CSA-India: Farmers Unions & Consumer Organisations demand action on GM crop trials Print E-mail


PRESS RELEASE

“GEAC, Act immediately to protect India’s biosafety”

Hyderabad, May 1, 2006: Prominent farmers’ unions and NGOs working on environmental and sustainable agriculture issues have written to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC] to act immediately to protect India’s biosafety from GM technology in agriculture. The GEAC, which has received complaints nearly four months ago on serious irregularities in field trials of GM crops including GM food crops [Bt Rice, Bt Brinjal, Bt Okra etc.], has failed to investigate the matter properly and fix accountability so far. Meanwhile, the Department of Biotechnology as well as the GEAC are giving more and more permissions for trials in farmers’ fields. The next GEAC meeting,  as per  schedule, is supposed to take place on 10th May 2006.
 
Writing to the Chairperson of GEAC Mr Bir Singh Parsheera, unions like the Bhartiya Kisan Union, Shetkari Sangathan, Karnataka Rajya Rytha Sangha, Andha Pradesh Rythu Sangam etc., pointed out that despite repeated evidence put in front of it, the GEAC is yet to do anything concrete to protect India’s biosafety in this regard. Consumer Coordination Council, a federation of more than 60 consumer organisations, also lent its voice to the demands put to the GEAC, expressing concern about the food and feed chain getting contaminated in the country through these trials.
 
India continues to approve more and more GM crops either for research in farmers’ fields or for commercial cultivation [more hybrids of GM cotton were recently approved by the GEAC] without ensuring that the most basic institutional mechanisms [like the State Biotechnology Coordination Councils or the District Level Committees] are in place. This is a clear violation of the Environment Protection Act. In 2005, numerous trials of brinjal, cauliflower, cabbage, corn, groundnut, mustard, okra, pigeonpea, rice and tomato belonging to 17 different agencies were allowed by Department of Biotechnology for trials in open field conditions despite the fact that inadequate biosafety regime and improper monitoring are being showcased again and again, right from 1998.
 
The signatories to the letter, including Mr Devinder Sharma, noted agriculture policy analyst, Greenpeace India, Thanal, Sunray Harvesters and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture demanded that liability be fixed for all biosafety violations witnessed so far. They further demanded that no new approvals be provided for any field trials of GM crops until India’s biosafety regime is completely re-looked at. This should include the permissions provided by the Department of Biotechnology for trials in farmers’ fields, often without the involvement of state governments and with lax or even absent monitoring. There are many cases where the farmer is not even aware of what is being tried out in his/her field and there is routine contamination of the food/feed chain from such trials of untested and uncleared products. India is just one step away from serious, irreversible contamination from such trials.
 
For more information, contact:
 
Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at (0)9393001550 or
 
If you would like to contact the GEAC Chairperson on this subject, the contact  phone is: and phone: 011-24361308