Latest in case before India's Supreme Court (10/4/2007)

Here's the press release for the latest round in the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before India's Supreme Court.

The petitioners are Aruna Rodrigues with co-petitioners: PV Satheesh, Devinder Sharma and Rajeev Baruah.

Their concerns are now being supported by, amongst others, an 'impleadment' to the Court on behalf of 6.5 million farmers from across India. (FARMERS IMPLEAD IN THE GM PIL)



Why does the Union of India and its Regulator the GEAC & DBT, continue to ignore reports for the third consecutive year, of a suspected link with genetically engineered Bt cotton of TOXIC effects on sheep, goats, buffaloes and human beings?

What does it have to hide when it refuses to divulge 'toxicity and allergenicity' data for rice, brinjal, okra and mustard under the RTI requested by Greenpeace, citing support of the industry position of 'Confidential Business Information' (CBI), overriding the priority that must be given to public health?

The fact is that Bt crops are not judged safe by the world's leading scientists and the genetically engineered Bt toxin has a concentration 1000 times greater (than Non-GM Bt spray).

It is not entirely sane to submit India's farmlands and environment to experimentation with GM crops, when there has been no comprehensive safety testing in India or any other country. The Government's Regulator for all intents and purposes, functions as an extension of the crop developer, 'oriented' to facilitating the Industry objectives of the commercialisation of a vast array GM crops of every conceivable vegetable, oilseed and grain, not being undertaken in any other country, to the detriment of India's national interest and the sovereign issue of the protection of her biodiversity. The frivolous measures that pass for safety testing of GM crops in India represent a National emergency and it must be assumed that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet have been misled by the Regulator about the true impacts of GM crops.

The Contamination of India's Biodiversity by genetically engineered crops will have the gravest impacts of many magnitudes, and will be in PERPETUITY.

India is one of 17 centres of MEGADIVERSITY in the world. This means that many plants have their centre of origin in India, exist in the wild and have been domesticated from wild species over a long period of 10,000 years of cultivation by our farmers. This is why India needs to exercise particular caution with GM crops. The threat to her biodiversity from contamination by GM crops is so serious that it requires along with Climate Change, the most urgent attention from Parliament, the Judiciary and Civil Society. Field trials of rice in Chattisgarh in 2006, which is located in the corridor that forms the Centre of Origin of rice, perhaps typify as nothing else, the blatant support of the GE Industry by the Government and the mortgage of India’s sovereign interests.

Toxicity: When poisonous or toxic effects of Bt cotton reported in India are mirrored by similar experiences from other parts of the world growing Bt crops including Bt cotton, then the Union of India and its Regulator by doing less than nothing, stand indicted of criminal negligence and an unconscionable offence against the people of India. It also puts the spotlight on them of a mindset that is mired in a deep and pervasive 'conflict of interest' as the only possible explanation for their inability to see and hear the evidence against GM crops and the need for the most stringent precautionary measures.

GM crops have not been tested for toxicity and there are no formal guidelines in place to test a new food's potential to cause an allergy. Prof. David Schubert of the prestigious Salk Institute in the US has stated in his affidavit before the Supreme Court and peer-reviewed publication:

"The only reasonable solution is to require that ALL GM plant products destined for human consumption be tested for LONG-TERM TOXICITY AND CARCINOGENICITY before being brought to market. These safety criteria must be met for many chemicals and all drugs, and the magnitude of harm caused by a widely consumed toxic food could well be much greater than that from any single drug. However, even extensive animal testing might NOT detect the consequences of deficiencies in beneficial plant products. GM FOOD IS NOT A SAFE OPTION, GIVEN OUR CURRENT LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF RECOMBINANT TECHNOLOGY".

New Interim 'Prayers' Required of the Supreme Court by the Petitioners

Genetic contamination occurs through several ways, including accidental mixing of crops and seeds. Even the most stringent safeguards cannot stop it because 'genetic' contamination is a biological certainty. It must be recognised that the GEAC has exposed India to certain genetic contamination through the vast numbers of field trials it has allowed each year, about 1500 and the commercialisation of Bt cotton. Even Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT), has been approved for field trials, Delhi University’s GM mustard being one of them. GURTs are banned in India and internationally under the Convention of Biodiversity (CBD) to which India is a signatory. It has furthermore, embarked on its GM experiment without putting in place adequate testing facilities and other bio-safety safeguards. Rigorous methodology is necessary for testing for contamination where the objective is zero tolerance of GM presence. The GEAC has in fact turned a Nelsons eye to the fact of contamination and the constitutional mandate of the bio-safety of India. The Petitioners have therefore stated that it is necessary:

§ To ascertain the full extent of contamination that has occurred as a result of GM field trials, through major nationwide testing for contamination of farmlands surrounding field trial sites and also food. The testing protocols must be in the public domain. This is a critical contingent measure in order to action clean-up operations as appropriate, in order to secure India's agriculture and her seed stock against GM contamination. A comprehensive test protocol for contamination is also required to safeguard our domestic and export markets. Exporters and food companies must be given the ability to independently test food at the Crop Developer's and the Government's expense, so they can supply the quality of food that people around the world demand, which is NON-GM. This choice must be retained by India

§ For the GEAC to provide a full listing of field trials that have been conducted during 2005-7 along with their genetic sequences so that ‘probes’ can be developed to allow any exporter and other stake holders to carry out i

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