OPPOSE THE INTRODUCTION OF BRAI BILL, SLATED FOR BUSINESS ON 22ND NOV. 2011

Respected Member of Parliament,

Sub: OPPOSE THE INTRODUCTION OF BRAI BILL, SLATED FOR BUSINESS ON 22ND NOV. 2011

Namaste.

The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill is slated for Business on 22nd November 2011 in the Lok Sabha. This Bill and its introduction has already been opposed by several MPs cutting across party lines. While some have expressed their views in opinion pieces, others have written to the Prime Minister asking him to scrap the Bill or not introduce it in haste. These include MPs from BJP, CPM, RJD, JD-U, Independent etc.

Why should the Bill be not introduced?:

– A Ministry promoting modern biotechnology (Ministry of Science & Technology) seeks to house the regulatory authority in this Bill – promoters cannot be regulators since there is an inherent conflict of interest.

– This regulatory Bill has as its objective, ‘promoting the safe use’ of the technology. For promoting a technology, a legislation is not needed. The need for regulation comes for only one reason: to protect our health and environment and people’s livelihoods from the risks of modern biotechnology. The Bill does not have this as an express mandate.

– The Bill has its implications on and impinges upon matters that are monitored by other independent laws, such as Environment Protection Act, Biological Diversity Act, Forest Rights Act, Forest Conservation Act, Food Safety and Standards Act, Drugs and Cosmetics Act, Panchayat Raj Act, Nagarpalika Act, Right to Information Act, to name but a few and keeps the powers of overriding effect on other laws with it. Such an overarching Bill needs greater debates which have not happened so far.

– The BRAI Bill is against the federal polity enshrined in the Constitution of India and the powers vested in the Panchayat Raj Institutions. It denies these institutions their authority over Agriculture, Health and natural resources and centralises decision-making in a narrow, technical body.

You can obtain more information on this Bill and its deep flaws by visiting:http://indiagminfo.org/?page_id=82. Please also let us know if there is any material that you need related to the subject that we might be able to support you with.

This Bill is deeply flawed and we urge you to oppose the introduction of the Bill by writing formally on your letterhead to the Speaker and the Secretary General of Lok Sabha urgently – kindly do so before 10 am on the 22nd of November, on the day when the Bill has been put into the List of Business. 

If it still gets introduced despite opposition from all quarters of society, kindly ensure that it at least goes to a joint committee of Agriculture/Health/Environment and S&T. Thank you.

22 नवंबर 2011 को संसद में पेश हो रहे बी.आर.ए.आई. बिल का विरोध करें

 

22 नवंबर 2011 को संसद में पेश हो रहे बी.आर.ए.आई. बिल का विरोध करें

चूँकि

यह ‘बायोटेक्नोलॉजी रेग्युलेटरी अथारिटी ऑफ इंडिया बिल’ गलत उद्देश्य के लिए बनाया गया गलत बिल है

मान्यवर,

पिछले साल पहली जीएम खाद्द्य फसल को लेकर पूरे देश में जोरदार बहस छिड़ी। बीटी बैंगन के रूप में पहली जीएम (जेनटिक मोडिफाइड) खाद्य फसल को वर्ष2009  में केंद्र सरकार की परिनियमित इकाई (जीइएसी)ने व्यावसायिक खेती की अनुमति दे दी थी। लेकिन इस विवादास्पद खाद्य फसल पर चली देशव्यापी बहस को देखते हुए केन्द्रीय पर्यावरण एवं वन मंत्री ने सतर्कता बरती और बीटी बैंगन पर रोक लगा दी। उन्होंने कहा कि जब तक स्वतंत्र वैज्ञानिक अध्ययनों से सार्वजनिक और व्यावसायिक रूप से यह स्थापित नहीं हो जाता कि इस फसल का मानव स्वास्थ्य और पर्यावरण पर कोई दीर्घकालीन दुष्प्रभाव नहीं पड़ेगा और बैंगन की मौजूदा असीम विविधता को खतरा नहीं है और यह तकनीकी सुरक्षा सम्बंधित मापदंडों पर खरी नहीं उतरती, उसे अनुमति नहीं दी जायेगी। 

