PRESS RELEASE: GMOs Supreme Court PIL
GM FOOD FIELD TRIALS BY THE GEAC
"GM Crops have been proved to be toxic and cannot feed the world. It is also important to understand very clearly, that it is the parental lines used to make GM crops that deliver crop traits including higher 'yield'. The claims of the biotech GE industry about the safety of GM crops & higher yields per se, are flagrantly dishonest and are meant for the ingestion of politicians and policy-makers to provide the ammunition they need to promote GM Crops with farmers and the public. Scientists know that GM crops by threatening biodiversity kill the golden goose that nourishes its genetic manipulations" (Petitioners).
The Supreme Court of India has stated that there must be "NO" contamination from field trials of 8 food crops and Bt cotton and has imposed the most stringent conditions of isolation distances, accountability and most critically a validated, Event-based Protocol to test for contamination of the environment and farmers’ fields to a LOD (Limit of Detection) of at least 0.01%. These protocols must be announced before the commencement of any field trial. The 9 GM crops are: BT COTTON, TRANSGENIC OKRA, CAULIFLOWER, BRINJAL, RICE, CASTOR, GROUNDNUT, TOMATO AND POTATO.
It is not surprising that the GEAC has taken a light view of these stipulations in their last 78th meeting on the 22nd June 2007, given their pro GM bias. Petitioners have therefore strenuously guarded the Court's bio-safety safeguards in their latest Court Submission to insist that scrutiny and rigour for the letter and spirit of the ORDER are enforced. The safeguards and regulatory provisions must be demonstrated to be in place before the commencement of any field trial.
Contamination is an absolute and irreversible threat and there can be no tolerance for any slippages by the Regulator. The Court's attention has been drawn to the fact that India is the Centre of Origin for rice and brinjal among other plants. The contamination of Mexican maize landraces (Mexico is the centre of origin for maize) exposes the magnitude of the problem of GM contamination in India. Peru, recognising the extremely serious implications of contamination has banned transgenic potato for which it is a centre of diversity, along with other native crops. Speaking of the contamination of US long grain rice, US Rice Federation Vice-President said: "The traits are in the system, you cannot guarantee statistically that you’ll ever get rid of them".
These facts emphasise the added grave dangers to India from field trials of rice and brinjal. Far from taking a page from Peru, the GEAC on the contrary, demonstrates recklessness in approving field trials in Chhattisgarh which is in the corridor of the centre of origin of rice, and in the rice bowls of Kerala and West Bengal and brinjal in Orissa which has over 200 varieties of brinjal. In its 75th meeting in March 2007, the GEAC, at the instance of the basmati rice exporters and the Ministry of Commerce, decided not to allow field trials of GM rice in the basmati growing areas of the country, because of the threat of contamination. The lack of logic and consistency in not applying like for like in similar situations is unscientific and dangerous.
GM Crops Are Not Regulated In India: The evidence that even after 6 years into GM crops, the Regulator has failed to comply with the most basic norms governing the release of GMOs is overwhelming. State Governments are supposed to approve field trials. They are not even informed; nor the farmers, in whose fields transgenic crops are planted. Now, the evidence that Mahyco pays for inspection of field trials by State Governments (Rs 45,000/ given to the BCKV (State Agr. Commission) in West Bengal, which was returned) demonstrates a serious irregularity that seeks to undermine the issue of probity in public life and promote bias. This clearly is in the knowledge of the Regulator as the amounts were paid by cheque
The ISAAA, the GEAC and the MoEF Are Openly Allied: The MoEF openly promotes GMOs. The Workshop on Agricultural Biotechnology was held on the 7th June 2007. The event was supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forest under the GEF-World Bank biosafety capacity building project; jointly organised by The Chandigarh Press Club, the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology, Ministry of Environment and Forest and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). The ISAAA is the industry-backed vehicle for promoting GM crops. The 78th Meeting of the GEAC faithfully echoes the views of the ISAAA about the implausibility of a protocol for testing for contamination at a Limit of Detection (LOD) of 0.01%. The fact that these views have no scientific backing is of little relevance, GIVEN THAT THE ISAAA IS EFFECTIVELY REPRESENTED WITHIN THE GEAC BY NO LESS THAN DR. MAYEE, THE CO-CHAIR WHOSE REMIT AS A DIRECTOR OF ISAAA IS TO PROMOTE GM CROPS. This is exactly the role that the GEAC, as Regulator has performed in India, violating the public trust and astoundingly, betraying the national interest and sovereign issues of food security, which critically include the necessity to protect India's genetic wealth from plunder by the biotech GE Industry and its destruction through GMO contamination. Thus, India’s regulation is in effect being co-driven by the GM industry.
Petitioners have 'prayed' for bio-safety data to be put in the public domain for the scrutiny of scientists and that Dr. CD Mayee and other persons who are associated with the Biotechnology industry seeking approvals from the regulatory bodies, are removed from the GEAC.
Aruna Rodrigues Co-Petitioners: PV Satheesh; Devinder Sharma; Rajeev Baruah
Dated 25thth July, 2007
India's regulation co-controlled by industry