Govt urged to release bio-safety data on G E crops

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New Delhi, Mar 26 (UNI) Condemning refusal by private compnaies to releas bio-safety data on genetically engineered(GE) crops, several NGOs including Greenpeace, today urged the Government to see that all such data and field trial were opened to public scrutiny.

They also demanded that a statutory body be set up under the Health Ministry to take up all health and saftey issue related to GE food crops.

After refusal by the Department of Bio-Technology (DBT) to pass on bio-safety data of GE crops, Greenpeace had filed an application with the Central Information Commission(CIC) in 2006 to get the same. The Commission overuled DBT and asked the Department to release the data in public interest.

However, Mahyco, the company responsible for generating the data approached the High Court and secured a stay. The case would now come up for hearing on April 23.

Greenpeace has filed an application for early hearing of the case and vacation of the stay.

The NGO's advocate and rights activist Prashant Bhushan told a press conference here that it was strange that the government had been endorsing refusal of data on the ground of confidentiality overriding the concerns over public health.

''In fact the Ministry of Environment committee for approval of geneticaly engineered crops(GEAC) has been granting approval for field trials without getting the bio-safety studies done, and it has been asking the companies themselves to do these studies which was ridiculous,'' he said.

The public in the country was completely in the dark about GE crops approved, as there was complete lack of transparency, and it was unfortunate that the government was placing premium on the profits of the companies than on public health, he added.

''Government must step in to ensure hat no one plays with the saftey of food. Refusal to divulge such information is violation of the consumer's basic right to information and choice,'' said Bejon Misra, of VOICE, a consumer interest body.

He pointed out that in countries like France, all genetically engineered food crops have been banned.

''What restrains Mahyco in making bio-safety data on GE brinjal and other food crops public when it plans to invade billion-plus-Indian's food. What this company was trying to hide?,''Mr Nikhil Dey from National Campaign for People's Right to Information said.

The activists said that the disclosure of the data was important in view of the fact that the studies were conducted by the company's own labs or outsourced to other private labs. Moreover, all the environmental tests were conducted in the open air, and there was documented evidence of both pollen and seed contaminaton into other pollants or seeds that could have adverse effect on health.

In 2006, field trials for transgenic rice were done in 10 places across the country but investigations found that farmers, the village panchayat and even the state government officers were unaware of the presence of the transgenic crop, the pointed out.

UNI NAZ VD GC1852

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