This blog entry was originally written by Teresa on April 20th, but due to our website migration appears to be from a different date and author.

Citizens demand arrest of Minister Prithiviraj Chavan, demand BRAI bill be withdrawn

April 20, 2010 New Delhi: The Minister for Science and Technology, Prithviraj Chavan was demanded to be arrested for establishing the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) today at the Anusandhan Bhavan Premises today.

The group of volunteers dropped a 20 feet long banner, which read “Arrest the Minister, Drop the GE food Bill” from atop the minister’s office. They demanded that the Prime Minister stop Chavan from introducing the bill and withdraw it immediately as it will force GE food on to the citizens against their right to safe food.

20/04/2010 Greenpeace volunteers with banners in front of the Anusandhan Bhawan office of the Minister of State, in the Prime Minister’s Office. They are demanding the arrest of Prithiviraj Chavan and withdrawal of the Biotech Regulatory Authority Bill - BRAI 2009. The bill establishes a regulatory system that promotes unpredictable, unsafe GE (genetically engineered) crops.

“It’s the duty of a citizen to prevent anyone from committing an act that can jeopardise the rights of the people to safe food and the country's food security. This is precisely why we as citizens are demanding a citizens’ arrest of Minister Chavan at his office today.” said Jai Krishna, campaigner, Campaigner for Sustainable Agriculture, Greenpeace India.

Bt Brinjal, the first proposed GE food crop in the country has been indefinitely put on hold by the moratorium announced by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) earlier in February. Following this, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) has proposed the BRAI bill, 2009, to replace the GEAC (under the MoEF).

The proposed central authority with three bureaucrats as the decision makers, denies the rights of the state governments to refuse GE crops. So far the governments of Kerala and Orissa, have opposed the bill as it takes away their right to regulate GE seeds in agriculture, which according to the constitution, is a state subject.

Additionally, BRAI has the authority to supersede information sought under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The bill also proposes a section that imposes penalties like imprisonment and fine of up to Rs. two lakh for persons ‘misleading’ public on GM crops.

The proposed authority will be under the MoST and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), which is a clear case of conflict of interest. DBT has a mandate to promote and fund research on GE crops and will also help in establishing the BRAI. Minister Chavan has also publicly supported GE crops and even upholding biotech industry funded reports to support GE crops.

Over the last few weeks 25,000 Indian citizens have sent petitions to the Prime Minister demanding the withdrawal of the BRAI bill in its present form. Last week, in a public survey conducted by GfK Mode, an independent market research agency, 89% of the public across six cities said that they have the right to protest or reject government decisions on GE foods. A majority (80%) of them demanded an impartial, independent government agency to test and certify GM crops and 78% wanted all information on GE food prior to the approval of GE crops.

“We need an impartial and independent agency which is democratic and transparent, and has a mandate to put people’s health, biosafety, food security and environment before corporate interests. It should promote ecological farming solutions which are more reliable than the unpredictable, unsafe, and corporate driven technologies like GE crops. We are requesting the Prime Minister to withdraw the bill as its inherently flawed and encourages a regulatory system that serves only corporate interests said, Jai Krishna, Campaigner for Sustainable Agriculture, Greenpeace India.

Greenpeace Demands

  • The BRAI bill draft should be immediately withdrawn.
  • An immediate ban on all field trials of GE crops happening across the country.
  • Agricultural research to focus on ecological alternatives, to identify agro-ecological practices that ensure future food security to the country and livelihood security to our farmers and farm labourers.

Can you make sure Minister Chavan hears from us all? Send him an email.

Picture credit: © Greenpeace