Press release urging government to cancel meeting on field trials of GMO crops in Karnataka

July 21, 2011

The Government of Karnataka has called for a consultation mainly with biotech companies under the Chairmanship of the Chief Secretary to decide on the issue of field trials of various GMOs, including food crops. This is sought to be done in a meeting that does not involve anyone else but those applying for commercial release of such products. Moreover, the consultation is being claimed as a public one, even though participation is only by invitation (mainly to proponents of GMO) and being held in the highly restrictive fortress of Vidhana Soudha.

From the invitation it is apparent that the meeting is honed to conclude in a decision relating to the field trials and is not in keeping with the letter and spirit of the Environment Protection Act, Biological Diversity Act and Forest Rights Act, amongst others. Comprehensive conformance with the provisions of these laws matter immensely in such decisions as they mandate due and meaningful consultation with the Local Biodiversity Committees, Forest Rights Committees, Panchayats, Farmers networks, wide public, etc. The current exercise at its very threshold is aimed at bypassing all these forums in formulating such critical decisions.

There is no doubt in our minds that such a consultation is being organised so secretively mainly to accommodate the uninformed assurance recently extended by Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa to biotech companies that all assistance would be extended for their pet projects. The CM claims to be a man for and with the farmers. But when the opportunity comes to demonstrate this claim he steps away from this commitment and endorses actively biotech companies in their efforts to commodify the seeds and food markets, thus exposing present and future generations to all sorts of unwanted social, economic and ecological risks.

We believe a decision relating to field trials of GMOs is of fundamental importance to food security, seed sovereignty, biosafety, health and biodiversity and should be taken by the Government in a fully transparent and deeply consultative manner. This is best achieved by holding Public Consultations across the large and diverse State of Karnataka by welcoming all who are concerned to participate, rather than engage in an exercise with only a hand-picked few as is presently the case. A deeply consultative exercise will bode well in developing a sound understanding of the various implications and impacts of such high risk technologies, whilst also presenting a picture that the Government is keen on evolving a final decision that affects the farming communities with absolute transparency.

Keeping the above in view, we have requested the Government through the offices of the Chief Secretary and Principal Secretary (Agriculture) to cancel the proposed consultation (originally planned for 20th July, but postponed by a day apparently) on the following grounds:

* it is highly restrictive in its agenda and purpose,
* only representatives of Biotech companies and collaborating universities are the main invitees to the ‘consultation’
* it is extremely restrictive in the choice of location
* it violates all the tenets engrained in the Principle of Prior and Informed Consent

Instead, Karnataka Government could set an example for the country by holding a series of Public Hearings across the State on the subject after providing at least a month’s notice and relevant documentation in advance.

Kodihalli Chandrashekhar (Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha)
Bhargavi S.Rao (Environment Support Group)
Manjunath.H (Coalition for GM Free Karnataka)