Enforce Strict Liability Regime To Address Damages Caused by GMOs

(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)

It is high time that India live up to the principles of the Cartagena Protocol which it has already ratified. The health and environmental hazards of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as revealed by leading independent scientists are matters of grave concern. The world leaders have admitted the situation and have adopted a global treaty called the Cartagena Protocol to address the problem. This treaty has come into force since September 11, 2003.

The Article 27 of the Cartagena Protocol calls for setting up of a global liability and redressal mechanism for damages caused on account of transboundary movement of GMOs otherwise called living modified organisms (LMOs)in the treaty. The Protocol also calls upon countries for adopting precautionary principles for addressing the likely threats of GMOs.

Setting up of a global liability regime and redressal mechanism for damages caused on account of transboundary movement of GMOs is currently under discussion. India as a party to the Protocol has called for a stringent global liability regime.

India, which is assuming leadership in several global fora on many critical issues, needs to set examples at home. It should not only adopt precautionary principles to meet the threats of GMOs but also adopt a stringent liability regime to address the damages caused on account of GMOs.

So far India has approved only one GM crop – Bt Cotton – for commercial cultivation. Cultivation of Bt cotton has invited a host of problems. The assurances given by Monsanto and Mahyco have failed and farmers are facing heavy losses on account of cultivation of Bt Cotton.

The incidences of suicides among farmers have increased since the introduction of Bt cotton. Bt cotton has attracted new pests like mealy bugs. As bollworms and insects became resistant to the single transgene Bt cotton, Monsanto and Mahyco introduced stacked genes Bt cotton and even this new product has failed to give the desired results.

Sheep and goats grazing over Bt cotton fields faced death. This proves the health hazards and poisonous effects of Bt genes. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) instead of expressing concerns over these incidents are pushing for approval several GM food crops in the pipeline at the instance of seed multinationals like Monsanto. It has given approval to Bt brinjal without conducting adequate biosafety tests.

The government needs to wake up and enforce precautionary principles to meet the threats of GMOs and put in place a stringent liability regime to book the culprits like Monsanto and other GM seed companies to pay for the damages caused to the farmers and the nation.

We should learn from the Bhopal Gas tragedy how severe the consequences can be if we are not vigilant and do not adopt any precaution. Bt cotton has already caused damages. Let us wake up and prevent the damages likely to be caused by other GM crops



(Editorial : Kisan Ki Awaaz Magazine)