Letter to Genetic Engineering Approval Committee

(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)

This is with regard to the Agenda Item No. 4.2 in the GEAC meeting dated 1/6/2006 which says that GEAC will consider permission for seed production and Large Scale Trials of Bt Brinjal of Mahyco hybrids in this meeting.

In this regard, we would like to bring to your notice that the GEAC is yet to act and fix liability on the various biosafety violations and irregularities brought to your notice by farmers organizations and civil society organizations, including on a Bt Brinjal limited field trial in Andhra Pradesh. While turning a blind eye to the harsh realities related to serious regulatory failures, you seem to be ready to go all out to support the industry in its profit-making endeavours.

Given that there are many studies on adverse health effects with many GM crops from all over the world, what is the assurance that the right questions have been asked in this case to arrive at the right answers with regard to the safety of these crops? We have found that Bt Cotton, which was upheld through your tests to be safe to human health [amongst other things] is indeed causing a lot of health problems amongst farm workers and ginning factory workers. Similarly, there were recent reports on the mortality of livestock after grazing on Bt Cotton.

It is not clear how GEAC is assessing such possibilities as part of its biosafety testing regime nor how is it acting at least on such reports by commissioning detailed independent investigations once these preliminary reports are out.

It would be disastrous for this country to rush into approvals just because a prescribed set of tests for a prescribed period have been completed as per some procedures laid down.

There has never been a serious public debate initiated on the adequacy of such a biosafety regime and even though there is a Supreme Court case pending precisely on this matter, the GEAC seems to be in a great hurry to approve even GM food crops like vegetable crops, for reasons that are not clear at all.

This is especially surprising in all those crops where safer, inexpensive and farmer-controlled options like IPM, NPM and Organic are in place, successfully practiced and established all over the country.

The data presented by the company on various studies done in Bt Brinjal was put up by the GEAC only on 31/5/06 and considering that this is a very important food/vegetable crop of the country, there should be at least 90 days allowed for feedback on the biosafety tests and their findings.

Secondly, the data put up is not adequate for an intelligent and scientific debate to take place since it only has findings without details of research design and protocol in each case. We demand that full reports on each test be presented and not just findings. 

We also demand that the GEAC show its accountability to the public by sharing what improvements have been made in its biosafety protocols, in its monitoring systems and it its accountability systems, before giving any more permissions for trials, given your proven inability to ensure biosafety in this country.

Here, we would like to remind you that it was during such field trials that illegal Bt Cotton and rapid contamination of the Cotton chain began in this country and GEAC could only wring its hands in helplessness. The dangerous and unscientific manner in which field trials take place in this country tell us that we are only one step away from a huge bio-disaster wreaked on Indian agriculture.

To sum up, we once again demand that the complete set of data on Bt Brinjal including the testing protocol [and not just findings] be put up to public feedback, that at least 90 days be provided for such feedback, that such feedback be taken on board with all the seriousness it deserves, that clearly-needed improvements be made in the testing regime and monitoring systems and shown to be made to the public before any permission for any more trials in the open environment are given in the country.



(Editorial : Farmers' Forum Magazine)