"INDEPENDENT EXPERT COMMITTEE SET UP ON Bt BRINJAL"
Hyderabad & Trivandrum, September 23, 2006: Following Supreme Court's orders on Friday on the need of Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC] to induct some independent experts into its decision-making processes and on the eve of the first meeting of the so-called Expert Committee headed by Dr Deepak Penthal set up on Bt Brinjal by the GEAC, civil society groups announced the setting up of an "Independent Expert Committee" on the issue.
Contending that the constitution of the official Expert Committee was questionable and the terms of reference too narrow, Thanal (Trivandrum) and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (Hyderabad) have set up an 'Independent Expert Committee' to look into the biosafety claims by Mahyco, the civil society responses vis-à-vis the promoter's data and literature on the subject, to assess the very need for Bt Brinjal in the country and to suggest a future course of action to the government, including the GEAC.
"The official Expert Committee's constitution is questionable since there is a serious and objectionable conflict of interest in promoters of GM crops being part of the committee. Further, around half of the 'Expert Committee' consists of existing GEAC members (the constitution of which was subject to Supreme Court's observations on Friday) who can voice their opinions as part of GEAC decision-making processes in any case. It is not clear what procedures the official Expert Committee would follow in taking public feedback on board. It is in this context that we are setting up an Independent Expert Committee with members who have tremendous expertise in their respective fields and have exhibited their social commitment time and again", said Dr Ramanjaneyulu of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.
Ms Usha Jayakumar of Thanal added, "The Independent Expert Committee would not be bound by narrow terms of reference of just evaluating feedback from the public to the GEAC. They would begin by looking at Mahyco's data and claims. They would also have a broader scope of impact assessment than the GEAC's. The Committee has been set up drawing eminent experts from various relevant fields of experience and expertise. In addition, more members with expertise in their subjects and social commitment would be taken on board soon. We hope that the Independent Expert Committee and their recommendations will present to all Indians the real picture with regard to Bt Brinjal, its biosafety and issues beyond biosafety. This is a matter of informed choices for the farmers and consumers of the country which cannot be discounted by the regulators".
The Independent Expert Committee consists of: Dr K P Prabhakaran Nair: Eminent International Agricultural (Soil) Scientist with over three decades of research and developmental experience in Europe, Africa and Asia. Best known, the world over, for developing "The Nutrient Buffer Power Concept" - a revolutionary soil management technique that has thrown up the biggest challenge to unbridled chemical agriculture. Widely travelled and the only Agricultural Scientist in the world to have been invited to contribute single author chapters thrice to the magnum opus Advances in Agronomy. Formerly Professor, National Science Foundation, The Royal Society, Belgium and Senior Fellow, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, The Federal Republic of Germany.
Dr M S Chari: Eminent Entomologist. Formerly Director-Central Tobacco Research Institute [CTRI] and ex-Director-Research, Gujarat Agriculture University. Pioneer of non-chemical pest management approaches called NPM.
Prof A Narayanan: Eminent Plant Physiologist. Earlier with ICRISAT. Retired as Principal of Agricultural College, Bapatla and Prof. And University Head, Dept. of Plant Physiology. Was Emeritus Scientist-ICAR at Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Coimbatore.
Dr Ramesh Bhat: Toxicologist, Formerly Deputy Director with the Food & Drug Toxicology Research Centre, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad.
Dr D Narsimha Reddy: Retired recently as Professor of Economics and Dean, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad. His specialization includes science policy studies, Political Economy of Development and Labour Economics. He was a member of the Farmers Welfare Commission set up of AP government to look into the issue of farmers' suicides and agriculture crisis.
Dr Ghafoorunissa : Biochemist dealing with nutrition & health related issues and earlier with the National Institute of Nutrition for 37 years.
For more information, contact:
1. Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at (0) 9393001550 or
2. Usha Jayakumar, Thanal at (0) 98-463-21118 or
-- Kavitha Kuruganti Centre for Sustainable Agriculture 12-13-445, Street # 1, Tarnaka Secunderabad 500 017
New Delhi -- Monday September 25 2006
NGOs form experts’ panel on GM crops
ASHOK B SHARMA
NEW DELHI, SEPT 23: A network of over 20 NGOs and consumer groups, who are not satisfied with the way the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) is handling the proposed field trials of Bt brinjal, has set up a panel of independent scientists to review the hazards relating to this transgenic food crop.
This panel consists of KP Parabhakaran Nair, visiting fellow of the Royal Society of Belgium, MS Chari, former director of Central Tobacco Research Institute, A Narayanan, principal, agriculture college, Acharya NGR Reddy University, Ramesh Bhatt, toxicologist formerly with the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), D Narasimgha Reddy, science policy expert formally with the Hyderabad Central University and Ghafoorunish, biochemist formerly with the NIN.
Several NGOs and scientists had raised objections to the proposed field trials of Bt brinjal hybrids developed by Mahyco in collaboration with Monsanto. The GEAC, in response to these objections, set up an in-house panel headed by the Delhi University VC, Deepak Pental to review the case. “We do not have faith in this GEAC panel. We decided to set up a panel of independent experts,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Hyderabad-based Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.
The Supreme Court on last Friday, in its interim verdict, had cautioned GEAC not to approve field trials of any GM crops before the final judgement is passed in a writ filed by Aruna Rodrigues and others asking for a moratorium on GM crops. The Court has also asked GEAC to co-opt the services of independent experts.