Scientists write to PM on genetically modified organisms

    By IANS,

    New Delhi : A letter endorsed by 250 scientists from across the country addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was released Thursday, in which they have urged that steps be taken to stop open air release of Genetically Modified Organisms.

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    The letter comes as the Supreme Court is scheduled to have a hearing Nov 26, to take a view on the recommendations of a court-appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) set up in a Public Interest Litigation related to the environmental release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in India.

    The report released by the TEC, which comprises scientists from various science disciplines, have recommended that any open release of GM crops, including field trials, should be stopped until regulatory reform and the gaps in the regulatory system are addressed.

    The letter written to the prime minister has been initiated by five scientists, and endorsed by more than 250 scientists, 11 former and present vice chancellors of different universities, and three Padma awardee scientists.

    “There is an undue haste in getting GMOs released into the environment. While there is a growing body of scientific evidence on the adverse impacts of GM crops to human health and biodiversity, there is hardly any effort from the Indian government or public sector research institutions to take up rigorous, independent safety assessment,” said Tushar Chakraborty, head of the Gene Control Laboratory, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology and one of the initiators of the letter.

    Along with the release of the letter, the second edition of the compilation of scientific references and abstracts of more than 400 peer-reviewed papers on various adverse impacts of GM crops/foods was also released by Kavitha Kuruganti of Coalition for a GM-Free India.

    “There is no dearth of scientific evidence on the adverse impacts of GMOs in our food, farming and environment. What is needed are the eyes to see it, the wisdom to understand it. GM crops are one of the biggest scientific frauds that biotechnology seed industry, ably supported by some of our unscrupulous policy makers and public sector scientists, are pulling off on our country,” said Kavitha Kuruganti.

    There has also been a research study from the Indian Institute of Toxicology, Lucknow, which confirmed the carcinogenic potential of roundup herbicide on human cells, even if present in low concentration.

    The study has been released at a time when there are efforts from the biotech industry to release herbicide tolerant (HT) GM crops that could substantially increase the usage of herbicides.