Coalition condemns Biotech industry attempts to hijack and dilute the CBD MOP6 discussions

PRESS RELEASE

Oct 6, 2012


Coalition
 condemns Biotech industry attempts to hijack and dilute the CBD MOP6 discussions 

MOP exposes real safety concerns of GM crops;

Coalition demands that India should not allow any open-air field trials or release of GM crops. 

A comprehensive Biosafety Law be enacted with strict liability and redress provisions.

                The CBD MOP6, has for once, exposed the Global Biotech industry’s  attempts to sabotage the Supplementary Protocol by attempting to discourage and dissuade parties from ratifying it  and  instead  lobbying nations to adopt the industry sponsored voluntary  compensation mechanism under the Compact.  This follows years of attempts by the Global (and Indian) industry led by Monsanto to assert the supposed safety of genetically modified (GM) crops. The Coalition also deplores the attempts of many members of the agricultural research establishment, both national and international, for toeing the industry line and trying hard to dismiss the real concerns raised by civil society and independent scientists across the world.  The CBD-MOP6 discussions and the various side events exposed these lies in the full glare of public attention. The dangers of GM crops to health, environment and biodiversity occupied centre-stage – as policy-makers, scientists and activists from 193 countries spent 5 days discussing how to ensure bio-safety while dealing with this highly risky technology. The false propaganda of the industry regarding Bt cotton was also exposed in front of the international media during an industry-sponsored field trip. The Bt cotton farmers spoke about bollworm attack and other pest attacks, increased use of pesticides and low yields.

 

The Coalition urges the Government of India to take decisions on this technology, assigning the highest priority to biosafety and to applying the Precautionary Principle, instead of being led by false propaganda from the industry. It reminds the government of the Bt Brinjal moratorium and the events that led to it, the continuing disaster afflicting farmers’ lives by Bt Cotton, and the violations of biosafety happening across the country during various field trials of GM crops. The Indian government has announced that it will ratify the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress, and urged all countries to do the same. So far, 51 countries have signed this protocol, and the ratifications have just begun. This stand from the Indian government should be welcomed. However ratifying is only the first step – the crux is in implementation.

 

“The CBD MOP6 may have concluded, but the real work now has to begin at home.” said Shalini Bhutani, a lawyer working on law and policy issues around agriculture. “Decisions taken at the global level need to be followed through at the national level. This is particularly true with respect to designing a liability and redress (L+R) law for LMOs. The Supplementary Protocol on L+R requires countries to provide for L+R with respect to LMOs in their domestic laws.”  She warned against letting the TNC-designed ‘Compact’ from pre-empting any legislative measures by countries on this critical subject.

 

“We are disappointed with the reluctance of the government to adopt a Biosafety Protection Law. Besides spending hundreds of crores in organizing the CBD COP & MOP, India is taking over the presiding role in the Convention on Biological Diversity for the next two years. It must therefore show real commitment to biodiversity conservation. It should fulfill its minimum responsibility to enact a National Biosafety Act which ensures practical implementation of all the commitments under the various Protocols that it is ratifying.  It should immediately ban all field trials of GM crops, as strongly recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture” said Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convener,  Coalition for GM Free India.

 

Amongst the 18 decisions adopted at the MOP6, the decision to establish an ad-hoc technical expert group (AHTEG) on socio-economic considerations is of particular interest to India. “We welcome the fact that socio-economic considerations have been given recognition by forming a Technical Group of 40 representatives to thoroughly examine the socio-economic implications of GM crops.” added Kiran Kumar Vissa, Convener, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).  “As we have always argued, GM  crops should be looked at not only through the lens  of technology  but  its  socio-economic consequences should be seriously examined  – including issues of impact on small farmers, their control and access to seed, impact on the costs and risks of cultivation, corporate control of seed sector, implications of proprietary rights over life forms, etc.” he said. This process should be truly participatory with proper representation of farmers’ organizations and civil society groups. Countries like the US have stayed resistant to this as they approach LMOs merely as a trade issue. “In a country like India the lives and livelihoods of several thousand people, especially tribal and  local  communities and small-marginal farmers, have to be considered when taking decisions about any application of potentially hazardous technologies. Infact, the safer alternatives that have now been clearly demonstrated through organic farming, non-pesticidal management etc, have to be considered before opting for this unnecessary risk of GM crops” said Dr Ramanjaneyelu, Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

 

Another substantive issue which arose from the Programme of Work of the COP-MOP and previous decisions is regarding developing guidance for parties on risk assessment. India’s claim to have established a mechanism for conducting risk assessments prior to taking decisions regarding LMOs is unacceptable, as the real experience on the ground and submissions in the ongoing PIL in the Supreme Court have pointed to the egregious gaps in the regulatory regime in India, which will need to be addressed.
It is deplorable that some European nations also showed great resistance to the requirement of “Identification” where any package containing Living Modified Organism(LMO) will be clearly identified for handling and transport. This shows the hypocrisy and manipulation by these governments backed by the biotech industry; having acknowledged the risks of Living Modified Organisms and evolving an entire Protocol for biosafety, identification and labeling of LMOs should be the very first step.

 

The MOP6 also saw the continuing influence of big biotech industry lobby spending millions of dollars to be present in the Convention simply to weaken the protocols, the continuing influence from strong non-parties like the US and the resistance from some European countries in strengthening the implementation of the protocol, the delay in most countries in ratifying the protocols, the lack of sufficient budget for capacity-building and ensuring the implementation of the protocols in the member countries after ratification. The Coalition calls for all countries to ratify the Supplementary Protocol and, implement strict biosafey laws.  The Coalition also raised serious concerns about the apathy among global leader nations to contribute towards ensuring adequate financial resources for the implementation of the world’s biosafety protocols and decisions related to them.

 

What Indian national and state governments should do

 

We demand that the Indian national and state governments should treat the CBD conference and the MOP6 as the beginning of a new phase where Bio-safety will be given highest priority while dealing with GM crops.

 

Specific demands:

(1)    Indian government should enact a comprehensive National Biosafety Protection Law to address the risks posed by Genetic Engineering technology. Any future consideration of release of GM crops should be only after such a biosafety regime based on precautionary principles, complete consideration of socio-economic realities and strict liability and redress is implemented. TheBiotechnology Regulatory Authority of India(BRAI) bill should be discarded completely, as it violates the key commitments being made by India under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and its Supplementary Protocol.

