GEAC fails the nation, farmers protest
2.Bt brinjal gets regulator's nod, farmers protest
EXTRACTS: "First of all, do we even need Bt brinjal? Why take a risk? Where is the crisis in brinjal production that necessitates it?" (item 3)
The introduction of the genetically-modified brinjal is part of an USAID programme called Agri-Biotechnology Support Programme (ABSP) under which the Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Varanasi; University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore are working with Monsanto and Mahyco. (item 2)
"The expert committee members like Dr. Mathura Rai, director of the Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, and Dr. Dilip Kumar of the Central Institute of Fisheries Education are either in partnership agreements with the Mahyco to develop Bt Brinjal or have done the safety tests for it. How can anyone trust a decision from a committee which seems to have an interest to ensure Bt Brinjal gets the requisite approvals." (item 1)
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1.GEAC fails the nation, takes the side of Seed Companies on Bt Brinjal
Greenpeace India, 14 October 2009
New Delhi: The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) today considered the approval of Bt Brinjal at their 97th meeting. Internal sources say that GEAC approved the environmental release of Bt Brinjal although there were three voices of dissent within the committee, including that of Supreme Court observer and noted molecular biologist Dr P.M Bhargava. It is further believed that committee’s recommendations have been sent for the final government approval for commercial release. If approved it will be the first Genetically modified food crop to be approved in India and also the first genetically modified vegetable to be approved for commercial cultivation anywhere in the world.
In January 2009, Prof. Gilles-Eric Séralini of Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN), France, in his independent scientific appraisal of Mahyco-Monsanto's Bt Brinjal feeding studies said "Bt Brinjal may present a serious risk for human and animal health and the release should be forbidden." The first independent scientific commentary of its bio-safety and increasing public opinion against GE foods had forced GEAC to review the data provided by the company.
Bt Brinjal approval process has been mired in controversy due to the complete lack of transparency and vested interest of experts in the committee reviewing the study. "The expert committee members like Dr. Mathura Rai, director of the Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, and Dr. Dilip Kumar of the Central Institute of Fisheries Education are either in partnership agreements with the Mahyco to develop Bt Brinjal or have done the safety tests for it. How can anyone trust a decision from a committee which seems to have an interest in to ensure Bt Brinjal gets the requisite approvals," expressed Jai Krishna, Campaigner, Greenpeace he further said "More importantly, GEAC has not address the fundamental question does India need GE crops?"
It took a 30 month long legal battle to bring out the bio-safety studies submitted by Mahyco to GEAC for the approval of its Bt Brinjal. Later in May, a 16 member subcommittee was set up by the GEAC to look into the concerns raised. It was pointed out by many CSO’s including Greenpeace that there is a serious conflict of interest in the sub-committee.
In June 2009, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, the Minister for Environment and Forests, under whose ministry sits GEAC, stated in public forums that he does not support GE foods and there is no great urgency for Bt Brinjal. Civil Society organizations and thousands of consumers have been emailing and faxing Mr. Ramesh on the eve of the meeting, to alert him of the impending GEAC meeting and reminding him of his promise.
If Bt Brinjal approval happens it would open the floodgates to all the 56 crops including 40 other food crops, which are presently undergoing various stages of approval. This in the absence of a labeling law leaves consumers with no choice.
"It is shocking to see that GEAC has mindlessly gone ahead and approved Bt Brinjal even when informed scientists and citizens of this country are raising serious concerns on the nature of the safety studies. GEAC by doing a charade with their regulatory gimmicks is putting the health and environment of our country in danger” said Jai Krishna. “We believe that the decision on Bt brinjal is a decision on food safety and food security of the country and hence should not be made by a beaurocratic body known to take sides with the industry. Now since the final decision is with the government, we hope that our government will stand by the people and not on the side of Seed companies who have a vested interest.”
Meanwhile, there has been growing concern from consumers and in the last one month, around 13 major processed food companies in India have stated their positions to not use GE ingredients in their products. Over 41,000 consumers have so far written to companies demanding companies to become GE free.
Greenpeace demands no approval of GE food crops be given as it is a threat to the health of the citizens and the environment.
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2.Bt brinjal gets regulator's nod, farmers protest
The Hindu, 14 October 2009
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the biotechnology regulator, on Wednesday approved the commercialisation of genetically-modified Bt brinjal.
Bt brinjal still needs the government's nod before its release in the market. If it gets the nod, Bt brinjal will be the first genetically-modified food in India.
Members of the committee, which met here, said the genetically-modified crop had the potential to increase yields by a significant extent.
But opposing the GEAC decision, farmers’ union the All India Kisan Sabha said: "There are many unresolved issues surrounding the environmental release of the transgenic vegetable as well as genuine concerns expressed over its safety for human consumption. There is also the added threat of all future seeds and therefore Indian agriculture coming under the control of global MNCs and the charging of extortionate prices from Indian farmers."
The introduction of the genetically-modified brinjal is part of an USAID programme called Agri-Biotechnology Support Programme (ABSP) under which the Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Varanasi; University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore are working with Monsanto and Mahyco.
In a statement, the Sabha said: "It has been pointed out that some of the 'experts' in the GEAC have conflicts of interest. Certain experts on the committee are reported to have expressed strong objections which were however not taken into account.
“If the GEAC carries forward the environmental release of Bt brinjal floodgates will be opened for nearly 60 genetically-modified food crops in India, some of which are already in the pipeline like rice, corn, okra etc.”
It pointed out that the European Union has banned genetically-modified food crops.
Demanding that more studies be carried out before Bt brinjal is introduced and that the decision making process of the GEAC be more transparent, Sabha president S. Ramachandran Pillai and general secretary K. Varadha Rajan said in their joint statement: “Concerns regarding the health and environmental risks associated with GM crops are too serious to be disregarded. The seed monopolies that threaten Indian agriculture and farmers’ livelihoods should also be reined in."
3.Are we ready for genetically modified vegetables?
Reuters blog, October 14 2009
Many in India are concerned over the harmful effects of the vegetable and question the need for a genetically modified vegetable.
"Bt brinjal should not be launched in the country as the Bt toxin gene produces poison and when it can harm pests, where's the proof that it won't be harmful to humans?" says Suman Sahia, Convener of Gene Campaign.
A report by Debi Barker, Executive Director of the International Forum on Globalization, says that genetically modified crops can spread in the environment and contaminate other crops and plants.
Concerns over their effect on wildlife and human health have been expressed all over the globe.
Food policy analyst Devinder Sharma raises a few important questions - "First of all, do we even need Bt brinjal? Why take a risk? Where is the crisis in brinjal production that necessitates it?"
Bollywood filmmakers Mahesh Bhatt and Ajay Kanchan released a documentary in March 2009 called “Poison on Platter” to create awareness about genetically modified products in the public.
"We want to highlight the fact that you cannot tamper with Mother Nature without sensitising the nation first," Bhatt said.
Do you think genetically modified vegetables are a good idea?
Will Bt brinjal set a trend and we'll have other genetically modified vegetable as well?
As a consumer, would you prefer a genetically modified vegetable over a naturally grown one?
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MORE BACKGROUND: Center for Science and Environment report: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/full6.asp?foldername=20090415&filename=news&sec_id=9&sid=42