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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 37, August 29, 2009

A Dangerous Move threatening Food Security

Monday 31 August 2009, by Sailendra Nath Ghosh

COMMUNICATION

In my article “M G Crops are the Highway to Genetic Holocaust: More Lethal than Nuclear Holocaust”, published in the July 4, 2009 issue of Mainstream, I had stated (in its third part) that

in the USA, the decision-making positions in FDA (Food and Drug Administration), which is the authority to allow or disallow the cultivation of GM crops have been usurped by persons linked with GMO producer companies. In India, how many among the members of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) are, or would be, really independent ……….would need to be probed.

Since the US bodies are mentors of our scientific establishments, my worst fears have come true. According to the lead story of Mail Today of August 4 last,

the scientific panels of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) reads like a virtual Who’s Who of the global and Indian food industry—PepsiCo, Coca-cola, Hindustan Unilever, GSK Healthcare, Marico, ITC and Nestle.

The Science Editor of the same newspaper correctly said that

this is an apparent case of those deserving to be regulated becoming regulators themselves.

Since the scientific panels are the agencies to give scientific opinions—that is to say, the “basic inputs”—the nature of the decisions that will emerge from India’s FSS Authority can easily be anticipated. The said Authority, an autonomous body set up by an Act of Parliament, has reportedly been manned by retired and serving bureaucrats.

The FSSAI Act provided scope for some industry representation in the Authority but laid down that the scientific panels shall consist of “independent scientific experts”. The law also clearly spelt out that the panels would invite representatives of the relevant industry and of the consumers in its deliberations. In practice, the industry representatives have been ensconced in the panels themselves. This manner of constituting the panels is manifestly a violation of the law. It is like engaging cats to protect the milk. This is a fit case for a PIL before the Supreme Court.

As for deciding the composition of the Authority, the government feels safe to rely only on the bureaucrats, serving or retired. It seems to say that independent scientists and independent public figures have become rare. The truth is that those who dare to speak the truth, against all temptations, are disfavoured by the political heads of Ministries and their bureaucratic advisers!

By wrongly manning GEAC and FSSAI and the latter’s scientific panels, the Manmohan Singh Government is leading the country towards an irretrievable disaster.

Sailendra Nath Ghosh

77 Manavsthali Apartments,

6 Vasundhara Enclave,

Delhi-110096

(e-mail sailendranathghosh@yahoo.com and sailendranathg@gmail.com)

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