(2)    All open-air field trials of GM crops constitute an “environmental release”, and should be stopped forthwith, as recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture.

(3)    No GM research and development should be allowed on crops in their centre of diversity, especially for important food crops. This applies to rice, brinjal, jowar, red gram, brinjal and so on. Indian diploid (desi) cotton varieties should be protected from GM, and non-GM development should be taken up.

(4)    Comprehensive process to assess the socio-economic implications of GM crops should be initiated in India, in light of the formation of the Technical Expert Group in MOP6.

(5)    The Department of Biotechnology and its association with Biotechnology Consortium India Limited (BCIL) should immediately stop funding and facilitating the development of this risky technology of GM crops and focus more on capacity-building about the risks of the technology.

 

Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convener, Coalition for GM Free India: 09995358205, mail.thanal@gmail.com

Dr. G.V. Ramanjaneyulu, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture: 09000699702, ramoo.csa@gmail.com

Kirankumar Vissa, co-convenor, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA):   09701705743, kiranvissa@gmail.com

Agrarian Crisis and Farmer Suicides in AP Continue; Contract farming is not a solution; Government should protect farmers not companies

PRESS RELEASE

August 3, 2012


Agrarian Crisis and Farmer Suicides in AP Continue; Contract farming is not a solution; Government should protect farmers not companies

 

The latest National Crime Records Bureau data on farmer suicides once again puts Andhra Pradesh to shame. The state recorded the second highest number of farmer suicides in the country at 2206. Meanwhile, the state government has acknowledged only 141 as “genuine farmer suicides” in 2011. Through RTI and fact-finding visits by Rytu Swarajya Vedika and many member organizations, all the farmer suicides are due to various reasons related to agricultural distress. It has been found that only 1 out of 15 or 1 out of 20 genuine cases is being recognized through the due process as specified by G.O. 421/2004. If the government is even refusing to acknowledge the existence of a crisis, how can it expect to solve the problems?

 

This year, farmers are reeling under the effect of delayed monsoon and the government has not taken effective measures to help farmers. The new data from National Sample Survey Organization shows that 60% of people in rural areas are able to spend less than Rs.35 per day. It is clear that despite the hype about the 9% growth model, unless the issue of agricultural incomes is addressed especially for the large proportion of small, marginal and medium farmers, majority of Indians will continue to be in a distress state.

 

While the government has not taken concrete steps to address the problems underlying the crisis, or responded to the demand for a separate Agriculture Budget for the state, the recent action by the Agriculture department is to issue a notification dated 30/06/2012 on “contract farming”! This indicates the government’s intention to give a boost to contract farming in the state, without learning any lessons from past and ongoing contract farming experiences.

 

Response from Rytu Swarajya Vedika

 

  1. There are many issues underlying the crisis – such as unremunerative prices, low public investments in agriculture, small farmers getting squeezed in the market, rising costs of cultivation, lack of storage, marketing support and lack of collective bargaining. Instead of addressing these, the government should not promote contract farming as the solution and deny their responsibility on all the issues mentioned above. Unless these problems are solved, the crisis will continue.
  2. Unless the core structural issues are addressed, contract farming will be yet another way of exploiting the individual farmers, and an easy way for corporates to enter into agriculture and dominate the value-chain.
  3. The experience of contract farming in A.P. in seed production, and crops like gherkins, vegetables and cocoa, shows that hardly any contracts are in writing, and when the farmer gets a raw deal, there is simply no protection. Farmers face many issues with grading, payments, fair prices and so on. How many contracts have been registered so far? How many violations have been noted and action taken? None of the lessons from experiences are taken into account in the notification.
  4. The contract farming model has the danger of a few corporations controlling the cropping pattern, cultivation practices (from seed to crop husbandry) and the market – the government should have clear safeguards to avoid that situation.

 

Specific demands for contract farming notification:

 

1)      The government should closely regulate the contracts so that the farmers’ interests are safeguarded. The government should be there as a third party in the contract, to ensure that the small farmers get a favorable deal.

2)      Contracts should be with farmer groups and not individual farmers so that there is better bargaining power.

3)      There should be a clear constraint on price fixation. For each crop, the government should fix a minimum floor price based on cost of cultivation + %margin where the margin should be between 30% to 50% based on the crop. None of the contract prices should be allowed to go below the floor price.

4)      The quality constraints and grading parameters should be fixed according to clear norms specified by government based on experience of farmers. In the current situation, farmers often lose out because large part of their produce is classified as lower grade and gets very cheap prices.

5)      If there is price variation after signing the contract is beyond 25% of what has been agreed upon, there should be scope for re-negotiation within certain constraints fixed by the government.

6)      The current rules require the company to deposit only Rs.2 lakh as security. This deposit should be 20-25% of the total volume of purchases by the company, not a fixed amount.

7)      The payment mechanisms should be clearly specified, and most of the money to the farmer should be paid at or before the delivery of the produce. If there is outstanding payment from the company, interest should accrue on the farmer.

8)      In the contract farming agreement, there should be a clear liability clause which holds the second party accountable for the services they are providing which may be in the form of technical advice, seeds, pesticides, fertilizers,, herbicides, irrigation, land preparation.

9)      According to the sub section (4) if the farmer fails to fulfil the quantity and quality of the crop which was decided by both the parties gives the company the entitlement to refuse to take the delivery of agricultural produce which the farmer would have to then sell to the market and if surplus is left he/she can use it for himself/herself. A pre-defined quantity and quality would trap the farmer into fulfilling an obligation, over which they have no control.

 

In conclusion, we demand that the government should focus on implementing real solutions to the problems of the farmers, and not push contract farming as the solution. The regulation governing contract farming is very weak (including the recent notification) and does not protect the interests of the farmers. The regulation should be made much stronger based on the many demands described above.

 

Participants from Rytu Swarajya Vedika:

 

Dr. G.V. Ramanjaneyulu, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture:       09000699702, ramoo@csa-india.org

Vissa Kiran Kumar, coordinator, Rytu Swarajya Vedika:                   09701705743, kiranvissa@gmail.com

Ravi Kanneganti, editor, Tolakari magazine

K. Sajaya, Caring Citizens Collective:                                                        09948352008, sajayak@gmail.com

Dr. A. Prasada Rao, agricultural scientist                                                 09490098903, aribandip@yahoo.com

Karthik, Human Rights Forum                                                                     09346677007, navayan@gmail.com

Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing inches on

New Delhi, 3 July (TWN*) — Preparatory work for the entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation resumed on Monday, 2 July.

