Total review of Bt cotton sought/Draft National Biotechnology Regulation Bill
1.Total review of experience with Bt cotton sought
2.Letter to the Prime Minister of India on the Draft National Biotechnology Regulation Bill.
NOTE: For GEAC agenda see
EXTRACT: ...Bt cotton cultivation, has given rise to huge pest problems, soil toxicity and human health problems.
To mention a few, the resurgence of sucking pests on Bt cotton, the huge incidence of mealy bugs in Punjab, AP and Vidarbha, an alarming rise of root rot disease from 2% in 2002, the year Bt cotton was introduced in AP, to 40% in 2007, and five years later, the early evidences of the development of the resistance by bollworms to the Bt cotton, the death of thousands of small ruminants and allergic reactions to farm labourers who worked on Bt cotton fields have already been recorded evidences in India. (ITEM 2)
1.Total review of experience with Bt cotton sought
ASHOK B SHARMA
Financial Express, June 24 2008
New Delhi - Fresh troubles are brewing for the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), which is slated to meet on June 25, to take a decision on the approval of several Bt cotton hybrids for commercial cultivation in this season. The Supreme Court’s appointed invitee to the committee, Pushpa M Bhargava has not only called for a three or four years total moratorium on GM crops but has also called for ‘a total review of India’s experience with Bt cotton’.
Greenpeace India has brought to the fore cases of illegal imports of GM food, which is also the agenda for discussion.
Bhargava, who is the founder director of the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Microbiology, has alleged, "there is substantial evidence which calls for a total review of the approval of Bt cotton in India."
He said that the GEAC relied on biosafety studies by the developer which included that on pollen flow, seed germination, soil microbial activity, toxicity and allergenicity. “Any study done by the developer is of no value. The GEAC has no mechanism to verify with the experimental and control groups nor the data is confirmed by a third party,” he said.
According to Bhargava, chronic toxicity studies should be conducted, particularly in reference to aflatoxin. For soil microbial studies it was not enough to have total number of organisms determined as the bacterial profile and the effect on soil micro-nutrient were far more important. All toxicity studies should be done on the protein in the GMOs. Toxicity studies done with the surrogate protein made, for example, in E.coli should not be accepted.
He said that no GM crop should be released without appropriate and reliable DNA finger printing, proteomics analysis and studies on reproductive interferences in at least 3 mammalian species by a reputed, accredited and independent laboratory.
2. Letter to the Prime Minister of India on the Draft National Biotechnology Regulation Bill
[This letter was also addressed to Smt Sonia Gandhi, UPA Chairperson and Kapil Sibal, Hon'ble Minister for Science & Technology.]
21st July 2008
To, Dr. Manmohan Singh
Hon'ble Prime Minister of India
Govt. of India,
South Block, Raisina Hill,
Hon'ble Prime Minister,
Sub: Draft National Biotechnology Regulation Bill & feedback reg.
The National Biotechnology Bill being contemplated by your government is an extraordinary piece of legislation on an issue that critically affects every citizen of this country either directly or indirectly. Therefore it needs a serious and intensive democratic debate from all quarters of this country. However we understand from the website (http://dbtbiosafety.nic.in/inner1.html) of Department of Biotechnology, Government of India that the last date for sending the feedback to them on the draft policy on National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority is 22nd June 2008.
We earnestly feel that it has not been given a chance for a detailed discussion and is being hurriedly pushed through. A huge number of farmers' associations, civil society groups, and consumer organizations who are seriously concerned about the impact of biotechnology on agriculture, human and livestock health and welfare, and its environmental impact, are feeling shortchanged because sufficient time has not been given for an extensive discussion among their constituencies and farming and consumer groups on these issues.
In fact, till date, there has been no conclusive evidence in India that GE crops are beneficial to human and cattle health. On the contrary, there have been a large number of studies and experiences reported from all over the country which indicate that genetic engineering in agriculture, as evidenced from Bt cotton cultivation, has given rise to huge pest problems, soil toxicity and human health problems.
To mention a few, the resurgence of sucking pests on Bt cotton, the huge incidence of mealy bugs in Punjab, AP and Vidarbha, an alarming rise of root rot disease from 2% in 2002, the year Bt cotton was introduced in AP, to 40% in 2007, and five years later, the early evidences of the development of the resistance by bollworms to the Bt cotton, the death of thousands of small ruminants and allergic reactions to farm labourers who worked on Bt cotton fields have already been recorded evidences in India.
While this is the Indian reality vis-a-vis the impact of genetic engineering on a non-edible crop, it would be extremely dangerous to go ahead with a Bill that will open up the doors for a string of genetically engineered food crops that are waiting in the queue for clearance with the Indian government. Highly respected scientists such as Dr P M Bhargava, former Director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad and a recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, have openly raised questions about the way biosafety issues have been sidelined by the Indian genetic engineering regulators. Similar apprehensions have been expressed by leading environmental scientists such as Dr Vandana Shiva and Dr Suman Sahai. A number of concerned scientists and environmentalists as well as farmers and consumer organisations have also been questioning the way biosafety has become a casualty in the aggressive push for GM trials as well as the commercial approval being considered by the Government of India, under the relentless pressure exerted by the biotech industry.
Therefore, the debate on the new National Biotechnology Regulation Bill has to tread an extremely careful and sensitive path in obtaining the opinions of as wide a cross-section of Indian society as possible. The feedback from the Indian people has to be elicited very widely through publicity in all the media, print as well as electronic. An announcement on the website of DBT is too insufficient a means for such a debate, since a majority of the Indian population which will be directly affected by the Bill has no means of visiting the government websites to be able to understand what is on the anvil.
In the wake of this situation, we earnestly request your kind intervention to persuade the DBT that the final date to receive the feedback on the proposed draft act be extended by at least for six months and be given a wider publicity by translating the draft act into all the local languages so that the people of this country will have an opportunity to respond and to send their feedback.
We hope that this appeal by a wide section of concerned organisations and individuals across the country will receive your serious consideration and support.
p v satheesh
Deccan Development Society
Kindly See the attached letter addressed to Department of Biotechnology [not included here - GMW]