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POLICY & REGULATION: India’s regulation co-controlled by industry




                                  PART 1


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TITLE:  INDIA’S REGULATION CO-CONTROLLED BY INDUSTRY

SOURCE: GMWatch, UK

AUTHOR: Press Release, by Aruna Rodrigues; PV Satheesh; Devinder Sharma; Rajeev Baruah

URL:    http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=8142

DATE:   25.07.2007

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INDIA’S REGULATION CO-CONTROLLED BY INDUSTRY

India’s regulation co-controlled by industry (27/7/2007)

NOTE: On August 1, Aruna Rodrigues and her co-petitioners’ Public Interest Litigation could once again be back before India’s Supreme Court with the Government of India, on bahalf of the GM regulators - the GEAC - arguing for a dilution of the restrictions that the Court has already placed on GM crop trials. In the press release below, the petitioners draw attention to the open alliance between the GEAC and industry-backed GM lobbyists. In particular, they call for the sacking of the GEAC’s co-chairman.

EXTRACT: The ISAAA, the GEAC [India’s apex GM regulatory body] and the MoEF [Ministry of Environment and Forests] are openly allied... The ISAAA is the industry-backed vehicle for promoting GM crops.

The 78th Meeting of the GEAC faithfully echoes the views of the ISAAA about the implausibility of a protocol for testing for contamination at a Limit of Detection (LOD) of 0.01%. The fact that these views have no scientific backing is of little relevance, GIVEN THAT THE ISAAA IS EFFECTIVELY REPRESENTED WITHIN THE GEAC BY NO LESS THAN DR. MAYEE, THE CO-CHAIR WHOSE REMIT AS A DIRECTOR OF ISAAA IS TO PROMOTE GM CROPS.

This is exactly the role that the GEAC, as Regulator has performed in India, violating the public trust... India’s regulation is in effect being co-driven by the GM industry.

Petitioners have ’prayed’ for bio-safety data to be put in the public domain for the scrutiny of scientists and that Dr. CD Mayee and other persons who are associated with the Biotechnology industry seeking approvals from the regulatory bodies, are removed from the GEAC.

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THE G OF I IS SUBJECTING INDIANS TO THE RISKIEST & FASTEST EXPERIMENT ANYWHERE WITH REGARD TO GM FOODS AND ANIMAL FEED

PRESS RELEASE: GMOs Supreme Court PIL

GM FOOD FIELD TRIALS BY THE GEAC

”GM Crops have been proved to be toxic and cannot feed the world. It is also important to understand very clearly, that it is the parental lines used to make GM crops that deliver crop traits including higher ’yield’. The claims of the biotech GE industry about the safety of GM crops & higher yields per se, are flagrantly dishonest and are meant for the ingestion of politicians and policy-makers to provide the ammunition they need to promote GM Crops with farmers and the public. Scientists know that GM crops by threatening biodiversity kill the golden goose that nourishes its genetic manipulations” (Petitioners).

The Supreme Court of India has stated that there must be ”NO” contamination from field trials of 8 food crops and Bt cotton and has imposed the most stringent conditions of isolation distances, accountability and most critically a validated, Event-based Protocol to test for contamination of the environment and farmers’ fields to a LOD (Limit of Detection) of at least 0.01%. These protocols must be announced before the commencement of any field trial. The 9 GM crops are: BT COTTON, TRANSGENIC OKRA, CAULIFLOWER, BRINJAL, RICE, CASTOR, GROUNDNUT, TOMATO AND POTATO.

It is not surprising that the GEAC has taken a light view of these stipulations in their last 78th meeting on the 22nd June 2007, given their pro GM bias. Petitioners have therefore strenuously guarded the Court’s bio-safety safeguards in their latest Court Submission to insist that scrutiny and rigour for the letter and spirit of the ORDER are enforced. The safeguards and regulatory provisions must be demonstrated to be in place before the commencement of any field trial.

Contamination is an absolute and irreversible threat and there can be no tolerance for any slippages by the Regulator. The Court’s attention has been drawn to the fact that India is the Centre of Origin for rice and brinjal among other plants. The contamination of Mexican maize landraces (Mexico is the centre of origin for maize) exposes the magnitude of the problem of GM contamination in India. Peru, recognising the extremely serious implications of contamination has banned transgenic potato for which it is a centre of diversity, along with other native crops. Speaking of the contamination of US long grain rice, US Rice Federation Vice-President said: ”The traits are in the system, you cannot guarantee statistically that you’ll ever get rid of them”.

These facts emphasise the added grave dangers to India from field trials of rice and brinjal. Far from taking a page from Peru, the GEAC on the contrary, demonstrates recklessness in approving field trials in Chhattisgarh which is in the corridor of the centre of origin of rice, and in the rice bowls of Kerala and West Bengal and brinjal in Orissa which has over 200 varieties of brinjal. In its 75th meeting in March 2007, the GEAC, at the instance of the basmati rice exporters and the Ministry of Commerce, decided not to allow field trials of GM rice in the basmati growing areas of the country, because of the threat of contamination. The lack of logic and consistency in not applying like for like in similar situations is unscientific and dangerous.

