GOVERNMENT'S POSITION IN COURT A LET-DOWN AND UNACCEPTABLE, A BOW TO THE PRESSURE FROM BIOTECH INDUSTRY, SAYS COALITION
Coalition for a GM Free India, November 9 2012
New Delhi: In today's Supreme Court hearing in the PIL on GMOs, the Government of India, through its representative from the Ministry of Agriculture (and not the Ministry of Environment & Forests which has the jurisdiction on regulation of GM crops), opposed the scientifically sound recommendations of the Technical Expert Committee to make the GM regulation and testing more robust and trustworthy.
The Coalition for a GM-Free India said that the government's position is a let-down for all those who expect and demand that it fulfils its responsibility towards the interests of biosafety, public health, environment and farmers. Instead, the government seemed to bow to the pressure of the biotech lobby and object to the interim report of the committee which was constituted through mutual agreement, with 5 eminent highly qualified scientists trusted to provide the best judgment on this issue.
The Coalition demands that the Government of India should pay heed to the groundswell of opinion about the risks of GM crops among the farmer organizations, independent scientists and general public as well as the scientifically sound recommendations of the Technical Expert Committee, and take a position that protects the interests of the citizens and environment and not the biotech industry. The Ministry of Environment and Forests which has the responsibility for regulating GM crops should not take a backseat and allow other ministries to take the foreground.
"While we would have liked an immediate Order from the Court on the issue of field trials, it is clear that this did not happen because the government is coming under pressure from the GM industry and has opposed the findings and recommendations of the TEC, even though it was a mutually-agreed-upon committee with eminent qualified scientists trusted to make proper analysis on the issues involved. Some of the opponents of the recommendations made it seem like this will result in a drastic stoppage of all GM research, whereas the committee actually gave very measured recommendations for specific conditions to be made for our regulatory regime to become robust and trustworthy", stated the Coalition in a statement.
"We welcome the fact that the Court has directed the TEC, with a new member inducted to give its report in a timebound fashion within 6 weeks’ time and had asked it to hear the petitioners’ concerns as well. We trust that scientific evidence on this imprecise and yet-to-be-proven-safe living technology will continue to prevail in the final report also, in spite of undue pressures from powerful quarters, and that the Court will give an order that safeguards biosafety and sustainable livelihoods of millions of Indians, in the face of highly risky GM crops," it further added.
In the past few days, more than a hundred scientists from across India wrote to the Court urging it to take the TEC recommendations on board. A dozen major farmers’ unions representing crores of farmers also wrote to the Court with the same request. These include some of the biggest farmer unions in the country such as Bharatiya Kisan Union, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, South India Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements, Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangham and All India Shetkari Shet Mazdoor Sabha. The Coalition condemns the attempts by the biotech industry lobby and some of their front organizations to portray that the committee recommendations harm farmers' interests.
"The GM technology was vetoed out in the people's court during the public consultations, it was vetoed by the people's representatives when the Parliamentary Standing Committee made a detailed and comprehensive inquiry into the matter. We welcome the fact that these have already had some impact in the political and people's decisions. An immediate Order from the SC could have saved us from the threat of open air releases of untested and unknown organisms, in the garb of field trials. Civil society groups have repeatedly brought to the fore instances of problems with field trials taking place parallel to biosafety testing – it is clear that the regulatory regime lacks in institutional capabilities of monitoring such trials, lacks scientific rationale and caution in terms of crops, locations and traits for trials, reflects sheer indifference to violations of various norms, rules and guidelines and is glaringly absent in terms of a liability regime", said Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor of the Coalition.
For more information, contact:
Coalition for a GM Free India