The Second Meeting of the Open-ended Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Committee for the Nagoya Protocol (ICNP-2) that is being held in New Delhi on 2-6 July is attended by Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the “parent” treaty of the Protocol.

The first day addressed the elaboration of guidance for the financial mechanism (that will service the Protocol implementation), elaboration of guidance for resource mobilisation, as well as the need for, and modalities of a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism.

In the opening session, Mr. M. F. Farooqui, Special Secretary at the Ministry of Environment and Forest of India, said that access and benefit sharing (ABS) was a missing pillar in the CBD implementation and negotiations of the Protocol were “sometimes characterised by extreme and divergent positions”. However, he said, the Nagoya Protocol is important as signalling the viability of multilateral environmental processes.

(The three CBD objectives are biodiversity conservation, sustainable utilisation of components of biodiversity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from such utilisation.)

Mr. Braulio Dias, the new Executive Secretary of the CBD, highlighted early ratification of the Protocol in his remarks, and informed the meeting that there are currently 92 signatories and five ratifications (Gabon, Jordan, Rwanda, Seychelles and Mexico).

(Fifty CBD Parties have to ratify the Protocol for it to enter into force. Ethiopia subsequently spoke from the floor that it is submitting its ratification document.)

Mr. Dias said that entry into force is expected between the 11th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP11, to be held in Hyderabad, India in October) and COP12 (in 2014), and that the first meeting of the COP acting as the Meeting of the Parties of the Protocol will then be held concurrently with COP12. He also noted that the final document of the recent United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20) supports ratification of the Protocol.

Co-Chairs of the ICNP Fernando Casas of Colombia and Janet Lowe of New Zealand then presided over the working session which heard opening statements from various regional groups.

Peru, speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries (GRULAC), expressed hopes, despite the tough agenda, for clear and specific recommendations on the agenda items. Given that lack of ratification is a reality, we need a clear trajectory for this group (ICNP). It also said that there is need to clarify the resources necessary for (the first) COP-MOP (the COP acting as the Meeting of the Parties of the Protocol).

Cameroon, speaking for the Africa Group, expressed high expectations, stressing that ratification and implementation of the Protocol is difficult for Africa from which there is over 30% of the signatories. It said that benefit sharing needs to be with the people who take care of genetic resources. It said that we need early entry into force, but Africa will have difficulty accessing the resources needed to implement the Protocol. Cameroon said Africa was largely left out of funding by the GEF (Global Environment Facility that is operating the CBD financial mechanism, and will be doing the same for the Protocol) and the Nagoya Protocol Implementation Fund. It called for the need for direction from ICNP-2 to ensure implementation in Africa. It highlighted the importance of Article 10 on the need for, and modalities of, a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism.

India, speaking on behalf of the Asia-Pacific region, said that without ratifications there will not be a COP-MOP at Hyderabad. It called for prioritisation of the work agenda of the Committee considering the large number of agenda items consisting of six new items and four items carried over from its first meeting in Montreal, Canada (June 2011). India also said that the regional group is open to another ICNP meeting, if requested by COP11.

This call by India was echoed by the Like-Minded Mega-diverse Countries (LMMC) whose current chair, the Philippines, had suggested the prioritisation of four agenda items in the Committee’s deliberations this week, namely, the modalities of the ABS Clearing-house, the compliance mechanism of the Protocol, the global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism, as well as the guidance to the financial mechanism.

Ukraine, on behalf of Central and Eastern Europe, hoped for quick entry into force of the Protocol, a focus on capacity building in economies in transition, and the prioritisation of decisions related to financing mechanisms.

Guidance to the financial mechanism

On the agenda item concerning guidance to the financial mechanism, countries such as Senegal, Uganda, Guatemala, Tunisia and Peru called for the streamlining of the rules for accessing the funds so they can use it for work towards the ratification of the Protocol.

The meeting under this agenda item also considered the Nagoya Protocol Implementation Fund set up through the contributions of Japan, Norway, Switzerland and Spain. Some countries were of the view that this Fund is not too focused on funding projects that will help lead to the early ratification of the Protocol but instead delved more on the implementation of the Protocol with some capacity-building activities on bio-prospecting, already part of the activities that it will support.

Brazil and Colombia were among those that wanted this to be rectified, while Malaysia objected to the putting up of an eligibility criteria for countries to be able to access these funds and suggested also that part of the activities that should be funded include capacity-building on monitoring and checkpoints to prevent biopiracy. Malaysia noted the CBD Article 20 (on financial resources) and said that restricting access to funds to ratified countries is not constructive, cautioning against following the model of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

Norway, however, supported the maintenance of the eligibility criteria whereby countries getting funds for its capacity-building activities should make a political commitment towards becoming a Party to the Protocol, saying that such a criteria was also made during the capacity-building for the Cartagena Protocol, the other international instrument under the CBD dealing with the transboundary movement of living modified organisms.

Thailand stressed the need for financial support of traditional knowledge and the funding related to checkpoints and development of compliance mechanisms. It said that funding should support getting ready for ratification and also highlighted capacity building on negotiating MATs (mutually agreed terms), technology transfer, and integrating business and indigenous and local communities into the process. This will result in early implementation, it said.

The European Union said we need to adopt a framework on capacity building before finalising financial recommendations, and to fine-tune recommendations to the GEF. It wants projects on helping negotiate MATs, adding that the GEF should talk to both the COP and the COP-MOP.

Resource mobilisation for Protocol implementation

In the discussion on the agenda item addressing the resource mobilisation for the implementation of the Protocol, Norway, supported by the EU and Switzerland, said that ABS agreements that are entered into by provider countries with users can mobilise funds for this purpose. The EU also wants Parties to consider resource mobilisation in national plans. On the other hand, developing countries including Brazil, Senegal (for the Africa Group), Malaysia, China, India and South Africa emphasised the need for Article 20 of the Convention to be mentioned in the recommendations on the agenda item on resource mobilisation.

