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Farmers' Union on Seeds Act + GMO Authority + US - India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture

(Indian Farmers' Organisation)           

Bharatiya Krishak Samaj urges UPA government to delete anti-farmer provisions in its proposed amendments to the Seeds Act

Withdraw implementation of US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture

Stop introducing the Bill for setting up of NBRA - Make GEAC accountable for addressing health and environmental concerns relating to GM crops and food

New Delhi, July 24 : We farmers are very concerned over the haste the UPA government is acting to introduce new legislations which are likely endanger our livelihood security.

The UPA government should know that wining trust vote in the Parliament is not enough. It has to face the general elections due in the middle of the next year. Therefore it needs reverse its anti-farmer policies which has favoured the corporate houses at the expense of farmers.

On Proposed Amendments to the Seeds Act :---

The UPA government is planning to move an amendment to the Seeds Act in the winter session of the Parliament to give greater leverage to the corporate houses in the seeds sector. "We would like to caution the government to incorporate the views of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture headed by Ram Gopal Yadav. I had personally appeared before the Parliamentary panel and had suggested that seeds used by farmers should not be registered," said the president of
Bharatiya Krishak Samaj, Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary.

Bharatiya Krishak Samaj firmly believes that there should be only law for regulating the seed sector and the Plant Varieties Protection & Farmers' Rights Act should be the only law for this purpose. The Seeds Act and other laws should be repealed. The Plant Varieties Protection & Farmers' Rights Act should be further strengthened in the interests of farmers. It would be a crime to hand over seed sovereignty to corporate houses

It is the duty of the Samajwadi Party which is now supporting the government and its leading MP, Ram Gopal Yadav in particular to see that the government do not move any amendment to the Seeds Act which would jeopardize the interests of farmers

On US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture ;-----

The UPA government should also withdraw from implementing the IUS-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture as it seeks to an upper hand to the US-based multinationals in Indian agriculture. Agri products would be opened for patent rights by US companies in the name of research. This
pact is aimed at thrusting controversial technology for genetically modified (GM) crops in the country

It is strange to note that while the Opposition parties opposed tooth and nail the US-India Civilian Nuclear Deal, they did not say a word on US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture which is aimed at
destroying food security and livelihood security of farmers

On the Proposed Setting Up of NBRA :-----

The government must clarify why it is setting up the National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority (NBRA), replacing the existing regulator Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) which is already acting as a single window clearance for biotech products. If the government feels that the GEAC is incompetent and inefficient, it should bring it to the public knowledge.

The Supreme Court, in the course of hearing a writ petition seeking a moratorium on GM crops, had ordered some improvements for introducing transparency in the functioning of GEAC. The government had always defended the functioning of GEAC in the Supreme Court. Has it got any moral right now to say that GEAC is not functioning well and needs to be replaced by NBRA?

The fact is that the GEAC, without caring for any biosafety norms and transparency, has been very fast in the approval of GM crops with a view to benefit the multinational seed companies. Since 2002, GEAC approved over 175 Bt cotton hybrids, five events and one Bt cotton variety. It has conducted field trials of Bt brinjal, Bt okra, GM mustard, Bt cabbage, GM tomato, GM groundnut and GM potato.

The functioning of GEAC has been questioned by many independent scientists, like the founder director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Pushpa Mittra Bhargava. He called for a total review of India's experience with Bt cotton, including how Bt technology was brought into the country. He has also sought a two to three years moratorium on GM crops, unless and until proper independent studies are done on biosafety like pollen flow, seed germination, soil microbial activity, toxicity, allergenicity, DNA finger printing, proteomics analysis, and reproductive interferences.

At the global level, independent scientists like Arpad Pusztai have questioned the safety of GM food. Pusztai has pointed out by saying "Well-designed studies, though few in number, show potentially worrisome biological effects of GM food, which the regulators have largely ignored." In India, there were reports of sheep mortality on account of grazing over Bt cotton fields in Andhra Pradesh, which the GEAC did not consider with seriousness.

There are reported cases of illegal imports of hazardous GM food, which are not approved in the country and the government has remained a mute spectator. Illegal imports of GM food are in violation of the Rules, 1989 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The annual amendments to the Foreign Trade Policy made in April 2006 said unlabelled GM food import would attract penal action under Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992. But this is not implemented in absence of

The panel of experts and stakeholders headed by the additional director-general of National Institute of Communicable Diseases, Shiv Lal had recommended mandatory labeling of GM food, irrespective of the threshold level. But the recommendations were not implemented either by the health ministry or GEAC. Rather, the GEAC allowed free imports of oil extracted from GM soybeans without any labeling, tests and restrictions.

The plan to set up NBRA is largely based on the recommendations of the two panels headed by MS Swaminathan and RA Mashelkar. The suggestions made and apprehensions raised by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in its paper - Regulatory Regime for Genetically Modified Foods :
The Way Ahead - have not been considered.

Monsanto is charging a high technology fee, which has raised the prices of Bt cotton seeds and the issue is subjudice before the MRTP Act. There are fears that pollen flow from GM crops to non-GM crops may cause problems for farmers, who may be asked to pay high technology fee for their own seeds as had been the case with the Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser. Indian farmers, in many areas have suffered heavy losses on account of failure of Bt cotton. States like Kerala and Uttarakhand have banned GM crops and the Centre, through the NBRA, is planning to override states governments' power to regulate agriculture.

The government should make GEAC more accountable to address health and environmental concerns, rather than set up NBRA.. If the government cannot ensure health and environmental safety of GM crops then there should be a moratorium on GM crops

New Delhi, INDIA