Lie of the land: Only 39 of 133 GM crop field trials monitored in 6 years

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-lie-of-the-land-only-39-of-133-gm-crop-field-trials-monitored-in-6-years-2127361
The Centre has always claimed that the country has a robust regulatory mechanism
  • cropGenetically modified or genetically engineered crops are those in which genes are tweaked to get the desired characteristics by either inserting another gene or altering existing ones

Busting the claims of the Indian government and scientists that the country has a robust regulatory mechanism to test genetically modified (GM) crops, toxic loopholes are emerging. From 2008 to 2014, only 39 of the 133 GM crop field trials were properly monitored, leaving the rest for unknown risks and possible health hazards to common people.

Documents accessed by dna reveals that the GMO regulator, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), under the ministry of environment and forests, has failed to comply with the monitoring norms and practices on the confined field trials. Even in the 39 cases where the GM monitoring was done, it was not uniform.

GM crops or genetically engineered (GE) crops are those in which genes are tweaked to get the desired characteristics by either inserting another gene or altering existing ones. Once prepared in laboratories, they are tested in fields, which is called confined field trials. The field trial always has a risk of pollen-driven contamination, which is uncontrollable.

Documents with dna reveals that, in 2008, only four out of 12 trials, that is 1/3 rd of trials, were monitored. The Central Compliance Committee (CCC) and monitoring-cum-evaluation committee, during their tenures, visited the sites only once while they were supposed to go at least four times during the trials. Similarly in 2009, only five out of 29 trials were monitored and only one visit of CCC was recorded.

In 2008, only four out of 12 trials were monitored by just one visit of CCC and the monitoring cum- evaluation committee. In 2009, only five out of 29 trials were monitored and one visit of CCC was recorded. The very next year, 14 out of 54 trials were monitored and only one trial has the monitoring details. The monitoring data for 2011 shows that five out of 16 trials were monitored and that too have minimal external monitoring from the regulators’ side. Even when the CCC found illegalities, no action was taken.

Incidentally, 2011 was the same year when biotech giant Monsanto’s maize trials were tested at Anand Agricultural University (AAU), Gujarat. The documents show that the CCC report was presented and a record of harvest also exists with signatures of the trial in-charge. However, there was no post-trial visit to the site by the monitoring team.

The same year, in another plot of AAU, housed at Derol, Monsanto’s herbicide-tolerant Bt Maize was planted but the sowing date is unrecorded. Only two of the four-member team visited the trial site.

In 2013, Monsanto and another transnational company, Syngenta Biosciences, were allowed to hold five field trials but only two of these were monitored, with one visit each. Interestingly, this happened despite one trial witnessing a huge protest/destruction by the public.

In 2014, three GM mustard trials of Delhi University were taken up – at two sites in Punjab and one in Delhi – during the rabi season. There are enough evidences that there were no post-harvesting fool-proof monitoring in these cases. Similarly, in Maharashtra’s Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV), Rahuri, field trials of Monsanto’s GM maize were undertaken, but there was no post-trial monitoring.

Despite these deficiencies and failures in the regulatory mechanism, the Centre has claimed in public debates as well as in the Supreme Court that everything about the regulatory system is healthy, rigorous and perfect.

Ironically, documentary evidence proves the opposite. Officials of MoEF and GEAC did not reply to dna queries.

Monitoring of GE plants is very important because they have posed high risks and cause uncontrollable contamination. This is undertaken at various stages like pre-sowing, sowing, and various stages of crop development, like harvest and post-harvest land use restriction. The monitoring agencies also have the authority to investigate contained facilities that may be used for storing regulated GE plant material.

From time to time, the GEAC has delegated the authority to monitor confined field trials to various bodies like RCGM’s Monitoring cum Evaluation Committee (MEC), SBCCs, DLCs, monitoring teams of state agricultural universities (SAUs) and Central Compliance Committee (CCC) constituted by GEAC/RCGM.