(Art. 20 of the CBD establishes the basic principles for the financial resources that will be needed for the operation of the Convention and obliges developed country Parties to provide new and additional financial resources to enable developing country Parties to meet the full incremental costs to them of implementing their obligations under the Convention.)

Brazil said that any new mechanisms would be new and supplemental, but not replacement of the mechanism under Article 20 of the CBD, stressing that “we need to be clear on this”.

Senegal, on behalf of the Africa Group, supported Brazil. It also said the (ICNP) recommendations were to be addressed to the COP-MOP, but since we don’t know when that will be, we want the resource mobilisation recommendations to go to COP11.

Global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism

The last agenda item taken up for the day was on Article 10 of the Protocol whereby Parties will consider the need for and the modalities of the establishment of a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism, referred by the delegations as the GMBSM. Co-Chair Lowe said that the call for submissions solicited four from governments and one from the International Chamber of Commerce.

(Article 10 reads: “Parties shall consider the need for and modalities of a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism to address the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the utilisation of genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources that occur in transboundary situations or for which it is not possible to grant or obtain prior informed consent. The benefits shared by users of genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources through this mechanism shall be used to support the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components globally.”)

Namibia, on behalf of the Africa Group, said that in general Africa thinks a more multilateral approach to some outstanding ABS issues will help resolve those issues. It reminded the meeting that Article 10 was inserted by the COP10 Presidency (Japan) and that the actual African proposals are still out there somewhere, in a report. It said that Africa’s flexibility on this was a key enabler for the adoption of the Protocol (at COP10 in Nagoya in 2010), stressing that this kind of flexibility is important for implementation. On the issue of process, Namibia said this is not a sequential process; to make the Protocol implementable, we have to develop a global mechanism for benefit sharing in parallel.

Reiterating that sustainable use is the only way to achieve conservation in the long run, Namibia argued that the need for the global mechanism derives from the CBD itself. In Africa, we’ve had resources and knowledge arbitrarily divided by colonial powers, in a conference room in Berlin. Look at our own (Namibia) border, which cuts right through the San (indigenous peoples) territory. Practically speaking, we need a multilateral approach because maybe you could negotiate every agreement but the transaction costs of that are huge. The CBD was not intended to primarily benefit the legal profession.

It then related the experience in Namibia where it said we have commercialised a resource with a European country, on the basis of traditional knowledge, and is re-exported to South Africa by the European company where it is used as a cosmetic ingredient. But South Africa wants cosmetic companies that use the resource to comply with South African access law. Now, we can work this out bilaterally but this resource is found in 17 countries. We could work this out with a 17-party agreement, but wouldn’t it be a waste of time and effort? Wouldn’t it be better to have a global mechanism, a global approach? The brackets that disappeared overnight in Nagoya (referring to the contested parts of the Protocol up until the final days of the COP10) were key to (the Protocol’s) adoption; we are willing to talk about our position, but it’s absolutely unacceptable to the Africa Group that there’s no need for a global mechanism.

Colombia said that prior informed consent (PIC) is indispensable and that national sovereignty should be supreme in access. A global mechanism should be limited to cases where PIC cannot be established. Mexico said there are cases, mentioned in its submission to the (CBD) Secretariat, in which you have shared resources, transboundary resources, etc. It is fundamental that before determining modalities we need to discuss concrete cases. It generally supports the Secretariat recommendation for an expert group. We need to define the specific circumstances under which a global mechanism would operate.

Peru said that this theme comes from a non-negotiated compromise, so it produces uncomfortable issues that need to be resolved. It agreed with Mexico that we need to define the circumstances under which a mechanism would work. We understand that resources are not developed internationally, but that there are cases where resources cross borders, or indigenous people in different countries have knowledge. Sovereignty, however, cannot be renounced and is key in access, it stressed. So, a multilateral mechanism is for special circumstances. But we need understanding of what the mechanism is, how it will work, how it will distribute benefits, and who will decide. So, we support an expert meeting, but not just to answer questions but which should investigate other successful international benefit-sharing mechanisms that should be done before the expert group meets, to focus its efforts.

The Republic of Korea said that the scope of this mechanism is not clear and will have an impact on Article 4 of the Protocol dealing with the relationship of the Protocol with other international instruments dealing with genetic resources with particular characteristics.

Switzerland said that every effort at this time should be made to implement the bilateral requirement in the Protocol but each country should first do a gap analysis of the ABS regulatory requirements within its territory and once this gap analysis is done, the expert meeting suggested by the Secretariat would be useful.

The EU said the discussion is good to help us reflect, and prefers to go step by step as outlined it its submission to the Secretariat. It is open to identifying possible situations where the multilateral mechanism will apply; thereafter, the second step should assess if a global mechanism would add value in those cases. It said that this would provide good technical and factual basis for discussion among Parties of the Protocol (indicating that this will be dealt with at a later stage) and emphasised that no decision can be taken except by the Parties. The EU said that we can talk about it for now, consult with the public, ILCs (indigenous and local communities), etc, and the Secretariat can do a dialogue, and submit the results to COP-MOP.

(Observers note that the EU is focusing on the “need for” a global mechanism and its approach would defer this matter. The EU is also not supportive of opening the temporal as well as the geographic scope of the Protocol.)

Brazil said that it had read the Secretariat paper and description of situations where the mechanism might be used. Brazil said we need time to reflect on this, this being the first time this is discussed by the Committee, as it will have an effect on the nature, scope and objective of the Protocol, and this will be decided by the Parties to the Protocol, but the Protocol has not yet entered into force, thus Brazil supports the further solicitation of views on this issue, and an expert meeting based on items submitted by governments.

Guatemala supported Peru and Brazil as regards the impact of this mechanism on the scope as well as sovereignty of countries over their resources but highlighted the importance of identifying the full background of this proposal. It cautioned against creating any perverse incentives, saying that somebody who does not have PIC might opt for a multilateral system.

Thailand sees this mechanism as essential and integral in addressing situations that are not dealt with by the Protocol, especially those not only addressed in its region, South East Asia, but also in others.

Japan said that the establishment of this mechanism must consider the need as well as the modalities that is acceptable to users of genetic resources, in a manner that is cost-effective with benefits directed to conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources; at least what can be done now is to collect information on situations where it is not possible to secure prior informed consent with inputs from experts on the UN High Level Panel on Marine Genetic Resources Outside National Jurisdiction, the Antarctic Treaty, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and traditional knowledge in various situations.

