New Delhi, October 10, 2012: It is unfortunate that while proposing a balanced perspective, the SAC ends up parroting the falsehoods propagated by the promoters of GM crops and fails to have a scientific approach towards it. 1
The SAC without checking facts are talking about increased uptake of GM crops across the world and relies on much maligned industry figures to do so. It repeats the same mistake in the case of Bt cotton as well2. This after it has been proven with facts and figures that Bt cotton is not that big a success as it is made out to be3. It is a shame that a scientific body of this stature limits itself to the canvassing of one technology and fails entirely in looking at the larger problems in food, farming and welfare of the citizens comprehensively. If it was done in that manner they would have realised that the way forward lies in ecological farming which is socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. Infact pioneering international scientific initiatives like the UN sponsored International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), which was an assessment of all agricultural technologies and practices in the last 50 years by 900 experts across the world has come to the conclusion that “Policies that promote sustainable agricultural practices stimulate more technology innovation, such as agro-ecological approaches and organic farming to alleviate poverty and improve food security.” 4
It is also unfortunate that the council laments at the disillusionment of the few scientists involved in transgenics while completely overlooking at the severe distress of the millions of farmers which this technology fails to solve. It is high time that the scientific and policy circles in our country acknowledge that techno fixes cannot solve India's current hunger and agrarian distress issues. Infact mindless promotion of technologies and economic policies have created the distress at the first place.
It is also important to note that the Parliamentary Standing Committee comprising of 31 Members of Parliament across party lines had recently submitted their comprehensive report on GM crops and has recommended the government against any haste in the approval of GM crops. After going through a wide ranging consultative process of hearing all the stakeholders across the country and visiting many places including Vidarbha where they held a public consultation for farmers; the Committee has concluded that GM crops are neither the silver bullet for solving our agrarian crisis, nor would they play a significant role in ensuring food security. The committee also highlighted the fact that evidence based concerns on the negative impacts of GM crops to human health, biodiversity and seed sovereignty exists and cannot be brushed away. Given the potential of GM crops to contaminate, the Committee had strongly recommended that open 'field trials under any garb' should not be conducted. 5
One of the most important recommendations of the Committee was on the recasting of the regulatory system on GMOs. Given the potential negative impacts of GM crops and the failure of the existing regulatory system and the proposed one, BRAI, to ensure a science based risk assessment approach of GMOs taking also into consideration the socioeconomic and cultural realities of our country, the committee has recommended an all-encompassing Biosafety Protection Authority through an act of Parliament, which is extensively discussed and debated amongst all stakeholders before acquiring shape of the law.
Greenpeace demands that the government of India should stop pushing around such fundamentally flawed legislations like BRAI and instead come up with a Biosafety protection regime whose main mandate will be to safeguard the health of the citizens, the environment while keeping in mind our socio-economic and cultural realities. This should be created through comprehensive and democratic pre-legislative consultations. In the meantime, any open releases, including open air field trials, of GM crops should not be permitted.
Notes to the Editor :-
ISAAA is a global organisation funded by agri biotech Industry and the GM crop global area figures have been proven to be based on faulty methodology www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/who_benefits_from_gm_crops.pdf