BRAI bill though listed for tabling in the last Monsoon session of the parliament, was not introduced due to various reasons. The Bill had seen wide opposition from various stakeholders since 2010 when a leaked version of it became public. The government is expected to introduce it in the upcoming winter session starting on the 22nd of November.
Setting the context for the consultation, Rajesh Krishnan, sustainable agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace India, said that “BRAI seems to be the latest and most dangerous effort by the Central Government. As concerned citizens we decided to do this public consultation as our government has absolved itself of its responsibility this time. ”
The public consultation on Bt Brinjal, the first GM food crop to have reached commercial approval, saw a wide section of the society opposing it due to potential threat to health, environment and sustainability of our farm livelihoods. This resulted in it being put under an indefinite moratorium and also acceptance on the government’s side of the inadequacies in our regulatory system to assess risks associated with GM crops.
Speaking at the consultation, Pushpa Bhargava eminent Molecular biologist and Supreme court nominee to Genetic Engineering Approval committee [GEAC], the nodal agency for environmental releases of GM crops in the existing regulatory regime, said that “the proposed regulatory regime is a sham as it neither addresses the inadequacies that the current regulatory system has when it comes to establishing biosafety of GM crops nor is it based on sound scientific principles.”
“The bill will form an easy single-window clearance system for the approval of GE crops and field trials across the country” stated Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor of Coalition for a GM Free India, while presenting the coalition's critique of BRAI. He further questioned the intention of the government behind this bill and opined that with the authority being located within the ministry of Science and Technology, which has a mandate for promoting GM crops, reeks a conflict of interest and will foster corruption because of the regulator- Biotech seed industry nexus.
The Public consultation saw a consensus on the undemocratic fashion in which the proposed bill overrides public right to information and public participation in decision making when it comes to GM crops. Speaking in the second session of the day pertaining to the subject, Nikhil Dey of National Campaign For Public Right to Information pointed out that “BRAI represents the dangerous trend in legislation making of overriding the Right to Information Act 2005, which is a cornerstone of transparency in governance”. He also stated that citizens of the country should have a right to know about the safety of GM crops which the current BRAI proposal denies.
The highlight of the day was also the legal critique of the proposed BRAI by renowned Environmental lawyer Ritwik Dutta of Legal Initiative for Forests and Environment (LIFE). In his presentation he laid out the inconsistencies of the bill with the International treaties like CBD and Cartegena protocol, evoking the very need of a regulation for products of modern biotechnology and opined that the legislation draft is fundamentally flawed.
The day also saw representatives from stakeholders like Yudhvir Singh of Bharat Kisan Union, Jasbir Chadda from the confederation of Delhi Resident Welfare Associations [URJA], Biodiversity experts like Shalini Bhutani, Ajay Mahajan of Delhi Alliance for Safe food etc. pointing out the multiple flaws in the current BRAI draft making it a dangerous piece of legislation having wide impact on current and future food safety and security of farming in the country.
The Public consultation ended with a unanimous demand to the Prime Minister to scrap the BRAI 2011 Bill immediately as it completely overlooks biosafety, imperils our environment and threatens our socio-economic fabric. They also urged the government to table a legislation to protect and enhance biosafety and to ensure democratic processes are adhered to when dealing with issues as important as food and farming in our country.
Rajesh Krishnan, Sustainable Agriculture Campaign, Greenpeace India
Mob: +91-984 565 0032 email:
Pari Trivedi, Media Officer, Greenpeace India
Mob: +91-750 389 3981 email:
Ajay Mahajan, Vividhara and Delhi Alliance for Safe Food.
Mob: +91-989 128 2118 email:
Notes to the Editor:
Link to BRAI bill:
Link critique of BRAI: