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2013 articles

Pro-GM minister's daughter on BRAI panel

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The Indian agriculture minister's daughter has joined Parliament panel on science and technology, which will report on Bill that gives easy access to GM crops in three months.

NOTE: Sharad Pawar is India's notoriously pro-GM agriculture minister - see item 2 - and no stranger to political controversies, including ones involving his own family.

Pawar's avidly pro-GM stance is despite his powerbase being in Maharashtra where Bt cotton has proven a disaster and has contributed to many farmer suicides, particularly among endebted farmers on unirrigated lands.

Sharad Pawar's nephew, Ajit Pawar, had to resign as Maharashtra's Deputy Chief Minister "following allegations of an irrigation scam when he was state's water resource minister." It has even been alleged that one of the brands of Bt cotton seeds on sale in Maharashtra - "Ajit Bt" - is actually owned by Ajit Pawar.
Pawar's daughter on panel that will examine biotechnology Bill
Jyotika Sood
Down To Earth, May 20 2013

*Supriya Sule joins Parliament panel on science and technology; panel to submit report on Bill that gives easy access to GM crops in three months

By a strange coincidence, daughter of agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, Supriya Sule, has been appointed member of the very panel to which the controversial Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill has been referred. The agriculture ministry, under the present minister, is known for its pro-GM stand, which gives rise to speculation about the timing of his daughter's appointment to the Parliament Committee on science and technology and environment and forests from May 1.

The Bill was referred to the standing committee last week by Rajya Sabha chairperson in consultation with Lok Sabha speaker. BRAI Bill proposes easy access to GM crops in India  through a single-window clearance. The parliament committee headed by Congress member of Rajya Sabha, T Subbarami Reddy, has been asked to submit its report within three months.

Pro-GM minister

Pawar and his ministry has been promoting GM crops in their reports and communiqués for a long time. Sule’s appointment came just over a week after science and technology minister Jaipal Reddy introduced the Bill in Lok Sabha after budget recess.

Even in March 2012, in its State of Indian Agriculture report submitted to Parliament, the agriculture ministry had stated that “a number of transgenics, particularly in cotton and vegetable crops, are sought to be introduced in the country.” While the moratorium on Bt Brinjal, the first transgenic food crop, still prevails in India, the agriculture ministry report says “The national policy on GM food crops needs to develop GM crop-based agriculture in cost-effective and high-yielding crop varieties.”

Another panel had criticised Bill

In contrast to agriculture ministry’s stand, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture last year had recommended to the government  that the Bill was not the way forward to regulate GM crops.

Interestingly, there were reports that science and technology minister  Reddy had requested Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar to constitute a joint committee of both houses on BRAI Bill. However, this wasn’t confirmed till the filing of this report.

The parliament standing committee on science and technology, environment and forests comprises of 30 members, 10 from Rajya Sabha and 20 from Lok Sabha. At present, two seats are vacant in the committee.