Coalition response on Bt brinjal 1 (19/7/2006)

The following documents are part of the response sent by the Coalition for a GM-Free India to India's GM regulatory body - the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) - on the biosafety data and the proposal by Monsanto Mahyco for field trials & seed production of Bt brinjal (eggplant/aubergine).

The Coalition's response was endorsed by more than 250 leading organisations & eminent experts from various fields including farmers' organisations, organic farmers, agricultural scientists, microbiologists, medical professionals, and social scientists, amongst others.

The Coalition also communicated to the GEAC that it objected strongly to the fact that GEAC had stated in a press release on July 3rd that it WILL permit the trials, even while it was asking for feedback on the proposal to hold such trials. This, the Coalition said, was not just unacceptable but rendered the entire regulatory process farcical.


Bt brinjal 1:
Feedback on Bt Brinjal – (see below) 
Letter to the Chairperson of India's GM regulatory body

Bt brinjal 2: Signatories to the letter [1-120]

Bt brinjal 3: Signatories to the letter [121-270]

Bt brinjal 4: Annex 1
Letter to India's Minister for the Environment

Bt brinjal 5: More annexes
includes: a note by Dr Arpad Pusztai
a note from an Ayurveda expert (vaidya) 
comments on Monsanto Mahyco's claims

comments by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Prof. Joe Cummins


Letter to the Chairperson of India's GM regulatory body

July 16, 2006

To Shri Bir Singh Parsheera
Chairperson, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC]
Ministry of Environment & Forests
Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex    Lodhi Road, New Delhi

Dear Shri Parsheera

Sub: Feedback on Bt Brinjal – biosafety & beyond

Sir, by now you would have received the initial feedback provided to the Minister for Environment & Forests with a copy marked to you, on June 15th 2006, on the issue of Bt Brinjal and its very need. We are annexing that response to this letter for your ready reference [Annexure 1].

We would like to first record our serious objection to multi-locational limited field trials being conducted in various locations in the open environment, in farmers’ fieldswithout biosafety being cleared, without adequate monitoring and containment capabilities and very often, in violation of farmers’ rights. No liability has been fixed for biosafety violations pointed out earlier, giving a clear message that biosafety is not the regulators’ primary concern at all, though the GEAC has been created, constituted and allowed to function expressly for that.

The following is the collective feedback from the Coalition for GM-Free India which touches upon the earlier-made points even as it includes newer feedback on the biosafety testing protocols that have been adopted in the case of Bt Brinjal and the results of the tests.

  1. We repeat that there is no need for Bt Brinjal to be introduced. This is not something that farmers have demanded and almost all major farmers’ organizations of the country have already rejected the proposal of entry of Bt Brinjal even if it is in the form of field trials and seed production, whether in the public sector or in the private sector. There is no crisis in the production of brinjal and it is absolutely false that the company’s data claims that there are upto 80 sprays of pesticides on brinjal crop. For the consumers, there is absolutely no benefit with Bt Brinjal but only a set of problems and dangers presented. All major consumer organizations of the country have already rejected the idea of Bt Brinjal. If despite the lack of need and demand, Bt Brinjal is permitted for field trials and seed production, what guarantee is GEAC is giving to us that this is indeed safe? What liability-fixing mechanisms exist to hold each individual member of GEAC accountable for these kinds of decisions taken?
  2. There are other issues on which Brinjal farmers need intervention & support. Are the GEAC and concerned government ministries and departments giving any guarantee to farmers that they will procure the crop and stabilize prices with Minimum Support Price and guaranteed procurement to ensure a fair price to farmers? If not, what real benefits will accrue to farmers?
  3. What guarantee are GEAC and the individual members who represent ministries that are mandated to protect consumer interests giving that consumer rights and choices will be upheld even after the entry of Bt Brinjal, if approved? Will labelling work for distinguishing between Bt and non-Bt Brinjal in our markets and haats? What choices are being left to consumers of the country who want to remain GM-free in their consumption and how will their fundamental right to safe food be upheld?
  4. If Bt Brinjal is for reducing pesticide usage, then it has to be noted that Bt Brinjal has been compared with only conventionally-grown brinjal. This completely ignores the rich experience that exists within the Indian Council of Agricultural Research [ICAR] on Integrated Pest Management on brinjal, that too with non-chemical approaches. It also ignores the fact that there is vast experience with NPM and organic approaches which farmers have been successfully using for years now on a large scale. Does GEAC have data on such experience and does the Committee know how Bt Brinjal compares with such IPM/NPM/Organic experience?
  5. Brinjal has great socio-cultural significance in the country. There are communities where a wedding feast is not complete without a special brinjal preparation. Does the GEAC or the company have adequate information/data on such aspects and what the impact of Bt Brinjal would be on such socio-cultural dimensions?
  6. Brinjal is also used in Ayurveda for its medicinal properties [we are attaching a note from a Ayurveda V


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