PR-BRAI bill curtails fundamental right of expression

Alabama, United States
6th March 2010

RISHIKESH: “We don’t need a Bill (BRAI) that encourages free entry of GM food into India, without ensuring health safety of the people, besides penalizing the voice of protest,” says spiritual and humanitarian leader His Holiness Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in a statement issued to the press on Saturday.

Gurudev said that the commendable work done by Shri Jairam Ramesh in putting moratorium on the introduction of BT Brinjal is going to be negated with the enactment of ‘The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill 2009’ (BRAI) in the current session of Parliament. The bill proposes to gag the media (Section 63) since it infringes upon the Fundamental Right of Freedom of Speech. The penalty for creating awareness (misleading the public) about the ill effects of Genetically Modified issues may lead to an imprisonment of minimum six months & upto one year with a maximum fine of 2 lacs. The clauses of this bill are draconian and more stringent than even the repealed acts like POTA, TADA etc.

He added that there is no provision for action against the company for concealment of facts (ill-effects) as it happened in case of tobacco in USA where the court fined heavily to the tune of US dollars 250 billion after several years.Furthermore, the entire process & working of the companies would be veiled under the clause of 'Confidential Commercial Information' (Section 2 (h) and Section 27) which keeps the entire operation outside the purview of RTI Act.

Unfortunately, the Gene terminator is used to terminate the germination quality of the seeds so that the farmers have to buy new seeds every year. The terminated seeds of the GM crops are dumped into the soil for destruction. In the process gene terminator poisons the soil whose side effects may be known after a few years only. We have not learnt from such examples and BT cotton is a pertinent case to study.

Few years back, BT Cotton was introduced in India without thorough research and experimentation. Its negative fallouts are now being revealed in many places in Punjab, Maharashtra and Gujarat. Farm labors who work as cotton pickers develop allergy and rashes on their skin. It is high time to conduct thorough investigation and contain the problem.GM crops should be introduced in our country only after proven tests and experiments. Its side effects may be known after a few decades. European countries have denied USA companies to introduce GM crops. This is a fight between USA and Europe being fought on the land of India. Top scientists in India, USA and Europe have spoken against the chronic effects of GM crops on human health and urged to conduct full and thorough investigations.Gurudev said that through public hearings on the issue of BRAI BILL, opinions of scientists and various groups should be sought, like it was done in the case of Bt Brinjal.