SC-appointed Technical Expert Committee says
Ban three kinds of GM crops
Herbicide-tolerant crops:
These are crops genetically modified for a chemical substance, so that when it is sprayed, it kills the entire flora around the crop, except itself. India does not need this technology.
Bt food crops: Food crops inserted with Bt genes should not be allowed as a lot of evidences show the harmful impact of Bt genes.
India is the centre of origin of various crops and has a wide diversity in those crops. So the country should not genetically modify such crops. This approach is taken by several countries, including China, as it has not permitted GM soybean since it’s the centre of origin of the crop.

SC Technical Expert Committee recommends ‘GM Field Trials to wait till the regulatory system is improved’

The Technical Expert Committee appointed by the Supreme Court made the following recommendations.

  1. On field trials

    1. Overall recommendation for open field trials: Based on and in particular, “the examination/study of the safety dossiers, it is apparent that there are major gaps in the regulatory system. These need to be addressed before issues related to tests can be meaningfully considered. Till  such time it would not be advisable to conduct more field trials”
    2. Bt food crops: The TEC “reiterates its recommendation made in the Interim Report that there should be a moratorium on field trials for Bt in food   crops   (those   that   are   directly   used   for   food)   intended   for commercialization (not research) until there is more definitive information from sufficient number of studies as to the long term safety of Bt in food crops”.
    3. Herbicide Tolerant crops: The TEC finds them completely unsuitable in the Indian context and recommends that field trials and release of HT crops ‘   not be allowed in India.”
    4. Crops in their Centre of Origin or Diversity: The TEC therefore recommends that release of GM crops for which India is a centre of origin or diversity should not be allowed”
    1. 1.      Other recommendations and TOR a &b: Nature and sequencing of risk assessment and point of release for Open Field Trials  (pg 79-83):
    • to introduce a consultation step to start with, ideally prior to the GM product intended for field trials having been developed” , encompassing  the scope of issues that need to be addressed, relating to health and environmental safety — on a  “case-wise basis keeping in mind the overall phases of risk assessment: hazard identification; hazard characterization; exposure assessment; risk characterization; and mitigation options.   Need, socioeconomic factors, and sustainability should also be considered and thoroughly discussed at this stage with involvement of all the stakeholders”.
    • “There is a need to include chronic and trans-generational toxicity testing in feeding studies of rodents based on the fact that food is consumed over the entire lifetime and that nutritional stress can also lead to adverse or unintended effects over long-term exposure. The sensitive stages of reproduction also need to be included.
    • The regulatory process should be open to new scientific information that may have a bearing on the risk assessment, if necessary even after deregulation of an event.
    • The applicant is responsible for providing to the regulator, all information that has a bearing on the risk assessment, regardless of whether it was obtained for the purpose of the risk assessment.
    • Stakeholder participation, need, socioeconomic considerations, societal impact, and sustainability should be some of the dimensions to be incorporated in the risk assessment and this should be done at an early stage in the risk assessment process”.
    • The TEC noted that Post Release Monitoring (PRM) is also an important aspect of environmental safety as well as health safety (if the plant is consumed as food) and this has not received adequate attention in the regulatory system (1R: p3, 9) or in practice.

Coalition for GM free India Congratulates Indian Govt for stopping the approval of GM crop Field Trials

#GMFieldTrails #GMFreeIndia
Coalition for GM free India Congratulates Indian Govt for stopping the approval of GM crop Field Trials.
Urges it to keep our food and farming free of GMOs

The Coalition for a GM Free India today congratulated the Central govt on responding to the growing scientific evidence and opposition fromstate governments against Genetically Modified (GM) crops and putting a hold on all open field trials approved in March, 2013. According tomedia reports the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to reverse the permissions given by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) in March, 2013, given that there is a case in the Supreme Court on the matter and there is a need for widespread deliberations on a matter of such significance.

Reacting to the this new development Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM free India said, “It is heartening to see that theMinistry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) and the Union Government are finally being responsible to science and responsive to the citizensin the matter of open air experiments of risky GM crops.” He further stated, “One hopes that the government will not be arm twisted to permitopen environmental releases/field trials of GM crops by the powerful biotech seed industry and their promoters within the government”.

