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India's biotechnology monitoring committee is a sham whose existence isn't even known by its supposed members


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(NaturalNews) The Indian government has established a body to monitor the use and implementation of biotechnology such as genetically modified organisms in food, but there is a problem with the panel's mode of operation -- there isn't one.

In fact, according to recent reports, the monitoring committee has not met for years, prompting one media source to quip, "ignorance is bliss."

According to The News Minute, which quoted from a report by The Statesman, one responsibility of the State Biotechnology Coordination Committee, located in Maharashtra, is to monitor field trials of GMO crops, but the program is "in shambles."

The panel "has not met in years," The News Minute reported, adding that "some members" are not even aware of the panel's existence:

The situation in neighbouring Gujarat is also similar. On the other hand, the District Level Committee (DLC), which is supposed to monitor trials as well as prepare off-site emergency plans, is virtually non-existent. In effect, the story of monitoring of GM crop trials is a story of monitoring and regulation falling through the cracks of laid-down procedures on paper and functioning of processes on the ground.

Non-existent panels doing nothing to monitor GMO use

The reports added that some factions within the Indian government continue to push for more GMO crops to be introduced in the country, though there continues to be some potent opposition from environmental organizations and some farmer's groups.

That said, backers of GMO crops are a powerful coalition of international corporations and lobbying groups that mostly operate out of the limelight, the reports said, adding that biotech companies have largely been quiet regarding field-testing trial locations.

Also, "the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee responsible for clearing field trials" has not been posting minutes of its meetings or details of any approvals for same on its website, The News Minute reported.

Some groups are complaining that the panels that are supposed to be monitoring biotech use throughout the country are either non-existent or are operating without transparency. For example, the State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) in Maharashtra was supposedly reconstituted in 2013, perhaps to add new members to the panel, but it has never met even once since being formed, let alone to conduct inspections of field trials, government sources told the news site. So for any practical purpose, then, the panel exists only on paper.

"The SBCC meets only when there is a complaint regarding violation of guidelines relating to field trials," one government source, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Statesman.

That said, there likely are few complaints about violations, because project proponents are not very likely to report violations in their own fields, and the DLCs do not really exist.

It hasn't 'met even once in the last 12 years since it was constituted'

As further reported by The News Minute and The Statesman:

Take the case of trials of GM crops at the agricultural university in Rahuri in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district, for instance. The Statesman has been able to independently confirm through sources that field trials of at least one GM crop is on at the university, although industry body ABLE-AG (Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises -- Agriculture Group), biotech giant Monsanto and the Department of Biotechnology refused to confirm or deny this on record.

The DLCs, though, which are tasked with monitoring and ensuring safeguards under the country's Environment Protection Act of 1986 and were designed to function under the District Collector, are also non-existent, sources have said.

"I don't think the SBCC in Maharashtra has met even once in the last 12 years since it was constituted," a senior scientist told The Statesman.

At present, Bt cotton is the only authorized GMO crop in India, introduced in 2002 by Monsanto. Now, nearly 95 percent of the cotton seeds in India have Monsanto's proprietary technology, which has prompted critics to argue that GMO seeds are Monsanto's attempt to control India's entire seed market.






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