बी.आर.ए.आई. की उत्पत्ति

2003-04 में देश में पहली बार नेशनल बायोटेक्नोलाजी रेग्युलेटरी अथारिटी के रूप में एक स्वायत्त नियामक प्राधिकरण बनाने की बात उठी थी। इसकी सिफारिश कृषि मंत्रालय की तरफ से बनाये गये टास्क फोर्स के अध्यक्ष डा० एम० एस० स्वामीनाथन ने की थी। टास्क फोर्स ने बायोटेक्नोलाजी रेग्युलेटरी गठन के लिए कुछ आधारभूत सुझाव भी दिये थे। जैसे-किसी भी बायोटेक्नोलाजी रेग्युलेटरी नीति निर्धारण के लिए पर्यावरण, किसान वर्ग, सतत कृषि प्रणाली, स्वास्थ्य एवं पौष्टिकता को प्राथमिकता देनी चाहिए। साथ में उपभोक्ता एवं राष्ट्र में व्यापार तथा जैव सुरक्षा के हितों को भी ध्यान में रखना चाहिए।

विज्ञान एवं प्रोद्यौगिकी मंत्रालय के जैव प्रोद्यौगिकी विभाग ने वर्ष 2008 में पहली बार एन बी आर ए बिल प्रस्तुत किया और जनता से राय मांगी। इस बिल की प्रक्रिया और विषयवस्तु दोनों की कटु आलोचना हुई और विरोध हुआ। प्रस्तावित बिल का विरोध मुख्य रूप से गलत प्राथमिकता तय करने व जीएम फसलों को बढ़ावा देने वालों को ही नियामक बना देने की वजह से हुआ। सिविल सोसायटी ने तो बिल की प्रमुख खामियों पर चिंता व्यक्त करते हुए लिखित रूप से अपना विरोध दर्ज कराया।

ब्राई का अगला प्रारूप वर्ष 2009 में तैयार किया गया, जिसके गुप्त दस्तावेज मार्च 2010 में लीक हो गये। इस बिल पर भी काफी हंगामा हुआ क्योंकि इसमें जीएम फसलों के खिलाफ आवाज उठाने वालों पर जुर्माना और जेल की सजा का प्रावधान किया गया था। इसे देखकर ऐसा मालूम हुआ कि इस बिल में सुधार की जगह और खतरनाक स्वरुप प्रदान कर दिया गया। इस प्रारूप में ऐसी धाराएँ शामिल थी जो अलोकतांत्रिक और गुपचुप तरीके से पर्याप्त वैज्ञानिक आधार के बिना और दुष्प्रभावों का व्यापक आंकलन किये बिना ही नियमों को शिथिल करके जीएम फसलों को जल्दी मंजूरी देने की वकालत कर रहे थे।

हालांकि अभी कुछ समय पहले ही राज्य सरकारों की सत्ता को मान्यता दी गई है कि अब वे अपने राज्य में जीएमओ (जैव परिवर्धित फसलों) के स्थलीय परीक्षणों को मंजूरी देने और न देने का फैसला खुद ले सकते हैं। ऐसा तब हुआ जब बिहार के मुख्यमंत्री ने बिना राज्य सरकार को जानकारी दिये और बिना उसकी सहमति लिए बिहार में किये जा रहे स्थलीय परीक्षणों का विरोध किया। इससे पहले केरल सरकार ने अपने राज्य के लिए एक जीएम फ्री पॉलिसी की घोषणा कर दी थी जिसे बाद में संसद में भी उचित कदम माना गया।

वर्तमान बी.आर.ए.आई. बिल

यह बिल 22 नवंबर 2011 को लोकसभा की कार्यवाही की दैनिक सूची में चिन्हित है। यहाँ यह बताना जरूरी है कि जिस समय यह बिल पेश करने की तैयारी चल रही है, बिहार, केरल, मध्य प्रदेश, कर्नाटक, छत्तीसगढ़ ओडिशा एवं पश्चिम बंगाल जैसे 7 राज्य जी एम फसलों के परिक्षण को मना कर चुके हैं। अब देश भर के हजारों गांव खुद को जीएम मुक्त घोषित कर रहे हैं।

क्यों महत्वपूर्ण है हमारे लिए इस बिल से जुडना?