Earlier this week GEAC had put out the minutes of March 22nd meeting in the public domain after a delay of almost 2 months . The minutesshowed that the 16 member GEAC has given approvals for almost all the applications that they had received on field trials of GM crops. Thisincludes GM varieties of rice, wheat, maize, cotton and castor. There were 25 applications which included majority of which were forextension of the approvals given last year, and which couldn’t be conducted due to State governments denying permission or refusing to giveNOC for field trials in the respective states. One of the permissions pertained to RoundUp Ready Wheat by Mahyco, with the American seedgiant Monsanto’s proprietary technology.

RR wheat and Monsanto has been embroiled in the latest GM contamination scandal in USA, where RR wheat from field trials done yearsago was found in a farmer’s field in Oregon State. While Monsanto and USDA, which gave permissions for these trials, are still unable to findthe reasons for this contamination, American farmers have been severely impacted with Japan, South Korea, Philippines and the EuropeanUnion banning or restricting imports of wheat owing to threat of GM contamination. A similar contamination had rocked the US in 2006 whenfield trials of herbicide tolerant GM rice, LL rice, of Bayer, had ended up contaminating the rice supply chain. Bayer Crop Science had tofinally settle a class action suit filed by affected farmers for 750 million US dollars. Interestingly the LL rice of Bayer has also been approvedfor field trials by GEAC in the last meeting.

“It is shocking that even after repeated lessons on how field trials can lead to contamination of our food and seed supply GEAC is mindlesslygiving approvals for field trials left right and centre. This, despite published evidence on the impacts of GM crops on human health, ourbiodiversity and farmers livelihoods and repeated statements by state governments denying permission for such open field trials” said ArunaRodrigues, one of the petitioners of the PIL on stopping all environmental releases/field trials of GM crops. The Union of India is therespondent in the case. She further stated that “GEAC seems to be in a hurry to permit field trials disregarding the fact that the SupremeCourt is slated to hear on the final report by the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) it has set up to look into this matter”.

The Technical Expert Committee (TEC) comprising of experts from the fields of molecular biology, toxicology, biodiversity, nutrition scienceetc was set up by Supreme Court., In October 2012, it submitted its interim report highlighting the potential impacts of GM crops and theinadequacy of the existing regulatory system to assess the impacts of GM crops to human health, environment and socio-economic aspectsand to safely conduct field trials. It has recommended a total revamping of the system, pointing to the potential impacts to agro biodiversity,which is critical for further development of crops. It has also recommended against genetic modification of crops like rice for which India is acentre of origin. Besides this, it has also reccomended a 10 year moratorium on any open release/field trials of Bt crops and a moratorium onherbicide tolerant HT crops until an independent assessment is done on its impacts on human health, environment and farm livelihoods.

Hundreds of scientists, atleast 20 farmer Unions and more than 500 public-interest organisations had sent letters to the Supreme Courtendorsing the recommendations of the TEC’s interim report.

The Coalition for a GM free India hails this decision by the MoEF to withhold the permissions for field trials across the country. It further requested that the MoEF should inform respective state govt. about its decision. The State Governments should stop giving permissions in the state & if permitted, they should inform project proponents to stop field trials with immediate effect.

The Coalition for a GM free India also urges the Union government not to bow to pressures from multinational seed corporations and stand bythe interests of the citizens of the country. Reiterating the demand to keep our food and farming free from GM crops, it also urged thegovernment to drop the BRAI Bill and instead bring in a regulatory system that would safeguard biosafety from the introduction of riskytechnologies like GM crops.

For more information

Sridhar Radhakrishnan (09995358205)

Kavitha Kuruganthi (09393001550)

Coalition for a GM-Free India is a broad national network of organizations, scientists, farmer unions, consumer groups and individuals committed to keep the food andfarms in India free of Genetically Modified Organisms and to protecting India’s food security and sovereignty.

