Greenpeace tore into the proposal to constitute a central biotechnology regulator, saying that the biotechnology regulatory authority of India (BRAI) bill will reduce the role of state governments to a recommendatory capacity.
“This is nothing but a challenge to the federal polity of the country” said RK Mukherjee of the coalition for GM-free West Bengal, which is a coalition partner of Greenpeace against genetically modified (GM) foods in India.
“The current bill reduces the role of the state governments to a recommendatory capacity and they do not have any decision making powers to decide the release of genetically modified organisms (GMO) through field trials or assess the need for it in a particular state,” read Greenpeace's 20-page legal assessment report titled ‘BRAI bill: A Threat to our Food and Farming’.
Several state governments like Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka have written to the central government opposing the BRAI in its current form. The Coalition for GM-free India had recently brought out a report using RTI which exposed how MOnsanto was illegally planting herbicide tolerant (HT) maize in a trial in Dharwad University.
The report held that BRAI threatens safety of our food, health and biodiversity. “The bill does not conform with several principles which form the core of Indian and international environmental jurisprudence like absolute liability for hazardous and dangerous activities, polluter pays principle, precautionary principle, onus of proof on those who want to change the status quo, effective public participation in environmental decision making and access to biosafety information,” said Ritwik Dutta, a supreme court lawyer, who is also an author of the report.
“The chief arbitrators of modern biotechnology are not held accountable for any wrong doing if the BRAI bill is implemented by the government,” said the report. “The principle of absolute liability should be put in place in the case of GMO use and at the same time the government should ensure that deterrent penalties adopting the polluter pays principle is resorted to avoid casual approach towards such a hazardous technology”, said Rajesh Krishnan, sustainable agriculture campaign manager, Greenpeace India.
The report also noted that BRAI bill fails to meet India’s international obligations under the convention on biological diversity 1992 and the Cartagena protocol on biosafety 2000.
Read the report