• ऐसा लगता है कि हमें कृषि तकनीकों से जुड़ी बहस में शामिल होने की आवश्यकता है। दूसरी अन्य तकनीकों के विपरीत, ये तकनीकें हमारे ऊपर ज्यादा असर डालने जा रही हैं। वो भी सिर्फ इस कारण से कि ज्यादातर जमीन कृषि के अंदर आती है और देश के ज्यादातर लोगों की रोज़ी रोटी करशी से जुडी हुई है। सबसे ज्यादा महत्वपूर्ण बात यह है कि हम जो खाना खाते हैं वह भी कृषि से ही मिलता है। ऐसा लगता है कि अब हमें ट्रांसजेनिक्स जैसी तकनीकों से जुड़ने की जरूरत है।

• यह भी ध्यान रखने योग्य है कि हमारा भोजन असुरक्षित होता जा रहा है। जीएम फसलों व खाद्यान्न के आने से उसके जहरीले होने की संभावना भी बढ़ गई है। इसलिए इस कानूनका एक हीं उद्देश्य होना चाहिए की भारतीयों के स्वास्थ्य और सुरक्षा से जुड़े जोखिमों को रोकना। इसीलिए इस बिल के पेश किये जाने का विरोध करने की जरूरत है।

बिल के महत्वपूर्ण विन्दु जिनपर मुख्य रूप से आपत्ति है

Ø  यह बिल विज्ञान एवं प्रौद्योगिकी मंत्रालय द्वारा लाया जा रहा है जिससे ‘कनफ्लिक्ट ऑफ इंटरेस्ट’ पैदा हो रहा है, चूँकि यह वही मंत्रालय है जो आधुनिक जैव प्रौद्योगिकी को बढ़ावा दे रहा है। ऐसे में क्या प्रोत्साहक हीं नियामक होंगे?

Ø  इस नियामक बिल का मुख्य उद्देश्य प्रौद्योगिकी का सुरक्षित इस्तेमाल और उसे बढ़ावा देना है। किसी भी तकनीक को प्रोत्साहित करने के लिए एक कानून की जरूरत नहीं होती।कानून सिर्फ उसी परिस्थिति में बनाया जाता है जब स्वास्थ्य, पर्यावरण एवं जीविका को आधुनिक जैव प्रौद्योगिकी के खतरे से बचाना हो। परन्तु ऐसा  कुछ भी इस बिल में नहीं कहा गया है।

Ø  इस बिल का वास्तव में परिणाम एवं प्रभाव कई अधिनियमों पर पड़ता है और साथ हीं उन अधिनियमों  के अधिकार क्षेत्र को भी प्रभावित करता है, जैसे पर्यावरण सुरक्षा अधिनियम, जैव विविधता अधिनियम, वनाधिकार अधिनियम, वन संरक्षण अधिनियम, खाद्य सुरक्षा एवं मानक अधिनियम, दवा एवं सौंदर्य प्रसाधन अधिनियम, पंचायती राज अधिनियम, नगरपालिका अधिनियम, सूचना का अधिकार अधिनियम आदि। अतः जो बिल इतने व्यापक स्तर पर इतने सारे अधिनियमों को प्रभावित करने की क्षमता रखता हो उसके लिए उतनी हीं गंभीरता से व्यापक बहस होनी चाहिए थी, जो अब तक देखने को नहीं मिला।

Ø  यह बिल भारतीय संविधान के संघीय सिधान्तों के भी खिलाफ है तथा पंचायती राज संस्थाओं को भी कमजोर बनाता है। यह बिल हमारे संघीय ढाँचे तथा पंचायती राज जैसी संस्थाओं के कृषि, स्वास्थ्य एवं प्राकृतिक संसाधनों के नियंत्रण को भी गौण करता है तथा हर निर्णय सिर्फ एवं सिर्फ एक केंद्रीय संस्था में हीं निहीत करने की बात करता है। 