Coalition for a GM-free India

A-124/6, First Floor, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi 110 016, Phone/Fax: 011-26517814

Website: www.indiagminfo.org, email : indiagmfree@gmail.com, Follow us on Facebook page – GM Watch India

GM crops in India at various stages of regulatory field evaluations as of 2012

                                (8 traits; 17 crops; 32 institutions)

Traits

 

Crops, Year(s) of approval and Product developers*

(*see the names of the product developers below by looking at the nos. in parenthesis)

Insect resistance

 

Brinjal/Eggplant – 2006, 2007 to 2010 (4,9,14,21,23,28,30);

Cabbage – 2006, 2009  (12,14); Castor – 2006, 2011 (19);

Cauliflower – 2006, 2008 (12,14) ; Chickpea – 2009 (25);

Corn /Maize – 2006, 2010 (10,15); Cotton – 2008 to 2012 (3,5,7,8,11,16);

Okra – 2006,2007(9); Rice- 2006, 2007 to 2011 (3,6,9,11,21,28);

Sorghum – 2009,2011 (20); Sugarcane – 2010 (27);

Tomato – 2006,2010 (9,23)

Virus resistance

 

Groundnut – 2006, 2009-2010 (24); Papaya – 2010 (22);

Potato – 2006, 2009 (17); Tomato – 2006,2010 (21,22);

Watermelon – 2010 (22)

Herbicide tolerance Corn/Maize – 2012 (10); Cotton – 2010, 2012 (3, 9)
Herbicide tole. &

Insect resis. stacked

Corn/Maize – 2008 to 2011 (10,13,15) ;

Cotton – 2008-2009, 2011-2012 (3,9,10,13,15) ; Rice – 2010 (3)

Drought tolerance Chickpea – 2009 (24); Groundnut – 2009 to 2012 (24);

Mustard – 2010 (25); Rice – 2011 (32); Sorghum – 2010 (18)

Yield enhancement Rice – 2011 (2)
Delayed ripening Tomato – 2006,2008,2010 (1,21,25)
Male sterile, female inbred lines Mustard – 2010-2011 (31) ; Rice – 2010-2011 (6)
Compiled by: Manjunath,T.M. (2012); Data source: http://igmoris.nic.in/field_trials.asp(refer to this website for details on genes/events).


Product developers:
Private companies: 
1. Avesthagen Ltd., 2. BASF India Ltd., 3. Bayer Bioscience Pvt Ltd., 4. Bejo Sheetal Seeds, 5. Dow Agrosciences India Pvt Ltd., 6. E. I. Dupont India Pvt. Ltd., 7. J. K. Agri Genetics, 8. Krishidhan Seeds, 9. Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Co. Ltd. (MAHYCO), 10. Monsanto India Ltd., 11. Metahelix Life Sciences Pvt Ltd., 12. Nunhems India Pvt Ltd., 13. Pioneer Overseas Corporation, 14. Sungro Seeds Pvt Ltd., 15. Syngenta Biosciences Pvt Ltd.,
Public Institutions: 
16. Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur; 17. Central Potato Research Institute, Shimla; 18. Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, Hyderabad; 19. Directorate of Oil Seeds Research, Hyderabad;  20. Directorate of Sorghum Research, Hyderabad; 21. Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi;  22. Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bengaluru; 23. Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Varanasi;  24. International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad; 25. National Research Center for Plant Biotechnology, New Delhi; 26. Rubber Research Institute of India, Kottayam; 27. Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Coimbatore/Lucknow; 28. Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore; 29. University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore; 30. University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad; 31. University of Delhi – South Campus, New Delhi; 32. University of Calcutta, Kolkata, 

Products in pipeline:

Of the 17 crops listed in the table, only brinjal or eggplant (Solanum melongena) incorporated with the lepidopteron specific Btgene, cry1Ac, for controlling the Fruit-and-Shoot Borer, Leucinodus orbonalis,  has undergone all the biosafety and agronomic tests between 2000 and 2008 as originally prescribed by the regulatory committees. The Bt gene was introduced into brinjal hybrids by Mahyco and into local varieties by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and University of Agricultural Sciences (Dharwad) and these were recommended by GEAC as safe and beneficial for commercial approval in 2009.  However, the then Minister of Environment & Forests, after the controversial public consultations and apparently under tremendous pressure from certain activist groups, announced a moratorium in February 2010, saying it has to undergo some more safety tests without specifying them. As of now, the moratorium is still in force. Thus, Bt-brinjal is foremost among the crops awaiting final approval. While Bt-rice and Bt-okra, both developed by Mahyco, have undergone Multi-Location Research Trials (MLRT), all other crops with various traits are in the first or second year of Biosafety Research Level-1(BRL-1). The biosafety data of approved genes/events as well as of new genes/events under regulatory evaluation are available at: http://igmoris.nic.in/major_developments.aspThese are the products in pipeline, but considering the prevailing regulatory uncertainty in the country, it is difficult to forecast when these will be approved.

