February 9, marks the third anniversary since Jairam Ramesh, the then Minister of Environment and Forests declared a moratorium on Bt brinjal, the first genetically modified food crop, which was considered for commercial cultivation in the India. Following a series of public consultations, and submissions made by academics, economists, environmentalists, farmers, civil society groups and citizens alike, the Minister declared that the moratorium decision is “responsible to science and responsive to society.”
“We are here to celebrate the safety of our food and thank Mr. Ramesh for ensuring that our food is not contaminated with GMOs”said Bapi Mahanta , a software engineer and Greenpeace volunteer in Bangalore , while engaging with the public. He further ascertained that availability of safe food free from GM or agrochemical contamination is the right of every Indian citizen.
The last three years has seen growing scientific evidence and public outcry against GM crops, the latest being an independent review released by Greenpeace of the safety assessment of Monsanto's GM corn that leads the regulatory pipeline for commercial approvals. 1 At the same time, the Central Government seems to be pushing forward with GM crops. There were efforts from the government to bring in a weaker regulatory law, the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India bill, to circumvent all opposition and act as a single-window clearance for genetically modified organisms across the board. But this has been stalled due to opposition both inside and outside the Parliament.
Last year saw the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in a report, unanimously agreed to by all party members, asking the govt to avoid any haste in embracing GM technology in agriculture. 2 Besides pointing at the various risks that GM crops could pose to the health of our citizens, biodiversity and farm livelihoods, it also asserted that there is a need for an all encompassing Bio-safety Authority through an Act of the Parliament, which is extensively discussed and debated amongst all stakeholders before acquiring shape of the law. The Committee also recommended an immediate stopping of all open releases of GM food crops including those in the name of field trials.
More recently, the Supreme Court's appointed Technical Expert Committee comprising eminent scientists in the fields of toxicology, molecular biology, nutrition science and biodiversity in its interim report highlighted the potential impact of GM crops on human health, biodiversity and our socio-economic conditions, recommended a precautionary approach towards the adoption of GM crops, including those being released for open field trials. Hundreds Indian Scientists have also send a letter to the Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of Environment and Forests, under who comes the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the nodal agency for environmental releases of GMO, endorsing the report of TEC and giving evidences on how GM crops are a threat to our food security. This is also as a response to the Central Government's affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that GM crops are necessary to obtain food security. 3
“It is preposterous that despite recommendations by both the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture and Supreme Court's TEC to adopt an extremely precautionary approach, and consider alternatives, the Government seems keen to jump on the GM bandwagon. So even as we celebrate another year of GM-free food, we urge that the Government to look beyond such risky technologies like GM crops and go for real alternatives like ecological farming, which are socially, economically and ecologically sustainable,” said Neha Saigal, Campaigner for Sustainable Agriculture, Greenpeace India, at the occasion.
Diverse groups from across the country are celebrating the day as National Safe Food Day, and demanding that Jayanthi Natarajan ensure there are no open releases of GMOs in the country, including open field trials.
Notes to the Editor
- The Review of GM Corn Biosfety data can be accessed at: http://www.greenpeace.org/india/en/news/Monsantos-GM-corn-biosafety-data-raises-serious-questions/
- The Parliamentary Standing Committee had tabled its report on the August 9, 2012 and the entire report can be accessed at http://18.104.22.168/committee/committee_informations.aspx
For more info contact:
Neha Saigal, Campaigner, Sustainable Agriculture, Greenpeace India, Mob: +91 776 096 8772 email:
Pari Trivedi, Media Officer, Greenpeace India Mob: +91 750 389 3981, email: