Note: Adoption of precautionary principle-based approach is a consistent step of the Environment Minister which is a welcome step but it appears like a half step. While the moratorium on Bt brinjal that implies "rejection of this particular case of release for the time being" is a matter of relief, it is sad that the minister missed the opportunity to apply the same approach to Bt Cotton and other GM products. It is disturbing to note that there has so far been no mandatory labelling of the GM products. Consequently, it must have led to genetic contamination that has not been taken cognisance of. The proposed mandatory labelling of the GM products by the Food Safety and Standards of India under Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. The import of GM products without an accompanying declaration that they are GM products is liable to penal action under The Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act,1992. Without pre-existing mandatory labelling such penal provisions have little meaning. The million dollar question is: are our customs competent to detect GM products without labels?.
Changing the name of Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC)to Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee is fine but the functioning and the composition of the GEAC merits scrutiny. Decisions taken by GEAC in past did not adopt the precautionary principle, therefore, they need to be reviewed. A white paper should be brought on the environmental and health impact of Bt cotton. A transdisciplinary team must be constituted to examine the issue of genetic pollution.
DECISION ON COMMERCIALISATION OF BT BRINJAL
18:22 IST, February 09, 2010
Union Ministry of Environment and Forests
Following a series of nationwide consultations, the Minister for Environment and Forests (I/C) today announced his decision on the production and use of BT Brinjal. He also made public a copy of his exhaustive report which relies on inputs received from stakeholders from all across the spectrum of scientists, civil society, academics, Chief Ministers of various states and others concerned. Following is an excerpt from the statement issued today:
“Based on all the information presented in the preceding paragraphs and when there is no clear consensus within the scientific community itself, when there is so much opposition from the state governments, when responsible civil society organisations and eminent scientists have raised many serious questions that have not been answered satisfactorily, when the public sentiment is negative and when Bt-brinjal will be the very first genetically-modified vegetable to be introduced anywhere in the world and when there is no over-riding urgency to introduce it here, it is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach and impose a moratorium on the release of Bt-brinjal, till such time independent scientific studies establish, to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals, the safety of the product from the point of view of its long-term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth existing in brinjal in our country.
A moratorium implies rejection of this particular case of release for the time being; it does not, in any way, mean conditional acceptance. This should be clearly understood.”
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