Kerala Minister objects to Biotechnology Bill

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Kerala Minister for Agriculture Mullakkara Retnakaran has expressed strong reservations about the Biotechnology Regulatory Bill approved by the Union Cabinet recently.

In a letter to Union Minister of Agriculture Sharad Pawar seeking his intervention, Mr. Retnakaran objected to the move to centralise and vest a three-member Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India with full powers to take all decisions related to biotechnology including introduction of genetically modified crops and foods in the country.

Terming the provisions of the Bill as draconian, he said that the even representatives of the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment and Forests were not proposed to be included in the Authority. Besides, the Bill sought to curtail freedom of expression and punish anyone who records any view against introduction of any genetically modified crop or food. Even peaceful demonstration against introduction of genetically modified crops could attract imprisonment and fine.

The Minister told The Hindu that serious consultations with States, experts and the people should be undertaken before enacting the legislation. The biodiversity of the country was varied, and it was not even the governments but people who protected this diversity. The responsibility of protecting the biodiversity should remain with the States.

Mr. Retnakaran noted that the Bill proposed centralisation of authority contrary to the tendency to decentralise decision making. The powers of the State to take policy decision on matters related to agriculture was being sought to be trampled upon.

He said that he would soon be writing to the members of the Parliament from the State to oppose the provisions of the Bill in Parliament. Though he had communicated his objections to the Centre earlier, they had received due consideration.

In his earlier communication, Mr. Retnakaran had said that almost all the provisions of the Bill were undemocratic and authoritarian. Commercial interest of the corporate bodies was given prime protection. Commercial information was exempted from disclosure even under the Right to Information Act. Independent Research on genetically modified crops was not allowed, as the entire research was to be done only by those organisations notified by the Biotechnology Authority.

“We are sure; you would agree with me that the destiny of India’s agriculture cannot be left to a three member Authority with unlimited powers and unquestionable freedom, that too without an iota of accountability and transparency,” he said.

Read the whole story : The Hindu


Another buffalo calf cloned in India

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In this June 6, 2009 picture Garima, the second cloned buffalo is seen at the National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal. On Sunday, another cloned buffalo calf was born where two calves were cloned a year ago.

A cloned buffalo calf was born at the Karnal-based National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) on Sunday, where two calves were cloned a year ago, the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) announced here on Monday.

The buffalo calf, named Garima-II, was born through the new and advanced ‘hand-guided cloning technique'.

It weighs 32 kg and is apparently normal and healthy.

“This cloned buffalo calf is different from the earlier clone calf because, in this case, the used donor cell was an embryonic cell,” said NDRI Director A.K. Srivastava in a press statement.

According to him, the technology could go a long way in facilitating faster multiplication of superior milch buffaloes in the country.

“There is an acute shortage of good bulls in the country. The technology of cloning will decrease the gap between supply and demand by breeding the bulls in the shortest possible time,” he said.

Dr. Srivastava said that although the world's largest population of buffaloes was in India, and it contributed about 55 per cent to the total milk production in the country, the percentage of elite buffaloes was low.

Dr. Srivastava and his team of scientists, including M.S. Chauhan, S.K. Singla, R.S. Manik, Shiv Prasad and Aman George, feel that embryonic stem cells have a better cloning ability as compared to somatic cells (used in earlier cloning) that are lineage committed.

The world's first buffalo calf through the ‘hand-guided cloning technique' developed by the NDRI was born on February 6 last, but it could not survive beyond five days.

The second cloned calf, Garima-I, was born on June 6, 2009. It survived and is reportedly healthy.

The new calf was developed from embryos that were cultured and grown in a laboratory and then transferred to recipient buffalo.

It was born in a Caesarean operation carried out by a team of doctors from the NDRI and Chaudhary Charan Singh Agricultural University, Hisar.

Read the whole story: The Hindu


Bill on GM food likely to be tabled next week

A bill seeking to regulate the use of genetically modified (GM) food is likely to be tabled in parliament next week, government sources said Saturday. 

The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill is aimed at creating a mechanism to regulate the use of biotech in agriculture. 

The bill was cleared by the union cabinet Monday. 

The bill will address a wide range of issues related to BT brinjal to BT cotton, as concerns have been raised over the safe usage of these genetically modified agro-products. 

Some environment groups and members of the civil society allege the bill will open the floodgates to GM food. 

Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has earlier said that the bill, once tabled, will address the concerns of the civil society. 

The minister has also clarified that safety and commercial clearances of GM food will be handled by separate agencies under the mechanism. 

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