साथ हीं
1.गलत उद्देश्यों के साथ गलत मंत्रालय द्वारा पेश किया जाना
2. विज्ञान एवं प्रोद्यौगिकी मंत्रालय के अधीन हितों के टकराव का विरोध
3.कृषि व स्वास्थ्य मामले में राज्य सरकारों के अधिकारों पर अतिक्रमण
4. मूल्यांकन की कोई आवश्यकता नहीं
5. लोकतांत्रिक कार्य शैली का अभाव-जन सहभागिता की कोई व्यवस्था नहीं
6. पारदर्शिता के लिए कोई व्यवस्था नहीं–सूचना पाने वाले नागरिकों के अधिकार का अतिक्रमण बेहद दुर्भाग्यपूर्ण
7. तमाम संस्थाएं मौजूद लेकिन निर्णय लेने की प्रक्रिया केन्द्रीयकृत व संकीर्ण
8. दंतहीन पर्यावरण मूल्यांकन पैनल
9.निर्णय लेने के मापदंडों को शिथिल करना
10. जैव सुरक्षा व जोखिमों से समझौता करना–खुली हवा में हो रहे परीक्षणों पर अंकुश लगाने के लिए कोई कोशिश नहीं की गई है
11. स्वतंत्र परीक्षण बिल का हिस्सा नहीं हैं
12. कोई जोखिम प्रबंधन तंत्र का न होना
13. हितों के टकराव को पूरी तरह दूर न करना
14. पैनल की धाराओं का कमजोर होना
15.जैव प्रोद्यौगिकी नियामक अपीलीय प्राधिकरण कमजोर और लोगों की न्याय व्यवस्था से दूर करनेवाली
16. दूसरे कानूनों पर अतिक्रमण का असर
17. जीएमओ आयात पर खामोश रहना आदि।


इस बिल पर अधिक जानकारी एवं अन्य खामियों को जानने के लिए कृपया इस लिंक पर जाएँ – http://indiagminfo.org/?page_id=82 हमें खुशी होगी यदि और कुछ विशेष जानकारी के लिए एवं किसी सम्बंधित दस्तावेज के लिए आप हमें संपर्क करते हैं। यह बिल गंभीर रूप से त्रुटिपूर्ण है. अतः हम आपसे निवेदन करते हैं कि आप कृपया २२ नवंबर २०११ को प्रातः १० बजे से पहले-पहले माननीय लोकसभा अध्यक्ष एवं महासचिव को लिखित रूप से इस बिल की introduction के विरुद्ध अपना विरोध पत्र अवश्य भेजें।


अगर किन्ही परिस्थितियों में यह बिल फिर भी पेश हो जाता है तो कृपा कर जरूर सुनिश्चित करें कि तब इसे कम से कम कृषि/स्वास्थ्य/पर्यावरण और विज्ञान एवं प्रोद्यौगिकी के संयुक्त समिति में अवश्य भेजा जाये।

निवेदक :

राष्ट्रीय आशा गठबन्धन                                                                         जी एम मुक्त भारतीय गठबन्धन

MPs oppose biotech regulator-Vilasrao Deshmukh

http://zeenews.india.com/news/delhi/mps-oppose-biotech-regulator_740851.html

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 09, 2011, 17:55
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New Delhi: The Bill to set up a biotech regulator appears to have run into further trouble with some lawmakers opposing the proposal to allow the Ministry of Science and Technology to govern the authority.

The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill was listed for introduction in the Lok Sabha in the Monsoon Session of Parliament but was withdrawn after members of the Congress, BJP and CPI(M) raised objections.

“The Bill was withdrawn after some members, including from the Congress, said they would oppose it at the introduction stage itself,” Science and Technology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said here.

