Thoughts on economics and liberty

Sequence of committees in India on Bt brinjal and their findings

Some background research:

[This article provides a good summary as at 2010]

2005: Aruna Rodrigues lodged a PIL through her counsel, Prashant Bhushan. P.V. Satheesh from Hyderabad and Rajeev Baruah from Mhow, both specialists in organic farming, and Devinder Sharma, a policy analyst based in New Delhi, joined her as co-petitioners. [Source]

2009: The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (India’s statutory regulator) concluded after extensive studies from 2000 to 2009 that Bt brinjal is safe for humans

It may be noted that the GEAC is a statutory body under rules 1989 of the EPA of 1986 and as such it is authorized to grant approval for large scale trials and environmental release of genetically modified organisms. [See this report]

2010 GEAC review committee: Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh convened a meeting of four of his cabinet ministers in February, 2010 to discuss the issue of Bt-brinjal. The notification issued after the meeting mentioned that the moratorium on Bt brinjal stands. However, a fresh look by MoEF into the Bt-brinjal matter was suggested. Subsequently, GEAC formed a 17-member committee headed by Dr V.L. Chopra to examine all aspects of Bt-brinjal and suggest any additional tests, if required. The committee met felt that adequate tests have been conducted and endorsed the recommendation of GEAC.

August 2012: Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture provided a report in August, 2012 on “Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops – Prospects and Effects”

October 2012: A Technical Expert Committee was established in May 2012 by the Supreme Court , in response to a 2005 petition filed by environmental activist Aruna Rodrigues. The TEC in its October 2012 report advised a 10 year moratorium on ten-year moratorium on all Bt food crop trials. [Source]

I understand that the Technical Expert Committee report minus Dr Paroda’s section lacked scientific scrutiny and is therefore unreliable.

“The Apex Court set up a Technical Expert Committee (TEC) of five scientists from the fields of molecular biology, toxicology, nutrition science, biodiversity and agriculture science to review GMO related concerns. Later, a sixth member — R. S. Paroda, former Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) — was also inducted in the TEC, when agriculture scientists pleaded that their views also be represented. The TEC submitted an interim report to the Supreme Court in October 2012 recommending an indefinite moratorium for the next 10 years on field trials of GM crops and complete ban on the commercial release of GM crops. However, Paroda was not part of this report.

“The TEC submitted a final report in July 2013 with Paroda alleging that it was submitted without his consent and was “neither transparent nor objective” in terms of guidelines. Pardoa on his own submitted a confidential report to the Supreme Court recommending that field trials of GM crops be continued. His confidential report was made public on the directive of Supreme Court.” [Source]

As at 2014: “The country’s Supreme Court has yet to decide on a public-interest petition, filed in 2005 by activist Aruna Rodrigues, for India to ban the import or manufacture of GM organisms.” [Source]

FRUSTRATION OF EXPERTS

“If we are afraid to conduct trials, then why are we investing public money in transgenic research?” says Deepak Pental, director of the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at the University of Delhi South Campus, who helped to develop a transgenic mustard in 2002. “We should withdraw from the sector.” [Source]

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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