Independant expert committee set up on Bt Brinjal

PRESS RELEASE

Hyderabad & muzaffarnagar, September 28, 2006: Following Supreme Court’s orders on Friday on the need of Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC] to induct some independent experts into its decision-making processes and on the eve of the first meeting of the so-called Expert Committee headed by Dr Deepak Penthal set up on Bt Brinjal by the GEAC, civil society groups announced the setting up of an “Independent Expert Committee” on the issue. Contending that the constitution of the official Expert Committee was questionable and the terms of reference too narrow, Thanal (Trivandrum) and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (Hyderabad) have set up an ‘Independent Expert Committee’ to look into the biosafety claims by Mahyco, the civil society responses vis-à-vis the promoter’s data and literature on the subject, to assess the very need for Bt Brinjal in the country and to suggest a future course of action to the government, including the GEAC.

“The official Expert Committee’s constitution is questionable since there is a serious and objectionable conflict of interest in promoters of GM crops being part of the committee. Further, around half of the ‘Expert Committee’ consists of existing GEAC members (the constitution of which was subject to Supreme Court’s observations on Friday) who can voice their opinions as part of GEAC decision-making processes in any case. It is not clear what procedures the official Expert Committee would follow in taking public feedback on board. It is in this context that we are setting up an Independent Expert Committee with members who have tremendous expertise in their respective fields and have exhibited their social commitment time and again”, said Dr Ramanjaneyulu of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

Ms Usha Jayakumar of Thanal added, “The Independent Expert Committee would not be bound by narrow terms of reference of just evaluating feedback from the public to the GEAC. They would begin by looking at Mahyco’s data and claims. They would also have a broader scope of impact assessment than the GEAC’s. The Committee has been set up drawing eminent experts from various relevant fields of experience and expertise. In addition, more members with expertise in their subjects and social commitment would be taken on board soon.   We hope that the Independent Expert Committee and their recommendations will present to all Indians the real picture with regard to Bt Brinjal, its biosafety and issues beyond biosafety. This is a matter of informed choices for the farmers and consumers of the country which cannot be discounted by the regulators”.

The Independent Expert Committee consists of:
1. Dr K P Prabhakaran Nair: Eminent International Agricultural (Soil) Scientist with over three decades of research and developmental experience in Europe, Africa and Asia. Best known, the world over, for developing “The Nutrient Buffer Power Concept” – a revolutionary soil management technique that has thrown up the biggest challenge to unbridled chemical agriculture. Widely travelled and the only Agricultural Scientist in the world to have been invited to contribute single author chapters thrice to the magnum opus Advances in Agronomy. Formerly Professor, National Science Foundation, The Royal Society, Belgium and Senior Fellow, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, The Federal Republic of Germany.

2. Dr M S Chari: Eminent Entomologist. Formerly Director-Central Tobacco Research Institute [CTRI] and ex-Director-Research, Gujarat Agriculture University. Pioneer of non-chemical pest management approaches called NPM.

3. Prof A Narayanan: Eminent Plant Physiologist. Earlier with ICRISAT. Retired as Principal of Agricultural College, Bapatla and Prof. And University Head, Dept. of Plant Physiology. Was Emeritus Scientist-ICAR at Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Coimbatore.

4. Dr Ramesh Bhat: Toxicologist, Formerly Deputy Director with the Food & Drug Toxicology Research Centre, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad .

5. Dr D Narsimha Reddy: Retired recently as Professor of Economics and Dean, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad. His specialization includes science policy studies, Political Economy of Development and Labour Economics.  He was a member of the Farmers Welfare Commission set up of AP government to look into the issue of farmers’ suicides and agriculture crisis.

6. Dr Ghafoorunissa : Biochemist dealing with nutrition & health related issues and earlier with the National Institute of Nutrition for 37 years.

For more information, contact:
1.Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at (0) 9393001550 or kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com
2.Dharmendra malik,  Bhartiya kissan union (09219691168)  bku.tikait@gmail.com

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