Total ban on field trials of GM food crops sought in India (29/11/2005)

Greenpeace seeks total ban on field trials of GE food crops
New Delhi, November 29, 2005

Greenpeace has demanded a total ban on all field trials of genetic engineering food crops aimed at preventing it from entering the food chains in the country and also unveiled the 'biohazard hotspots map' of India revealing the shocking scale of field trials of Genetically Engineering (GE) of food crops.

After meeting the Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss today, Greenpeace GE Campaigner Divya Raghunandan told reporters here that ''Greenpeace activists have sought urgent intervention of the Minister to ban all field trials of GE Food crops in the country.'' The Greenpeace expressed concerns on various revelations occurred during trials in the foreign countries which were dangerous to health.

The map, a result of Greenpeace investigations revealed that 21 vegetables including brinjal, cabbage, tomato, cereals including kabuli channa and pigeon peas and fruits like banana, musk melon and water melon are being genetically engineered in at least 26 institutions in 16 cities, she added.

''The Australian research clearly demonstrates that GE is a dangerous technology. Unexpected and unpredicted effects can occur with far reaching implications to the environment, animal and human health. Our wheat, pigeon pea and chick pea is exposed to rsearch and similar genes and the Ministry of Health must prevail upon the Ministry of Science and Technology to abandon this and other such irresponsible experiments,'' said Ms Raghunandan.

The presumption of safety with foreign genes in our food is dangerous. Instead of taking a precautionary approach, the scale and scope of research on GMOs in the country suggests that the government would soon allow commercial cultivation of these dangerous foods, the Greenpeace Campaigner said and added, ''If urgent action is not taken, it is feared that within two years the government will allow atleast one of these crops to be sold in the markets.'' She also said ''lack of transparency is preventive effective public scrutiny. Public health is at risk and the government must make available all data from all institutions, including private ones on health and safety impacts of rsearch on GMOs for public scrutiny by independent scientists.''

The 2004 Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) clearly states that ''various uncertainties exist regarding the safety of these foods, because there is limited scientific evidence regarding their toxicity or health risks, the methodology used for assessing the risk is not robust enough or sensitive enough and the molecular and genetic effects of the technology are unpredictable in nature,'' Ms Raghunandan said.

She urged the Ministries of Health and Science and Technology that the New Biotech Policy should be reoriented to focus on biosafety concerns and risks to health caused by GE foods.


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