Sudan and Burkina Faso supported Namibia and provided examples justifying the need for this mechanism, with Burkina Faso citing the case of genetic resources acquired before the entry into force of the Protocol and before the independence of some countries, where most of their resources were acquired by those who held control over their territories.

Canada recognized that Article 10 is critical, but the ICNP is to initiate discussion. It tried to understand Article 10 but cannot adjust to it, and there is a huge need for more information. It added that more discussion is needed at the ICNP, specifically on the need for a global mechanism and that an expert group would be meaningless if we don’t know what we’re talking about. It said that we have to figure out what kinds of cases would fall under such a mechanism. We have spent 8-9 years on a sovereignty-based system. What would an alternative mechanism give to us that the rest of the Protocol doesn’t? If we have agreement on everything, then maybe we can move forward with this, but we won’t even support an expert meeting until we have more information.

Ecuador shared the concerns of Mexico, Colombia and Peru on a multilateral mechanism, saying that this would be for cases where traditional knowledge about genetic resources spills over borders. We’re unsure how to do PIC in trans-border cases. And what if there are Parties and non-Parties mixed up in the mechanism? On the other hand, it supported the expert group, adding that a multilateral system cannot interfere with national prerogative.

Norway emphasised that this mechanism should not undermine the sovereign rights of states in the bilateral mechanism of access and benefit-sharing under the CBD, and that the possible areas where it is not possible to secure prior informed consent involve collection in areas beyond national jurisdiction including those that are discussed in the UN Informal Group in Areas beyond National Jurisdiction. However, Norway added, we also have to deal with cases where the provider countries do not require prior informed consent, or orphan genetic resources where the origin is not known and whether users can share benefits for conservation and sustainable use globally; is this a voluntary effort or is it part of a certain modality? Finally, Norway said it can support an Expert Meeting but such meeting needs to be guided by concrete questions.

Cuba said there have been a lot of examples over the years of transboundary cases and cases where there’s no owner. We do need a specific answer to this, and the Protocol as such does not have one yet. This answer should be an integral part of the Protocol. It said that this is the first time we are discussing this, we won’t solve it now, but that’s not a reason not to discuss because these resources are being used. Let’s seize the moment. We want a mechanism and have it inside the Protocol.

Malaysia said that Article 10 was sprung on us at the last minute. It was not negotiated. What does it mean? We supported Africa on this, on principle, as a matter of solidarity because of access of resources in certain situations. But this provision is bristling with complex issues. We need to understand those issues and need to be on the same page to move forward. Does it cover historical collections, ongoing or new use of them, or resources after the coming into force of the Protocol? Malaysia did not get a clear sense if we’re on the same page on this, where some seem to be saying yes, and others seem to be saying no. It said that we have fought hard on sovereignty and PIC. Now, we have a situation of a global mechanism that is not clearly in the framework of the Protocol. Let’s be clear that we do not marginalise or allow to slip away sovereignty. On transboundary issues, there are so many examples. If it’s shared, and most are, are we going to apply this provision over others? We need to figure that out. And on PIC, where it can’t be obtained, what’s the situation in which it should? Does it mean we will bypass PIC from ILCs? Malaysia stressed that we need to be really careful here not to create a parallel system to undermine national legislation.

It further said that we need to move forward and discuss these issues in a mature and careful manner, and support an expert meeting with clear terms of reference. But, Malaysia also said, sometimes we do these expert meetings but then bypass them later. If we’re going to have an expert meeting, then let’s be sure there’s follow-up on the expert result. Art. 10 does refer to Parties, so that seems to say after the entry into force of the Protocol. This is a very difficult situation to grapple with, it concluded.

Egypt supported the Africa Group position, which is consistent with the Arab country position saying also that it is important to look into modalities that can guarantee its implementation, thus supporting the establishment of an Experts’ Meeting on this issue.

The Co-Chair closed the discussion by saying that the atmosphere had been constructive, and that Article 10 was not negotiated as such, but now it is part of the Protocol and Parties will have an obligation here. The Co-Chair will return to the issue with a suggested way forward.

(* With contributions from Edward Hammond.) +

NBA confirms Monsanto/Mahyco and ors. to be criminally prosecuted in B.t. Brinjal Biopiracy Case

In its first official confirmation, National Biodiversity Authority (NBA, India’s independent regulator on all matters pertaining to biodiversity protection, conservation and use) has stated that “it is proceeding with lodging of complaint against the alleged violators” of Biological Diversity Act on grounds of biopiracy in promoting B.t. Brinjal, India’s first transgenic GMO food. This information was provided to Environment Support Group (ESG) in response to a Right to Information query, and a copy is enclosed. As per Indian law, the filing of the complaint against this serious environmental crime assumes launching of criminal prosecution against the violators. India has already enforced a moratorium on the commercial release of B.t. Brinjal on various scientific, legal, health and community concerns.

 

The undersigned on behalf of Environment Support Group had filed a complaint in February 2010 accusing the world’s largest agritech company Monsanto along with its Indian partner Mahyco, Sathguru Consultants (representing USAID and Cornell University) and various public funded agriculture institutions such as University of Agriculture Sciences (Dharwar, Karnataka), Tamilnadu Agricultural University (Coimbatore) and Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (Uttar Pradesh), of accessing over 16 varieties of brinjal endemic to India in comprehensive violation of the Biological Diversity Act while promoting the commercial release of transgenic B.t. Brinjal through 2005-2010. None of the regulatory agencies, including the NBA and Ministry of Environment and Forests, had bothered to verify compliance with the B D Act throught out this period, and began to take action with much reluctance after ESG filed the complaint.

 

The RTI query was filed seeking all documentation pertaining to the case filed by ESG. Shockingly, and quite questionably, NBA has refused to part with the documentation even to the complainants. Justifying this stand, it has controversially and peculiarly claimed that the documentation cannot be shared with the complainants as “the matter is under advanced stage of lodging of complaint and taking into account the intricacies which involve nuances of biotechnology it is felt that it may not be appropriate to provide the documents/instructions at this juncture”. Evidently, NBA is not even sure if this is the right decision to take, and ESG will file an appeal against this decision soon.

