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.

Raghuvansh Prasad Singh: BRAI Bill – Bulldozing public opinion

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/raghuvansh-prasad-singh-brai-bill-bulldozing-public-opinion/449406/

Raghuvansh Prasad Singh / September 17, 2011, 0:05 IST

The government has finalised the draft of the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill. A close reading of the draft shows that, on the one hand, this Bill intends to provide single-window clearance to genetically-modified (GM) crops promoted by multinational seed companies; on the other, it ignores the possible risks and threats to our agriculture, health and environment from this controversial technology.

The nation saw a widespread debate on Bt brinjal, the first GM food crop to have been considered for commercial cultivation in the country. Public consultations organised during that debate clearly highlighted the objections and concerns of all sections of society, including scientists, on GM foods in general and Bt brinjal in particular.

Twelve state governments, including the largest brinjal-cultivating states – West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha – expressed their concerns with regard to this novel and unnatural GM food crop. The government responded rightly to the diverse voices all around and placed a moratorium on the commercial release of Bt brinjal on February 9, 2010.
Despite the moratorium, there have been many efforts in the past several months to overlook the legitimate concerns over GM crops and this proposed regulatory system called BRAI is one such significant effort.

A hasty move in the wrong direction
The fact that the draft of the Bill was not put in the public domain and the haste with which the Bill was listed for tabling – it was given to the MPs just a few hours before its scheduled introduction in the Lok Sabha on August 17 – makes it clear that the government is in no mood for an informed debate either inside or outside Parliament on BRAI. It was thanks to the raging anti-corruption debates in the Lok Sabha that the Bill could not be introduced by the ministry of science and technology.

The problems with the current proposal of the regulatory system starts with the conflicting interest in which ministry is tabling the Bill, the ministry of science and technology that also has the mandate to promote GM crops in the country. The Bill also proposes to have an appellate tribunal that is the sole forum for redressal. This is a scary situation in which the promoter himself becomes the regulator, prosecutor and the judge. This is the recipe for a corrupt autocratic system.

One of the biggest issues with the current regulatory system, with the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) as the nodal agency, was that it overrules the constitutional role of state governments in policy decisions regarding agriculture and health. After almost 13 years of existence and resistance to it, the GEAC recently amended its rules to give state governments the decision-making power on the approval of field trials, which is the first level of open release of GM crops. The proposed BRAI seeks to reverse this and take control of decisions related to any open releases of GM crops, be it for experiments or for commercialisation. This is clearly an unconstitutional move since agriculture and health, two sectors that would be impacted by GM crops, are under the state list of the Indian Constitution and states should have a role in deciding anything that has an impact on these sectors.

Adding to the unconstitutionality is the powers that have been given to the five-member Biotechnology Regulatory Authority to override the provisions in the Right to Information Act, 2005.

The provisions laid out in Section 2, Section 28, Section 70 and Section 77 of this Bill undermine the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, and the right to life, by violating the provisions and protection of the RTI Act. And by preventing civil courts to have jurisdiction on any matter under the Act.

Anti-farmer and anti-people
This draft Bill clearly intends to circumvent opposition to GM and to facilitate the monopolisation of our seed sector by multinational seed giants like Monsanto. Besides having the wrong mandate, the proposals are completely sidestepping the precautionary approach and not addressing all the serious shortcomings of the existing regulatory regime. The BRAI proposal does not talk about the mandate of protecting India’s environment and health from the risks of modern biotechnology, which should be the primary mandate for any regulatory regime.

Given the growing concern in the country about the impact of GM crops to our health, our farmers livelihoods and food and seed sovereignty, it is high time that the government recognises it. Instead of coming up with such cantankerous legislations as the BRAI Bill to promote risky technologies like genetic modification, it should go after real solutions that are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

In the light of public concern on GM crops and such blatant violations of constitutional rights in the current BRAI Bill version, the prime minister should not let his science and technology minister introduce the BRAI Bill in Parliament without widespread public consultations.

The author represents the Vaishali constituency of Bihar in the Lok Sabha and is a member of the Rashtriya Janata Dal. He was Union cabinet minister for rural development in the first United Progressive Alliance Cabinet

NCPRI opposes the introduction of Biotechnology Regulator y Author ity of India Bill [BRAI], 2011, calls it undemocratic.

righttoinformation.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/NCPRI-Statement-on-introduction-of-BRAI-Bill.doc

Press Statement:

7th September 2011

The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) strongly condemns the anti-transparency
provisions proposed in the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill (BRAI) 2011 and the attempt to
override provisions of the Right to Information Act by empowering the proposed authority as the final decision
maker in matters of release of information. The Bill is in violation of the provisions and spirit of the Right to
Information Act.

The provisions laid out in section 2, section 28, section 70, Section 77 undermine the fundamental right to
freedom of speech and expression , and the right to life, by violating provisions and protection of the RTI Act.
and also by preventing civil courts to have jurisdiction on any matter under the Act.

The BRAI Bill is also a regrettable attempt to curtail spaces for people’s participation and democratic oversight
in decisions that could affect the lives of the entire population of our country.

