grassroots campaigner behind the Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court):
The proposed new NBRA Act, (National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority) is at the outset, in its very defintion, scientifically erroneous because it 'dumps' genetic engineering and its products GMOs/LMOs under an all-purpose and ubiquitous 'biotechnology' umbrella. It therefore seeks to replace the apex GM Regulator in India the GEAC, which is the only mandated authority under the EPA (Environmental Protection Act of India) that can authorise environmental releases of GMOs. Anything more corrupt, cancerous in its very guts and soul, would be difficult to imagine. This is the grand fait accompli presented by the Government of India to it own people. It aims to formalise and legalise 6 years of scandalous, illegal approvals mired in a deep conflict of interest and in a manner that would make it very difficult for civil society to oppose. Astonishingly, it seeks to legalise the very notion of 'Conflict of Interest'
This will be a 'LOLLIPOP' ACT if it is allowed to be ennacted, as it presents
hazardous GMOs as not merely benign but beneficial. This is how the ACT is presented, right up there in its opening clause. It is proposed by 'experts' in the Department of Biotechnology to replace the exisiting 'RULES' which acknowledge the inherently hazardous nature of genetic engineering and its products GMOs, unlike the proposed Act. It lays bare the collective Government will, across all relevant Ministries, particulary the MoEF to promote GM crops, unfettered, and unapposed.
Underpinned crucially by the KIA (the Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture) signed
with the US in early 2006., which puts the US multinational, Monsanto on its Board, this Act will serve US designs for control over our agriculture and food, very well
and without a doubt. Its aim is to convert India into one gigantic FIELD growing patented GMO Crops, to be harvested at will by mainly US GE Transnational Corporations, principally Monsanto, for their profit. Our farmers and our farming systems are of little consequence in this dangerous game. So also is public health and most critically, India's rich biodiversity. Both will be altered through 'transgenic' (i.e. GM) contamination in perpetuity. Our Food will be made permanently UNSAFE.
Furthermore, the only possible reason for the DBT (the Department of Biotechnology,
the authors of the proposed Act and 'movers' behind GM approvals in India), to come
up with such a disingenuous & even fraudulent formula of 'single window clearance',
is that it will speed-up approvals of GM crops. This is usually the route in every
country to ennable civil society to by-pass bureaucratic hassles & corruption and trump them. It is now being used as a manoeuvre to by-pass every relevant Ministry, like Food Safety, Drugs and Cosmetics and State Governments (because Agriculture in India is a State subject). By this means, if seeks to consolidate POWER unfettered and unapposed, for GM approvals in the 'Authority' (read DBT).
The extent of the fraud on India is both perplexing and frightening with a propsed
legal framework to enforce it. The proposed new Act is not just dangerous, it is unnervingly treacherous and unashamedly brazen. This is not merely a complete sell-out of India's National Interest; in my book, the intent through this Act is virtually a coup d'etat!
2. Plan for GM regulatory authority may spark a turf war
The Times of India, 19 June 2008
NEW DELHI: Barely two years ago, the Supreme Court raised a conflict of interest objection to the power assumed by the department of biotechnology (DBT) to regulate the environmental release of genetically modified organisms.
In a bid to reclaim that power from the environment ministry, DBT has now come up with a draft law to set up the national biotechnology regulatory authority (NBRA).
Since it is proposed as a statutory body that will provide "a single window mechanism for bio-safety clearance" of GM products and processes, NBRA is clearly meant to shift the regulatory power from the environment ministry to DBT, despite being a party dedicated to promoting biotechnology.
NBRA will be empowered to regulate, among other things, the "containment" and "environmental release" of GM organisms, which are functions currently performed by the genetic engineering approval committee in the environment ministry. The only concession to the conflict of interest issue is that NBRA is envisaged as "an independent, autonomous and professionally-led body". But the bill also makes it clear that NBRA will very much be, like some of the other statutory regulators, vulnerable to interference by the nodal department.
For, the draft bill expressly provides that NBRA shall be "bound by such directions on questions of policy" as DBT may give in writing to it from time to time. For good measure, the bill adds that if NBRA ever disagrees on whether a direction given to it fell under the category of policy or not, DBT’s decision on the dispute shall be "final".
Inspired by science and technology minister Kapil Sibal, the bill will also trench on the domain of the health ministry, which is at an advanced stage of establishing its own regulatory body concerned with GM foods. In fact, the NBRA Bill was released for public consultation about a fortnight ago just when the health ministry announced that former food processing secretary P I Suvrathan would be the chairman of the food safety and standards authority (FSSA).
The NBRA Bill, which purportedly covers all GM related matters, seems to be undermining the 2006 law under which FSSA is specifically empowered to regulate the manufacture and sale of GM foods. The concept paper accompanying the bill seeks to reconcile this conflict by saying that NBRA could undertake "all or part of the safety assessment of GM foods on behalf of FSSA".
If DBT is allowed to have its way, NBRA will take over the more sensitive aspect of GM food safety, while FSSA will have to settle for "conventional safety provisions related to adulterants, extraneous matter and unhygienic processing or manufacturing of food". It remains to be seen whether the health ministry or FSSA will agree to such dilution of its jurisdiction.
Another arm of the government that is going to be affected is the department of chemicals and petrochemicals, which deals with the rules relating to pharmaceutical drugs. NBRA will regulate GM organisms with applications in human and veterinary health.