 

As reported in the media, the decision to initiate criminal prosecution against this case of biopiracy was taken by NBA in its meeting held on 28 February 2012, after it was put to a vote. The vote became essential as some members of the NBA were keen on stopping the prosecution. This when when NBA had already resolved in June 2011 to prosecute the violators, a fact repeatedly confirmed in Parliament by the Indian Environment Minister Smt. Jayanti Natarajan. ESG has consistently raised concerns over such dithering by NBA to initiate action against violators of the Biological Diversity Act.

 

Karnataka Chief Minister urged to re-initiate prosecution against Bt. Brinjal violators

 

ESG has also submitted a representation to Karnataka Chief Minister Shri. Sadananda Gowda urging him to immediately revive the decision to criminally prosecute those engaged in biopiracy through the Karnataka Biodiversity Board. It may be recalled that the Board had decided to initiate appropriate legal action against University of Agricultural Sciences (Dharwar), Monsanto and Mahyco for accessing 6 local varieties of brinjal illegally from Karnataka, and converting them into transgenic B.t. Brinjal products, all in violation of the Biological Diversity Act. However, due to pressure, apparently brought by none other than the Principal Secretary of Karnataka’s Environment Department (the chief custodian of Karnataka’s biodiversity), the investigation built over two years was suspended in a controversial decision of the Board in January 2012. ESG initiated a mass petition in February this year against this illegal and retrograde decision to the Chief Minister. Over 500 groups and individuals across India and the world have endorsed this representation which is accessible at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/karnataka-biodiversity-board-must-prosecute/. A copy of the representation now made to the Chief Minister is also enclosed.

 

More details about ESG’s efforts to tackle biopiracy in India, including documents listed above, are accessible at: www.esgindia.org

Leo F. Saldanha

Coordinator/Trustee

and Co-complainant in the aforesaid Biopiracy case with

Bhargavi S. Rao

Coordinator (Education)/Trustee

Environment Support Group

MONSANTO SEED WITHDRAWN FROM GUJARAT GOVT PROJECT

BKS & ASHA welcome Gujarat Govt’s decision

project sunshine rapid appraisal rpt-ASHA-feb2012 finalAhmedabad/New Delhi, 26th April 2012: The Gujarat government’s cabinet decision yesterday to withdraw controversial American MNC Monsanto’s proprietary seed from ongoing government projects was welcomed by Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) and Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA). BKS state President Maganbhai Patel, Kapil Shah of Jatan and Prabhakar Kelkar, National President of BKS organized a press conference in Ahmedabad today, thanking the government for its decision, having protested and campaigned against the unscientific, controversial and unsustainable aspects of Project Sunshine for several seasons now. Earlier, a Cabinet Sub-Committee has recommended the withdrawal of Monsanto’s seed from government projects.

The seeds of Monsanto, under the brand name “Prabal”, a double-cross hybrid of Maize, were being distributed to more than half a million tribal farmers of Gujarat since the inception of Project SunShine under Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana in 2008. This project came under great criticism not only from within the state but also at a national level by various agencies including farmers’ organizations, tribal organizations and leaders, organic farming promoters, ecologists and scientists. It is estimated that the Gujarat Govt has procured seeds from Monsanto worth of 500 million rupees in the last four years, to be distributed in turn to poor tribal farmers, thereby providing ready markets for this controversial corporation seen by many as anti-farmer. It is not clear whether proper bidding and other transparent procedures were followed or not while favoring Monsanto in this project, apart from several questions on the scientificity of proprietary hybrid seed being chosen to be distributed to resource-poor, vulnerable farmers.

Several efforts were put in by various groups and individuals against this project, through letter campaigns, rapid appraisal visits, public debates and personal meetings with policy makers. Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the largest farmers’ organization in Gujarat, has also been demanding withdrawal of Monsanto and its ‘Prabal’ seed from such government support. This proprietary hybrid seems to have been selected against the opinions of agricultural scientists. There has been increasing opposition in the state since the past couple of years against such encroachment of MNCs in State’s agriculture. In February 2012, ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture) released a Rapid Appraisal Report visiting tribal farmers of project villages and pointed out to several problems and flaws in the project. The last Assembly Session witnessed a debate and questions being raised on Monsanto’s seed. It appears that finally, the government has sought opinion of State Agriculture Universities, which gave their scientific opinion against these seeds for distribution to tribal farmers.

Four reputed scientists having enormous experience of working with maize and agricultural universities including two past Vice Chancellors were requested to opine about selection of ‘Prabal’ for distribution through government project.

All of them have opined about it in writing and have voiced strong views against the inclusion of this proprietary brand..

Dr. M. C. Varshneya, Former Vice C hancellor of Anand Agriculture University said, “Prabal variety of maize  was selected by tribal department without consulting Research Scientists.
1. Prabal is suitable only for deep soils.
2. Prabal needs more water than other varieties.
3. Heavy doses of fertilizers are needed for Prabal.
4. Prabal is not suitable for Godhra (where the maize Research Station is located) conditions where shallow soils and rainfed crop is taken”.

He adds, “ Inspite of candid opinion of University Scientists, Prabal seed was distributed to the farmers. Rather to say it was pushed on farmers without caring for technical suitability of the variety for that area.” As per his view SAU was not given a fair chance to supply its seeds. Showing his helplessness he says “Nothing could be done to stop the Monsanto released variety Prabal from entering in Gujarat.”

A well known maize breeder Dr. S. N. Goyal (awarded by the state government for his remarkable work) who worked as a Research Scientist for Maize at Anand Agricultural University for 12 years (from 1994 to 2006), and during whose tenue some of the most popular maize varieties in Gujarat were released, opined that, “My considered opinion about “Prabal” hybrid is, being a late-in-maturity, yellow-coloured and dent-type seed, “Prabal” is unsuitable for majority of maize growing areas of Gujarat. He described the following seven reasons for his view.

1.     Majority of maize growing areas, especially eastern part is rain-fed for where early maturity varieties are recommended and grown. Late maturity hybrids grown under rain-fed condition may not set seeds and chances of crop failure will be high which may lead to farmer’s distress.

2.     To overcome the risk of total crop failure in rain-fed area, farmers grow maize with other crops as an inter-crop which is not possible with “Prabal” Hybrid which is meant only for sole cropping.

3.     “Prabal” hybrid requires high inputs involving more expenditure which is not desirable under rain-fed condition, especially for resource poor farmers.