Dr. T. M. Manjunath
Consultant in Agri-biotechnology & Integrated Pest Management
“SUMA”, #174, G – Block, 9th Cross,
Sahakaranagar
Bengaluru 560092,
India

Email: Manjunathtm (at) gmail.com

All field trials to be stopped, unless conditions met: SC Technical Expert Committee submits interim report

“10-year Moratorium on field trials of Bt food crops, Moratorium on field trials of Herbicide Tolerant crops (till independent assessment of impact and suitability) and Ban on field trials of GM crops for which India is Centre of Origin/Diversity”

In an Interim Report signed off on 7th October 2012 (D.No.1944/2005/SC/PIL in the Assistant Registrar PIL (WRIT)’s office, dated 17th October 2012), a 5-member Technical Expert Committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court of India in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 260 of 2005, with Aruna Rodrigues and others as the petitioners in a PIL pertaining to GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), unanimously presented its view that all field trials should be stopped until the following conditions have been met:

i) Specific sites for conducting field trials have been designated and certified and sufficient mechanisms for monitoring the trials put in place.
ii) A panel of scientists, qualified in evaluation of the biosafety data of GM crops has been engaged for scrutiny and analyses of the safety data.
iii) Conflict of interest in the regulatory body has been removed (as discussed above).
iv) The requirement for preliminary biosafety tests prior to field trials including sub-chronic toxicity in small animals has been included.

Importantly, the TEC recommended the following with regard to certain classes of products:

“9. Based on the current overall status of food safety evaluation of Bt transgenics including the data on Bt cotton and Bt brinjal examined by the TEAC and in accordance with the precautionary principle, the TEC recommends a ten year moratorium on field trials of Bt transgenics in all food crops (those used directly for human consumption).

10. In view of the concerns bearing on health, environmental and socio-economic considerations, the TEC recommends a moratorium on field trials of herbicide tolerant (HT) crops until an independent committee comprising of experts and stakeholders has examined and assessed the potential impact of HT technology and its suitability in the Indian context.

11. India is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol which recognises the crucial importance of biodiversity as a long term resource. The TEC accordingly recommends a ban on field trials of transgenics in those crops for which India is a centre of origin or a centre of diversity, as transgenics can contaminate and adversely affect the biodiversity.”

The TEC specifically recommended for a re-examination of all biosafety data for applications in process as well as those that have been approved for release by scientists who are qualified in biosafety science and experienced in evaluation of biosafety dossiers for transgenic plants. Citing its rationale as “given the findings of the TEC that there have been several cases of ignoring problematic aspects of the data in the safety dossiers”, the Committee recommended that the re-examination, “if necessary, be done by international experts who have the necessary experience”.

It also recommended long term and inter-generational studies in rodents to be added to the tests and performed for all products whether already approved or yet to be approved.

Further, “acute and sub-chronic feeding studies for all applications including those in progress should be completed before BRLI, as also molecular analysis and allergenicity tests. If these studies indicate potential risks of any kind, the GM event should be rejected outright to save time, resources and contamination”, the report said.

“Genome-wide expression analysis in the toxicity studies of the test organism (eg. rodent) that is being exposed helps to identify changes in biomarkers that are indicative of toxicity. This is an important test to be included as biomarkers are sensitive indicators and are capable of revealing changes before visible symptoms appear” read specific recommendation 4 of the TEC.

For BRLI and BRL II trials, ‘the regulator needs to designate and certify a defined number of sites in different parts of the country. All field trials should be carried out only at these sites. These sites should be used only for growing GM plants and not the non-GM material. Trials should not be conducted in farmers’ fields. This also applies to those trials for which permission may have previously been given by the regulator’, the TEC stated.