Among members having strong reservations were Jyoti Mirdha (Cong), C P Thakur (BJP), Basudeb Acharia (CPM) and Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (RJD), who felt the regulator should be under the Ministry of Environment and Forests or Health and not under the Ministry of Science and Technology, whose role is to promote biotechnology.

Thakur has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him not to go ahead with the BRAI Bill in its current form.

Deshmukh said the Health Ministry was not too keen on becoming the governing ministry for the BRAI. Mirdha said the Bill was not a good piece of biosafety legislation and stressed on the need to have wider consultations.

“If introduced, the Bill should be referred to a joint select committee, with representatives from Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture and Health,” she told PTI.

At the initial stages of discussions some portions of the proposed Bill were considered to be in conflict with functions of the health and environment ministries and resolving them has put brakes on the Bill’s progress.

The BRAI proposal has had a controversial history with green groups opposing it on various grounds, particularly on the point that it wrests control from state governments over clearances to genetically modified crops.

PTI

Bills affecting agriculture before parliament for approaval

friends

there are five bills which are pending before parliament and may come up for approval in this session starting from22nd nov.

We request you to kindly share the following concerns and suggestions on these bills with your MPs and request them to bring them up while during discussion.  This would of great help. We keep you posted on the developments.

Courtesy: Dr. Donthi Narasimha Reddy

BRAI Bill-clausewise problems

Pesticide Bill-clausewise problems

Seed Bill 2010 – Problems and suggestions

Suggestions on LA-APKisan

ASHA response to National Food Security Bill

pls contact ramoo.csa@gmail.com for other language versions

Letters to PM on crop trials

Letters to PM on crop trials
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

Patna, Nov. 7: Three NDA MPs from Bihar — C.P. Thakur of the BJP, Jai Narayan Nishad and Anil Kumar Sahani of the JD(U)— have written separate letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressing concern over reports of Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill being introduced in the winter session of Parliament.

They have sought an intervention to stop the process in the interest of farmers. “I have strong objections to it being infringement on the authority of the state on matters related to agriculture and health,” said Thakur in his letter. He also objected to the fact that the proposed bill would be tabled by the ministry of science and technology when it should have been under the ministry of environment or health.

Jai Narayan Nishad, in his letter, has pointed out that seven states — Bihar, Bengal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Kerala — have already objected to genetically modified crop trials. “You must also be aware that during the Bt Brinjal debate, 13 states had objected to the approval for its commercial cultivation,” Nishad said, adding that the bill and its provisions are going to leave behind a large impact because the livelihood of most of the people of the country depends on agriculture.

He has also expressed apprehensions about degradation of environment resources and serious changes in crop because of GM crops. “I believe you will agree that regulatory regime that does not pay attention to these issues, bio-safety-related as well as those beyond bio-safety, will only benefit the industry and fail our vast majority of poor,” Nishad said.

Sahani in his letter stressed that he has found the contents of the proposed bill “too centralised and thereby contradictory to the principle of decentralisation of governance”, he remarked recalling that the Bihar government had not only objected to the trial of genetic seeds within its state but also apprised the environment ministry of its strong objection to GM field trials. He urged the PM to take public opinion through debates and invite critical inputs before the bill is introduced in Parliament.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar has been in the forefront of objecting the proposed bill. A few months ago, he had written letters stressing that the proposed bill infringes on the rights of the state and that there was no provision for timely compensation to the farmers should the GM seeds fail.

He had been swift to oppose GM seed trial in Sabour and had expressed shock that the trials should have been done without the consent of the state government.

 

Better (regu) late than never…but watch out, it’s GE!

A critique of the BRAI bill by Shalini Bhutani

The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill surfaced quietly in the List of Business for Lok Sabha in August 2011. It did not however make it for introduction in this session of Parliament. Yet the din about it outside the legislature refuses to settle down.

The Bill once again sets off discussions in India on what a regulatory regime for modern biotechnology in the country ought to be like. If the Authority does see the light of day, it would do so after the very first decade (2002-2012) of India’s experience with GE crops. So one way to view the Bill is to see if its provisions address at least some of the concerns raised by people based on these years of real encounters with GE technology per se and the decision-making processes on it. Also, it is to be seen if the latest version actually improves upon the previous version of the BRAI Bill (2009).