4.     Considering the AAU report, despite of high dosage of NPK application to “Prabal” hybrid, marginal depletion in NPK and Zinc level have been observed in maize fields, which will result in soil deterioration in the long run.

5.     Storability of “Prabal” Grain / seed, which is dent type is less compared to flint type, which may lead to food insecurity for tribal families.

6.     “Prabal” hybrid is double cross hybrid. Double cross hybrids are less uniform and unattractive as compared to single cross hybrid. Double cross hybrid has high cost of seed production. Now-a-days, only single cross hybrids are developed and released. Using double cross is considered as an age old technology in the scientific forums. Double cross hybrid technology is rejected in USA also. World over, including at ICAR and SAUs in India, single cross hybrids are developed.

7.     Economic survey of “Prabal” growing hybrids in Gujarat revealed that financial gain is achieved only to 25% to 30% sample farmers in Dahod, Panchamahal and Vadodara and 40-50% in Sabarkantha and Banaskantha district, where as in rest of the area, it had no significant impact on economy.

 

Another retired senior plant breeder and former Research Scientist for forage crops at State Agricultural University Dr. J. P. Yadavendra, told that, “The crop varieties are developed and released as per regional requirements and specific agro-ecological niches.  Any crop variety/hybrid which has not been tested in a particular environment and disseminated for general cultivation among farmers poses a great danger in the long run. To safeguard the farmers’ interest, there should be an honest follow up of the official guidelines set up for the purpose by the state agricultural universities.  In case of cross-pollinated crops, the contamination of the well-adapted local cultivars may lead to the loss of valuable existing gene pool. In my opinion, the popularization of Prabal maize hybrid amongst the tribal farmers of Dahod and Panchmahal districts of Gujarat has been done without considering the proper procedures and opinion of the cultivators.” It is important to note that he is working in tribal areas of six states of India through an NGO called Gramin Vikas Trust.

Padmashree Dr. M. H. Mehta, Former Vice chancellor of Gujarat Agricultural University opined that, “ We do not seem to have given enough back up and large scale extension support to promising new maize varieties of Agri. University in Gujarat. Instead there seems a stronger support and preference to the varieties of multinational company. I have watched the organic model of Bihar where through a state level lead up & the package of eco-friendly agri. bio inputs, excellent yields of vegetables could be achieved in some of the poorest & backward districts. Low input cost, eco-friendly technology is the most appropriate for tribal people. It is time to adopt such a model for Gujarat farmers.”

Multinational seed companies including Monsanto are encroaching upon Indian agricultural fields by using government funds. At least four other states began spending public money to buy such seeds in the name of farmer/tribal/rural welfare, emulating the Project Sunshine model and serious opposition has been mounted against this in the other states too, with Odisha dropping this support after piloting it for one season.

“Gujarat’s Project Sunshine is a classic case of how Agri-MNCs like Monsanto bypass scientific opinion and administrative procedures and promote their unscientific and risky products. It is also a matter of investigation whether proper bidding was done to buy these seeds or not. It is the same companies like Monsanto that also promote GM crops and sell patented technology. Even as genetically modified maize is knocking on the door, pushed by corporations like Monsanto, ready ground is being created for this controversial technology by replacing public varieties through various questionable practices.”, said ASHA.

BKS appreciates the Gujarat Government’s move and strongly demands withdrawal of such seeds & projects in all states of India. At the same time, it warned the state government to be extra cautious to ensure that the same seed does not take back door entry. It is high time to set up a non-corrupt, transparent, efficient and scientific system so that such case never occurs in future

Gujarat Govt should ban Monsanto and GM crop trials in the state

Various groups in Gujarat and elsewhere in the country are now demanding a ban on Monsanto and various GM crop trials allowed in the state of Gujarat. This was in the context of Gujarat Government’s decision to withdraw this controversial agri-business corporation’s proprietary seed from government projects in the state. Monsanto’s seeds worth crores of rupees have been distributed without proper scientific basis and by bypassing proper administrative procedures. The Press Release added that “Monsanto is the company along with other corporations trying to introduce GM crops including Bt Brinjal, Roundup Ready Bt maize and so on. This company already controls around 93% of India’s cotton seed through its proprietary Bollgard technology when it comes to GM cotton. It is also being proceeded against by the National Biodiversity Authority for violations in Bt brinjal development, while being investigated by Indian biosafety regulators for violations in its GM maize trials”.

The Gujarat government decision to withdraw Monsanto from Project Sunshine is significant in the context of GM crop trials also. Last year, Rajasthan government had annulled agreements that it made for seed-related R&D with Monsanto and other corporations while Odisha did not pursue a Public Private Parntership programme initiated in the state after one season.

In India, at least eight states including Bihar, Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Orissa, Kerala and Karnataka have decided not to allow any GM crop trials, while Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have also said NO to such trials. Some of them have declared their desire to remain totally GM free. Only three states have allowed trials of this controversial and hazardous technology: Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat. In Gujarat, NOC by state govt was given to about 10 “events”, all of which have proprietary right of MNCs. It was also found that this was done without the legally obligated institutions in place for monitoring and supervision. It is also worth noting that illegal planting of GM crops has been recorded in the past without any liability being fixed.

Why Gujarat Should Ban GM Crop Trials

There are various important reasons to ban such trials in Gujarat as mentioned below:

1.     The very need of Bt Maize, HT Maize and HT cotton has not been assessed or decided by scientists and farmers and there are safer alternatives available with SAUs. Need assessment and assessment of alternatives is not governing GM crop trials-related decisions.

2.     Open air trials precede biosafety clearance (biosafety testing runs parallel to such open air trials) and these open air trials pose a great risk since this technology is a living, imprecise, unpredictable, irreversible and uncontrollable technology.

3.     Open Air Trials are permitted based on privately-generated safety data and not even independent scientific analysis. This was also stated as an argument against such crops being released by very senior and credible scientists in the country.

4.     All the GM crops trials are sponsored by the seed developer. (No Blinding is done). This may lead to biased results. There is a need to cut off the relations between company and evaluating agency.

5.     There are chances of contamination from novel organism to local germplasm as the facilities and isolation requirements to avoid the contamination are limited and questionable. Moreover, the agri-campuses where such trials take place are also repositeries of valuable germplasm collections.

