India. No health expert in panel to examine GM mustard biosafety data


An anti-GM group today alleged that sub committee constituted by the country's biotech regulator GEAC to examine the biosafety data on GM mustard, did not have any health expert and three of its members have conflict of interest.

Coalition for a GM-Free India questioned whether the risk assessment report given by the sub committee, which has claimed that the hybrid does not not pose any risk to biodiversity or agro-ecosystem, was even "reliable and scientific" as it had no health experts in it.

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) had constituted a sub-committee of scientific experts to examine the biosafety data on GM mustard.

The report was placed on the Environment Ministry's website, inviting comments from stakeholders within a period of 30 days before the biotech regulator took a decision.

"The sub-committee of seven was constituted with at least three members having conflicting interests. Why should the public trust the work of this committee, especially given that the biosafety dossier is being kept away from the public?

"Most importantly, there was no health safety expert in the sub-committee processes and the report still gives a green signal to biosafety - is this reliable and scientific?" Kavitha Kuruganti from the coalition said.

The Coalition alleged that K Veluthambi who is the chair of sub-committee and co-hair of GEAC was a "GM crop developer" till his retirement recently, working on GM rice development for disease-resistant transgenic rice, with DBT and Rockefeller support.

It alleged that another member of the sub-committee S R Rao, Adviser DBT is also on the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, funded by Syngenta.

At the same time, it alleged that B Sesikeran, another member was the former Director of National Institute of Nutrition, a board member of International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) which has Bayer, BASF, Monsanto and others as members.

"It is important to note that he (Sesikeran) was a member of the expert committee headed by Anupam Verma for the CGMCP project, advising on what studies to take up for health safety assessment of GM mustard...

"...also then conducted the studies as former director of NIN, then also gave a green signal as chairperson of RCGM in DBT and now sits in GEAC as a member and was included in the sub-committee! He however did not attend the February 2 meeting. From all information available, did not take part in the sub-committee processes," the Coalition alleged.

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