The need to revamp the country’s regulatory regime on biosafety is being raised by people since the 90s. That was when the first 10 grams of Bt – proprietary material of the MNC Monsanto Inc., was brought into the country from the US. And that’s precisely the problem. The country exporting the technology and pushing for its application in agriculture, does not adhere to any global biosafety agreements and on the contrary attempts to influence the kind of regulatory regime our country ought to have on GE.

In 2003 the global Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (under the Convention on Biological Diversity came into force. In the very same year in India a Task Force on the Application of Agriculture Biotechnology was constituted by the Ministry of Agriculture. As mentioned in the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill (2011), the Task Force recommended (2004) the establishment of an “autonomous, statutory and professionally-led National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority”.

But on the side the US-India Business Council and its members, as well as the USAID through its support programmes on biosafety come to bear on the issue. In this context it is pertinent to note that the scope of the Bill does not cover export of GE from India at all! The opening words of the Bill mention that the BRAI is to regulate research, transport, manufacture, use and import of GE organisms and products. But the term ‘export’ in the preamble and the rest of the text is conspicuous by its absence.

One of the key concerns vis-a-vis biosafety has been the lack of an independent authority to oversee the approval process for the application of biotechnology. The Bill sets up a five-member Authority with a Chairperson with two full time and two part time ‘members’. The Bill makes specific mention of financial or other conflict of interest that has to be considered at the time of appointment. And a member can not hold another position be it in the Government – Centre or State, another organisation or a private company, while in office. Even upon leaving office, a member is debarred from certain positions for a period of two years.

All BRAI members are to be appointed by the Central Government through a Selection Committee. The Authority is to be overseen by an Inter Ministerial Governing Board and a Biotechnology Advisory Committee, both of which are also comprising Central Government officials. Agriculture is a State subject as per the legislative distribution of powers. So merely having an advisory body at the State level – the State Biotechnology Regulatory Advisory Committees (SBRAC) will not tip the balance in favour of localised decision-making. There is no mention of any District level committees as are supposed to exist under the existing GE Rules (1989 issued under the Environment Protection Act, 1986). In fact by virtue of the BRAI Bill, any State law in force on the subject would also stand repealed.

The linkage with other laws (Section 81) states the overriding effect of the law-to-be. But Section 86 instead states that the provisions of this Act will be in addition to and not it derogation of any other law for the time being in force. This contradiction has to be resolved. The only other law that talks of biosafety, is the Biological Diversity Act (2002) of India. The said Act makes it mandatory for the Central Government to regulate, manage or control the risks associated with the use and release of living modified organisms resulting from biotechnology likely to have adverse impact on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and human health.

The Bill however resolves at least for the Central Government the dilemma on which Ministry ought to have the last word on decisions on the application of GE. The choice is clearly in favour of the Ministry dealing with science and technology. The Bill thus significantly reduces the say of the Environment Ministry. Of course the BRAI would replace the GEAC, thus far has been under the Environment Ministry. But the Bill makes clear the relationship between the BRAI with the MoEF. The Bill unlike its 2009 version envisages an Environment Appraisal Panel (EAP), with a Chairperson, five members and a Member Secretary located in MoEF. It is mandatory for the BRAI to obtain the opinion of the EAP, but is not bound by it!

The Bill is a carve-out from the coverage of the right to information law in India. While it can be understood why any BRAI member is debarred from disclosing to any third person any matter currently under consideration of the BRAI. But there are strictures against the disclosure of confidential commercial information. With more and more aspects of modern biotechnology (processes and products) being brought under intellectual property (IP) coverage, IPR can become a veil to hide behind. And in what can only be read as a deft political move, the text of the Bill makes it the responsibility of the SBRAC to ensure that information of the BRAI and its activities are made available to the public in a transparent and accessible manner in the State [Section 35(6)(e)].

