Bt brinjal biosafety dossier must be rejected
PRESS RELEASE from the Coalition for a GM-Free India, April 25 2011
"GM crop developers should recuse themselves from Bt brinjal Expert Group"
Civil Society reminds Expert Group members of unresolved issues on the eve of crucial Bt brinjal-related meeting
Demands that Bt brinjal biosafety dossier be rejected
New Delhi: Ahead of a crucial meeting of a newly-constituted Expert Group to review Bt brinjal on April 27 th 2011, the Coalition for a GM-Free India cited latest evidence on the toxicity and inadequate biosafety assessment of Bt brinjal and asked the new panel to reject the Bt brinjal biosafety dossier in toto. It also asked those members of the Expert Group who are associated with GM crop development to recuse themselves from decision-making.
This is the first time since a moratorium was placed on Bt brinjal's commercial release last year that an official review is happening of this controversial, first-of-its-kind novel food. "We would like the 'expert group' to look at the very need for Bt brinjal given that many alternatives exist to chemical pesticides without having to resort to GM crops, which is also a hazardous technology, even as it is unpredictable and irreversible; Bt brinjal is clearly an unneeded, hazardous technology", said the Coalition in a media statement released here. The Minister for Environment and Forests, Shri Jairam Ramesh too had pointed this out in his moratorium decision note, saying that "clearly, Bt technology is not the only route for reducing pesticide use”¦..The advantage of NPM (non-pesticide management) is that it eliminates chemical pesticide use completely whereas Bt technology only reduces the pesticide spray, albeit substantially". Civil society groups have time and again provided evidence from within the NARS (national agricultural research system) in addition to evidence from farmers' fields that scores of safe, affordable and eco-friendly alternatives exist to both pesticides and GM crops for pest management in agriculture, the Coalition reminded.
The Coalition also pointed out that the constitution of the Expert Group was a matter of concern. Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor, said, "Despite the huge concern expressed at the prevalence of conflicting interests in our regulatory decision-making during the nation-wide debate last year, it appears that no lessons are being drawn. The new 'expert group' of 16 members has at least 5 members associated with GM crop development and it is not clear why they were included in this panel". Notably, Dr M S Swaminathan, one of the members included in the Expert Group and a Supreme Court-appointed Observer in the GEAC, expressed his inability to participate in the process. A few of the members have been part of the earlier decision-making processes, including in Committees which gave a regulatory clearance to Bt brinjal in 2009. "This new 'expert group' has no genetic toxicologists and not enough expertise on environmental and health risk assessment testing and it also has no social scientists on board", Sridhar pointed out. The Coalition wanted the members associated with GM crop development to recuse themselves from the process.
"On the biosafety front, at least two independent analyses of the Bt brinjal biosafety dossier of the crop developer very clearly point out that risk assessment is inadequate and that adverse findings have been masked by the company - that Bt brinjal has toxic effects as per the crop developer's own studies; no independent, rigorous long term testing has taken place so far. We have also noted how the six Science Academies in the country have put Indian Science into disrepute by their shoddy, biased and unscientific endorsement for Bt brinjal, questioning the lack of rigor on this matter not just by regulators but by the scientific establishment in general. It is also clear that farmers' and consumers' rights are at stake here and we still don't have a liability regime in this country related to this irreversible technology. Meanwhile, latest scientific evidence on GM crops from worldover is pointing to environmental and health risks indeed being a reality with GMOs. A recent scientific review pointed out that favorable findings on GM crops from scientific papers were usually from studies of GM crop developers themselves while independent studies are still sorely missing. As far as the views of state governments and their opposition to Bt brinjal is concerned, nothing has changed since the time the moratorium was imposed. We would like the Expert Group to keep all of this in mind in their deliberations and also run the process in a rigorous, unbiased, transparent and democratic manner", said the Coalition.
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