The BRAI bill in its present form seems to be an effort to sweep aside public concerns and public participation
on an issue as important as our food and farming.

The NCPRI is of the opinion that if the draft bill is introduced in Parliament in its present form, it will be a
highly retrograde step on behalf of the government that has been repeatedly appreciated for bringing about
progressive transparency legislation, the Right to Information Act 2005.

The fact that this Bill has been listed for introduction in Parliament with no discussion of its contents in the
public domain is an indication of the intent to push this bill through without discussion and debate.

NCPRI urges the Union government not to table this bill until it is publicly discussed and debated in light of the
public concerns on GM crops, serious violations of constitutional rights, the breach of constitutional guarantees
and arbitrary exercise of power and authority that this bill seeks to provide the government and the regulatory
authority.

Signed:

Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Trilochan Shastry, Venkatesh Nayak, Ramakrishna Raju, Angela Rangad
(For the NCPRI)

278, SFS Apartments, DDA Flats
Hauz Khas
New Delhi-110016
Website: www.righttoinformation.info
Email: ncpri.india@gmail.com

बायो तकनीकी नियंत्रण अथारिटी 2011: बिल और विमर्श

पार्लमेंट के सामने पेश करने वाले बायो तकनीकी नियंत्रण अथारिटी 2011 बिल और विमर्श.
बायो तकनीकी नियंत्रण अथारिटी 2011
बायो तकनीकी नियंत्रण अथारिटी 2011 विमर्श

Govt remains non-committed on introducing biotechnology authority bill : Pharma industry complains

http://www.pharmabiz.com/NewsDetails.aspx?aid=64993&sid=1

Joseph Alexander, New Delhi
Tuesday, September 13, 2011, 08:00 Hrs [IST]

The fate of the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill (BRAI) hangs in balance, with the Union Government remaining non-committal on the time frame to introduce the much-awaited bill in the Parliament.

Though the bill was expected to make into the House during the just-concluded monsoon Session, it was not tabled. Without specifying time-frame for its introduction, the Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Ashwani Kumar has stated that a draft bill was ready to establish the BRAI.

“According to BRAI Bill, 2011, the Authority will be an autonomous body and statutory agency to regulate the research, transport, import, manufacture and use of organisms and products of modern biotechnology. The Authority will consist of one chairperson, two full-time members and two part-time members. Each of them will have expertise in life sciences and biotechnology applications in agriculture, health care, environment and general biology,” the Minister stated in the House.

Though several bills related to pharma and health sectors were pending, at least the biotechnology authority bill had found a place in the list for transaction of business ahead of the monsoon session. However, with the issue of corruption taking maximum slot during the session, the bill could not be introduced.

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has been very keen to see the introduction of the bill as all formalities including several rounds of discussion with the stakeholders were over. The passage of the bill will bring positive and powerful changes in the biotechnology sector, including the pharmaceuticals and health research. It will usher in the next stage of all-round growth in the sector. Some of the concerns faced by the industry will also be addressed through this bill, according to the Department.

Ministerial shift in govt’s new GM crop regulation

http://epaper.mailtoday.in/epaperhome.aspx?issue=1782011

Ministerial shift in govt’s new GM crop regulation
Dinesh C. Sharma/ Delhi
IN A major shift in the regulatory regime for genetically modified ( GM) crops, the government has decided to take away regulatory powers from the environment ministry.

Instead, it has decided to entrust the powers to a centralised three- member committee that will be housed in the ministry of science and technology which is a funding agency for GM crop development.

The chairperson and two members of the proposed regulatory body will be selected by a committee of officials under the convenership of an official of the department of biotechnology, according to the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India ( BRAI) Bill slated to be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

The state biotechnology advisory committees will function under departments of biotechnology of respective states, furthering the conflict of interest issue.

The Bill also opens up the regulatory body to private sector intervention by permitting four private sector members in the biotechnology advisory committee which is supposed to advice the regulator on matters related to regulatory mechanism.

Currently the genetic engineering appraisal committee ( GEAC), acts as regulatory body for GM crops. Jairam Ramesh, as the environment minister, had imposed a moratorium on commercial release of GM brinjal last year following health and environmental concerns.

Ramesh had also mandated that no GM crops should be introduced without concurrence of states.

In the new regulatory regime, states will have no role. Besides concentrating all powers to three people instead of the 30 members as before, the Bill states that biosafety data of GM crops will not be made public, overriding the RTI Act.

Critics are livid over the new bill. “ When an interministerial body like GEAC could be found lacking rigour or independence so often in the past, how can BRAI with just three members be trusted to take independent decisions?” Kavitha Kuruganti of Coalition for GM- free India said.

“ The combination of a promoter sitting as regulator and denying information to public is a recipe for an autocratic, non- transparent single window clearance for GM crops,” Greenpeace said in a statement.

Sticky: Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill to be tabled tomorrow in parliament-read the bill

Friends tomorrow the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill wpuld be tabled in parliament.  Please find enclosed the copy for your reference.  Act quickly alert your acquaintances in parliament.

BRAI_Bill_2011 latest draft

response to BRAI Bill 2009