How people participate in the decision-making is another crucial issue. BRAI is mandated to obtain the objections or suggestions from the public; but the letter of the law does not indicate that it is bound by them. Actual practice has shown otherwise. Also people protesting against GE in agriculture were outraged by a Section 63 in the earlier version of the BRAI (2009) Bill, which made it a punishable offence (6 months to 1 year prison with fine upto two lakh rupees) to “mislead(s) the public about the safety of the (GE) organisms and products”. Though that section has been done away with, but farmers and activists opposing GE may still find themselves on the wrong side of the law if they either provide any false or misleading information (Section 62) or if they attempt to obstruct any official discharging any function under the Act (Section 64).

Both the Bills talk of the Central Government setting up a Biotechnology Regulatory Appellate Tribunal (BRAT) that will have the power to regulate its own procedure and would function like a civil court. Thus the bar on jurisdiction on all civil courts on any matter that the BRAT is empowered to deal with. So an entire new parallel quasi-judicial structure is envisaged as part of the regulatory regime.

Yet the jury is still out on the safety of the technology sought to be regulated under the BRAI Bill. That in itself is a fundamental issue to address. As is said, no technology is neutral. (Particularly, if it emanates from the USA.) And in India we are yet to democratise any of our regulatory regimes. Today it is GE, tomorrow there will be nanotechnology et al, will a whole new Bill and with it an other technocracy then emerge?

About the author – Shalini Bhutani

Shalini is a lawyer based in Delhi, India. She is working independently on issues of trade, agriculture and biodiversity. She has worked in several national and international NGOs in the last fifteen years including the Centre for Environmental Law at WWF-India, Navdanya and GRAIN. Currently along with others in India she is involved in the Campaign for Conservation and Community Control over Biodiversity. She is also part of the Forum Against FTAs in India. In the Asia region she is also associated with Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific.


http://www.cseindia.org/node/3192

Biotech bill against the spirit of Gandhi: M S Swaminathan

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/-Biotech-bill-against-the-spirit-of-Gandhi-M-S-Swaminathan/articleshow/10213483.cms

Printed from

Karthikeyan Hemalatha, TNN | Oct 3, 2011, 04.47AM IST

CHENNAI: On the 142nd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, noted agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan told The Times of India that the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (Brai) bill is against the spirit of Gandhi and decentralised governance. “The bill has a single-window clearance for the release of genetically modified crops. Unlike the National Biodiversity Act, the Brai bill does not consult with people at the panchayat level,” said Swaminathan who proposed in 2003 the idea of an autonomous and professionally led body for assessing the safety of genetically modified crops.

“There is also a case of conflict of interest. The regulator of genetically modified food cannot be under Brai. For example, the atomic energy regulatory board cannot function under the department of atomic energy,” he added. The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India bill that is to be tabled at the winter session of the Parliament this year will approve research and commercial release of genetically modified crops.

The body will be a regulatory regime for modern technology in the field of agriculture, environment and pharmaceuticals. Though based originally on M S Swaminathan’s idea, the bill was reworked in 2008. Speaking at a meeting organised by the National Biodiversity Authority in Chennai on Sunday, Swaminathan said Gandhi is unexpectedly gaining relevance in today’s society “Gandhi believed that ‘poorna swaraj’ can be achieved only with ‘gram swaraj,'” he said.

“We have 1.5 lakh varieties of rice and this is because of the knowledge that our farmers, tribals and adivasis have. We need to protect them. We should see ourselves as trustees of nature, the wealth we are born with,” he said.

And this, according to Balakrishnan Pisupati, the chairman of National Biodiversity Authority, is the essence of the Biological Diversity Act. “The act is about managing resources at the panchayat level making it sustainable and also securing rural lives,” he said. Pisupati said that preparations for next year’s Conference of Parties to the Convention on Bio Diversity in Hyderabad is in full swing. Following the conference in Nagoya, Japan last year, 193 countries, representatives from various UN agencies, NGOs and environmentalists will attend the conference to be held between October 1 and 19, 2012.