India’s Union government is planning to table the BRAI bill in the current winter session of parliament.
*“Given that there is growing scientific evidence against the safety of genetically modified (GM) crops to our health, it is unfortunate that the government is pushing to introduce the BRAI Bill that promotes the controversial GM technology which is a threat to the safety of our food,”* said Beej Bachao Andolan. Mr Ajay Mahajan pointed out that this Bill is introduced by the Ministry of Science and Technology, and there is a contradiction as promoters cannot be regulators!
The controversial BRAI Bill has been under public scrutiny and there has been widespread opposition to the Bill even when it was due to be tabled in the Monsoon Session of Parliament this year. There has been opposition from the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) towards this Bill as it overrides the Right to Information Act (2005) and bypasses citizen’s right to know and participate. Also, there has been formal opposition from MPs against this Bill.
*“Despite opposition from various quarters, the government is adamant in tabling the BRAI Bill. This shows a blatant nexus between Multinational Seed companies who are pushing their GM crops in India and our government institutions,”* said Vijay Pratap, social activist.
*“The BRAI Bill is anti-life,”* said Sudhir Gandotra from the Humanist Party, who also added that the Union government is not listening to the public and joining hands with the industry by pushing this Bill in Parliament.
The role of law in biosafety is critical. But if the law itself promotes the use and application of an untested or insufficiently tested technology, then not only the text of the Bill but the very law-making process needs to be suspected.
At a time when the issue of corruption in government decision-making is centrestage, the BRAI Bill is another such example. Not only national but international law is being either distorted or disregarded. For instance, the country which is seen as the pioneer of agricultural biotechnology – the USA – is neither a member to the Convention on Biological Diversity, nor does it subscribe to the Convention Protocols on Biosafety or Liability and Redress.
*“Before India hosts the next round of meetings on these international protocols in October 2012, a clear ‘no entry’ signal must go out to such non-parties, their technology, and its GM peddlers,”* says Mr Gandotra.
Delhi-based legal researcher Shalini Bhutani says India needs a regulatory authority that keeps a tight watch on those promoting GM in food and farming – not on those asking for the safety of India’s wonderful biodiversity and its people’s longstanding way of agriculture. Even the public sector which is now a key player in GM agriculture research needs to be regulated, not just the private corporations.
The Delhi Alliance for Safe Food is sending a strong message to the government through this conference to withdraw the BRAI Bill, which is seen as a threat to India’s food, health and environment. Instead, model State-level laws that factor in the specific local settings need to be developed.
The suggestions is given for live test-runs without any large scale field tests. A system in which you go to the next step only if all the results of the first level are made open. Such a trial period of the regulatory system can run parallel to an independent assessment of the technology and its social, ecological and political implications. Meanwhile, people’s own agricultural know-how and their diverse food systems need to be given legal and policy support. This will also address the food security and farmer sovereignty concerns that the nation is facing.