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Greenpeace questions ICAR move to conduct GE Brinjal field trials

Press release - September 17, 2007
NEW DELHI, India — Highlighting the imminent threat of genetically engineered food crops making its run through India's food chain, Greenpeace today slammed the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for its scruffy act in collaborating in the large scale field trials of GE brinjal.

Greenpeace activists demonstrate at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) headquarters in New Delhi on Monday criticizing the ICAR for its collaboration with Mahyco in conducting field trials of unsafe Genetically Engineered brinjal.

Making a dig at babus and their political bosses, who have thrown all cautions to wind by allowing large scale field trials of GE food crops, Greenpeace activists, dressed like politicians were seen at Krishi Bhawan force-feeding genetically engineered brinjal to common men, who remain largely unaware about the dangerous implications of genetically modified food.

"We are here to demand immediate halt of all field trials till the bio-safety data generated so far is made public to enable independent assessment. So far, safety studies on all GE crops are shrouded in secrecy that has really hindered the public to analyze the data and raise a debate on the issue. With emerging evidences 1 of companies hiding critical bio-safety data that could prove negative side effects of GE crops on health, an independent assessment is indispensable" said Greenpeace campaigner Jai Krishna.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) recently approved large scale field trials of Bt Brinjal belonging to Mahyco. The expert committee which allowed these trials had recommended these trials be done under the control of ICAR; and absolute responsibility of the trials is vested on the director of the Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (IIVR), an ICAR institute. The ICAR is represented in the GEAC.

The Supreme Court's Orders of the 22nd September 2006, by which further approvals of field trials by the GEAC had been injuncted, remain in force today and have not been vacated in its Orders of the 8 th May & 1st August 2007. However, blatantly disregarding this, the GEAC has in its 79th meeting on 8.08.2007, allowed large-scale field trials of Bt. Brinjal, and field trials of other GM food crops.

"We have filed a 'contempt' petition on 13th of this month in the apex court" asserted Aruna Rodrigues. " A year back, India faced exactly the same situation when petitioners filed an application for urgent interim orders to stop field trials. The Supreme Court, taking cognizance of the gravity of the issue passed an injunction on 'approvals' from 22 nd September, 2006, thereby forestalling the imminent, ill-conceived large scale trails of Bt brinjal. The GEAC move to legitimise these trials by requiring them to be conducted in institutional premises is most curious as this move does not forestall the possibility of transgenic contamination' she said.

Bt brinjal has never been allowed an independent assessment because the safety data has never been disclosed. Greenpeace efforts in past 16 months through the Right to Information Act, 2 have been unsuccessful as the authorities have not complied with the Central Information Commission's order on this issue. Even the expert committee, set up after immense pressure from civil society groups last year questioning the safety of Bt brinjal, accepts the inadequacy of the bio-safety tests and recommends more tests. These studies are now being requested to be done while the field trials are on.

"It is utterly shameful that the ICAR, a public research institute of the highest repute, would take on the responsibility and liability of conducting high-risk large-scale field trials of the first GE food crop internationally on behalf of Monsanto- Mahyco. The Indian Council for Agricultural Research, and its institutes, has clearly chosen to place their allegiance in the seed Corporation above the interest of the people" Jai Krishna commented.

For further information, contact

Jai Krishna, Greenpeace Campaigner, @098455 91992

Sandeep Bhattacharjee, Greenpeace Communications @093425 01806

Saumya Tripathy, Greenpeace Communications @ 09343862212

Notes to Editor

1) This March 2007, GE maize owned by Monsanto Mon 863, was found to be unfit for human consumption after the safety data was peer reviewed by Prof. Gilles-Eric Séralini, President of he Scientific Council, University of Caen in France.

2) Greenpeace application for disclosing biosafety studies of Bt Brinjal to the Dept. of biotechnology, under the RTI act was filed, February 2006. in April this year, the central information commission ordered to disclose the data. The data has not been made available to the public domain till now.