Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Kerala says NO

Government no to GM crops in Kerala
By Reema Narendran
The New Indian Express
January 09, 2012

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Now it is official. The Oommen Chandy Government will not permit any trials on genetically modified (GM) crops in the state. What is more, it has also been stated that even research on GM will not be permitted within the boundaries of the state.

A communication from the Agriculture Department (No.35564/Ag1/11/AD) to the city-based NGO Thanal has said that the State Government’s stand regarding this has already been conveyed to the Union Government.

While the previous LDF Government had categorically stated that Kerala would be a GM-free state, this could be the first written document from the present government saying the GM ban would continue to be in place. Until now, there had only been a few vague statements from officials on this issue.

It may be recalled that the Coalition for a GM-Free India, of which Thanal is a member, had sent letters to the Chief Ministers of all the States requesting them to take up the issue of National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill (BRAI Bill) at the upcoming National Development Council (NDC) meet in order to safeguard the health of the people and sustainability of our farming from GM crops.

The letter from the Agriculture Department stating that the GM ban would be in force, was a reply to the Thanal request to take up the issue of the BRAI Bill at the upcoming NDC meet.

The BRAI Bill has been labelled ‘draconian’ by Greens all over the country. They maintained that it was a blatant attempt to bulldoze through the public resistance and genuine concerns about genetically-modified (GM) crops, and to deny State Governments their constitutional authority over agriculture and health.

“Agriculture is definitely a state subject. Besides, the Bill has several unconstitutional and retrogressive clauses such as the one that prevents anyone other than scientists to question the introduction of genetically-modified organisms,” said J Usha, director of Thanal.

The Bill also seeks to classify some information as Confidential Commercial Information and leaves it to the discretion of officials of the authority to share them or not. This, the Greens point out, is regressive, given that the Bt brinjal controversy saw the Supreme Court asking the regulators to make available all biosafety data in the public domain.

The decision of the State Government not to allow GM research and trial will definitely affect the plans of The Rubber Research Institute which was to conduct field trials at Thombikandom in Kottayam.

The proposed trials at the two locations - Kottayam and Thane- were for rubber trees which have been genetically-engineered to deal with drought tolerance and tapping panel dryness.

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