Confirmed victory

Though it looks like normal food, it is not the same.

GM food is not only different, but has been proven to be unsafe for consumption by numerous independent studies. Despite unanswered questions around the very need for GM food, shockingly, the Indian government seems hell-bent on thrusting it on us.

Genetically modified (GM) food is created unnaturally by taking genes of organisms like bacteria, viruses, spiders or even humans, stringing these together and inserting them into other unrelated organisms like cabbage, brinjal, potatoes, maize, rice etc.

GM is not safe

Numerous studies have proven that GM food could lead to various illnesses. GM in our food and farming is a threat to our food safety and farm livelihoods. This harm cannot be reversed or corrected once it is introduced into our farming and food cycle.

But Government of India has prepared a Bill to give easy access to GMOs to enter India's farms, food and environment. The Bill is being pushed by large corporations that want to control our food and seed. The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill will provide a new single-window, fast-track regulatory authority for approving GMOs.

Politicians and State governments have opposed this Bill.
The BRAI Bill is so flawed that numerous Parliamentarians cutting across party lines, State Governments and the public have asked the Government not to introduce the Bill. However, without paying heed to any of this, the BRAI Bill was introduced in the Parliament.

This controversial Bill is currently with the Standing Committee on Science & Technology in the Parliament of India. This Standing Committee has now granted 30 days' time for the citizens of India to provide their feedback.

30 days time is too little time.

The deadline expires on July 10 and it is impossible to get meaningful participation by public, in giving their views and suggestions from across the country by then. In fact, the Bill has not even been made available in local languages.

This is an issue that concerns our food and our nation.

1. We are asking the concerned Committee to extend this feedback period from 30 days to 90 days.
2. We are also asking the Committee to hold countrywide consultations so that citizens can participate and give their opinion on a Bill that affects India's farming, our food and its safety.

Please join us in asking the Science & Technology Committee to extend the deadline for public feedback on the BRAI Bill. Sign this petition and join us in demanding safe food and sustainable farming for India.

Letter to
Director, Rajya Sabha Shri Alok Chatterjee
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Prof. Ranjan Prasad Yadav
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri Joseph Toppo
and 23 others
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri Pradeep Tamta
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Smt. Supriya Sule
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri Vincent H. Pala
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Smt. Bijoya Chakravarty
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri Mansukhbhai D. Vasava
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri Natubhai Gomanbhai Patel
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Smt. Kamla Devi Patle
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Ramashankar Rajbhar
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Thiru Dayanidhi Maran
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Dr. Ajay Kumar
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri O. S. Manian
Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Dr. T. Subbarami Reddy
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri M. Rama Jois
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Smt. Maya Singh
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri Vijay Jawaharlal Darda
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri Paul Manoj Pandian
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri Alok Tiwari
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri Rabinarayan Mohapatra
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri T.M. Selvaganapathi
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri Ram Kripal Yadav
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri K. Jayaprakash Hegde
Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science and Technology, Environment and Forests Shri Yashvir Singh
Chairman and Members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Science & Technology, Environment &
The Chair and Members of the Dept Related Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests, Parliament of India.

This is with regard to the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill 2013, on which your Committee has sought views and suggestions of the public, by giving 30 days' time for the same.

We believe that 30 days is too short a time to get adequate and necessary public participation on a legislation of this gravity, given the raging controversy in India (and worldwide) on modern biotechnology, as well as this proposed piece of legislation.

The technology that the proposed Authority is mandated to regulate is controversial the world over and a majority of countries have chosen not to deploy modern biotechnology in their food and farming systems. Serious problems with the technology have emerged in countries that have adopted it including trade ramifications causing massive losses for farmers and others.

Against this backdrop, it is unacceptable that the BRAI Bill converts promotion into regulation, and proposes a fast-track single-window clearance system for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). We would like to bring to your attention that for the past few years, numerous Parliamentarians and State governments have been urging the government not to introduce the Bill. On the day the Bill was tabled, there was opposition. The process that led to the Bill being referred to your Committee was contentious too. While the Minister who tabled the Bill wanted the Bill to be sent to a Joint Committee of both Houses, given the fact that this is a vast subject spanning Agriculture, Health, Commerce and so on and given the fact that many Parliamentarians have been asking for the withdrawal of the Bill, the Bill was referred to your Standing Committee.

As you are kindly aware, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in its report titled Cultivation of GM Food Crops: Prospects and Effects tabled in August 2012, after a detailed analysis of over two years, stated the following:
• The Committee feel that regulating biotechnology is too small a focus in the vast canvas of biodiversity, environment, human and livestock health, etc. and a multitude of other such related issues. They have, therefore, already recommended in a previous Chapter setting up of an all encompassing Bio-safety Authority through an act of Parliament, which is extensively discussed and debated amongst all stakeholders, before acquiring shape of the law. (Section 8.120)

As regards greater public involvement, the National Advisory Council (NAC) chaired by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has drafted guidelines for pre-legislative consultations; it has recommended a multi-stage pre-legislative consultation process based on the principles of “transparency, equity and inclusiveness”. It has recommended that any draft Bill should be made available proactively in the public domain for at least 90 days for public comments and after that a consultation process with all stakeholders should also be done. According to the NAC draft, “the need for such a policy of consultation is necessary, to evolve from a representative democracy to a participatory, deliberative democracy; particularly for accountability to the people in the formulation of law and policy”.

The BRAI Bill, as you are well aware, affects every citizen in the country and encompasses issues related to human and animal health, food and environmental safety, livelihoods in the farming sector, trade security and above all, food and seed sovereignty. Therefore, it is imperative that before making recommendations, ample time and opportunity is provided for wide dissemination of the Bill and also sufficient time is granted for people to respond.

We believe that various sections of society should have their views heard by the Committee, through widespread consultations that you hold around the country.

We would like to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that another Bill related to India's Biosecurity, which is also seeking views and suggestions, is open for feedback for more than 30 days.

In keeping with ideal democratic traditions and practices, and considering the complexity, concerns and widespread implications of the BRAI Bill, we strongly urge the Committee to:
• Increase the time limit for gathering public views and suggestions to at least 90 days;
• Ensure that the Bill is available to citizens in local languages, and actively disseminated through various channels.
• Schedule and hold consultations across the country with a wide section of the society to ensure an inclusive, transparent and equitable process, rather than a Delhi-centric process and
• Ensure that a transparent process is put in place for the Standing Committee deliberations on this legislation.