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Concern Over Biotechnology Bill
Special Correspondent


Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran says it will harm the interests of farmers.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran has expressed grave concern over the proposed National Biotechnology Regulatory Bill.

The Minister said the Bill contained dangerous provisions that would prevent democratic control over genetic experiments and harm the farmers and consumers.

Though agriculture was a State subject, the Centre had not asked the views of the State on the proposed legislation. This was highly objectionable. The Bill had provisions to take away the powers of the State government and local self- governments regarding testing and production of genetically modified crops and impose Central decisions on the States.

Mr. Ratnakaran noted that moves were afoot to create a single window system under the Union Department of Biotechnology for clearance of genetically modified produce. The Parliament and the Assembly would lose control over the clearances.

The decisions of the National Biodiversity Regulatory Authority proposed in the Bill would become incontestable.

He recalled that acclaimed scientist P.M. Bhargava had pointed out that the procedures specified for experimentation of genetically modified crops were already being disregarded in the country. The proposed Bill sought to exempt such experiments from the purview of the Seed Bill and the Environment (Protection) Act. The legislation would abrogate the rights of farmers and consumers. It did not have any provision banning experimentation in biodiversity hot spots such as the Western Ghats.

On the other hand, the chairman of the proposed Authority would have powers to impose his decisions on the State governments. The proliferation of genetically modified seeds would hurt the rights of the farmers over seeds. The Bill would negate the State's demand to declare it as a 'genetically modified seed-free zone'.
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