The content and allegations in the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) section of the IB report are shocking. The title itself “Concerted efforts by select foreign funded NGOs to ’take down’ Indian development projects” is more than extreme.
We question the IB’s jurisdiction to decide which projects are in favour of India’s development and which are not. As we understand, in a democratic set up like India, which is governed by the Constitution, policies have to be made and laws have to be enacted in accordance with the Constitution and any policies and laws against the Constitution can be struck down by the High Court as well as the Supreme Court. Whether a decision taken by the Government or law made by the legislature is for the common good has to be legally determined by the Court. Equally, the people of this country have a right to object and to put forth their point of view on law and policy as well as what constitutes public interest. This is in consonance with the Rule of Law and the democratic principles which have been affirmed time and again, by the highest court of the land.
With respect to GMOs , Rules were made in 1989 under the provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The Rules are neither in consonance with the international conventions like the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety nor the provisions of the Constitution. Nor do they address the principles of sustainable development, precautionary principle and intergenerational equity. These rules are under challenge before the Hon'ble Supreme Court and therefore the first question is how the IB can report on a subject that is sub judice ? Does this not amount to an attempt to influence the decisions to be made by the Supreme Court ?
The IB in effect says that those who are fighting on scientific and legal principles to strengthen the regulatory system for dealing with GMOs are ‘anti development’. And the IB quotes an American scientist , Dr Ronald Herring of Cornell University, known for his open advocacy of GM crops, especially those owned by American multinationals like Monsanto, to make its point that Indian NGOs are causing economic damage ! We therefore, feel that the GMO section of the report is
motivated and is designed to benefit some vested interests. Why has the IB not quoted several international scientists of repute who advise abundant caution in dealing with GMOs ?
It would have been advisable for the IB to have done its homework and gone through the records and orders passed by the Hon’ble Court, which appointed a Technical Expert Committee (TEC) to examine the questions raised in the matter of GMOs. All TEC members, barring one, have said that “Based on the safety dossiers , the TEC has found in unambiguous terms that at present, the regulatory system has major gaps and these will require rethinking, investment and relearning to fix. A deeper understanding of the process of risk assessment is needed within the regulatory system for it to meet the needs of a proper biosafety evaluation. This is not available in the country at present. It is therefore recommended that the requisite understanding be developed through consultation, collaboration and capacity building”.
The IB also neglects to refer to another official report on the state of GM technology and its implementation in India. The Sopory Committee Report of 2012 was commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture. The committee’s findings raised disconcerting questions over the claims made by developers of GM crops, the role of regulatory bodies, the public sector research institutions and their ethical standards. The establishments dealing with GMOs have been indicted in this report for lies, fraud and lacking scientific expertise in GM technology.
The IB should inform itself of the 'National Policy on the Voluntary Sector' prepared by the Planning Commission in 2007. The said policy recognizes the important role played by the voluntary sector and that it has been serving as an effective non-political link between the people and government. One of the objectives of this policy was to enable voluntary organizations (VO) to legitimately mobilize necessary financial resources from India and abroad. It is clearly stated in the National Policy that independence of VOs allows them to explore alternative paradigms of development and that international funding of the VOs play a significant role. The foreign funding has to be regulated under the provisions of existing laws including the FCRA.
It is very unfortunate that the IB has levelled the charge that the TEC report is influenced by the NGOs. The decision taken by the Ministry of Environment regarding Bt Brinjal as well as the reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee have also been projected in a similar insulting manner by the IB. This is a very serious matter. Is the IB report an attempt to influence the functioning of the Executive as well as the Judiciary and the Rule of Law governed by the Constitution ?
Is the IB attempting to influence the decisions of the Supreme Court when it makes biased statements on matters that are sub judice ?
Is the IB attempting to position itself above Parliament when it questions the wisdom and independence of the Parliamentary Standing Committee ?
Do its insinuations not bring down the prestige of our sovereign Parliament ?
The intentional leaking of the IB report and its statements are tantamount to contempt of the Hon'ble Supreme Court and denigrating the majesty of Parliament. These are very serious issues. Given these circumstances, the government should immediately order an enquiry into this IB report and put the correct facts as well its own stand on the Report before the people.