6.     As per the EPA, there is a need to have State Biosafety Coordination Committee (SBCC) in function, In Gujarat, SBCC is non-functional with different agencies washing off their hands on their responsibility.

7.     There are mounting evidences depicting risks related to transgenic crops including unexpected changes in the organism, ecological and health risks.

8.     Even the export and trade of certain farm products will be at risk (as example of rice in China and basmati rice in India). Field trials have been known to cause enormous damage to trade security in various parts of the world in the past.

9.     The seed owner wants to enjoy IPR restricting the very right of farmer to produce their own seeds. We cannot have such trials until several basic things are made clear.

10.  GM crop trials are disallowed in an overwhelming majority of states in India. Why should Gujarat allow them, and on what additional scientific basis and regulatory capability?

 

 

Contacts:

Maganbhai Patel, BKS:  09426394801

Kapil Shah, Jatan:  09427054132

Kavitha Kuruganti, ASHA: 09393001550

On NHRC intervention Punjab Government bans use of cancer causing pesticides in Malwa region

PRESS RELEASE

New Delhi, April 20th, 2012

Responding to National Human Rights Commission’s directions, the Punjab Government has banned the manufacture, import and use of pesticides which are very injurious to health. It has also withdrawn registration of some such pesticides in addition to restricting use of some other dangerous pesticides. It has also made arrangements for educating farmers on judicious use of pesticides and their healthcare.

These actions, among others, have been taken by the Punjab Government in response to NHRC’s suo motu cognizance of a media report, carried on the 16th August, 2011, alleging that the disease of cancer among farmers in the Malwa region of Punjab is caused by the excessive use of pesticides on the crops and that due to non-availability of the cheap treatment of cancer in the region, about 70-100 cancer patients were going daily by train to Bikaner from Bathinda for free treatment and cheap medicines in the Acharya Tulsi Regional Cancer Trust.

These patients were mostly small farmers from the southern districts of Punjab including Bathinda, Faridkot, Moga, Muktsar, Ferozepur, Sangrur and Mansa coming under Malwa region.

On the directions of the Commission two reports were received from the Government of Punjab on 20th September, 2011 and 27th February, 2012.  The first report of the Director Health and Family Welfare of Punjab was not found specific by the Commission to the issues in the media report and it gave directions on 23rd January, 2012 for an overall comprehensive action including banning carcinogenic pesticides, control use of less hazardous pesticides, education of farmers for use of pesticides, regular health check ups of the of farmers in the area and conducting a survey in the area to assess the problem.

In response to this, the second report by the Principal Secretary, Govt. of Punjab, Department of Health and Family Welfare accepted that the consumption of pesticides was on the higher side in Malwa region on account of growing of cotton crop.  However, during the last 4-5 years, the consumption has reduced as the farmers have switched over to BT cotton, which requires only 20% of the pesticides used for earlier cotton varieties.  The farmers are being trained on judicious use of pesticides even as some dangerous pesticides have been banned or their use has been restricted.  As for providing cheap treatment for cancer, the Punjab Government has taken the following steps:-

•       Financial assistance under State Illness Fund through Punjab Nirogi Society is provided to cancer patients belonging to BPL families;
•       A fund of Rs. 20 crores has been made available by the Government of Punjab under the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for treatment of cancer patients.  An amount of upto Rs. 1.5 lakhs is made available for treatment to every cancer patient;
•       School children suffering from cancer are provided free treatment by Health Department;
•       .Brachytherapy machine for treatment of cancer patients has been installed at Government Medical College and Hospital, Patiala;
•       Radiotherapy machine and cobalt unit have been started at Sri Guru Gobind Singh Medical College, Faridkot;
•       Cobalt source fro the treatment of cancer patients has been installed at Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Amritsar;
•       Onconet service has been started at Civil Hospital, Bathinda;
•       Regional Cancer Centre, PGI is connected to all districts of Punjab via Tele-Medicine facility;
•       Free travel facility in Punjab Roadways and PRTC Buses is provided for cancer patients for availing treatment;
•       State Government has executed an agreement with Max Health Care to set up Super Specialty Hospital for cancer and Trauma Care in the premises of Civil Hospital, SAS Nagar (Mohali) and setting up of Super Specialty Cancer and Cardiac Hospital in the premises of Civil Hospital, Bathinda.  These hospitals are fully functional.

The Commission has observed that the steps taken by the State Government give some ray of hope to the victims.  If these steps are taken forward in the right earnest they are likely to bear fruits in the future.

Creating an Undemocratic and Unaccountable Biotechnology Regulator

A critique of the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill, 2011

 Download the critique

Biotechnology is a cross cutting issue that affects food production, farming, health, environment and information technology sectors. It is to be expected then that formulation of any law governing this high risk technology would be deeply democratic and transparent exercise. Particularly because the Constitution of India guarantees that States and Local Governments are principal levels for engaging with debates and decisions when it matters to peoples access to food, health, a clean environment and livelihoods in general. The role of the Centre is supportive, at best. International law also strongly supports this process of bottom up decision making involving the people meaningfully.

The Indian Government, however, seems to now believe that biotechnology as a sector must be under the “control” of the Union Government. Accordingly, it has proposed the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill, 2011, to establish a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) and Biotechnology Regulatory Appellate Authority (BRAT) and a host of other regulatory and appeal agencies. There has been no discussion whatsoever during the formulation of this Bill with Local and State Governments, and it would not be wrong to say that the process by which this legislative proposal has been formulated is absolutely opaque.

The Bill is now set for debate and discussion in the winter session of the Parliament. It is to be seen if this would be possible as the House has been rocked by protests from Opposition and allies of the ruling UPA coalition against the Union Government’s decision to allow FDI in single brand retail, amongst other issues. The opportunity now exists to subject BRAI Bill, 2011 to a thorough review at all levels.

To assist in this process, Environment Support Group, a not for profit public interest research, training, campaign and advocacy initiative responsing to various environmental and social justice concerns, has prepared a critique of the Bill entitled: “Creating an Undemocratic and Unaccountable Biotechnology Regulator: A critique of the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill, 2011, with particular emphasis on environmental laws”. The same is attached.

 

We do hope that our contribution helps in deeply democratising the debate and discussion on this legislative proposal, especially considering the massive impact it has on food security, health, environment and governance, and the livelihoods of millions.

Leo F. Saldanha

Bhargavi S. Rao

Environment Support Group