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE TECHNICAL EXPERT COMMITTEE’S INTERIM REPORT HERE. SC TEch committee report

THE SUPREME COURT ORDER SETTING UP THE TEC, ITS CONSTITUTION AND ITS TERMS OF REFERENCE CAN BE DOWNLOADED HERE.

The Coalition for a GM-Free India welcomes this interim report from the Technical Expert Committee set up by the apex court of India and awaits the Supreme Court’s hearing on the 29th of October 2012 in the matter. While earlier inquiries and debates have been discounted by GM proponents as ‘political’, or ’emotional’, or ‘non-scientific’ inquiries and recommendations/decisions, it is worth noting that the TEC consists only of scientists, including of scientists from the government as its representatives. Further, 22 of the 31 submissions studied by the TEC in their nearly 4-month-long inquiry/study were from people with scientific background.

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

GM Free Coalition urges MoEF to bar any move by the GEAC to promote field trials in various States which objected

Coalition for a GM-Free India

New Delhi, 7th May 2012

 To,

 Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan

The H’ble Minister, MoSEF (Independent Charge)

Government of India.

SUBJECT: YOUR STATEMENT IN PARLIAMENT ON 27 MARCH 2012: ‘DELAY IN NOCS FOR GM CROPS TRIALS’

Dear Madam Minister,

Greetings from the Coalition for GM-Free India.

 In your statement in the Rajya Sabha on 27 March 2012, you stated that “the GEAC has been approached by the Seed Industries, Ministry of Agriculture and Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) to reconsider its decision on the need of NOC from the State Government prior to the conduct of GM crop field trial.” Consequently, the GEAC has apparently decided to make presentations to State governments to withdraw their bans on field trials1.

 We must point out that in the present circumstances where these GMOs remain untested, this action to promote open field trials by the GEAC if carried out, would be contrary to its mandate under the EPA and consequently illegal. It forsakes the absolute requirement of independence and objectivity in a regulator, as required by law, to instead become a lobbying body to advance the cause of the biotech Industry. Furthermore, to lobby formally at the behest of the seed industry as explicitly admitted in your statement would then prove the serious charge of a blatant conflict of interest in your Regulator and particularly in the present climate of corruption may well raise serious questions.

Should such corporate influence in the decision making process lead in the future to farmers’ losses and even suicides, the consequences can be imagined. After a decade of escalating indebtedness and suicides, and the deliberate elimination of low priced non Bt seeds from the market, Bt cotton has been declared definitely unfit in rain-fed Vidharba by the Maharashtra Ministry of Agriculture. How was Bt cotton approved for rain-fed regions by the Regulators? Responsibility must be fixed for the extreme farmer distress that has followed and the record number of farmer suicides in Vidharba, because the link with Bt cotton is undeniable. This is stated and emphasised given the background that the only Biosafety Dossier prepared till date is of Bt brinjal and that has been comprehensively critiqued in several of its aspects and found to be fraudulent. The essential risk assessment protocols and key testing were not done, but were only claimed to have been done. As a result, open field trials of all crops are now clearly unsafe and contravene the EPA. In addition, surely you must also consider the reasons for the Bt brinjal moratorium and their implications for bio-safety, including the need for stringent, independent testing.

On what basis therefore, is the GEAC deciding to woo State Governments to their point of view? Given their own culpability in approving unsafe open field trials, which are also routinely in breach of biosafety rules, lacking elementary precaution leave alone rigour and oversight, it is ironic that the reasons being put forward for such an approach to State governments is their “lack of awareness on highly technical issues associated with biotechnology and biosafety measures.” Apart from being surprisingly condescending, it has to be said that on the contrary, that the States that have thus far imposed bans have done so acknowledging the uncertainties of GE technology and arising directly from this uncertainty, they thus also recognise the pivotal importance of the precautionary principle enshrined in India’s constitution and upheld in law. There is no gainsaying the fact that GMOs are a powerful, novel and unproven technology, which was commercialised a mere 20 years ago and whose impacts are irreversible. State governments are demonstrating a remarkable acuity of judgment and farsightedness in order to protect their crops and still rich seed diversity in the national interest, in marked contrast to the breach of these principles and the caution and precaution that are obligatory requirements in the apex Regulator.