GM Crops Are Not Regulated In India: The evidence that even after 6 years into GM crops, the Regulator has failed to comply with the most basic norms governing the release of GMOs is overwhelming. State Governments are supposed to approve field trials. They are not even informed; nor the farmers, in whose fields transgenic crops are planted. Now, the evidence that Mahyco pays for inspection of field trials by State Governments (Rs 45,000/ given to the BCKV (State Agr. Commission) in West Bengal, which was returned) demonstrates a serious irregularity that seeks to undermine the issue of probity in public life and promote bias. This clearly is in the knowledge of the Regulator as the amounts were paid by cheque

The ISAAA, the GEAC and the MoEF Are Openly Allied: The MoEF openly promotes GMOs. The Workshop on Agricultural Biotechnology was held on the 7th June 2007. The event was supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forest under the GEF-World Bank biosafety capacity building project; jointly organised by The Chandigarh Press Club, the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology, Ministry of Environment and Forest and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). The ISAAA is the industry-backed vehicle for promoting GM crops. The 78th Meeting of the GEAC faithfully echoes the views of the ISAAA about the implausibility of a protocol for testing for contamination at a Limit of Detection (LOD) of 0.01%. The fact that these views have no scientific backing is of little relevance, GIVEN THAT THE ISAAA IS EFFECTIVELY REPRESENTED WITHIN THE GEAC BY NO LESS THAN DR. MAYEE, THE CO-CHAIR WHOSE REMIT AS A DIRECTOR OF ISAAA IS TO PROMOTE GM CROPS. This is exactly the role that the GEAC, as Regulator has performed in India, violating the public trust and astoundingly, betraying the national interest and sovereign issues of food security, which critically include the necessity to protect India’s genetic wealth from plunder by the biotech GE Industry and its destruction through GMO contamination. Thus, India’s regulation is in effect being co-driven by the GM industry.

Petitioners have ’prayed’ for bio-safety data to be put in the public domain for the scrutiny of scientists and that Dr. CD Mayee and other persons who are associated with the Biotechnology industry seeking approvals from the regulatory bodies, are removed from the GEAC.

Aruna Rodrigues Co-Petitioners: PV Satheesh; Devinder Sharma; Rajeev Baruah

Dated 25thth July, 2007



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:  SC TO HEAR A PLEA ON GM FIELD TRIALS TOMORROW

SOURCE: The Hindu, India

AUTHOR: Press Trust of India

URL:    http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/001200707300341.htm

DATE:   30.07.2007

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SC TO HEAR A PLEA ON GM FIELD TRIALS TOMORROW

New Delhi, July 30 (PTI): An application has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the government to put in public domain data related to toxicity and allergenicity of nine Genetically Modified (GM) crops which are to be field-tested.

The application filed by Aruna Rodrigues and others, who are carrying out a legal battle against GM crops, has said that the government should provide a comprehensive list of the 24 varieties and hybrids that were approved between May one and September 22, last year under nine listed crops, namely Bt Cotton, transgenic okra, tomato cauliflower, brinjal, rice, castor, groundnut and potato.

The government should ensure that the State Biotechnology Coordination Committee and district level committees followed regulatory procedures before any field trials and took permission from state authorities and panchayats before every trial, the application filed through Prashant Bhushan has said.

Stating that the Centre should provide a comprehensive list of field-approved or to be approved trials with their exact locations in each district and state before starting trials, it has alleged that Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the only authority empowered to release GMOs into the environment, had taken a light view of the safeguards and regulatory mechanisms in its 78th meeting on June 22 this year.

The matter is likely to come up for hearing on Tuesday before a bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan.

The application has been moved in view of the apex court’s direction on May eight allowing field trials of GM crops, which were earlier approved by GEAC in April and May last year subject to certain conditions.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:  STATES YET TO SET UP PANEL FOR GM CROPS

SOURCE: The Times of India, India

AUTHOR: Nitin Sethi

URL:    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/States_yet_to_set_up_panel_for_GM_crops_/articleshow/2243014.cms

DATE:   30.07.2007

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STATES YET TO SET UP PANEL FOR GM CROPS

NEW DELHI: Field trials for the genetically modified (GM) varieties of eight major food crops, including rice, potato, mustard and tomato, are in the pipeline but guess how prepared India is to handle threat of contamination: 18 years after the Centre asked each state to set up a state biotechnology coordination committee (SBCC) to monitor GM crops, several key states are yet to do so.

Worse, among the defaulters are Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu which are the hotspots for trials of new GM crops. This information has come out of documents revealed through several RTI applications.

The SBCCs are empowered under the Environment Protection Act to monitor and inspect GM crop trials and can take punitive action in case of any violation. Besides, in view of possible threat of contamination of regular crops from GM crop trials and issues about safe storage, these committees are also responsible for reviewing safety and control measures in the industries and institutions handling genetically engineered organisms. In the absence of any other legal mechanism, these committees are the only monitors in what essentially becomes a state issue once the Union government approves the trials.

Among the defaulters, while some states have admitted they failed to create such committees, Kerala is unsure. While the Kerala directorate of agriculture claims the body has been set up, the science and technology department says no such body has been constituted.

The situation seems to be no better in states that can at least on paper claim to have the committees.

West Bengal constituted the SBCC only two months back, spurred by the controversy over some GM field trials in the state. In Punjab, the SBCC met for the first time only in 2005.

All these documents have been included in a petition filed before the Supreme Court as evidence of laxity in the regulations governing GM regulation in the country.

The petition has demanded that the government ensure all mandatory state-level bodies and procedures for monitoring are in place before the commencement of any field trial. It has also called for permission from the state authorities concerned.


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