DECLARATION OF 3RD KISAN SWARAJ SAMMELAN
Tracking Hunger and Malnutrition for
Food and Nutritional Security
A Policy Consultation
No Public Debate on the Proposed BRAI Bill May Introduce Genetically Modified Foods in India: Says Mumbai Grahak Panchayat & ASHA
The Proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill may be introduced in the Parliament in the current session as per the President’s opening address to Parliament. Bt Brinjal, the first GM food crops containing a toxin was vigorously opposed by consumer and farmers last year. Scientists, farmers and consumers from across the nation had highlighted potentially adverse impacts on health of humans, livestocks, beneficial wild species, agriculture and national food sovereignty. The Ministry of Environment accepted the Precautionary Principle in placing a moratorium. There are now moves from the Depart of Science & Technology to introduce a bill to take over the appraisal function from the Ministry of Environment.
The Mumbai Grahak Panchayat with over 22,000 members and Alliance the for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) an alliance of over 300 farmer and consumer organisations from across India are concerned that the proposed bill maybe hastily passed without public debate and public discussion of its implications and thereby consumers may be faced with a situation where genetically modified food arrives on their plate without knowledge or informed consent.
Genetically modified food uses technology to transfer genes in a manner that does not occur in nature. For instance, it may involve transfer of genes from one species to a completely different species, Doctors, scientists, geneticist, nobel laureates and reputed orgs abroad have warned that such genetic transfer could be unsafe for human consumption as no long term studies have yet been done on humans, and only short terms studies have been done on animals. Studies have shown that chicken fed GM corn died at twice the rate of those fed natural corn, the infant mortality of rats fed on GM Soy diet reached 55.3% compared to 10% for rats fed on Non-Gm soy and thick hair growth was found in the mouth of hamsters. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine also warned of “infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system”. In India, 1 out of 4 sheep grazing continuously on Bt Cotton plants died within seven days and Bt toxin was suspected to be the cause.
Concerns about the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill:
Consumers are concerned that the Bill is being kept secret and may be passed without public debate. Consumers right of choice to refuse GM food will be completely negated if a GM food is approved as being “substantially equivalent” i.e. no different from its non-GM counterpart so that labelling is avoided. In any case, unlike Europe, UK, etc, where GM food is either banned or placed under severe labelling and punitive clauses, most food in India are not packaged and therefore cannot be labelled, the enforcement machinery is weak or non-existent. Transnational There are presently 55 crops being proposed for GM clearance such as rice, maize, tomato, banana, brinjal, potato, cauliflower, oilseeds, castor, soyabean, sugarcane, sorghum, pigeonpea, chickpea and other medicinal plants.
Farmers are concerned that once GM seeds are approved for release their traditional access to seed will be wiped out. In cotton growing areas after the introduction of Bt Cotton farmers can only buy Bt Cotton seeds at over Rs. 1500 per Kg as traders do not stock earlier varieties which cost only around Rs. 100 per kg. Organic cotton growers have had consignments rejected because of inadvertent contamination from Bt Cotton. The Vidarbha Jan Andolan has complained that farmer suicides have doubled in Vidarbha after the introduction of Bt cotton. Pesticide use does not decrease, but remains the same or increases due to the adaptations by the targeted pests, rise of secondary pests and destruction of beneficial insects. They fear the growth of super weeds through unintended transfer of genes to weeds that cannot thereafter be destroyed.
Former Supreme Court Judge and President of the National Consumers Redressal Forum supports consumer and farmer apprehensions on GM clearances:
A letter from Justice M. B. Shah Former Supreme Court Judge and President of the National Consumers Redressal Forum supports consumer was read out at functions on World Consumer Day and the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat and ASHA fully endorsed his concern that GM crops must only be permitted if the Government can ensure that GM is not a hazard to health, that no Indian consumer unwittingly consumes GM food and that farmers who do not wish to have inadvertent contamination of their crops by GM traits carried by pollination by wind, insects, etc are protected from it.
Released in the public interest by The LEAF Initiative, a citizen’s group concerned with Livelihood, Environment, Agriculture and Food.
LAND BILL 2011