With regard to the RCGM, it has to be said that this regulatory body that is essentially instructed by the DBT (in the Ministry of Science and Technology) has exhibited an appalling mind-set over the years as a blatant vendor of GM crops and has gone so far as to foster and openly promote PPP (public-private- partnerships) between our public sector agri institutions (supported by the ICAR), and the biotech Industry. By agreeing to such agreements, the former have comprehensively abandoned their mandate to India’s farmers. Their recommendation to cancel the requirement for NOCs is a serious error of judgment and self-revealing. Given that agriculture is a State subject, the decision to require NOCs by the former MoEF Shri Jairam Ramesh was in reality a formality, but a well judged and directed instruction to the GEAC. We would urge you to uphold this principle, which will send the right message of support from the Centre to State governments in their exemplary action on barring field trials.

We therefore, respectfully urge you to bar any move by the GEAC to promote field trials in various States, by mounting what would be tantamount to a road-show on behalf of Monsanto and the Industry. In the year that India is hosting the CBD, this would be a comprehensively wrong message to send out. On the other hand, we further request that the GEAC in a principled initiative halts all field trials given the current situation where a host of bio-safety issues remain unresolved.

With best wishes

Yours faithfully

Sridhar Radhakrishnan

Convener,

Coalition for a GM-Free India

email : indiagmfree@gmail.com

Ph : 09995358205

 CC:

  1. Ms Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, National Advisory Council, New Delhi

  2. Sri Basudeb Acharya MP, Chairperson, Parliamentary Standing Committee, Agriculture

  3. Sri M F Farooqui, Chairman, GEAC

  4. Prof M S Swaminathan ( Special Invitee in GEAC as per Supreme Court Order)

  5. Prof Pushpa M Bharghava ( Special Invitee in GEAC as per Supreme Court Order )

  6. Chief Ministers of all States.

  7. Agriculture Ministers of all States

Coalition for a GM-Free India is a broad national network of organizations, scientists, farmer unions and consumer groups and individuals committed to keep the food and farms in India free of Genetically Modified Organisms.

Coalition for a GM-free India

A-124/6, First Floor, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi 110 016,

Phone/Fax: 011-26517814

Rajasthan starts field test of much-criticised GM mustard

Source: Sowmya Sivakumar , DNA   |   Last Updated 03:15(02/03/12)

Jaipur: The Rajasthan government has opened the floodgates for testing genetically modified (GM) mustard by permitting field trials in the state for the current rabi season (2011-12). This is the first time the state government has issued a no-objection certificate (NoC) for testing a GM food crop, after a change in the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) norms giving states the first power of approval or refusal.

“The crop is nearing harvest,” confirmed sources at the Directorate of Rapeseed Mustard Research, Bharatpur, coordinating the trials being conducted by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), Delhi University.

Since the change in approval guidelines in July 2011, only Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat have issued NoCs to biotech firms to conduct GM crop trials while Bihar, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh are among those who have refused any field trials of GM crops.

The GEAC had given CGMCP permission for bio safety research level – 1 (BRL 1) trials of transgenic mustard (Brassica juncea) containing bar, barnase and barstar genes in its meeting held in September 2011, in six locations, including Bharatpur, Sriganganagar and Alwar, but subject to the NoC from the state.

Field trials of GM mustard have taken place in Rajasthan earlier too but these were directly approved by the (GEAC) and did not need the state’s NoC. A slew of GM food crops now await the state government’s nod for this year. Both principal secretary agriculture and commissioner, Directorate of Agriculture, government of Rajasthan were not available for comments on the issue.

“Field trials of GM crops themselves pose a danger, as it is a living and irretrievable technology and cross-pollination in crops like mustard are very high. On top of this, India has repeatedly shown inability to stringently monitor introduction of this technology as per the norms. In this light, it becomes relevant to know on what scientific basis or information has the Rajasthan government decided to issue NoC,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, national convenor, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).

“It has been our long standing demand that there shouldn’t be any open release of GM crop as there is already evidence of danger to biodiversity. States have to necessarily do a need analysis and make it public before approving such trials,” said Rajesh Krishnan, Sustainable Agriculture Manager, Greenpeace Foundation.